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Mars Space Science

Life Possible On 'Large Regions' of Mars 154

Posted by samzenpus
from the quato-approved dept.
astroengine writes "Australian scientists who modeled conditions on Mars to examine how much of the Red Planet was habitable have said that 'large regions' could sustain life. Using decades of global data, the researchers have evaluated the entire planet, and found that 3 percent of the Martian volume could sustain Earth-like microbial life. As a comparison, only one percent of the volume of Earth contains life. However, the only habitable regions are below the Martian surface where the temperature and pressure could sustain liquid water."
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Life Possible On 'Large Regions' of Mars

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  • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:02AM (#38342170)

    I'd be interested to know how deep they think you'd have to drill to find water beneath the surface of mars. If it's actually a reasonable depth, it seems like it could be a good source of propellant for a return trip, were a manned mission ever to take place.

    • by FTWinston (1332785) on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:06AM (#38342186) Homepage

      It could also be a good source of propellant for an unmanned sample return mission. If the drilling/refining component of this mission proved to be reliable enough for the unmanned return trip, and was able to continue producing fuel after the return capsule had left, it could conceivably then be used to provide fuel for a manned return trip. (At least for the return-to-martian-orbit part).

      But unless it had a track record, I'd be wary of risking my life on the assumption that fuel could be extracted.

      • by somersault (912633) on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:11AM (#38342246) Homepage Journal

        But unless it had a track record, I'd be wary of risking my life on the assumption that fuel could be extracted.

        Which is just one of the reasons that you're not an astronaut. They risk their lives just to get out into space in the first place.

        • by FTWinston (1332785) on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:17AM (#38342310) Homepage

          Which is just one of the reasons that you're not an astronaut.

          The main reasons being my nationality, my height, my short-sightedness, and my wife.

          They risk their lives just to get out into space in the first place.

          You do realise that manned spacecraft tend to be rigorously tested first? The first moon landing was done by the 11th Apollo craft for a reason, you know.

          • by kelemvor4 (1980226) on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:27AM (#38342424)

            They risk their lives just to get out into space in the first place.

            You do realise that manned spacecraft tend to be rigorously tested first? The first moon landing was done by the 11th Apollo craft for a reason, you know.

            They do lots of testing. However, "astronaut" is still a very dangerous profession.

            • by vlm (69642)

              They do lots of testing. However, "astronaut" is still a very dangerous profession.

              Oh please. Your odds of a nice long healthy gray hair retirement are orders of magnitude better for an astronaut than for a logger or a farm hand.

              • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                by kelemvor4 (1980226)

                They do lots of testing. However, "astronaut" is still a very dangerous profession.

                Oh please. Your odds of a nice long healthy gray hair retirement are orders of magnitude better for an astronaut than for a logger or a farm hand.

                31% of all astronauts have died in the process (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astronaut#Deaths [wikipedia.org] ). I haven't looked up statistics for logging and farming, but I'd be really surprised to find it was so high.

                • by vlm (69642) on Monday December 12, 2011 @11:22AM (#38343040)

                  Check your math. Your own link lists 18 dead, and 529 people "in space", for some strange value of "in space". Plenty of "astronaut" job title holders don't technically get in space, or don't get a mission assigned at all.

                  That's not even a tenth as dangerous as being a German U boat sailor in WWII.

                  Loggers "score" 55 deaths per 100K workers per year on the job, as of 2009. However that's a pretty broad category, including picker crane operators whos main danger is hypothermia from sitting around all day, the truck loader guys who mainly have to worry about getting run over; for the guys actually waving chainsaws in the air on a regular basis, the number is about 10 times higher.

                  I'd say that further research indicates I was wrong, overall an astronaut is "about" as likely to die on the job as a logger. However, note there are a couple orders of magnitude more wounds and permanent non-fatal maiming accidents that deaths in logging, and astronauts pretty much either don't get a scratch or they die, so assuming the only danger is death, and only death, skews the results quite a bit. If your criteria for dangerous is "any permanent severe career limiting damage" then I believe I was originally correct, logging is way more dangerous.

                  About a third of Mt Everest climbers die enroute. Now that, is dangerous.

                  • by kelemvor4 (1980226) on Monday December 12, 2011 @11:29AM (#38343124)

                    Check your math. Your own link lists 18 dead, and 529 people "in space", for some strange value of "in space". Plenty of "astronaut" job title holders don't technically get in space, or don't get a mission assigned at all.

