Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Mars Space NASA

Phoenix Mars Lander Deploys Robotic Arm, Possibly Finds Ice 168

Posted by Soulskill
from the armed-and-gregarious dept.
The Phoenix Mars Lander has successfully deployed its robotic arm and tested other instruments including a laser designed to detect dust, clouds, and fog. The arm will be used to dig up samples of the Martian surface, which will be analyzed as a possible habitat for life. A camera on the arm will allow pictures to be taken of the ground directly beneath the lander. The camera has already seen what may be ice, which was exposed when the soil was disturbed by the landing. The data collected by the arm will be compared to recent findings which suggest that water on Mars may have been too salty for most known forms of life.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Phoenix Mars Lander Deploys Robotic Arm, Possibly Finds Ice

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 30, 2008 @07:42PM (#23605907)
    I'm speechless. If someone's this ignorant, where do you start?
  • Extremophiles (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gothmolly (148874) on Friday May 30, 2008 @07:46PM (#23605953)
    Just because its too salty for 'most' life doesn't mean its too salty for ANY life.
  • Go halophiles! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 30, 2008 @07:50PM (#23605983)
    "... compared to recent findings which suggest that water on Mars may have been too salty for most known forms of life."

    Sure, but don't count the halophiles out [wikipedia.org]. Happy in 2 Molar salt solutions? Wow.
  • by NMerriam (15122) <NMerriam@artboy.org> on Friday May 30, 2008 @08:06PM (#23606127) Homepage

    United States is going to send shipments of ice from Mars to cool the warming caused by its gas guzzlers


    Somehow I doubt importing billions of tons of frozen CO2 is going to help us reduce greenhouse gasses :)
  • by gapagos (1264716) on Friday May 30, 2008 @08:08PM (#23606153)
    Why are we constantly relying on Earth standards to predict what life on an other planet requires?
    Ever head of something called evolution? We already found many speicies on Earth that live without any light, or without oxygen, or that lives in extremely dry areas or under extremely high water pressure....
    So I don't see why one life form could not find a way to develop under very high concentration of salt, or without any water at all while we're at it.

    Granted... I'm sure there's a lot of explanations for my nonsense. See, I graduated in Political Science this summer, so as any respectable politician, it's normal for me to say blatent things about science without knowing anything I talk about. ;-)
  • Re:Extremophiles (Score:5, Insightful)

    by v1 (525388) on Friday May 30, 2008 @08:08PM (#23606157) Homepage Journal
    We keep seeing these same generalizations going on when looking for life elsewhere.

    Lets face it, odds are if we DO find life, it's going to be fundamentally different than what we're expecting it to be. Saying conditions aren't good for life anywhere based on what we consider habitable is silly. The reason our conditions are ideal for our life isn't because we got lucky and got the right combination of environment to grow up in, it's because we adapted to become the best suited for the environment we developed in.

    I'll give them "initial conditions" though. Certain environments certainly lower the odds for genesis. Once you've achieved genesis however, evolution takes over, and so long as you don't have a fast severe change in conditions, life will adapt over time to become well-suited to whatever the environment can throw at it.

    So unless you're looking for life that has just recently come to be, there's almost no point in examining conditions. Probably the only environmental necessity is reasonable temperatures. (and I mean very generous range, at least a ways over abs 0 and too low to melt lead)

    Actually, on the high end, it would not completely surprise me to find life IN a sun. Whenever we look somewhere and say no life can exist there, it's too hot, too cold, too alkaline, too dry, whatever, we end up finding life. Recently we found life IN a rock, eating radioactivity. After that you pretty much have to be an optimist.
  • Re:Extremophiles (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jd (1658) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday May 30, 2008 @08:17PM (#23606231) Homepage Journal
    You are correct. Although it has been pointed out by others that terrestrial lifeforms that handle extreme salinity first evolved in purer waters, this doesn't tell us a whole lot, as water at extreme depths may well be extremely pure, with life migrating towards the surface as it became more tolerent of conditions. Also, knowing it was salty at one point in time does not tell us about salt levels prior to this, or indeed about salt levels anywhere on Mars outside of the points so far examined. All this also assumes a traditional carbon-based lifeform, which although the most likely, is not guaranteed to be the only form of life. Silicon is a strong contender, particularly if you have environments in which carbon-based structures would be less likely to survive.

    In short, we could easily dream up a million and one scenarios in which life could have existed on Mars or could exist there today. Without more information, all we can say with any certainty is that terrestrial life could not have arisen on the surface of Mars within the narrow region of space and time for which we have reliable geological data. We can say nothing about any other form of life, any other location on Mars, or any other point in Martian history.

    (God, I hate agreeing with someone who's got me marked as a foe. It's so... so... Un-Slashdotish, somehow.)

  • Re:Extremophiles (Score:4, Insightful)

    by symbolset (646467) on Friday May 30, 2008 @08:21PM (#23606251) Journal

    Based on what we know about Earth, they say that it's difficult to imagine life arising in acidic, oxidizing brines like those inferred for ancient Mars.

    er, ahem -- [enotes.com]

    Hamlet:

    And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.

    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

    Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

    Hamlet Act 1, scene 5, 159-167

    Wm. Shakespeare

    Two billion years from now it may be difficult to imagine life evolving on the Earth. If you can still find the Earth, that is. Time has a way of hiding things.

  • by foniksonik (573572) on Friday May 30, 2008 @08:31PM (#23606333) Homepage Journal
    If attitudes like yours were more prevalent during the rest of human history we wouldn't have any of these problems... and we may never have gotten out of our caves... progress needs risk takers even if the risk is only that we are using resources to explore something rather than ensuring the security of what we already have... don't be such a luddite.

