Overheard on CNN.com: Mars rover naming schemes, not-so-tropical space vacations
NASA's Curiosity is set to touch down on Mars in August. The rover is bound for Gale Crater.
June 15th, 2012
07:55 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Mars rover naming schemes, not-so-tropical space vacations

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

Looking back over the past week, we've seen some interesting comments about what it would be like to go to other planets and moons. We decided to feature a few of these posts from readers to close out the week.

Rover bound for intriguing crater on Mars

Curiosity, NASA's most advanced rover, is going to search Gale Crater for evidence of life as we know it on Mars. Scientists say they have pinpointed the landing site with greater accuracy than in the past, resulting in a shorter transit to the crater itself. This mission got one reader wondering what it would be like to view Earth from afar.

helenecha: "It must be pretty much interesting to see Earth on Mars. So landing Curiosity to a site on Mars where the rover can see our Earth from Mars whatever makes sense, uh? Good luck to Curiosity! Godspeed to every member of all NASA's rover missions!"

Curiosity follows in the footsteps (or tracks) of the rovers Spirit and Opportunity. All got their names from children's essay contests. Some of our readers conceded they would have used different names if it were up to them.

MrId: "They should be something like 'Conquer,' 'Robotic Death,' or 'Bigfoot.' "

Raymond: "I would have named them all Rover I, Rover II, Rover III, etc., etc. Hey, we keep track of the Super Bowl with Roman Numerals. Why not keep track of these?"

Cedar Rapids: "... the Mars rover, 'Megatron', today arrived at the crater ..."

You may recall that "Spirit" and "Opportunity" were dreamed up by 9-year-old essay writer Sofi Collis of Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2003. Collis was born in Siberia and at one point lived in an orphanage. The rover name Curiosity was the brainchild of Clara Ma of Lenexa, Kansas, in 2009.

If you could name a rover whatever you wanted, what would you call it? Conversely, what would come next in the current series? Please tell us in the comments section.

Some readers have wondered if Mars is the right place to be exploring. Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, was mentioned as a possible place.

Henry: "I'm in favor of robotic exploration of the solar system, but this obsession with Mars being a haven for life, past or present, is a poor bet. The dollars would be better spent sending a probe to the Jovian moon Europa. Europa, unlike Mars, has a magnetic field (good for life) and we know for a fact that its surface is frozen water. We also know that it has a subsurface ocean of liquid water (essential for life). There have been proposals to send a probe that can melt through the surface and get to the ocean beneath, but so far gigantic amounts of money continue to be diverted to studying this dry, dead, red rock known as Mars."

Chris: "I agree the more likely place is Europa, however the cost of a mission to Jupiter is much higher. On Mars we are looking at the surface. With Europa, we have to drill through who knows how much ice. Also we have to be very careful we don't contaminate the Europa environment with any Earth bacteria. And remember the warning at the end of 2010: Odyssey Two: 'ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS—EXCEPT EUROPA. ATTEMPT NO LANDINGS THERE.' "

Cindy Maddy: "Darnit, you beat me to it. I remember the write-up more than a year ago about a body of ice in the Arctic, I believe, and how they had to halt exploratory probing for fear of introducing contamination; there was mention of Europa in that article, I believe, in the same context."

Is there value in searching for life? On Mars?

kls817: "I agree. I think that NASA keeps hyping the search for life as a means to get more public interest and therefore more money for their projects. They have been doing this for years."

Henry: "Yes, NASA does that, but so does every other group that lives off of the public dime. It is the nature of bureaucracy to justify not only its existence, but its growth. Within the NASA bureaucracy there are specific entrenched interests that fight over available funds at the expense of other projects within the agency. The Mars guys seem to be winning the battle so far. I'd like to see a strong-handed administrator put a hold on any more Mars rovers after the Curiosity mission so more ambitious and potentially far more rewarding science can be done on other worlds."

Another moon besides Europa that is getting attention is, of course Titan, of Saturn.

A moon of Saturn may have 'tropical' lakes

Scientists reported Wednesday in the journal Nature that the moon Titan may have methane lakes among the dunes that pervade the tropics. The word "tropics" has nothing to do with palm trees, but rather the region of the moon between 20 degrees latitude north and 20 degrees latitude south. Titan's clouds, rain and lakes are made up of methane instead of water like we have on Earth.

At least one reader is thrilled about this news.

Human Alien: "Very cool –- I love hearing about this stuff. The (moon) supposedly consists of ice and rock with liquid methane lakes. Large ice mountains with liquid methane lakes and rivers. Must be spectacular."

One reader is eager for a space vacation to Saturn's moons.

Jupiter?: "There is nothing 'tropical' about -260 F. Someday we will be able to take a 'tour' to the moons of Saturn via Virgin Galactic. I’m 37 now so hopefully I’ll still be alive ... I hope."

D: "Well, compared to -400F, -260F is decidedly warmer!"

A few joked about the tropical nature of Titan.

Packed 'N Ready To Go!: "Honey, a new tropical paradise! I'm on it Dear! I see that Priceline has the cheapest rates – I'll book us a trip on Dragon 9."

Randy: "...with Shatner, still doing the commercials. ;P"

Suppose there is life there, or anywhere. What would happen? These readers had a little fun with the idea.

Sean Patriot: "I can't wait for us to set foot on this foreign land, conquer it, exploit it and eat its inhabitants."

Yirmin Snipe: "Hmmm ... tastes like chicken."

ironfray: "No ... we'll just go there, make crop circles then leave."

HereOnEarth: "And give those microbes evidence that we big various-shades-of-brown men from Earth exist? Not on your life!"

ironfray: "True. We don't want those microbes mounting an offensive on Earth. They're so tiny, we won't know they're here 'til things start randomly blowing up."

What's your take on Mars and Titan? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. If you're the kind of person who loves astronomy, share your photos and videos on CNN iReport.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.


Filed under: Overheard on CNN.com
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Imoni

    It appears the lower rocks have clear sttraification which is less apparent higher. Is there any discussion that these rocks are sedimentary? Great photo opportunity Opportunity (couldn't resist).

    September 13, 2012 at 2:27 am |
  2. Arthur Dodds

    Do we have information on the Temperature right now where Curiosity is and Daily lows and Highs??

    August 8, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  3. GUTSY333

    WHY IS CNN NOT CREDITING PRESIDENT OBAMA FOR HOW HE BROUGHT BACK N.A.S.A.'S SPACE PROGRAM?

    August 6, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
  4. helenecha

    Wow! Terrific! I see my comments left in this article. Thanks a lot! By the way, let’s keep a little bit curiosity on looking forward to seeing Transit of Earth on Mars, right?

    June 15, 2012 at 11:25 pm |

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