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Moon Space Science

Did Chandrayaan Find Organic Matter On the Moon? 141

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the regolith-wasn't-in-my-spellchecker dept.
Matt_dk writes "Surendra Pal, associate director of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Satellite Centre says that Chandrayaan-1 picked up signatures of organic matter on parts of the Moon's surface. 'The findings are being analyzed and scrutinized for validation by ISRO scientists and peer reviewers,' Pal said. At a press conference Tuesday at the American Geophysical Union fall conference, scientists from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter also hinted at possible organics locked away in the lunar regolith. When asked directly about the Chandrayaan-1 claim of finding life on the Moon, NASA's chief lunar scientist, Mike Wargo, certainly did not dismiss the idea."
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Did Chandrayaan Find Organic Matter On the Moon?

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  • The year (Score:3, Funny)

    by suso (153703) * on Thursday December 17, 2009 @11:54AM (#30474232) Homepage Journal

    Cool, just in time for 2010

  • by thirty-seven (568076) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @11:58AM (#30474288)
    The summary seems to make a jump from talking about "organics" and "organic matter" to "the Chandrayaan-1 claim of finding life on the Moon". Is the ISRO actually claiming to have found life on the moon? And aren't there lots of sources of organic molecules that don't involve life?
    • by InsertWittyNameHere (1438813) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @12:03PM (#30474370)
      I didn't RTFA but I assume that they're whalers on the moon and they carry a harpoon.
    • And aren't there lots of sources of organic molecules that don't involve life?

      Don't be silly. Vitalism is alive and well. [space.com]

    • by boef (452862) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @12:12PM (#30474500)
      Humans have been there. Humans carry organic matter with them (water, waste etc). So no surprise here in my opinion...

      For those wondering about the toilets - From the book called A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts:

      But one aspect of weightlessness was so unpleasant was so unpleasant that even the thrill of exploration didn't make up for it. If this marvel of engineering called Apollo had one major design flaw, it was the 'Waste Management System,' perhaps the most euphemistic use of English ever recorded. For urine collection there was a hose with a condom-like fitting at one end which led, by way of a valve, to a vent on the side of the spacecraft. On paper at least, it seemed like a reasonable, if low-tech, way to handle urinating in zero g, assuming you got over your anxiety about connecting yor private parts to the vacuum of space. You roll on the condom, open the valve, and it all goes into the void where it freezes into droplets of ice that are iridescent in the sunlight. One astronaut answered the question "What's the most beautiful sight you ever saw in space?" with "Urine dump at sunset."

      In reality, using the urine collector didn't work so well. For one thing, it could be painful. If you opened the valve too soon, some part of the mechanism was liable to poke into the end of your penis, which prevented you from urinating. And at that point, as if to confirm your worst fears, the suction began to pull you in. Now you were being jabbed and pulled at the same time, so you shut the valve, and as the mechanism resealed itself it caught a little piece of you in it. It took only one episode like that to convince you to never let it happen again. Next time you had a strategy: start flowing a split-second before you turn on the valve. But once you began to urinate the condom popped off and out came a flurry of little golden droplets at play in the wonderland, floating around and making your misfortune everybody's misfortune! And in no time at all the whole device reeked; it was an affront to the senses just sitting there.

      The astronauts got used to the urine collector, though, and they got used to mopping up afterwards. But there was no getting used to the other part of the Waste Management System. Tucked away in a strange locker was a supply of special plastic bags, each of which resembled a top hat with an adhesive coating on the brim. Each bag had a finger-shaped pocket built into the side of it. When the call came you had to flypaper this thing to your rear end, and then you were supposed to reach in there through the pocket with your finger---after all, nothing falls in zero gravity---and suddenly you were wishing you had never left home. And after you had it in the bag, so to speak, you had one last delightful task: break open a capsule of blue germicide, seal it up in the bag, and knead the contents to make sure they were fully mixed! At best, the operation was an ordeal. In the confined space of the Apollo command module, your crewmates suffered, too. One of the Apollo 7 astronauts said the smell was so bad it woke him out of a deep sleep. When the crew came back they wrote a memo about it: "Get naked, allow an hour, have plenty of tissues handy."
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I did not need that information. Nor do need to know how you believe the waste migrated from the equatorial region to the south pole.

