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Space Mars

Russia's Mars Mission Raising Concerns 245

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the wait-aren't-they-both-red dept.
eldavojohn writes "Space.com has a blog on Russia's Phobos-Grunt project designed to explore the planet further. He voices concerns about part of this exploration that is dubbed LIFE (Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment) and backed by The Planetary Society that involves sending several samples of Earth's hardiest microbes to see if they can survive the round trip voyage. Space.com's correspondent Leonard David did some legwork to ensure that The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 was being upheld as it prevents cross-contamination between planets and receives some interesting responses from experts on this mission. The Phobos-Grunt mission will also deploy a Chinese sub-satellite 'Firefly-1,' which will attempt to figure out how water on Mars disappeared. Unfortunately, The United States is not taking part in Phobos-Grunt."
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Russia's Mars Mission Raising Concerns

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  • Who cares? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ashp (2042)

    I don't know why we're so concerned about cross-contamination. The only potential downside to it that I can see is if it obscures evidence that life existed on other planets.

    I just find it hard to care about balls of rock and their 'pristine environment'.

    • Re:Who cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Thanshin (1188877) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @10:24AM (#26357917)

      The only potential downside to it that I can see is if it obscures evidence that life existed on other planets.

      And wouldn't you say it's a pretty huge downside?

      It's the tiny difference between finding extraterrestial life, or not. In exchange for... Absolutely nothing!

      Does't seem like a great deal.

      • by OglinTatas (710589) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @10:37AM (#26358087)

        "It's the tiny difference between finding extraterrestial life, or not. In exchange for... Absolutely nothing!"

        If 1950s scifi movies have taught me anything, it is that "there are some things mankind was not meant to know"

      • For absolutely nothing? What if we sent microbes to another planet and they were able to survive, then earth was destroyed in a cosmic event. That would mean that humans achieved moving life from earth to another planet. Yea, maybe we would be toast, but evolution would have still succeeded.

        • by Daimanta (1140543)

          "Yea, maybe we would be toast, but evolution would have still succeeded."

          Wow, a Lamarckist on /.

          Is there a logical approach to this or do I panic?(????? or profit?)

      • by tonytnnt (1335443)
        Yeah, why not just do a slingshot around the sun instead. We know most microbes on Earth wouldn't survive Mercury or Venus (not that we should deliberately try), so if we're just attempting to find out if they can survive the trip outside the magnetosphere for a long period of time, wouldn't the slingshot work bet? Just loop it around the sun and have it crash back on Earth.
      • by nizo (81281) *

        Something that has always bothered me though, is how likely is it that anything brought from earth would survive better than martian organisms that might exist? In other words, it is akin to worrying about flying sharks into the middle of the sahara desert and worrying they will wipe out all of the local lifeforms.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by turbidostato (878842)

          " it is akin to worrying about flying sharks into the middle of the sahara desert and worrying they will wipe out all of the local lifeforms."

          Or rabbits (or toads) in Australia. Is that your point?

    • Re:Who cares? (Score:5, Informative)

      by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @10:28AM (#26357975) Journal

      I don't know why we're so concerned about cross-contamination. The only potential downside to it that I can see is if it obscures evidence that life existed on other planets.

      I just find it hard to care about balls of rock and their 'pristine environment'.

      Well, the article cites fear of Forward-Contamination [wikipedia.org] which is

      the contamination of other worlds with Earth microbes. The risk of forward-contamination is twofold: that human beings may accidentally seed a previously sterile world, thus creating "extraterrestrials" that are really of terrestrial origin (and which might even make it impossible to determine whether the life later found is terrestric or local); or that an actual alien biosphere could be devastated by Earth's bacteria.

      So if these escape on Mars and we land later and find microbes how do we know that 1) they aren't really terrestrial or evolved descendants of our microbes and 2) they didn't inadvertently disrupt or destroy original organisms to the planet.

      I think it's more so a caution but scientists and people interested in the idea of life forming independently on other planets care very much so.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by drinkypoo (153816)

        the problem with being concerned with forward contamination is that you can't even step off into the bushes and take a shit. these are real issues, but until we actually go to some other worlds and kill them all off with smallpox blankets we can't really be sure who, if anyone, is actually in danger. the big question (other than, is there life out there not based on ours or that we are not based on) is whether life necessarily follows the same lines, or is different enough to where it won't matter.

