Four billion years ago, Mars may have looked completely different. Water could have flowed across the planet's surface. There might have been life. To support these conditions, the planet's atmosphere must have been very different.
A NASA mission to investigate that atmosphere – and why it changed – is about to enter orbit around the Red Planet. Led by scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder, the mission, called MAVEN (short for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN), consists of a satellite that will orbit the planet.
Cesar Nufio is holding a box of dead grasshoppers. The insects, precisely pinned, with miniscule labels affixed beneath them, march down the box in neat, dark lines.
The grasshoppers are just a sampling of a 50-year-old set of 13,000 grasshoppers that Nufio, an entomologist at the University of Colorado, is using to learn about climate change. Until the scientist happened upon them about a decade ago, this collection was nearly forgotten – stored in 250 wooden boxes atop a shelf. Ever since finding the collection, Nufio has been piecing together the story of the lost grasshoppers, and is using them to understand how the change in the area's climate is affecting the insects.