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Mars NASA Space Science

Probable Water Ice Sighted On Mars 393

Posted by timothy
from the pronounced-wooder-ice-in-philly dept.
CraftyJack writes "Bright white chunks in the trenches dug by the Phoenix Lander have disappeared, leading Peter Smith & co. to believe that the chunks were ice that has since sublimated."
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Probable Water Ice Sighted On Mars

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  • by Zosden (1303873) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @09:15PM (#23868043)
    Is there oil?
    • Is there oil?

      So what if there was. There's not enough oxygen in the atmosphere to burn it. About the only thing it would be good for is lubricating the odd rover wheel.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hardburn (141468)

      I know the above is meant as a (seriously overused) joke, but it did get me thinking. If there was previously liquid water on Mars, and carbon-based life developed roughly along the same lines as on Earth, and internal geothermal processes are similar, than it's conceivable that there is oil, too. Although that's an awful lot of "if's". Also, if we were capable of getting oil off Mars economically, we also wouldn't need oil for energy.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by flyingfsck (986395)
      There could be, if there are bacteria living in the crust that can hydrolyze methane. Methane, which is not normally considered to be oil, is a hydrocarbon and is the source of our oil and it seems to be everywhere in our solar system. So, yes, there could be oil on the moon too.
  • by Gewalt (1200451) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @09:15PM (#23868049)
    Haven't we known for a good many years that there was water ice at the cap?
    • by WaltBusterkeys (1156557) * on Thursday June 19, 2008 @09:23PM (#23868121)
      Yes, we've even mapped the ice at the poles [nasa.gov]. But this is still important for a couple of reasons.

      First, it's confirmation that the white stuff at the poles really is ice (and not some unknown martian substance that just looks like ice).

      Second it means that the lander is digging in the right places to find all of the interesting stuff that goes along with water. It's tremendously interesting to discover whether there's carbon-based fragments in the water (suggesting life did or could exist) and to figure out what else is in the water.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MichaelSmith (789609)

        It's tremendously interesting to discover whether there's carbon-based fragments in the water (suggesting life did or could exist) and to figure out what else is in the water.
        This is too shallow to be fossil ice. It has to be brand new precipitated water. It should be pretty pure, unless something is living in the ice right now.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by NotZed (19455)

        "First, it's confirmation that the white stuff at the poles really is ice (and not some unknown martian substance that just looks like ice)."

        Or perhaps it is just weird martian substance that still looks like ice, even close up?

    • by NMerriam (15122) <NMerriam@artboy.org> on Thursday June 19, 2008 @09:34PM (#23868225) Homepage
      Indeed, we've known this for several presidential administrations:

      If there is water, that means there is oxygen.

      If oxygen, that means we can breathe.
      • Indeed, we've known this for several presidential administrations: If there is water, that means there is oxygen. If oxygen, that means we can breathe.
        Only if you separate the oxygen from the hydrogen first. That takes energy. Since the atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide you might as well plan to split it into carbon and oxygen.
        • by pokerdad (1124121) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @09:57PM (#23868457)

          Only if you separate the oxygen from the hydrogen first. That takes energy. Since the atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide you might as well plan to split it into carbon and oxygen.

          I'm pretty sure the poster (and anyone else who would be browsing slashdot) knew that; the quote is from Dan Quayle, he's the one who needs help.

          • Only if you separate the oxygen from the hydrogen first. That takes energy. Since the atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide you might as well plan to split it into carbon and oxygen.

            I'm pretty sure the poster (and anyone else who would be browsing slashdot) knew that; the quote is from Dan Quayle, he's the one who needs help.

            Ah right thanks. I am not up to date on Dan Quayle quotes.

            I am surprised we didn't see him running for President this year ;)

  • Rubbish. (Score:5, Funny)

    by jd (1658) <imipak@nOSPam.yahoo.com> on Thursday June 19, 2008 @09:16PM (#23868061) Homepage Journal
    The white things were Martian beach loungers. And as they were there first, I strongly suspect they were German-speaking Martians.
  • by Bandman (86149) <bandman@@@gmail...com> on Thursday June 19, 2008 @09:17PM (#23868073) Homepage
    Excellent. Some coke and rum and we've got ourselves a party!
    • by Yvan256 (722131)
      Let's build a martian lander with blackjack and hookers!