      • by nedlohs (1335013)

        Water isn't an organic molecule.

        I would think carbon monoxide would be more likely a find than human waste...

        • by idontgno (624372)
          Unless you anticipate some kind of chemical reaction, humans don't expel carbon monoxide as waste. Carbon dioxide, sure. But if you try exhaling into the vacuum of the lunar surface, the organic material you're likely to leave behind is lung tissue and blood.
          • by nedlohs (1335013)

            Obviously.

            I think carbon monoxide by non-human processes is more likely than human waste.

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        break open a capsule of blue germicide, seal it up in the bag, and knead the contents to make sure they were fully mixed!

        Aww, come on man. Some of us read Slashdot during our lunch break.

        That's just nasty! :-P

        Cheers

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        But one aspect of weightlessness was so unpleasant was so unpleasant that even the thrill of exploration didn't make up for it. For one thing, it could be painful.... If you opened the valve too soon, some part of the mechanism was liable to poke into the end of your penis, which prevented you from urinating. And at that point, as if to confirm your worst fears, the suction began to pull you in. Now you were being jabbed and pulled at the same time, so you shut the valve, and as the mechanism resealed itself it caught a little piece of you in it. It took only one episode like that to convince you to never let it happen again. Next time you had a strategy: start flowing a split-second before you turn on the valve. But once you began to urinate the condom popped off and out came a flurry of little golden droplets at play in the wonderland, floating around and making your misfortune everybody's misfortune! And in no time at all the whole device reeked; it was an affront to the senses just sitting there.

        You're speaking to the wrong audience. For most of these guys, that sounds like the closest thing to a blowjob they'll ever get.

    • The article just says organic matter, but the headline says life. I'm guessing the former is what they found.
    • Everything you're saying is correct, but you're missing the point of the media. The media asked NASA about the "Life on the moon" - ISRO never makes that claim.

      The media is there to find the BOLDEST statement you can make. Then when it's wrong they work their way backwards until the news is no longer interesting.

    • what they found was the expected - live bacteria that causes the mould in cheese
    • by Hatta (162192)

      Carbon is the 4th most common element in our galaxy. It would be surprising if there weren't organic molecules on any rock of appreciable size. There's methane in all of the gas giants, and moons like Titan. No one claims that came from life.

    • by ArsonSmith (13997) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @12:42PM (#30474912) Journal

      I'd say the timeline was something like this:

      JFK: We will put a man on the moon by the end of the decade
      NASA 3 months later: ok we put a man on the moon!
      After small coverup
      JFK: We will put a man on the moon by the end of the decade, and bring him back.

      40 years later,
      Chandrayyaan: What's this spot of organic matter on the moon?

    • Yes

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Gulthek (12570)

      Re: your sig

      Religion = a belief without proof

      Atheism = a belief that there is no God, afterlife, and all that

      Not even caring enough to have a label is a religion to the same extent that not collecting stamps is a hobby.

    • It's not just the summary making the leap from carbon to life. The entire article makes the same leap, though to be fair - it does indicate that the leap is a very large one.
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      It's even worse. The discovery seems to be a mass spec observation of carbon. Either the article or the ISRO suggests that it's possible some actual organic compounds of some sort might have been deposited by meteors. The summary then mentions life.

      • by idontgno (624372)

        actual organic compounds of some sort might have been deposited by meteors

        One of these? [wikipedia.org]

        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          Exactly. The things are basically made of carbon to start with (explaining why you'd observe carbon on the moon). They've also been found to contain actual organic compounds, even complex ones like amino acids, which would also explain the presence of those compounds on the moon.

          PS: I should have said meteoroids. It's the first day of vacation.

