The Mars Curiosity rover picked up an image the other day that a lot of people have speculated is that of a rat.
To use a favorite astronomical phrase of the astronomer Carl Sagan, the United States has spent billions and billions on the space program, and for these billions and billions, we may have discovered the following life forms:
1 (one) rat.
One would think that commencing with the launch of Sputnik in 1957 (a bleeping, beeping basketball with a cool 1950s hood ornament), mankind could have come up with a slightly more enthralling outcome. I was hoping for an E.T., or at least something really creepy and slimy. Maybe a Tribble. No. We have theoretically found a rat.
In examining the photograph, shown here, this rat is curiously similar in appearance to the rats that are periodically seen in my backyard. If JFK had said in 1961, "this nation should commit itself, before this decade is out, to finding a rat on Mars," no one really would have gotten on aboard with the whole NASA thing. In addition, let's just say that this nation had indeed committed itself to finding rats, you could just take a Southwest flight to Sacramento (even flying A Group), and come on down to my backyard to get some clear photographs of some really awesome rats. $167 round trip. Way cheaper than billions and billions.
I have studied this Mars rat. With my reading glasses on. If this is a rat, it is a fairly rust colored rat (protective coloration is widespread here on earth, and the rats in my backyard are aquamarine, like my pool. Of course, I observed my rats the other night after a Corona and a drink I made myself containing cranberry juice, lemonade, and vodka, so the aquamarine protective coloration may just be my own optical effect.
In addition, the Mars rat is rather bumpy, like, say a rock. In fact, the Mars rat bears a very strong geological resemblance to all the rocks surrounding it. The rats in my backyard do not look like rocks; they look like panthers with buck teeth. Again, this could be the new drink I invented the other night.
The rat on Mars would have to be a pretty hardy rat, too, given that the rat really wouldn't have anything any known mammal could breathe. I do not rule out methane-breathing rats in my yard, either, particularly after the tasty cran/lemon/vodka drink.
So, we have potentially aquamarine, methane-breathing, panther-sized rats in my backyard, or the boring Mars rats.
I have a deal for you: each U.S. taxpayer paid about $7 to fund the Curiousity mission. That's two lattes. You can come over to my house, instead, and check out the aquamarine methane panther rats.
For only $6.
That's a good deal.
It's safer than Mars, and I will make you one of my tasty and nutritious cran/lemon/vodka drinks.
Curiosity killed the rat.