On Tuesday, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R.-Calif., asked scientists from NASA if aliens once occupied the planet Mars thousands of years ago.
The hearing on Capitol Hill before the House of Representatives' Committee on Science, Space and Technology's Space Subcommittee "was a general discussion of NASA's upcoming planetary-science missions, with a focus on the 2020 rover and Europa Clipper [which] will launch in the 2020s to investigate the life-hosting potential of the Jupiter moon Europa," Science.com reported.
Though the hearing was mostly routine, Rohrabacher felt like "the most important thing" needed to be asked. "One of the benefits, I should say, of your activities, is that, well — you have all these robots all over the universe and beyond," he said, according to the Washington Post. "Let me just note . . . that I've been around for a while."
"I ask for permission for one minute for this question," Rohrabacher said. "You have indicated that Mars was totally different thousands of years ago . . . Is it possible that there was a civilization on Mars thousands of years ago?"
According to the Post, Rohrabacher's comment made the room go silent. "So, the evidence is that Mars was different billions of years ago. Not thousands of years ago," said Kenneth Farley, a scientist with the Mars 2020 project," according to the Post. "There's no evidence that I'm aware of," he added.
Earlier in the meeting, Farley had explained that Mars once had rivers, lakes and hot springs — "but nothing more advanced than microbes was likely to have lived there," the Post reported him as saying.
"Would you rule that out?" Rohrabacher said before Farley cut him off. "I would say that is extremely unlikely," Farley said.
Rohrabacher concluded by then thanking the scientists.