        • Re:Who cares? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @10:57AM (#26358365) Journal

          the problem with being concerned with forward contamination is that you can't even step off into the bushes and take a shit.

          Are we really able to put a person on the moon but not properly dispose of their waste?

          these are real issues, but until we actually go to some other worlds and kill them all off with smallpox blankets we can't really be sure who, if anyone, is actually in danger.

          I'm not sure why you brought up smallpox blankets ... I thought those were things designed to destroy the populations of already known indigenous peoples? I think a better analogy would be the rats that were on board the ship from Europe that made it to the New World or maybe even the pigs that escaped and made short work of the squash/tuber/corn plant systems the Native Americans depended so heavily upon? Look around you, there are many species in North America that were 'accidentally' brought here. Look at the Kudzu vine that was in resource contention with plants that didn't stand a chance against it? Smallpox blankets were basically germ warfare ... why would we bring germ warfare to another planet?

          we can't really be sure who, if anyone, is actually in danger. the big question (other than, is there life out there not based on ours or that we are not based on) is whether life necessarily follows the same lines, or is different enough to where it won't matter.

          Well, I have more faith in our current technologies and I am saddened that you don't think we can learn from our errors. You seem to be resigned to the fact that we will destroy whatever we visit but I disagree. We have the ability to manufacture germ free CPUs here on earth and I think we should do our best to keep our external systems and machines also germ free. I think we have even been fairly successful in that.

          Lastly, this outer space treaty was signed by many countries and for good reason: all the scientist thought it an absolute necessity.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by drinkypoo (153816)

            Are we really able to put a person on the moon but not properly dispose of their waste?

            Able is not the issue. We CAN do it. The issue is, will we given the cost? It's a lot cheaper to just eject waste, after all.

            I'm not talking so much about the moon; if we took a life form there it would almost certainly die (then again, MIR fungus... but anyway.)

            I'm talking about the Sci-Fi future of visiting other planets where there really is significant life. And again, there is the big question. We have seen (in the lab) that the basic building blocks of life as we know them are capable of self-assembly

            • I love the way (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @11:53AM (#26359137)

              The 'real estate' value of Mars is always so totally overstated. NOBODY WILL EVER LIVE THERE. You want to know why?

              1) Because it will make much more sense to live in free space (IE on an asteroid or space colony) where you avoid the huge energy cost of going up and down a gravity well.

              2) Mars provides virtually nothing in the way of resources which are not available in places easier to get to.

              3) The environment of Mars is actually MUCH harsher than the environment in space, and probably much harsher than the environment of the Moon. So why exactly would we so desire to live there?

              4) If environments as harsh as Mars are desirable real estate for people to live on, then why aren't Antarctica and Green Land, and the Sahara Desert all chock full of people already? They are CERTAINLY much less harsh and much cheaper places to live. Good luck selling those Martian building lots...

              5) Even speculating about Terraforming is pretty much beyond science. The time and energy inputs required are probably 1000's and maybe millions or billions of times anything we can deploy today. The time frame could easily range into the millions of years no matter how capable you are. There is certainly no sense at all in planning a space program based on a payoff that somehow relies on a technology that is no more than an idle dream which might exist in 200 or 1000 years, if ever.

              This does all tie in to some extent to the OP, Mars' value is not ever going to be economic. Its value is purely scientific and there is no reasonable anticipation that it will ever be otherwise. Spoiling the pristine conditions on Mars would seriously degrade the value of exo-biology work done there in the future. So it IS a bad idea, and it would be a costly mistake.

              Now, the question of the actual safety of Phobos-Grunt is a whole other thing. We'll just have to leave that to experts. At least they value the principle of avoiding contamination. Maybe they're a little biased, but the risk doesn't seem super excessive to me. OTOH it also sounds like the experiment itself is mostly a PR stunt, so on that basis I'd give it the thumbs down. Not worth making a huge stink about though.

              • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

                by trollebolle (1210072)

                1) Because it will make much more sense to live in free space (IE on an asteroid or space colony) where you avoid the huge energy cost of going up and down a gravity well.

                Humans need gravity to exist for a prolonged time. Our skeleton, internal organs, muscle etc. all depend on it. Unless you in some way emulate gravity in a satisfactory way, living in free space is impossible.

