Congressman completely wastes NASA's time by asking about aliens


It's not internet trolls who are obsessed with aliens. Apparently congressmen are too.

During a hearing of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Tuesday, Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher managed to baffle and amaze when he asked about life on Mars.

And no, we're not talking microbial life — something that NASA is hoping to hunt for with future missions to Mars. We're talking full-blown civilizations.

"You have indicated that Mars had a, was totally different thousands of years ago," the California congressman said, addressing a panel of space science experts.

"Was it possible that there was a civilization on Mars thousands of years ago?"

Image: NASA/KSC

Ever the trooper, Kenneth Farley — NASA Mars 2020 rover project scientist — had to start off his answer by correcting Rohrabacher's question.

"So, the evidence is that Mars was different billions of years ago, not thousands of years ago," Farley said.

He also added that "there is no evidence that I'm aware of —" before the congressman cut him off, refining his original question.

"Would you rule that out? That — see, there are some people — well, anyway," Rohrabacher said.

Farley answered: "I would say that is extremely unlikely."

This whole exchange is kind of beautiful. You have a congressman with a penchant for some off-kilter ideas asking a straight-ahead scientist about alien civilizations on Mars.

Also, Rohrabacher even starts talking about "some people" as evidence for his thoughts about civilizations on Mars. Who are these people? Can they be trusted? (Probably not.)

The exchange takes place one hour and 25 minutes into the video below.

Rohrabacher's question is somewhat grounded in reality, at least.

Mars was a far warmer and wetter place billions of years ago than it is today. The red planet appears to have had liquid water on its surface — making it a possible home for microbial life — before it lost its atmosphere to space.

That doesn't mean there was any kind of civilization on Mars, however. Multiple rovers and orbiters that have explored the planet have found no evidence of past intelligent life on the world. (I mean, you'd think that Martians would have at least left behind some buildings or something.)

Funny enough, scientists in the 1800s thought there were artificially-made canals on Mars because of a mistranslation of one of Giovanni Schiaparelli's works.

The Italian astronomer called channels on the red planet "canali," which means "channel." However, that was mistranslated to "canal" in English, which implies that they were built by intelligent life, according to NASA.

From there, the myth of the intelligent Martian took off, especially after Percival Lowell observed and mapped the "canals," which he believed were carved into the landscape by smart aliens, in the late 1800s.

Of course, scientists know that isn't the case today, yet still, sometimes they just need to debunk it for a congressman.

RELATED: Explore the surface of Mars

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Portions of the Martian surface shot by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show many channels from 1 meter to 10 meters wide on a scarp in the Hellas impact basin, in this photograph taken January 14, 2011 and released by NASA March 9, 2011. Scientists have found the first evidence that briny water may flow on the surface of Mars during the planet's summer months, a paper published on Monday showed. Researchers found telltale fingerprints of salts that form only in the presence of water in narrow channels cut into cliff walls throughout the planet's equatorial region. REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona/Handout FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
Dark, narrow, 100 meter-long streaks on Mars inferred to have been formed by contemporary flowing water are seen in an image produced by NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the University of Arizona. Scientists have found the first evidence that briny water may flow on the surface of Mars during the planet's summer months, a paper published on Monday showed. NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/Handout THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
Dark narrow streaks called recurring slope lineae emanating out of the walls of Garni crater on Mars are seen in an image produced by NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the University of Arizona. Scientists have found the first evidence that briny water may flow on the surface of Mars during the planet's summer months, a paper published on Monday showed. NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/Handout THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
A circular depression on the surface of Mars is pictured in his image acquired on Jan. 5, 2015 by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), provided by NASA. The spacecraft has been orbiting Mars since March 2006 and completed its 40,000th orbit around Mars on Feb. 7, 2015. REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Handout
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity's hole drilled into a rock target, "Cumberland," on Mars on May 19, 2013 is shown in this NASA photo. NASA?s Mars rover Curiosity has found carbon-containing compounds in samples drilled out of an ancient rock, the first definitive detection of organics on the surface of Earth?s neighbor planet, scientists said on Tuesday. REUTERS/NASA/Handout (OUTER SPACE - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is shown in this handout photo released to Reuters July 29, 2014. Opportunity has set a new off-Earth, off-road distance record, logging just over 25 miles (40 km) on the surface of the Red Planet to surpass the old benchmark set in 1973 by a Russian probe on the moon. REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State University/Handout (UNITED STATES - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
This image from the right Mast Camera (Mastcam) of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows rough spherical features on the surface of the planet in an area called 'Yellowknife Bay' in this NASA handout released January 15, 2013. These features are interpreted as concretions, implying they formed in water that percolated through pores in the sediment. Spherical concretions have previously been discovered in other rocks on Mars. REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Handout (OUTERSPACE - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY ENVIRONMENT) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
An image from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity shows the surface of the planet with inclined layering known as cross-bedding in an outcrop called "Shaler" on a scale of a few tenths of a meter, or decimeters (1 decimeter is nearly 4 inches) in this NASA handout released January 15, 2013. REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Handout (OUTERSPACE - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY ENVIRONMENT) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
The surface of the planet Mars inside Gale's Crater is shown as NASA's Mars rover Curiosity drives toward a flat rock with pale veins that may hold clues to a wet history on the planet in this NASA handout photo released January 15, 2013. If the rock meets rover engineers' approval when Curiosity rolls up to it in coming days, it will become the first to be drilled for a sample during the Mars Science Laboratory mission. REUTERS/NASA/Handout (OUTERSPACE - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY ENVIRONMENT) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity appears as a bluish dot near the lower right corner of this enhanced-color view from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter taken on June 27, 2013 and released on July 24, 2013. The rover's tracks are visible extending from the landing site, "Bradbury Landing," in the left half of the scene. Two bright, relatively blue spots surrounded by darker patches are where the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft's landing jets cleared away reddish surface dust at the landing site. REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona/Handout via Reuters (OUTER SPACE - Tags: ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
A rock outcrop called Link pops out from a Martian surface in this NASA handout image taken by the 100-millimeter Mast Camera on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover September 2, 2012 and released September 27, 2012. Rounded gravel fragments, or clasts, up to a couple inches (few centimeters) in size are in a matrix of white material. The outcrop characteristics are consistent with a sedimentary conglomerate, or a rock that was formed by the deposition of water and is composed of many smaller rounded rocks cemented together. Scientists enhanced the color in this version to show the Martian scene as it would appear under the lighting conditions we have on Earth, which helps in analyzing the terrain. REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Handout (UNITED STATES - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY) THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
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