      In fact, forget the martian lander and the blackjack!
  • by notgm (1069012)
    but super scientific ovens do? i suppose the ice melted before they could cook it?
  • Dry ice? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zygotic mitosis (833691) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @09:21PM (#23868103)
    In such a carbon dioxide rich atmosphere, how do we know it is water ice and not frozen CO2? What do we know of the Martian surface and subsurface temperatures?
  • by oskard (715652) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @09:22PM (#23868105)
  • by putaro (235078) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @09:34PM (#23868221) Journal
    We often see the scientific community putting manned spaceflight down, saying that it is not useful for scientific research. Had we sent people, with even a minimal laboratory, we'd have known within about 15 minutes whether what they were digging up was ice or not. Since the lander doesn't have an "ice" experiment/module on board, we're reduced to guess work.

    The reality is that manned spaceflight is not *economical* for scientific research at this point. We should be working on getting our launch costs down so that we could actually send people to do things, build factories in space, and start getting some real benefit out of space.
    • by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @09:43PM (#23868301) Journal
      Come on please. It is easier to get stuff there than to get stuff there and return it. Maybe a robot isn't perfect in its science capabilities, but it is well armed with equipment. Robots are great to go dangerous people. Which do you think is better for science: A: Robot lander crashes, retry again in a few months B: Philip Fry crashes on moon and dies a death, are we ever going to try that again?

      And there is always C & D. C: Robot lander lands on Mars and completes mission. D: Philip Fry completes mission, but the return module will not leave Mars. Will we ever try that again?

      I'm a big fan of robots to do stuff like this.
      • by Loadmaster (720754) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @09:49PM (#23868355) Homepage

        B: Philip Fry crashes on moon and dies a death
        Oh! Had they only built the ship with 6000 and 1 hulls this would have been avoided. When will they ever learn?

        I agree though; this robot isn't as good as a human, but the folks at NASA are pretty bright. It's speculation now but after a few more tests they'll have the data they need for a solid conclusion. It's still very early in the lander's mission on Mars. We need to have a little patience.

      • by CrazyJim1 (809850)
        Robots are great to go dangerous people.

        I meant: Robots are great to do dangerous jobs instead of people
      • by Bartab (233395) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:09PM (#23868547)

        Come on please. It is easier to get stuff there than to get stuff there and return it.

        Find a couple astronaut capable people who have recently been diagnosed with cancer. Couple years to live, don't bring them back.

        A little cold hearted to design, but I'd guarantee you would have no lack of volunteers.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by zwei2stein (782480)

          There are plenty of people who would volunteer for such suicide mission even if they were NOT terminally ill.

          Really, if you can have people whose JOB is to murder other people and public is totally confortable with it (hint: its Soldier), volunteers for suicide missions should not concern public at all.

          Cultural taboo to overcome is "suicide", not "kill".

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Ironlenny (1181971)

        Are you refering to the Philip J. Fry from universe A or universe 1?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by trawg (308495)

        And there is always C & D. C: Robot lander lands on Mars and completes mission. D: Philip Fry completes mission, but the return module will not leave Mars. Will we ever try that again?

        While I agree with the main sentiment of your post - that robots are better to send in the short term than people - I'd like to think that even if the first manned Mars mission met with disaster, there'd still be brave people queuing up to try again a second time.

        See: Apollo 1 [nasa.gov].

      • by Zadaz (950521) on Friday June 20, 2008 @03:13AM (#23870135)

        Manned space flight is afraid of a few deaths? What evidence do you have?

        Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee die during a ground test and we still landed on the moon 2 years later.

        Dick Scobee, Michael Smith, Judith Resnik, Ellison Onizuka, Ronald McNair, Gregory Jarvis and Christa McAuliff died in the Challenger explosion and we were back riding the same design to orbit 2 years later.

