Bill Nye Explains How to Bring Mars Samples Home

And answers if he’d run for President.

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Dan Hedges from ENGINEERING.com follows up with Bill Nye the Science Guy at the USA Science & Engineering festival.

 

Can you talk a little bit about The Planetary Society's project PlanetVac and why it's important?


"PlanetVac's a cool idea and it wasn't my idea, but it's a great idea!"


"You know what you want in science, speaking of the debate and all, is you want ideas that are universally true. You want laws and understandings and rules that apply everywhere in the universe. So with that said, geologists are crazy for bringing back a piece of Mars. They can't get enough of it."


"So if you talk to geologists, and there are a lot of them in the planetary science community à They talk about it all the time. Go to their meetings: Sample Return! Sample Return!"


"So if you go to the North Pole region of Mars. You may have seen pictures from the Phoenix lander. It's uniform, I mean it goes on for kilometres and kilometers in every direction about the same. So, you could argue, we will argue, that mobility or the ability to drive around with a rover, is not as valuable there."


"So what we would want to do is à land on the Martian surface hard enough that these penetrators go down into the regolith, into the rock, into the soil. And, then we would use the Helium which is above the fuel tanks in spacecraft."


"People may not be aware of this but in order to keep the fuel flowing in the right direction the tank is pressurized with an inert gas and it's usually Helium. So we would use that Helium once you land, it's not doing anything, use that helium to (makes suction noise) collect a sample."


"So it's then you have the second big problem, so called mars accent vehicle. The MAV, they love this stuff, I do too (blast off noises) goes up in orbit. Then another space craft comes along gets that, comes back to the earth. And then the geologists can have their sample! Poor guys and gals. They're obsessed! They are very troubled!"

 

My friends on Social Media say that if you and Neil deGrasse Tyson were to run on a Presidential ticket that they would vote for you.


"Ohh, that's great. But I don't think, I don't think either of us are able do that. It takes a special person to want to want to be President. You know that's an extraordinary job. And having good judgement about sciences and reason is one thing. Being able to negotiate with other world leaders with different motivations is another thing."


"And then if you get elected president, immediately you have almost exactly half the people in the US, and maybe even half the people in the world, hating you. Almost exactly within just a couple percent."

 

Is that something scientists shouldn't tolerate?


"Well I mean, it's a different thing. I believe, I don't want to speak for Neil but I'll speak for myself. I think I can be more influential from the outside. The role I play now rather than in Government. So, umm. Thank you for your support!"