              • Re:I love the way (Score:5, Insightful)

                by TWX (665546) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @03:20PM (#26362427)

                1) Because it will make much more sense to live in free space (IE on an asteroid or space colony) where you avoid the huge energy cost of going up and down a gravity well.

                3) The environment of Mars is actually MUCH harsher than the environment in space, and probably much harsher than the environment of the Moon. So why exactly would we so desire to live there?

                Wouldn't that gravity well be better on the biology of those living there than the microgravity associated with smaller rocky bodies?

                Plus, wouldn't even a thin atmosphere be better for protection and help reduce the need for vacuum-proof structures than near-vacuum conditions?

                Wouldn't Mars also be more desirable because it has mostly cleared the neighborhood of other heavenly objects such that the risk of one's home being smashed into by another particularly large rock is massively diminshed?

                Wouldn't the fact of working in an environment with an up, a down, and other gravity-based rules like that which we have on Earth be easier for workers who have to do things like maintenance, construction, and the like be better than attempting to work in microgravity where accidently losing a tool means that it's probably gone forever instead of being able to just bend down and pick it up off the ground?

                Wouldn't it be fairly practical to bore down into Mars to construct a habitat with significantly less materials (like basically a cap at the top of the bore hole) such that materials from Earth aren't depleted nearly as much for space?

                Wouldn't it be fairly easy to distill elements from an atmosphere to come up with that which we need to survive as compared to attempting to find them in the vacuum of space?

                There are many good reasons for looking at Mars too, beyond the adventuring spirit.

                • Re:I love the way (Score:4, Interesting)

                  by Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @08:45PM (#26366955)

                  1) Because it will make much more sense to live in free space (IE on an asteroid or space colony) where you avoid the huge energy cost of going up and down a gravity well.

                  3) The environment of Mars is actually MUCH harsher than the environment in space, and probably much harsher than the environment of the Moon. So why exactly would we so desire to live there?

                  Wouldn't that gravity well be better on the biology of those living there than the microgravity associated with smaller rocky bodies?

                  What evidence is there to support that hypothesis? Granted, it is not far fetched, but we don't actually KNOW what
                  level of gravity has what effects. My guess would be that some effects might be mitigated, maybe even completely, others
                  might not be significantly reduced at all.

                  Plus, wouldn't even a thin atmosphere be better for protection and help reduce the need for vacuum-proof structures than near-vacuum conditions?

                  No, because the atmosphere of Mars is already close enough to a vacuum that from a physiological standpoint the
                  difference is irrelevant. The atmospheric pressure on the surface of Mars is 6 millibars, 1/150th of the pressure at
                  the surface of the Earth. From a standpoint of engineering a structure or breathing, it is no better than a vacuum. Yet
                  from the standpoint of carrying dust into everything and possibly facilitating corrosion and other equipment damage it
                  could prove to be quite a serious problem. So, I would, as an engineer, MUCH rather deal with the problems of the Lunar
                  environment than the Martian environment, since I will avoid all of those problems.

                  Wouldn't Mars also be more desirable because it has mostly cleared the neighborhood of other heavenly objects such that the risk of one's home being smashed into by another particularly large rock is massively diminshed?

                  Exactly how often do you think main belt asteroids collide with each other? On average not often at all. In fact such
                  collisions probably only happen once in many millions of years, possibly billions of years. Those bodies which were in orbits which were likely to collide with things mostly did so billions of years ago and were either sent into orbits where they no longer hit other stuff or were pounded to bits long ago. The chances of an asteroid hitting Mars are actually probably at least as high as those of one asteroid hitting another. Besides, if you have the technology to live on an asteroid, you can probably shift its orbit by a few 100 meters if you ever need to...

                  Wouldn't the fact of working in an environment with an up, a down, and other gravity-based rules like that which we have on Earth be easier for workers who have to do things like maintenance, construction, and the like be better than attempting to work in microgravity where accidently losing a tool means that it's probably gone forever instead of being able to just bend down and pick it up off the ground?

                  Oh, it would probably be easier for you or me right now today, no doubt. However zero g assembly IN GENERAL should be
                  quite easy. No need for massive cranes, scaffolds, support structures, etc. I highly suspect that once we are even 1/8th
                  as knowledgeable about zero g construction as we are about 1 g construction today we will have a much easier time with it.

                  Wouldn't it be fairly practical to bore down into Mars to construct a habitat with significantly less materials (like basically a cap at the top of the bore hole) such that materials from Earth aren't depleted nearly as much for space?