  • Impact (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mcgrew (92797) *

    I wonder if there was life on Earth before it was struck by the object that "splashed" to become the moon? If so, could it mean that life has developed here twice?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by d3ac0n (715594)

      I was under the impression that the Earth was still in the early stages of cooling when struck by that other planet, and was still a highly "magmatic" planet at that point, and thus incapable of sustaining life yet.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mcgrew (92797) *

        How could they know anything at all about the planet before it was struck?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Science theory. Based on observable evidence of other bodies, physical properties and elapsed time they can theorize with a fair bit of confidence, what the conditions were given the age of the earth at the time.

          That said, theories are only theories. I just saw an TV show that suggested the earth didn't become completely molten 'until' the impact by the other planet. This is what gave us the iron dense core we have as it settled out into the center while the earth was molten.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by d3ac0n (715594)

          Well, IANAS, but my understanding is that the Earth was simply too young at that point to be anything other than a mostly molten ball of semi-liquid rock with a thin crust, as was the other planet. This is why Earth was able to re-form into a nice sphere again rather than a lopsided, cracked mess like Mimas did.

          But, in the strict sense you are correct in that they can't KNOW in that we weren't around then and we haven't yet invented Time Travel. But as a theory it certainly makes sense.

          • by spitzak (4019)

            This is why Earth was able to re-form into a nice sphere again rather than a lopsided, cracked mess like Mimas did.

            The earth is large enough that it would have collapsed to a perfect sphere even if it was completely solid and cold. Mimas is a lot lot lot smaller with 1/1000 the gravity. You might want to check obvious things like that, especially if you are attempting to deny AGW. When you say stupid science fallacies in your post it does not help your cause in any way!

    • by RockDoctor (15477)

      I wonder if there was life on Earth before it was struck by the object that "splashed" to become the moon?

      Impossible? No.
      Implausible? Yes.

      If so, could it mean that life has developed here twice?

      It's fairly mainstream (as much as there is a "mainstream" in OOL (Origin Of Life) studies) that, if life could develop on an Earth-like planet in a hundred million years (end of Late Heavy Bombardment around 3800 Mya ; first generally-accepted fossils either 3200 Mya or 3500 Mya, depending on which mainstream you p

  • So from reading the article, it sounds like they just found some carbon dust in the cloud they stirred up. Am I the only one not excited at all by finding carbon? Isn't it a common mineral?

    • by yincrash (854885) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @12:02PM (#30474350)
      they just meant it's pesticide free
    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      Yeah, they're only certain that they saw carbon. That could mean hydrocarbons/organics, or it could essentially be graphite. They admit it's a leap yet to get to organics from what they've discovered. Of course it was an interviewer who then made the additional leap to life. Which of course the researcher wouldn't rule out, because that would be silly when you still don't know what you're looking at.

      Though as TFA mentions it's not like organic compounds are all that rare in space.

  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Thursday December 17, 2009 @12:00PM (#30474324)

    Though organic matter is the basis of life, it does not guarantee that life would exist. It is just a type of matter composed of carbon-based molecules. Is there carbon out there? You bet. That means that organic matter will also exist out there in space.

    Colin Powell was crucified for claiming the existence of WMDs in Iraq. It took a couple years, but we never found the smoking gun. Don't be too quick to jump on the first piece of evidence you find.

  • by d3ac0n (715594) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @12:01PM (#30474338)

    Assuming the theory of "panspermia" is a reasonably close to accurate description of how life arrived on earth (Amino acids and water carried inside asteroids brought life to Earth) and knowing that the Moon has acted as an Asteroid barrier for BILLIONS of years, is it all that surprising that we would ALSO find "organic signatures" on the moon?

    Indeed, one would almost EXPECT to find them there.

    • by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy&gmail,com> on Thursday December 17, 2009 @12:05PM (#30474404) Journal

      Assuming panspermia is pretty big leap.

      • by d3ac0n (715594)

        Is not the theory that "life arrived here via Amino acids carried aboard asteroids" the current leader among the scientific community? Is that not "panspermia"? Or am I getting my terminology confused?

