Wallpaper Wednesday

23 11 2011
Fourth Planet

Mars, Fourth Planet from the Sun. Image Credit: NASA

Today’s wallpaper image is probably an obvious choice.[1] We arrived in Florida yesterday for the Mars Science Laboratory launch, still scheduled for this Saturday. We spent today sorting out our credentials (two separate trips to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex) and walking on the beach (two separate trips to Cocoa Beach). Tomorrow, we’re going back to KSCVC for the day (lunch with an astronaut, ice skating in the Rocket Garden?). Official NASATweetup events start at Kennedy Space Center Friday morning and run until 6:00 in the evening. There’s a lot on the agenda, including a tour of the Vehicle Assembly Building, so hopefully I’ll have some up-close-and-personal photos on my flickr site next week. If the launch goes as scheduled, I’ll be arriving at the NASATweetup viewing area sometime before 6:45 a.m. Wish me luck with that.

This seems like a good time to make a confession:  I don’t actually care about Curiosity’s official mission. The search for environments capable of sustaining life—in the past or future—isn’t what drives my interest in planetary exploration. I’m much more intrigued by the details of geological processes: what are the specificities of volcanic activity on Mars? How has Mars’ environment changed the nature of sedimentary rock formation? It would be interesting if there was (carbon based?) life on Mars at some point in the past, but “is there life out there?” doesn’t even make my top one hundred list of Questions To Which I Want To Know The Answer.

Click on the linked image to download the photo of Mars. It’s not quite wallpaper proportions, but if you fill in the rest of your desktop with a solid black background, it will look sweet!

[1] As an aside, every time I look at this image, I remember the night I made the mistake of studying Mars through our Meade DS-10 telescope. The retinal burn was tremendous; I saw an after-image of the planet with the polar ice cap for days afterward.