        We lost Rick Husband, William McCool, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Michael Anderson, Laurel Clark and Ilan Ramon in the Colombia reentry. And again, 2 years later we're back in space on the same vehicle.

        Just because you're too much of a wimp to risk your life doing something amazing and unique, don't condemn the rest of us to mediocrity.

    • We should be working on getting our launch costs down so that we could actually send people to do things, build factories in space, and start getting some real benefit out of space.

      Space: Because India's getting too expensive.

    • by CraftyJack (1031736) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @09:53PM (#23868407)

      the lander doesn't have an "ice" experiment/module on board
      TEGA [arizona.edu] has that capability. Verifying the presence of water ice is an explicit science objective [arizona.edu] of this mission.
    • by Narpak (961733) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @09:55PM (#23868429)
      Not to mention discover better ways of maintaining the integrity of the human body. Apparently Zero Gravity isn't exactly reckomended for your health.

      The most significant adverse effects of long-term weightlessness are muscle atrophy and deterioration of the skeleton, or spaceflight osteopenia. These effects can be minimized through a regimen of exercise. Other significant effects include fluid redistribution, a slowing of the cardiovascular system, decreased production of red blood cells, balance disorders, and a weakening of the immune system. Lesser symptoms include loss of body mass, nasal congestion, sleep disturbance, excess flatulence, and puffiness of the face. These effects begin to reverse quickly upon return to the Earth.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero_gravity#Health_effects_of_weightlessness

      I imagine that traveling to Mars and staying there to do serious research would, without significant advances, mean a shorter lifespan and for some; a martian burial.
      • where you see a problem i see opportunity

        send 10 fat guys to mars in a small capsule loaded with beans, rice, corn dogs, garlic knots, etc

        when the capsule reaches mars, BOOM, a little percussion decompression, and voila: instant martian atmosphere

    • by Sparohok (318277)

      Nobody's saying that manned spaceflight wouldn't be useful for science. However, it certainly isn't cost effective.

      We could invest in lowering launch costs, but we could also invest in improving robotics. Based on the last few decades of experience, in which the economics of spaceflight have barely changed, while robotics capabilities have improved by many orders of magnitude, I know where I'd put my money.

      In the meantime, with today's technology and today's budgets, there is not the slightest doubt that un

  • what they should do (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Adult film producer (866485) <van@i2pmail.org> on Thursday June 19, 2008 @09:38PM (#23868249)
    is send a dozen or two probes to Mars full of bacteria/fungus and whatever other DNA based lifeform that shown ability to live in extreme conditions and populate the planet of Mars. A few of the probes should carry heavy drilling equipment.. bore into crust of mars and dump a few loads of bacteria..

    its pretty obvious we'll fuck this planet up sooner rather than later so its probably a good idea to spread the seeds of life somewhere else. Maybe in 100 million years new life forms will thrive on Mars.
    • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @09:56PM (#23868437) Homepage Journal
      I bet you could write about three thick books on that theme. You could pit a bunch of conservative geology types against power mad engineers with a small group of middle ground heroes in the middle

      But what would you call it. Something Mars. I know Red Mars, then the next book gets a slightly different name.

      The only problem is that the third book would probably run out of ideas about 10% of the way through.

      Maybe its not such a good idea to after all...
  • We Blew It (Score:5, Funny)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @09:54PM (#23868413) Homepage Journal

    After all this time and effort, we finally found water on Mars, and we let it get away!

  • Another article... (Score:5, Informative)

    by yorugua (697900) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:02PM (#23868489)

    Another article about the same news: http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/06/mars-phoenix-tw.html [wired.com]

    There is water ice on Mars within reach of the Mars Phoenix Lander, NASA scientists announced Thursday.

    Photographic evidence settles the debate over the nature of the white material seen in photographs sent back by the craft. As seen in lower left of this image, chunks of the ice sublimed (changed directly from solid to gas) over the course of four days, after the lander's digging exposed them.

    "It must be ice," said the Phoenix Lander's lead investigator, Peter Smith. "These little clumps completely disappearing over the course of a few days, that is perfect evidence that it's ice."

