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NASA Mars Space Science

NASA May Have Killed The Martians 238

Posted by Zonk
from the that's-a-big-oopsie dept.
Sneakernets writes "CNN reports that NASA may have found life on Mars via the Viking space probes in 1976-77, but failed to recognize it and killed it by accident. Dirk Schulze-Makuch, a geology professor at Washington State University, says that Mars microbes that the space probes had found were possibly drowned and baked by accident. Other experts said the new concept is plausible, but more work is needed before they are convinced. From the article: 'A new NASA Mars mission called Phoenix is set for launch this summer, and one of the scientists involved said he is eager to test the new theory about life on Mars. However, scientists must come up with a way to do that using the mission's existing scientific instruments, said NASA astrobiologist and Phoenix co-investigator Chris McKay.'"
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NASA May Have Killed The Martians

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  • Re:old video (Score:1, Insightful)

    by SwedishPenguin (1035756) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @10:44PM (#17503976)
    That always baffled me as well. Why would you look for life that is similar to life that evolved on a planet where 70% of the surface is covered in water on a planet that has little to no water, it just doesn't make any sense. You would think scientists would at least have a basic enough understanding of evolutionary biology to comprehend that life would be different on a planet with entirely different conditions.
  • Re:old video (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nasarius (593729) on Sunday January 07, 2007 @11:26PM (#17504256)
    There are fundamental chemistry issues (energy, stability, etc.) that limits the likely composition and needs of any kind of life. There is a Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] that does a decent job of describing why even the more plausible forms of non-carbon based life are unlikely. Yes, there are many possibilities for life, but the laws of physics still apply.

    Carl Sagan wrote some great material on the topic as well. I particularly like his reasoning on why it makes sense that any alien life would have developed the ability to sense a similar portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that we can.
  • From the article:

    Good reporting:

    The Viking space probes of 1976-77 were looking for the wrong kind of life, so they didn't recognize it, a geology professor at Washington State University said.

    Sensationatilism:

    Two NASA space probes that visited Mars 30 years ago may have found alien microbes on the Red Planet and inadvertently killed them, a scientist is theorizing.

    To show how full of crap it is:

    Schulze-Makuch acknowledges he can't prove that Martian microbes exist, but given the Martian environment and how evolution works, "it makes sense."

    So if there are microbes left, NASA was lucky, and if there are none, NASA has killed them all.
    And if there are microbes, Schulze-Makuch is happy because NASA didn't kill them all and his name is in history again, while if there are none, it would be exactly how Schulze-Makuch had predicted it!
  • by Sneakernets (1026296) on Monday January 08, 2007 @12:22AM (#17504576) Journal
    Sorry.
  • by Eternal Vigilance (573501) on Monday January 08, 2007 @12:41AM (#17504666)
    Future missions will offer the microbes teeny, tiny microbe-sized blankets.

    This whole thing is really like "War Of The Worlds" in reverse, isn't it? We do to others exactly what we fear and claim they're trying to do to us.

    Projection and shadow work on a national scale...which brings us back to the beginning of this little subthread.


    "Now playing at the Marsiplex 25: Earth Attacks!"
  • by Tablizer (95088) on Monday January 08, 2007 @01:02AM (#17504822) Journal
    That's what you get for sending a robot to do a man's job. Let's quit futzing around with probes, and put a properly equipped science team on the planet.

    Got a half trillion bucks laying around? Or did you blow it on a dumb war again?

    Seriously, if the goal is to detect life, probes are still far cheaper. A sample return mission can relatively easily be carried out by remote control probably at about 1/5 to 1/10 the cost of a manned mission per rock.
         
  • by suv4x4 (956391) on Monday January 08, 2007 @02:29AM (#17505328)
    You can be sure the probes brought some microorganisms to Mars...

    And given microorganisms are quite more resilient, than, say, mammals, who knows. Those probes might begin the life on Mars, if there wasn't any.

    If you follow how nature works, there's only one thing to know: life will push and proliferate in incredible ways, if given the chance. The probes could've been enough of a chance.
  • Re:old video (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SinGunner (911891) on Monday January 08, 2007 @02:30AM (#17505332)
    "Take the Earth as an example..."

    You can't take the Earth as an "example" of how life works on other planets when there isn't life on other planets. It's like saying, "all universes work this way because ours does". Or "look, I was able dodge getting shot once, I am the One!!"

  • Re:old video (Score:3, Insightful)

    by smoker2 (750216) on Monday January 08, 2007 @07:25AM (#17506776) Homepage Journal
    You talk about science and then ignore the facts !
    From outer space, we could tell that the Earth has a lot of metabolic activity in it, because the sky is mostly highly reactive oxygen that is a result of plant respiration.

    Actually, the "sky" or atmosphere (as scientists call it) is mostly Nitrogen. Only around 20% is oxygen. Link. [mmu.ac.uk]

    Ocean water is practically alive itself, there is so much life in it. On land, the places with the greatest biomass and biodiversity are the rainforests, where they have near 100% humidity.

    Ocean water is not "practically alive" in any sense whatsoever. There are vast areas where there is virtually no significant life. That is not to say those areas are sterile, but just that they do not have sufficient resources to sustain a large amount of diverse lifeforms. Such things as boundaries between ocean currents and upwellings of cold water bringing nutrients closer to the surface create conditions where life flourishes. This is why there are mass migrations of many species every year - to go where the food is. They wouldn't have to do that if the oceans were "practically alive". As for the rainforests, they have the greatest biomass due mainly to the fact that they are forests ! Forests full of massive plants called trees. Yes they do have massive bio-diversity, but that is mainly due to having the most available niches for life to succeed. From the forest floor to the canopy presents a large area in which to find suitable conditions. The Sahara desert is not entirely lifeless, but appears that way because it only provides 1 environment - the sand. Dig a little beneath the surface of the sand and you will find mammals, reptiles, insects and arachnids. Your argument is too simplistic.

    My guess is that those 'extremophiles' are descendants of creatures who lived in more hospital environments and became adapted to increasingly extreme environments. I don't think that life originated in rocks or in ocean vents.

    Well your guess would be pretty much wrong then. Link. [bris.ac.uk] What you "think" has no real bearing on the reality that science has discovered. And I don't think they had hospitals 4 billion years ago !

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 08, 2007 @08:09AM (#17507054)
    So...relaying the plot of a comic strip gets +5 funny? Maybe I should post the text of today's Marmaduke for whoring purposes.
  • Re:old video (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LikeTheSearchEngine (995759) on Monday January 08, 2007 @10:23AM (#17508466)

    I'm not one of those "I want to believe," types, but I think that your comment that 'it's not like what we have one earth, so it's very unlikely' is short sighted. Converse to that, I could see some sort of race living with no life sustaining liquid element, but rather a very precise sort of dry nutrient transfer system, saying 'liquid media? that would be far too imprecise to allow proper distribution of vital nutrients.'

    Say 'I'll wait for the evidence' all you want, hell, I agree with you and so will I. This kind of 'news' about life on Mars seems like a rehash of every other story similar to it.

    But to say it's unlikely simply because life there would have to be very different than life here? Well... define alien again for me?

  • Re:old video (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ceoyoyo (59147) on Monday January 08, 2007 @10:35AM (#17508622)
    Life also acts against entropy. You take in simple molecules and synthesize them into more complicated ones and arrange them in ordered structures. Fire (burning wood) takes those ordered structures and breaks them down into minimum energy molecules.

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