                  And why wouldn't this solution work equally well when dealing with an asteroid? In fact it seems to me it would work much better and be much easier. You don't have to DIG anything, just dump a whole lot of material around your habitat if thats what you need to do. No need to worry about tunneling or weight, etc. It

          • Re:Who cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by mapsjanhere (1130359) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @11:35AM (#26358875)
            The whole "keep Mars sterile" will go out of the window as soon as we put humans on the surface. It's impossible to 100% decontaminate the space suits before every single EVA. So we better figure out first if there's any indigenous life form close enough to our own make-up (if we find living silicon on Mars we probably didn't transfer it, but anything DNA based would be highly suspicious). I've worked on Mars sample return projects, and the requirements are pretty damn strict. But guaranteeing that not a single mold spore survives anywhere is pretty much impossible.
            • some, like myself, believe that the first few set of ppl should be going on one way trips. To live there AT LEAST a decade. They should count on dying there. We would send supplies. If they survive, and we finally build a base there, then they can come back (why they would is another issue).
          • by SL Baur (19540)

            Are we really able to put a person on the moon but not properly dispose of their waste?

            I would presume so. We can't make a zero-g toilet worth a damn either.

          • why would we bring germ warfare to another planet?

            C'mon! That was one of my favorite tactics in Masters of Orion. I'd design Armageddon ships that were nothing but forward shielding and bio-warfare bombs. They'd survive a direct run through the enemy fleet long enough to destroy the plant.

    • If we did discover native extra-terrestrial microbes it would answer a lot of interesting questions. If it had a similar DNA basis it would support the idea of panspermia - that life on earth may have been seeded by space. If it is totally different who knows what we might learn.

      It would also be interesting to ask the young earth creationists on which day God created the Martian life and if Noah really had two of every species how did he get the samples form Mars.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by mrsquid0 (1335303)

        >If we did discover native extra-terrestrial microbes it would
        >answer a lot of interesting questions. If it had a similar DNA basis
        >it would support the idea of panspermia - that life on earth may
        >have been seeded by space

        It would be consistent with pan-spermia, but it would not be very strong evidence supporting it. Similar DNA could just mean that there is only one way to do DNA that can lead to life.

        • by Shakrai (717556)

          Similar DNA could just mean that there is only one way to do DNA that can lead to life.

          Is that all most of the aliens in Star Trek, Star Wars, Babylon 5, blah, blah, blah all look vaguely humanoid? ;)

          • by eln (21727) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @10:57AM (#26358363) Homepage

            Of course. Everyone knows that the primary difference between almost all intelligent life throughout the universe is forehead appearance.

            • by Shakrai (717556)

              Everyone knows that the primary difference between almost all intelligent life throughout the universe is forehead appearance

              Well, to be fair, JMS did write in some "other" differences for the Centauri at least....

              Bonus points to whomever is a big enough geek/fanboy to know what I'm talking about.

              • "We have 6..."

                That one guy used one of them to peek at the other guys card. And he got very cold when the drink was put on it.

          • Maybe god had a bigger budget than Paramount, Fox and Warner Brothers did...
      • by genner (694963)

        It would also be interesting to ask the young earth creationists on which day God created the Martian life and if Noah really had two of every species how did he get the samples form Mars.

        Mars didn't have the flood.
        :P

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mrsquid0 (1335303)

      Obscuring evidence that life existed on other planets is a huge downside. Once this has been done we can never go back and know whether or not life started only on Earth, or independently on the other planet. Since we only have a very limited number of potential abodes for life in the Solar System, and no realistic hope of ever leaving the Solar System, failing to ensure that there is no cross-contamination could ensure that we will never be able to answer some of the fundamental questions about life.

      • Re:Who cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Shakrai (717556) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @11:04AM (#26358427) Journal

        and no realistic hope of ever leaving the Solar System

        That's a pretty pessimistic view. Is our knowledge of the universe so complete that you feel safe making that assumption?

    • by Sperbels (1008585)
      I'm not sure why we're worried about contamination either. As soon as one human steps foot on Mars it will inevitably be contaminated anyway. We need these "contaminants" to stay alive...they permeate our living environments. Any artificial human martian habitat we place on Mars will ooze microorganisms like lava from a volcano. If we were at all interested in maintaining a pristine martian ecosystem we'd never land there. Trying to prevent it is ridiculous. Even if we could prevent it, it only takes
    • by jhol13 (1087781)

      Besides every vehicle sent to space have contained some microbes. It is just too difficult to 100% sterilize space probes, etc.

