Is there life on Mars? UNLV may have the answer.



Zoom into the future.

Last week, the UNLV Foundation Board held its first in-person meeting since COVID-19 hit town. It was yet another step towards some normalization in our lives as Las Vegas continues to move as cautiously as possible.

By the way, when this whole COVID story is over – whatever the time – we should all look back with gratitude for the leadership of this state that made the difficult, but unpopular, decisions that made it possible to most of us experience the pandemic.

The Zoom option was still available for those of us who were either out of town or not yet convinced everyone in the room had been vaccinated. So I opted for technology.

The first thing I noticed when looking at all the other Foundation members who were also Zooming, was both the youth of the participants and some of the names attached to the photos.

The board, most of the time I wasn’t watching, had rejuvenated considerably, and the children and grandchildren of some of Las Vegas’ pioneer families and the biggest supporters of the UNLV had taken their toll. square.

This is exactly how it should be.

So now I consider myself among this group that we will call experienced and shriveled with age. Hopefully it won’t be replaced soon!

One of the items on the agenda immediately caught my attention: “Rebels on the Red Planet”.

I immediately thought of the comic book and movie series characters from my youth – like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon (many of you will have to use Google at this point) – and how they once made me dream of. ‘take a rocket to Mars.

Today, people dream of Mars for different reasons, mainly because we are fouling our own homes at a rate that will leave us with no choice but to find another planet to live on. But that’s a discussion for another day, several days, actually.

These are UNLV and Mars. Who would have thought?

Board Chair Diana Bennett introduced the two presenters, two brilliant young scientists from UNLV.

Arya Udry is an associate professor whose research program aims to “better constrain the interior composition, the magmatic processes and the general evolution of the planet Mars”. As far as I know, she is studying rocks.

Libby Hausrath is a professor at UNLV whose training and accomplishments seem unparalleled. She is also part of the NASA team studying the samples collected by the Mars 2020 rover, Perseverance. This is all happening in real time and it will take a long time because the space trips to Mars – this is how the collected samples will come back here to be physically studied – is still happening on the slow lane. Libby and her team, as far as I know, are also studying rocks.

The gist of their presentation had a lot to do with the proposition that life on Mars could have existed. Whether this is true today is a question that my grandchildren’s generation will most likely learn.

What shouldn’t be lost on anyone is the fact that UNLV, our university, is an important part of the science program on Mars that may one day provide answers to this question from my youth.

Is there, has there been, can there be life on Mars?

What was only a dream a few decades ago is now becoming a reality in large part thanks to these two brilliant professors at UNLV. And this story, as big and exciting as it may seem, is just one of the many incredible academic accomplishments taking place at UNLV.

UNLV President Keith Whitfield has a faculty and student body that takes on real meaning as he grows – from a generation of dreamers to a new generation of actors – to take his place among some of the best. universities across the country.

But just like the Mars 2020 space program, we still have a long way to go and it will take time to get there.

Buckle up.

Brian Greenspun is editor, publisher and owner of The Sun.


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