Friday, February 15, 2008


I went to my first press conference today in the scientific sense, which was a summary for the Mars Rovers by the people in charge of it (Steve Squyres from Cornell who's the lead guy, Charles Elachi who's in charge of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Richard Cook, and Andrew Knoll from Harvard). It was to announce the discovery that Mars was very, very salty per recent data to the point where it would've been detrimental to real life, and it's kind of cool to get all this embargoed information before others have it. (Except it's not embargoed anymore, so here's the press release.)

The best part was towards the end when Andrew Knoll, a huge bigwig in this sort of thing, said that evidence of life on Mars was probably best during its very early age so that's what they'll be focusing on. I raised my eyebrow but no one blinked, and they started taking questions from people working at The Guardian, The Daily Mail, MSNBC,, and all these people were asking arguably silly questions. The guys were very clearly happy to answer questions they could easily handle (no, the Bush plan for space doesn't really effect the Mars rovers, there really isn't any controversy over the discoveries of the Viking missions in the 70s, etc), so I decided to throw my hat in the ring and got the last question.

"Yvette Cendes, Journal of Young Investigators, this question is for Andrew Knoll. You were saying that the best odds of life on Mars are probably going to be during the very early age of the planet, but we know that was a period of very heavy bombardment [aka lots of asteroids hitting all the time] in the Solar System. How do you reconcile this with your hypothesis?"

"That's a good question," Dr. Knoll flustered, and proceeded to talk about things not relating to the actual question for a little while. He then aknowledged that according to current theory life on Earth only would have survived this period of bombardment by deep ocean vents, which you didn't exactly have on Mars, and that reconciling how/where life would survive on Mars where such environments don't exist is "a serious problem." Pwned! My fellow student journalists sure got a kick out of that, and Steve Squyres ran away from me afterwards when I wanted to say hi for some odd reason.

So I've realized I'd be a good science journalist if I want to do it because I can burn the head of the Mars missions should I want to. This is kind of fun.


phydan said...

That's awesome! :D