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Mars Space Science

Bacteria Could Survive In Martian Soil 90

Posted by Soulskill
from the only-if-they-use-a-portion-of-their-cunning dept.
Dagondanum writes "Multiple missions have been sent to Mars with the hopes of testing the surface of the planet for life — or the conditions that could create life. The question of whether life in the form of bacteria (or something even more exotic) exists on Mars is hotly debated, and still lacks a definitive yes or no. Experiments done right here on Earth that simulate the conditions on Mars and their effects on terrestrial bacteria show that it is entirely possible for certain strains of bacteria to weather the harsh environment of Mars." Perhaps this is something that will be tested further in a few years by the Mars Science Lab, also known as "Curiosity" and (as reader Nova1021 points out) "the Mars Action Hero."
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Bacteria Could Survive In Martian Soil

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  • by Wonko the Sane (25252) * on Monday November 02, 2009 @11:50AM (#29950818) Journal

    Sounds like we should get started with the terraforming.

  • Re:FP (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Daniel_Staal (609844) <DStaal@usa.net> on Monday November 02, 2009 @12:01PM (#29950982)

    They are probably using a slightly different definition of 'survive' in this case: instead of just holing up in the equivalent of a bacterium space suit, they feed, grow, and reproduce.

  • by careysub (976506) on Monday November 02, 2009 @12:34PM (#29951432)

    The fact that modern bacteria can survive in those conditions says nothing about whether life could arise or even evolve there. Its a bit like assuming that because cockroaches can survive high doses of radiation there's potential for a 6 legged lifeform to arise inside nuclear reactors.

    There are at least two serious problems with the objections offered above. First, no one supposes that life arose under conditions anything like Mars today, anymore than people suppose that new life is arising de novo on Earth today. Life would have arisen long ago under radically different (warmer and more moist) conditions. Second, not every study addresses all aspects of every question of science. In fact, none of them do! Criticizing a study for not examining a radically different question, not amenable to laboratory examination, and only distantly related to the one under study is simply perverse.

    The point is: it does say something about whether viable Martian bacteria (if they exist) could be recovered from the near surface soil.

  • Re:Epic Fail? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AmonTheMetalhead (1277044) on Monday November 02, 2009 @12:40PM (#29951506)
    Hello DNA!
  • by MBGMorden (803437) on Monday November 02, 2009 @12:42PM (#29951524)

    They're waiting on that definite answer to life existing on Mars. If bacteria can survive there and we seed the planet, then we will never know for sure if life ever existed there independent of our own additions. Anything that we find that might have previously been there would always hold the possibility of just being a mutated strain of the life we sent ourselves.

  • by spydabyte (1032538) on Monday November 02, 2009 @12:52PM (#29951682)
    they're waiting for a reason. Tell me the target market for "it's just awesome." and "why not?"

    Until we see an intergalactic threat, I doubt we'll see the kind of R&D needed to really accomplish this.
  • Re:Epic Fail? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cocoronixx (551128) on Monday November 02, 2009 @12:56PM (#29951736) Homepage

    If that is the case then we have already failed. Any number of bacteria could have survived on the rovers could now be contaminating the surface. With no known competition they could be flourishing. I see little that can be done to figure out what is now native bacteria (if any) and what was brought via the rovers.

    Wow! Too bad the NASA/ESA scientists weren't as smart as you, because if they were they would have put policies [spaceref.com] in place to mitigate the risks of contamination.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 02, 2009 @02:43PM (#29953040)

    Right on!
    Even if Mars has bacterial life, it is irrelevant. We can plant life and terraform that area starting now. We could start by selecting key bacteria that provide a thicker atmosphere, then follow with lichens and work our way up. If Dr. McKay, NASA was right (and due to current findings looks to be true) we need only get to a tipping point before the frozen gases emitt quickly, making a more hospitable environment.
    Survival of the species long term (especially my species, and any other species we bring with us...think lots of land for many animals pressed for space here), trumps worries about weather or not Mars has or has not bacteria of its own (prediction here...if we find them they will share systematic relation to ours...meteroids can make the swap putting ours there).
    I say, lets concentrate on colonization now,get humanity more elbow room, worry about the paleontology later.

  • by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Monday November 02, 2009 @02:44PM (#29953042)
    Any extrasolar threat large enough to COMPLETELY sterilize Earth is likely to do the same to Mars.

    (Not that I otherwise disagree with the sentiment.)
  • by Joe Tie. (567096) on Monday November 02, 2009 @03:24PM (#29953594)
    Finding the aliens - little green men or bacteria on mars - is important as an act of faith not just science.

    And that's where I think the flaw in your argument is. If it was faith, there wouldn't be a need to search for proof. The people on the other side are quite content to say "because, that's why".
  • by TapeCutter (624760) * on Monday November 02, 2009 @09:27PM (#29958180) Journal
    "If we just look at empirical facts, the probability of finding life twice in the same solar system is not huge."

    Hey Eienstien, that's not an emprical fact. It's not even a statistic, it's an anecdote, a single data point from a virtually infinite population of solar systems.

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