Things got awkward during Tuesday's hearing of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology when a congressman queried if aliens once lived on Mars. The committee was discussing about NASA's upcoming planetary-missions when the topic was brought up.
After listening to a lengthy discussion of NASA's programs, California Republican Dana Rohrabacher asked scientists whether there was a civilization on the Red Planet thousands of years ago. "You indicated that Mars was totally different thousands of years ago," he began. "Is it possible that there was a civilization on Mars?" he went on to say.
Before replying, Ken Farley, project scientist for Mars 2020 rover mission, corrected the statement by saying "the evidence is (that) Mars was different billions of years ago." He then went on to answer by saying "there is no evidence that I'm aware of."
"Would you rule that out?" Rohrabacher went on to ask. To which Farley quipped: "I would say that is extremely unlikely." The exchange immediately went viral as many of the 800,000 followers of Popular Science flooded its Twitter account @earthskyscience with comments mocking the congressman.
"Was he for real?" @earthskyscience asked. Another accompanied his post with the hashtag #StupidQuestionsForAstronauts. But others didn't laugh like dudewithbatman who wrote that Rohrabacher did a favor to average people who have the same question but can't ask.
Scientists who spent decades studying Mars' soil and atmosphere to determine if it once held life determined that the Red Planet was wetter and warmer billions of years ago. During its wet Noachian period about 4.1 to 3.7 billion years ago, it is presumed that the entire planet was underwater with a depth of 450 feet.
The presence of rivers and lakes prompted scientists to speculate that Mars may have hosted microbial life despite evidence showing otherwise by decades of exploration by orbiters, landers and rovers that haven't detected any signs of life. Other scientists believe microbes may have survived to this day buried deep in its soils.