Not many children write letters to government entities, we would think. But a boy's letter to NASA is making waves and softening hearts on the Internet today.
"Dear NASA," the letter begins. "My name is Dexter I heard that you are sending 2 people to Mars and I would like to come but I'm 7." The handwritten note, in which Dexter asks for advice about becoming an astronaut, got a full response from NASA, along with some stickers and posters.
There was great fanfare when the Mars Science Laboratory launched in November 2011, and again when its precious cargo — NASA's Mars rover Curiosity — touched down on the red planet in August 2012.
The eight months in between had drama of their own. Curiosity was constantly bombarded with radiation as it traveled through space — high-energy protons thrown out by the sun, and galactic cosmic rays slicing through the solar system from distant supernovas.
Scientists have discovered water that has been trapped in rock for more than a billion years. The water might contain microbes that evolved independently from the surface world, and it's a finding that gives new hope to the search for life on other planets.
The water samples came from holes drilled by gold miners near the small town of Timmins, Ontario, about 350 miles north of Toronto. Deep in the Canadian bedrock, miners drill holes and collect samples. Sometimes they hit pay dirt; sometimes they hit water, which seeps out from tiny crevices in the rock.
NASA is raising awareness for its upcoming launch of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft with its Going to Mars project. The MAVEN spacecraft is scheduled for launch this November, to study the Red Planet's upper atmosphere; the craft will examine why Mars lost its atmosphere, and how that catastrophe affected the history of water there.