Enlarge / Crater water ice on Mars at Vastitas Borealis, seen by the European Space Agency’s Mars Express. (credit: ESA)
This week we all had a good laugh at the expense of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who asked NASA scientists during a committee hearing whether it was possible that a civilization existed on Mars thousands of years ago. “Would you rule that out?” he asked. “See, there’s some people… Well, anyway.”
Rohrabacher is an interesting figure in Washington, whose once-idiosyncratic views seem largely in vogue with those of the new administration. Politico called Rohrabacher “Putin’s favorite Congressman” in a mini-profile last year. Like Trump, the Congressman has also has called climate change a hoax.
In a 2014 letter to President Obama, Rohrabacher wrote, “Mr. President, we both know I have referred to the theory of man-made global warming as a “hoax,” and, yes, I once used to the phrase ‘dinosaur flatulence’ as a soft jab at what I considered to be climate alarmism.”
So after Rohrabacher’s question—which seemed driven by some arcane conspiracy theory given his use of “some people”—it was curious that one of his few defenders was a well known climate scientist, Gavin Schmidt. “To be fair, NASA astrobiology is very interested in this (and similar) questions. Not sure why it’s out-of-bounds to ask,” the NASA climate modeler wrote on Twitter.
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