A few of you noticed this one, and it's clear why. NASA has unveiled its new Mars lander, based on the Curiosity lander, and it has a couple of very intriguing capabilities packed into its suite of scientific instruments and capabilities:
Note first of all that one capability will be ground penetrating radar, or radar tomography:
"Also on board the 2020 rover will be a ground-penetrating radar for analysing the planet's geology, two arm-mounted gadgets for analysing the chemistry and structure of soil and rocks, and two cameras."
This will doubtless delight those who believe that Mars shows evidence of so many anomalies that suggest artificiality (and this author is among them), some of which, as some have suggested, include indications of possible underground "anomalies" or "structures". So the interesting question will become where will this probe be landed in relation to such hypothesized anomalies?
The second capability is more interesting, and suggestive:
"Among them is a device for turning the CO2 that dominates the thin Martian air into oxygen.
"Being able to produce oxygen could help with that ambition, since transporting fuel is heavy and expensive. Other Nasa spacecraft can already produce oxygen from CO2 but the new "MOXIE" device will test this capability in the Martian atmosphere, for the first time.
"An oxygen supply would also be essential if people were to land on the planet."
In other words, can oxygen be conveniently produced on Mars to sustain a human presence there, and, perhaps eventually, terraform the planet? Notably, the article is suggesting that this would be a necessary step for the production of "rocket fuel" for rockets originating on that planet, a strange strengthening of the chemical rocket meme during a week which has seen NASA admitting interest in alternative demonstrable propulsion technologies which portend the end of the chemical rocket. Now, if you're like me and willing to entertain the high octane speculation, you probably suspect already that this is all "for show and tell," a bit of theater, when they already know good and well that oxygen can be produced on that planet and have probably already done so. After all, the theory that oxygen became locked in the Martian soil has been around for decades now. With this in mind, I suspect rather that the hidden purpose is not to determine if oxygen can be produced, but rather, how efficiently and cheaply. In other words, the terraforming, permanent presence goal might be the real goal here.
Speculation, I grant you, but in the end, theater. It remains to be seen where they will choose to land this probe, and that will be the determiner of what kind of theater it will be.
See you on the flip side.