Leaving Our Mark On the Moon and Mars

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On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong put his left foot on the rocky Moon. It was the first human footprint on the Moon. I recall seeing that Apollo 11 footprint photo many times back then.

The first footprints on the Moon will be there for a million years. There is no wind to blow them away. Two astronauts walked on the Moon and picked up rocks and dirt to bring back to Earth.

I don't know that I will still be blogging when humans put boots on Mars. Most estimates say that won't occur until the 2030s at the earliest. But we have already sent our robotic emissaries there and we have left our mark on the Red Planet.

There have been many landings on Mars. Some have have crashed and failed (Russia’s Mars 3 and Mars 6 landers, NASA’s Mars Polar Lander, the British Beagle 2) but they still sit there on Mars, gathering dust.

Curiosity rover’s tracks on Mars               Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
Two survivors, the Opportunity and Curiosity rovers, are still at it. They are leaving their tracks as they roll across the planet. Opportunity is currently at 13 years. Pretty good considering it was a 3-month mission.

The larger and more sophisticated Curiosity is roving its way through the rugged terrain around Mt Sharp. As it moves, it is leaving a bit more than mere tracks. The engineers who built it included a secret message in the tread on its wheels. Curiosity’s wheels spell out J-P-L as they roll. JPL stands for the Jet Propulsion Lab, where the rover was created.

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