  • I've long thought that crossing dandelions and cannabis would be the best way to terraform Mars. If for no other reason than to get McDonald's and Hostess to set up a presence there.
  • Firefly!!! (Score:2, Funny)

    by jabster (198058)

    Yes!

    Joss is back!!

    Way to go browncoats!!.....wait...damn....

  • ...if they find any leather goddesses.

  • The "New World" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RobBebop (947356) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @10:29AM (#26357983) Homepage Journal

    The more I hear about Mars, the more the analogy between the 1400-1700s exploration of America seems fit.

    Whereas previously it had seemed (at least within my worldview) that USA was the only entity even considering Martian missions. Now it seems that USA, China, Russia, the EU, and India are in the same sort of colonization race that England, Spain, France, Portugal, and the Netherlands were in hundreds of year ago.

    And what did that accomplish? Well, the host nations managed to spread their languages and gene pools to their "New World" destinations, but 300 years later the "mighty conquests" have all but melted into air as almost all of America's nations have attained independence.

    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      And what did that accomplish?

      Humongous amounts of precious metals.

      If the rest of the world doesn't care about Spain and Portugal invading Mars, taking everything that shines (for starters), and giving the land back 300 years later, I don't think Spain and Portugal would find it unresonably harsh.

      • by ArsonSmith (13997)

        I just hope they don't crash into the Moon on their way to Mars and just call the inhabitant Martians anyway.

    • by solios (53048)

      Yeah - off the top of my head, out of an entire hemisphere.... Denmark has Greenland and the UK has the Falkland Islands.

      I dunno how to file Quebec.

  • infocom tag (Score:4, Funny)

    by Speare (84249) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @10:34AM (#26358061) Homepage Journal
    With a mission name like Phobos-Grunt, I was immediately tempted to add the 'leathergoddesses' tag. Now if only I could find my "T remover" device.
  • " The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 was being upheld as it prevents cross-contamination between planets and receives some interesting responses from experts on this mission."

    doesn't this make terraforming outlawed as well?

    • Not really since the Outer Space treaty does not ban this ... The Moon Treaty does but of the space faring nations only India and Japan have signed up

  • I think The Airplane, The Dead and Hendrix played at that gig.
  • by tjstork (137384) <todd.bandrowsky@gm a i l.com> on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @10:52AM (#26358285) Homepage Journal

    Read the Treaty Text. The original poster is a retard. The original purpose of the outer space treaty was essentially a deal to keep a great power from "taking over" space, made at a time, when the military importance of space was recognized but no leading nation was willing to bet its future on it winning the space race.

    http://www.state.gov/t/ac/trt/5181.htm [state.gov]

    There is absolutely nothing that precludes the deposit of life on other planets. Its legal to seed the moon, mars or any other body with life and to terraform it.

    • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @11:49AM (#26359079) Journal
      From your link, by searching for "contamination"

      Article IX

      In the exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, States Parties to the Treaty shall be guided by the principle of co-operation and mutual assistance and shall conduct all their activities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, with due regard to the corresponding interests of all other States Parties to the Treaty. States Parties to the Treaty shall pursue studies of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, and conduct exploration of them so as to avoid their harmful contamination and also adverse changes in the environment of the Earth resulting from the introduction of extraterrestrial matter and, where necessary, shall adopt appropriate measures for this purpose.

      The debate is already in Kim Stanley Robinson's "Red Mars" novel : should we protect other planets from earth's lifeforms ? While it would be nice to find definite proofs in favor or against panspermia, I would tend to be in favor of as much contamination as possible, as early as possible. Terraformation will eventually be scheduled. The sooner we start, the better.

    • by smoker2 (750216)

      Read the Treaty Text. The original poster is a retard. The original purpose of the outer space treaty was essentially a deal to keep a great power from "taking over" space, made at a time, when the military importance of space was recognized but no leading nation was willing to bet its future on it winning the space race.

      http://www.state.gov/t/ac/trt/5181.htm [state.gov]

      There is absolutely nothing that precludes the deposit of life on other planets. Its legal to seed the moon, mars or any other body with life an

      • by ArsonSmith (13997)

        You are reading it as if it were written "conduct exploration of them as To avoid causing harmful contamination of the place explored."

        that is not what is written or what you bolded. What was written is that the exploration was to "conduct exploration of them as to avoid their harmful contamination."