        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          No, yes, no.

    • panspermia is a terrible theory. it doesn't fully address where the componets of life came from, it's just sticking your fingers in your ears shouting IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE.

      One of the many problems I have with the theory is that no where have I seen evidence that these organic molecules are more likely to appear when exposed to the hard radiation of space. And only thing it has going for it, in my opinion, is that you can have much larger time scales for life to appear if you take the Earth out of the pi

    • Could some of these chemicals have originated on Earth and were blasted onto the moon by an asteroid impact?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    So THAT'S where I left those skin flakes!
  • by Saint Stephen (19450) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @12:04PM (#30474400) Homepage Journal

    I bet what they found was some of our astronaut's pee pee on the moon.

    Or maybe a discarded moon pie wrapper.

    Or maybe a bottle of scotch.

  • mmmm.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by seven of five (578993) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @12:09PM (#30474452) Homepage
    Green cheese....
  • With the Apollo missions and various probes sent to the moon since the 60's... Wouldn't you expect to find some organic material on the moon?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by FTWinston (1332785)
      Not on the far side, or at the poles. And frankly, even if they crashed right into an old probe or LM lower stage, the quanties would be miniscule.
  • ZOMG! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @12:27PM (#30474678)
    It *is* cheese!
  • New proof that the cartoonists were right! Possible cheese discovered on moon! Story at 11!
  • I for one welcome our new lunar overlords.
  • by NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @12:29PM (#30474708)
    It means hydrocarbons. So before any one asks to a chemist gasoline is organic.
  • wow (Score:4, Funny)

    by fulldecent (598482) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @12:43PM (#30474928) Homepage

    Wow... peer review, remember that?

    • by petaflop (682818)
      No, I don't. But I've read about it.

      I understand that peer-review used to be the response of the scientific community to a piece of work over a period of years, sometimes decades.

      However, since the rise of the scientific journal as the major means of scientific publication and the implementation of "peer review" as part of the publication process, it has come to mean (among most members of the public and also many members of the scientific community) the review of a paper by 2 or 3 scientists who may be

  • by Zalbik (308903) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @12:43PM (#30474934)

    But it might just be a particle of preanimate matter caught in the matrix...

  • Organic? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by VincenzoRomano (881055) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @12:43PM (#30474942) Homepage Journal
    It depends on what do they mean with "organic [wikipedia.org]"!
    At the bare minimum it's "anything that contains carbon". Which is not that hard to find when you stroll close to a star.
    • Exactly. The interstellar medium, all the dust and gases between celestial bodies, is mostly inorganic, but there are a number of surprising organic compounds as well, like ethyl alcohol. So either the Russians have been producing vodka for the last few billion years and distributing it all over the galaxy or it can be produced in nature with no involvement with life whatsoever...I'm guessing the second option is more likely.
    • At the bare minimum it's "anything that contains carbon".

      No doubt the USDA would take exception to that definition!

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @12:47PM (#30475002)

    In other news, moons only indigenous life destroyed by rocket. Film at 11!

  • Quick, get Chekov and Brisco County Jr. up there to take a look at it.

  • They found the rabbit on the moon, that's all. And this makes the news? I cite, directly from wikipedia: "The Moon rabbit, also called the Jade Rabbit, is a rabbit that lives on the moon"
  • Organic chemistry just refers to any chemical containing carbon... I've no doubt there are organic chemicals on the moon. I seriously doubt they mean "could only have been created as a by-product of living creatures" when they say "organics".
  • You DID take a shit on the moon!

    And as usual, an Indian is the lucky one, who finds it!

  • Richard Hoagland says it will go like this:
    -we discover microbes
    -we discover artifacts
    -we discover other intelligent life

    Maybe all the retired military and intelligence guys, with their "I want to say this before I die" stories, weren't lying after all.
  • Well, even U.S. scientists are very careful about the potential for organic contamination. Hopefully the satellite isn't simply detecting something deposited onto the detectors or nearby areas on the spacecraft. Carbon and oxygen are all over the universe, so even if contamination isn't a problem, detection of organics on the moon is not a surprise. To give an idea about the abundance of carbon, very large stars may end up in a carbon-nitrogen-oxygen (CNO) burning phase once they're used up all their hea
  • Lunar meteorites are not that uncommon here (chunks of the moon blasted out of the moon after asteroid/meteorite impacts onto the moon which then fall on earth).

