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Happy Tenth Anniversary, Opportunity

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Opportunity RoverTen years might not seem old, but for a rover that was only meant to conduct a three-month-long mission, a decade is milestone most scientists thought the Mars exploration rover Opportunity would never see.

Opportunity launched in July of 2003 and landed on Mars on January 25, 2004, three weeks behind its twin rover, Spirit. NASA sent the two rovers to kick off a long-term robotic exploration on Mars, largely focused on gathering information that would shed light on the presence of water on the Red Planet. NASA chose two sites on either side of the planet, both of which were thought to have contained large quantities of water at some point in the past. Spirit landed on January 3, 2004 in Gusev Crater, which may have housed a lake long ago, and Opportunity landed in the mineral deposits of Meridiani Planum.

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Mars MAVEN Hopes To Crack The Mystery Of Mars

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MAVENIf the weather cooperates, tomorrow will mark another step in our long journey toward the Red Planet, with the launch of MAVEN. Mars has been an object of fascination for thousands of years. Our good friend Copernicus was the first person to postulate that Mars was a planet like Earth, which was one of the details in the heliocentric Solar System theory he published in 1543. From then on, astronomers have been studying the planet, and in 1965, spacecraft and probes joined the party. Mars has raised a multitude of questions, such as whether water exists there; whether little green aliens or some other life form exists or existed there; whether its moons are captured asteroids; and whether the planet could support human life. Key to that last question is Mars’s atmosphere, which is exactly what MAVEN will study.

Mars has changed drastically over time. It used to be warm and wet, likely supporting microbes that may have begun life on Earth, but now it’s a cold and barren desert. How did that happen? Mars used to have a thick, cloud-producing atmosphere, but over time, the atmosphere has all but vanished. Where did it go? Carl Sagan believes it’s trapped in the soil of Mars and that it might even be possible to release the atmosphere back into the sky, which would be one aspect of terraforming. But we don’t know, which is why we’re sending MAVEN to find out.

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Cross The Streams: Under The Dome And To The Red Planet We Go

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Good streamvening, readers. I was away on vacation last week and wasn’t able to write a new installment of Cross the Streams, which was fine, since most streaming websites decided to give sci-fi releases a week off as well. In fact, I think they’re still on some kind of extended break, but we’ve got a handful of decent offerings for you guys, as well as a possible guilty pleasure or two. Of course, if you want to just skip all this and go watch The Avengers, which hit the streaming rounds in the past week, you’re more than welcome to. (Spoiler: the good guys win.)

under the dome
Under the Dome (CBS)
Even though the small-town drama of CBS’ Under the Dome relies more on character tension than straight science fiction, we’ve been anxiously awaiting this thing for months here at GFR, and CBS was kind enough to pull the pilot episode from beneath the dome for everyone to see. Since it just premiered this week, we’ll avoid going into spoilers here, but just expect some changes from Stephen King’s original novel. I mean, it would be stupid not to do that anyway, but I’m just saying. It seems like the only things getting stuck on when this show comes up is that it was in The Simpsons Movie, so hopefully that blindingly unoriginal non-argument can cease to be now that the show is actually on the air. And F.Y.I., Amazon Prime will also be hosting episodes four days after they air, just in case you didn’t want to give CBS your personal attention. (But always give show writer/comic creator Brian K. Vaughan — along with anything he’s involved with — your attention.)