        As in we don't wish to transport their harmful contamination back to earth.

        • by smoker2 (750216) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @12:45PM (#26359931) Homepage Journal
          Ahem,
          States Parties to the Treaty shall pursue studies of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, and conduct exploration of them so as to avoid their harmful contamination and also adverse changes in the environment of the Earth resulting from the introduction of extraterrestrial matter and, where necessary, shall adopt appropriate measures for this purpose.

          What does "them" refer to in that sentence ?
          "And also" is part of the "to avoid" clause.
          Surely if "them" or "their" referred to the States party to the Treaty, you wouldn't need the "and also" clause. "Harmful contamination" and "adverse changes in the environment" are almost synonymous. That they phrased it that way implies the separation of the two areas of concern.
          Seems pretty clear to me. But then I have comprehension skills.
          • by ArsonSmith (13997)

            If by comprehension skills you mean, "reading what I want out of it" then yes. As with almost any written text, clear it is not.

  • by khallow (566160) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @11:00AM (#26358397)

    Unfortunately, The United States is not taking part in Phobos-Grunt."

    What's unfortunate about this? Why should everyone participate in everything? As I see it competition remains the best form of cooperation. It is good that there are Mars missions that don't involve the US. That means that they can develope their own technology, procedures, etc without US contamination. We are more likely to see new innovations this way.

  • As the US is making plans to send a few kilos of bacteria(*) to Mars, I don't see why a few microbes should cause such concern.

    * Estimate of around 2 kilos of bacteria in and on the average human body.

  • I think we're kidding ourselves if we think we haven't already landed viruses/bacteria on Mars. We're literally swimming in viruses, bacteria, prions, etc etc and everything we touch is covered in these things.

    The bell curve being what it is you can reduce the "contamination" down to a tiny fraction but to think, for example, that the rovers didn't introduce any biological material is, IMO, foolish.
  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @11:47AM (#26359055)

    Let's send some Australian Rabbits (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbits_in_Australia) to Mars instead.

    The idea of importing rabbits into Australia seems to have worked out ok.

    And the soil of Australia is red, just like Mars.

    This should work.

  • by sherriw (794536) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @11:51AM (#26359115)

    I find it funny that we are concerned with damaging an extraterrestrial biosphere but are completely ok with trashing our own. I bet those up in arms about some _potential_ mars bacteria being wiped out, give a shrug and a yawn when told of the countless Earth species on the brink of extinction. I'm not saying they aren't worth protecting, but rather, we need to get our priorities straight here on the ground too.

    • by sherriw (794536)

      A recent National Geographic article listed several species on the brink. It's horrifying IMHO. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2009/01/endangered-species/klinkenborg-text [nationalgeographic.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tsstahl (812393)
      There will ALWAYS be more that can be done Here before we do something There. But we still go There to expand horizons, provide vision, inspire minds and any number of other things that enhance our knowledge of the universe.

      Solely looking inward is the key ingredient to stagnation of civilization.

      The US and Russia went to space while paved roads were still measured in the thousands of miles.

      We go forward to find the 'now' of tomorrow.

      Heck, there are still uncontacted people in South America. S
      • by sherriw (794536)

        Agreed. I'm all in favour of space exploration. I just don't want people to be all high-and mighty about the need to protect alien microbes when we aren't even protecting our own planet. Humanity really needs to learn to be consistent.

    • by khallow (566160)
      Two things to remember. First, trashing a biosphere only kills some species in that biosphere. As I see it, we could duplicate the Permian extinction, the worst in geological history (of the species then that left fossils, 95% of all marine species and 75% of all land species were lost), and yet still have a biosphere when it's over. With Mars, we have a very small chance of wiping out completely a biosphere we haven't seen yet.
  • by pcgabe (712924)

    The Phobos-Grunt mission will also deploy a Chinese sub-satellite 'Firefly-1,'

    Dahng rahn it's Chinese, the question is who's behind it? The Alliance? Blue Sun?

  • Life evolved on Mars first, because it reached geological stability sooner. Then it infected Earth via Martian meteorites. Dozens of meteorites from Mars have been found and that is probably only a tiny of percentage of those which have reached Earth.

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