    The reverse has no doubt happened too, over geological time, chunks of Earth rock have been blasted into space during particularly nasty collisions (think of the one that ended the dinosaurs), and while most of it would rain back down on Earth, a small percentage could eventually end up caught by the moon.

    Now, this doesn't necessarily mean the trace

    • by TempeTerra (83076)

      ...much of the Earth's surface is constantly subducted and renewed at plate boundaries, much of the fossil record of very early times is lost - and there has been speculation that the best place to find fossils of very early life on earth is on meteorite fragments on the surface of the moon.

      I've never heard of plate subduction being a problem for fossils, although I could be wrong. Plates are subducted very slowly, even on a geological timescale. I understand the problem to be that you need very specific co

  • by joocemann (1273720) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @01:37PM (#30475674)

    A recent anonymous hacker hacked the hackings of hackery into the datas of the database datastores of the NASA research on the topic that is subject at hand.

    Several NASA e-mails indicate that there was an argument at the coffee machine that did not go well and that one of the arguers, Bob Shandley, said something to the tune of 'booshit there ain't not organic matter on the moon!'.

    While most would consider a discussion at the coffee machine unofficial and casual, many are fueled in their skepticism of NASA as a whole; they reason that if Bob could be so bold and deny the recent data, that there must be a serious level of corruption within NASA that may even bring into question the validity of the moon landing.

    Mary Jenkins, a Washington Elementary fourth Grader is quoted saying "Well. If the guy says something isn't true but it is true. Well then he's lying. And my mom says liars hang out with liars, and so.. well... NASA is full of liars. We never landed on the moon."

    Attempts to contact the Obama administration for comment on the topic have yielded no results. We assume the silence is likely due to cooperation between the administration and NASA to coverup the extreme level of non-science going on at NASA, regarding Bob Shandley's coverup.

    Thousands rallied against corruption and conspiracy outside the Austin, TX NASA launchpad on Friday; a day of high expectations set for the launch of NASA's new the Eagle II rocket. People from all walks of life stood through the cold and dry afternoon in protest with signs like "IF BOB WON'T, I WON'T" and "WHAT IS BOB HIDING".

    One protester standing a mere 400 feet from the Eagle II, who wishes to remain anonymous is quoted with the observation "That rocket doesn't even have a red tip. Chances are it's not even a real rocket, this is probably some 3d projection or something. Those damn NASA scientists are so full of lies and tricks we cannot trust them!"

    After the recent uncovering of Bob's coffee-machine side argument, the world is clearly up in arms and now standing in disbelief of everything NASA.

    Next at 5: Are America's youth getting dumber? New research indicates widespread failure in critical thinking, mathematics, and basic sciences among public school students. Check back for more in a half hour for more details.

  • From the article "An anonymous Chandrayaan-1 scientist said MIP's mass spectrometer detected chemical signatures of organic matter in the soil kicked up by the impact". From the information I could find it sounded like the mass spectrometer was directly on the impactor and was only to be used for atmospheric analysis as the MIP descended. If the mass spectrometer detected the debris kicked up by the impactor either it separated and passed through a cloud of debris or it survived the impact. I can't find

  • I said "eom," dammit!
  • It's that bag of dope I was hiding from my Mom in 1973!

    Man, was I high!

  • Don't touch that slimy thing. You don't know where its been!
  • by Kingrames (858416)
    Oh my god, they finally found Jimmy Hoffa.
  • ...the human race declares war on an alien civilization by accidentally killing thousands of its microscopic citizens!

% APL is a natural extension of assembler language programming; ...and is best for educational purposes. -- A. Perlis

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