‘I was so happy’: Smithsonian scientists’ stories of discovering life on Mars
Posted On August 6, 2021
When Emily McLeod and Richard Dawkins were researching the story of their discovery of life on the red planet in the 1930s, they never expected to be surprised to find it on Mars.
Their first mission to the surface of the Red Planet was in 1953, and they returned in 1958, two years after the end of the Cold War.
“We never expected we would be here, and that was really cool,” McLeod said.
The Smithsonian’s David Hockenberry has written about the history of the mission to Mars and the Red Mars.
The scientists also got a first look at a planet that’s much larger than the Earth, at least 3.5 times the mass of the Earth.
McLeod and Dawkins found a planet called Betelgeuse that was about 1,200 times more massive than Earth.
It was also 4,000 times more Earth-sized.
The discovery was the first evidence of a planet outside of our solar system.
In a paper published last year in the journal Science, McLeod’s colleagues and fellow Smithsonian scientists describe how they used the spacecraft’s high resolution cameras to find the strange planet.
“It was really, really cool that we could look at something so big,” McLodges said.
“It’s a new planet and we’re not sure how it got there, but we knew it had to be something like this.”
It took NASA about 20 years to identify the planet.
What is Betelgue?
The name Betelglue is the Greek word for “pale blue dot,” referring to the red and white stripes that appear on the surface.
While the planet itself is a little different, it shares similar features to Mars.
It has a crust with a surface that is rocky.
It’s made of a rock that is at least 300 million years old, which is about 40 million years older than Earth’s.
The rock is about 5.5 miles (8 kilometers) thick.
Betelglues crust also has a unique mineral composition.
Scientists believe it contains sulfur.
It also has some of the rarest elements on Earth.
The mission team believes that Betelges water is a mixture of water and ice.
Scientists think Betelgiue has liquid water oceans, similar to Earth’s oceans.
Mars has liquid seas and oceans on its surface, but it has not been confirmed that Betels is a watery world.NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington.
JPL designed and built the spacecraft.
Follow the mission:NASA / JPL / University of Arizona / University Press of Mississippi / JPS / NOAA / University Science Books / University College London / Smithsonian / NASA / Smithsonian Publishing Company