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Mars Space News

Surprising Further Evidence for a Wet Mars 192

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the slippery-when-wet dept.
Riding with Robots writes "When the robotic geologist Spirit found the latest evidence for a wet Mars, 'You could hear people gasp in astonishment,' said Steve Squyres, the lead scientist for the Mars rovers. 'This is a remarkable discovery. And the fact that we found something this new and different after nearly 1,200 days on Mars makes it even more remarkable. It makes you wonder what else is still out there.' The latest discovery, announced today, adds compelling new evidence for ancient conditions that might have been favorable for life, according to the rover team."
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Surprising Further Evidence for a Wet Mars

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  • Solvents (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Harmonious Botch (921977) * on Monday May 21, 2007 @05:36PM (#19214473) Homepage Journal
    " ...ergo there must be water."

    TFA concludes that water had to be present as a solvent. I'm sceptical.
    Silica is a polar molecule ( tetraheral: two oxygen atoms and two unlinked electron pairs equally spaced around a silion atom ). It ought to dissolve in any polar solvent, such as ammonia. And ammonia was almost certainly present during the formation of mars.
  • by Otter (3800) on Monday May 21, 2007 @05:37PM (#19214483) Journal
    The newly discovered patch of soil has been given the informal name "Gertrude Weise," after a player in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, according to Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis, deputy principal investigator for the rovers.

    No offense to Gertrude Weise, but -- huh?

  • by GroeFaZ (850443) on Monday May 21, 2007 @05:59PM (#19214721)
    According to the Great Filter theory [gmu.edu], our chances of colonising other worlds before we go extinct would be diminished with every world we discover that contains life forms; and the higher evolved those life forms, the worse for us.

    The theory in a nutshell: There are a handful of steps life must go through, to the best of our knowledge, before a rotating disk of star dust can bear intelligent life that colonizes space and thus ensures its survival. The reason why we don't see life everywhere around us is that one of these steps is so improbable or difficult that only very few, if any, aspiring colonizers of space make it past that crucial step and go extinct. The question is, are we, homo sapiens, already beyond this step? If we never find alien life, chances are we have passed this point. For every life form we do discover, the probability that we yet have to reach this point increases.
  • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Monday May 21, 2007 @06:02PM (#19214753) Homepage Journal
    A man on mars would do more science in 2 days than the rovers have done in 3 years.

  • Re:Solvents (Score:4, Interesting)

    by khallow (566160) on Monday May 21, 2007 @06:49PM (#19215187)
    That doesn't work. Ammonia is liquid only up to around 130 C. Water has a critical temperature of around 370 C. That means that water can disolve a lot more silica than ammonia can. And let's note that water is far more prevalent on Mars now than ammonia is (most nitrogen shows up as N2. Further, the chemical environment doesn't support prevalent ammonia. It's far too acidic IMHO.
  • You think that's bad (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pavon (30274) on Monday May 21, 2007 @06:52PM (#19215217)
    Just try putting water in a glass bottle.
  • Re:Looks like ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mistlefoot (636417) on Monday May 21, 2007 @07:57PM (#19215771)
    Which is exactly what happened on Mars....albeit accidentally....

    From the article....the dead 6th wheel's new mission is as a plow of sorts.....

    "One of Spirit's six wheels no longer rotates, so it leaves a deep track as it drags through soil. That churning has exposed several patches of bright soil, leading to some of Spirit's biggest discoveries at Gusev, including this recent discovery. "
  • by Pedrito (94783) on Monday May 21, 2007 @08:18PM (#19215911) Homepage
    how do they know that this didn't come from some comet that happened to have a lot of silica in it? I mean, maybe they know it didn't, but let's say you've got a comet (lots of ice, some of it presumably water ice, and dirt) and it hits Mars and a chunk lands a few hundred feet away and spills silica all over the ground.

    I mean, I'm not saying it's not Martian in origin, but it just doesn't seem like there's any question that it's Martian and I'm curious as to why. But of course, they ARE rocket scientists and geologists, so I suspect they've looked into this possibility.
  • by Jerf (17166) on Monday May 21, 2007 @09:02PM (#19216215) Journal
    Bah, stop parroting nonsense and think for a bit. If humanity does survive another thousand years and spread across the stars with full mastery of genetics, biology, and technology, in nothing flat cultures will be so mutually alien in every way that it'll make Star Trek look like parochial, small-minded garbage, what with 100 little humanity clones running around.

    If we do survive and thrive, diversity will be the least of our problems.

    The old "loneliness of the stars" bit is as out of date as, well, Star Trek, as out of date as the idea that "crossing the stars" will be done in tin cans carefully coddling our meat sacks. That may have made sense to 1950s science, but it's obvious nonsense to anyone who uses 21st century science. It's going to be way stranger than Star Trek. You will pine for the days when it was as simple as Star Trek.
  • by OriginalArlen (726444) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @02:20AM (#19217999)
    The MER rovers are astonishing and the successes of their missions doubly so. I've been following the rovers since they landed in Jan 04 (*three years ago*!) with an expected lifetime of 90 sols each. Spirit's getting very, very dusty now, so the solar panels aren't generating much power - and Spirit has a bust wheel it has to drag behind it, which means it'll never climb Husband Hill as originally planned - but Oppy just had the dust cleaned off by a gust of wind, is generating over 800W/hr and despite a couple of arthritic joints and a broken steering actuator, is currently preparing to enter the enormous Victoria crater. Really, really fantastic stuff. I'm old enough to remember the Voyager flybys of Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus; these missions seem to throw us something amazing every few months on average, and exciting and interesting on a daily basis. And the icing on the cake is that all the raw imagery goes up on the web as soon as it's downlinked from the vehicles and the orbiting relays.

    I do wish NASA were investing more in the DSN though...

  • by jambox (1015589) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @07:48AM (#19219759)
    I don't think Star Trek, even in the 60's, was meant to be a prediction of how interstellar travel would or could work. Actually I think it was an allegory about how nation states should behave in relation to others. TNG expanded on this but the basic concept of the TOS always had more to do with philosophy and ethics than with hard science fiction.

    Actually attempting to define a possible method of FTL travel is almost pointless since (obviously) nobody has much of a clue how it might be possible, or even if physics allows for it in any sense whatsoever. Charlie Stross has a good poke, Iain Banks doesn't even try and Frank Herbert went miles into left field (interstellar travel via mind-bending drugs), which is perversely the most sensible approach, given our total ignorance. Vernor Vinge is also notable in this sense, since he postulates that while FTL travel is impossible in this part of the galaxy, thus conforming to our observations, physical 'constants' might vary with proximity to the centre of the galaxy thereby allowing interstellar travel near the rim.

    Pure speculation, of course, but then that's all we can do at this stage and hell, it's good fun.

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