The man was out near the creek early in the morning when the rising sun glinted off something shiny in the creekbed. James W. Marshall bent over and fished the shiny object out of the water, held it up near his eyes for a closer inspection and on 24 January 1848 near Sutter's Mill, the California Gold Rush got underway.

Since then, gold and silver were prospected for and discovered all across the west, large gold mining operations continue today in California, Nevada, and Colorado to name a few. Heck, each time I visit the accountant and nurse in Denver, I manage to make it out to Turkey Creek to see if I can spot a few tiny loose nuggets the others have missed myself.

The 1848 discovery influenced a Tsunami of settlers moving west in North America, the construction of the railroad across the country sped up access and population growth.

Now, NASA's rover on Mars has discovered something shiny laying right out in the open on the ground, on Mars. The rover which moves slowly and methodically across the surface of the planet has seen a shiny and golden object. But before you rush out and start buying spaceships, today's Prairie Schooners, calm down because NASA says it's probably just a pretty piece of meteorite.

Back in 1848, Marshall's discovery may have also been a meteorite, or even iron pyrite a shiny form of iron found all over the earth, but all he had to do was carry the nugget to a local assayer to see if acid could melt the nugget or not. Determining if something on Mars is gold or not from 34 million miles away is another subject.

NASA uses an intense laser beam to burn a substance, the vapors then enter a chemistry chamber on the rover for a spectrum analysis. There's a lot of equipment and ability onboard those rovers, which are about the size of a Mini Cooper.

But NASA says their first attempt to analyze the shiny object missed, and so they're gearing up to try again.

The intent of the rovers we send to Mars is to try and establish whether the planet ever supported microbial life. But gee-whiz, what if they started finding more gold, and maybe oil and gas?

Fifty years from now our grandchildren might be able to take a space train to the red planet.

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