  • Re:Extremophiles (Score:5, Insightful)

    by maxume (22995) on Friday May 30, 2008 @08:39PM (#23606385)
    What are you expecting life elsewhere to be? I'm expecting it to be something that takes advantage of energy gradients (food is essentially an energy gradient, it takes less energy to gather fruit than the fruit contains, similarly for prey) in order to maintain its own order at a level above that of the average environment that it exists in.
  • by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) on Friday May 30, 2008 @08:41PM (#23606401) Journal
    Before the lander even took off, we all knew it might find ice. Now it's landed there's a press release saying it might have found ice. Is there any news content here? Maybe what's different is that previously we knew it might have found something that might be ice, but now it's definitely found something that might be ice. But previously we also knew it might have found something that was definitely ice. Might be definitely, definitely might be? Please, someone wake me when it's definitely definite.
  • by Brett Buck (811747) on Friday May 30, 2008 @08:43PM (#23606413)
    "A lot of *people pretending to be intelligent* believe that humanity + earth is a lot cause. "

            There, fixed that for you!

              Brett
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 30, 2008 @09:15PM (#23606565)
    I just can't fathom how anyone thinks planetary science and exploring space is pointless intellectual drivel. Wow.

    Welcome to America, 2008. The stupid people won. :(
  • by felipekk (1007591) on Friday May 30, 2008 @10:14PM (#23606825) Journal
    Maybe you shouldn't have read the article.

    But definitely definite you shouldn't have posted...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 30, 2008 @10:18PM (#23606859)

    Please, someone wake me when it's definitely definite.

    What are you, a Creationist? :)

    Seriously -- Science Doesn't Work Like That, and deep down inside, you know it.

    When I was a kid, there "might" have been water or CO2 in the polar caps. All we knew was what we could see from telescopes: the Martian poles had whitish stuff on them that got bigger and smaller over the course of the Martian year.

    Science works by changing those "might"s into "probably"s and "almost certainly"s, but there's almost never a "definitely".

    Before the lander even took off, we all knew it might find ice. Now it's landed there's a press release saying it might have found ice. Is there any news content here? Maybe what's different is that previously we knew it might have found something that might be ice, but now it's definitely found something that might be ice. But previously we also knew it might have found something that was definitely ice. Might be definitely, definitely might be?

    Two weeks ago, there was almost certainly ice at the poles, and that it was almost certainly going be under wherever this lander ended up, and that some of it might be within digging range of the probe.

    A few days from now, I'll bet you we'll know there'll definitely be ice on Mars.

    But that won't be the news. The news will be "We know know something about what might be in the ice. We don't know how it formed, nor how old it is, but we can make some pretty good guesses."

    We know so little of the Martian environment that when a new probe touches down, just about everything it sends back is "news" in the scientific sense. The time between breakthroughs can be measured in days and weeks, rather than years.

    I'll grant your original point, namely that today's discovery is marginally newsworthy at best -- but the fact remains that if the probe were to stop functioning right now, we'd still know more about the Martian polar environment based on that one picture of the rocket-blast disturbed ground (if it's ice, we know its depth, and if it's rock, we know how much dust was covering it) than we did yesterday.

  • Re:Extremophiles (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Saturday May 31, 2008 @01:06AM (#23607545) Homepage Journal
    ["The scientists say that the handful of terrestrial halophiles -- species that can tolerate high salinity -- descended from ancestors that first evolved in purer waters. Based on what we know about Earth, they say that it's difficult to imagine life arising in acidic, oxidizing brines like those inferred for ancient Mars."] Looks like it is just very unlikely with what we know.

    I don't see how we can read much into that. Evolution on Earth just found it quicker to start one place/niche and shift to another rather than start from scratch in the salty place and reinvent all the machinery of a cell from scratch. The easiest path is not the same as the only path.

    After all, if evolution was smart, we wouldn't have our damned scrotum on the outside of our bodies. Other species found a better solution.
                 
  • by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) on Saturday May 31, 2008 @01:22AM (#23607609) Journal
    > A few days from now, I'll bet you we'll know there'll definitely be ice on Mars.

    Clearly the information from this probe is of no use to you. You know the answer already. But I'm still waiting.

  • by camperdave (969942) on Saturday May 31, 2008 @01:25AM (#23607615) Journal
    It's 2008, why don't people know that every freaking digital camera sensor [cambridgeincolour.com] in the solar system is black and white with special filters in front? I mean, digital cameras have been around since the 1970s [about.com], so it's not like the technology is so new that people are still mystified by it, is it?
  • Re:Extremophiles (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Saturday May 31, 2008 @04:17AM (#23608123) Homepage Journal

    Once you've achieved genesis however, evolution takes over, and so long as you don't have a fast severe change in conditions, life will adapt over time to become well-suited to whatever the environment can throw at it.
    This is why I think martian life would be obvious to us if it existed. The fact that we have to hunt around for it strongly suggests to me that it doesn't exist.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 31, 2008 @08:37AM (#23608861)
    That might be an argument if they didn't release color pics ever; but they do release them. We've already gotten a few from this mission. They just take a little time, as they need to be processed to do the multi image combine to make the color image (they aren't always combining red, blue and green so it isn't just a quick trip to GIMP to fix.)

    You have a probe millions of miles away, that could stop working at any moment due to any number of unforseen issues. You better darn well make sure you do the stuff you went there for FIRST and worry about the other stuff when you can. The last thing you need is to have to explain that your multi-million dollar probe designed to collect scientific data wasn't able to actually do any science, but was able to take a few nice snapshots.

An age is called Dark not because the light fails to shine, but because people refuse to see it. -- James Michener, "Space"

Working...