    The confirmation that water ice exists in the area directly surrounding the lander is big and good news for the Martian mission. NASA's stated goal for the Mars Phoenix was to find exactly this -- water ice -- and then analyze it. With the latest news, the first step is accomplished. All that's left now is to get the water into the Phoenix's instruments, a task which has occasionally proven more difficult than anticipated.

    Still, this is the best opportunity that humanity has ever had to analyze extraterrestrial water in any form. That had the Phoenix Lander's persona fired up.

    "Are you ready to celebrate? Well, get ready: We have ICE!!!!! Yes, ICE, *WATER ICE* on Mars! w00t!!! Best day ever!!" the Mars Phoenix Lander tweeted at about 5:15 pm.

    Their suspicions about water ice beneath the surface of Mars confirmed, scientists and the world will have renewed interest in the outcome of the soil analyses currently being conducted by the lander.

    The samples are being examined for traces of organic molecules, among other substances, but the lander does not have instruments that could directly detect life.

    See the full announcement from NASA.

  • by heroine (1220) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:13PM (#23868573) Homepage

    Still remember when global surveyer first released the picture of massive amounts of water below the surface. It was too good to be true, no-one believed it, and it got put away.

    Now we've found massive amounts of water just below the surface, enough water to make huge amounts of rocket fuel, and it didn't even make a buried link on CNN. Where in Calif* can you find water just 2" below the surface?

  • Great! (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by PPH (736903)

    Now we can send a manned mission over there and use the H2O they find for fuel for the return trip. Just drop itr right in the tank. Just like all those e-mails say I can do to run my car on water.

    It must be true. The InterWeb never lies.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Iamthecheese (1264298)
      That actually may not be a bad idea. Can anyone tell me whether a load of catalyst and a reactor would weigh less than a load of hydrogen?
  • Water Ice? (Score:3, Funny)

    by mcgeeb (884504) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:57PM (#23868915)
    Awesome, what flavor?
  • by Tibor the Hun (143056) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @11:01PM (#23868935)

    I think the most important thing, and it is something that everyone keeps missing, is that NASA has found a way to turn even rocket scientists into ditch diggers!
    Imagine a bright young engineer studying hard on saturday nights, while all his friends are getting drunk and laid, and thinking how he'll have a successful career with NASA. And when thinking about his lucky friends he says to himself "the world needs ditchdiggers too."
    And some day he gets into NASA, and his boss's first words are:
    "Johnson, this ain't rocket science, Phoenix has landed and I need you do dig me a ditch..."

  • Ice sublimes. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Dr. Mu (603661) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @11:52PM (#23869211)
    Geeks sublimate.

    (Okay, okay, I just looked it up: "sublimate" can also be used with ice, but "sublime" is preferred.)

  • by KidSock (150684) on Friday June 20, 2008 @01:00AM (#23869531)

    This time they really really really really really really found water. Just like the last time they really really really found water. But that one time they found water they really didn't. But this time they really almost definitely did.

  • by RationalRoot (746945) on Friday June 20, 2008 @02:16AM (#23869887) Homepage
    Large groups of Martians are now protesting at the landing site.

    Holding placards saying "Go home - Keep Mars for the Martians" - "You messed up Earth, Leave Mars Alone" - "There's no Oil Here - Go Home"

    It appears we may not be welcome after all.
  • Hmmm (Score:3, Funny)

    by Rog69 (1286124) on Friday June 20, 2008 @02:44AM (#23869985)
    When the roads get iced up round my way, they come out and chuck a load of reddish coloured sand on it and it melts, so how can all that ice exist under all that reddish coloured sand on Mars? They really didn't think this through.
  • WTF (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Phaid (938) on Friday June 20, 2008 @04:05AM (#23870349) Homepage

    Jesus, I thought I signed onto slashdot, but after reading the comments I realize I must have clicked on Fark by mistake.

  • by SystematicPsycho (456042) on Friday June 20, 2008 @04:38AM (#23870469)

    Blue sky on Mars.

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