                    That's not even a tenth as dangerous as being a German U boat sailor in WWII.

                    Loggers "score" 55 deaths per 100K workers per year on the job, as of 2009. However that's a pretty broad category, including picker crane operators whos main danger is hypothermia from sitting around all day, the truck loader guys who mainly have to worry about getting run over; for the guys actually waving chainsaws in the air on a regular basis, the number is about 10 times higher.

                    I'd say that further research indicates I was wrong, overall an astronaut is "about" as likely to die on the job as a logger. However, note there are a couple orders of magnitude more wounds and permanent non-fatal maiming accidents that deaths in logging, and astronauts pretty much either don't get a scratch or they die, so assuming the only danger is death, and only death, skews the results quite a bit. If your criteria for dangerous is "any permanent severe career limiting damage" then I believe I was originally correct, logging is way more dangerous.

                    About a third of Mt Everest climbers die enroute. Now that, is dangerous.

                    Pardon my error, you are correct. It's only 3.4%

                • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                  by Anonymous Coward

                  31% of all astronauts have died in the process (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astronaut#Deaths [wikipedia.org] ). I haven't looked up statistics for logging and farming, but I'd be really surprised to find it was so high.

                  Please show your math. According to your own citation, there have been around 520 astronauts (depending on your definition of astronaut) and 29 deaths during spaceflight or training. My math says about 5.6%. I'll bet that's pretty comparable to a fishing or logging job, while being a log more re

            • by mcgrew (92797) *

              However, "astronaut" is still a very dangerous profession.

              It isn't in the top ten (although "pilot" is). [cnn.com]

              How many astronauts have died on the job? Apollo7, Challenger, Columbia, and a couple of Russian crashes in fifty years of spaceflight! I'd say their safety record is pretty darned good.

              • Especially when compared to the number deaths caused by mining and oil dilling.
              • by Muros (1167213)
                Interesting read. One line in the article, on the #1 most dangerous job, fishing, really caught my eye though....

                In June, a rogue wave swamped three fishermen as they were leaving the Dangerous River in Alaska. Two of the fishermen died of hypothermia before they could swim to shore.

                Helps to know the territory I guess.

              • by swalve (1980968)
                Interesting that farmer/rancher is the second highest paid profession on that list.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by CPTreese (2114124)

            You do realise that manned spacecraft tend to be rigorously tested first? The first moon landing was done by the 11th Apollo craft for a reason, you know.

            Do you realize that everyone came within a hairs breadth of dying on the 13th Apollo mission? Oh yeah, everyone DID die on the space shuttle challenger AND Columbia. Also, don't forget the entire Apollo 1 crew died in a fire on the ground. Sure it's tested, but that doesn't mean it's safe.

            There are too many people on Slashdot that disagree just to be contrary

            • I absolutely realise those things. And all those incidents occurred with extremely rigorous testing. I doubt that there's the political will to send astronauts on an extremely expensive trip, that would be a suicide mission unless a drilling machine works first time on a planet its never been tested on. There'd be enough potential disasters on a manned mars mission without that!
              • by Canazza (1428553) on Monday December 12, 2011 @11:51AM (#38343400)

                Also, remember, the first Apollo missions were unmanned. They sent an unmanned probe further than they sent their first manned mission. Add onto that the fact that when they DID send people up, they didn't send idiots up.
                On the topic of Mars, we've already landed there, but there's generally been no reason to return those probes so it's not been planned for.

                We KNOW we can get there, the next stage towards a manned mission will be figuring a way of getting them off the surface and back again. If that means drilling then that adds a whole mess of untested unknowns to work through

                Drilling on Mars is going to be atleast as complex as drilling on Earth and will require more than just the pilot/scientist crew dynamic we're used to in space. For the first time you'd need someone who knows how to handle heavy machinery, since, even when Mars is closest, signals will take 3 minutes to reach them, so you need a specialist on hand in case the shit hits the fan. You'll also need to lug the machinery up there too, and land it. The biggest single piece of machinery we've landed so far has been the LEM + Moon Buggy. A Drill would be ALOT bigger. It would take ALOT Longer to set up too, and would require a degree of self-sufficiency and a factor of safety in their provisions incase of an accident that may prolong their stay.

                And I'm not even an expert. There's bound to be loads of things I've not thought of that needs to be tried and tested before we even think of sending someone to Mars.

                The Astronauts took a risk going to the moon. Hell, it's a risk every time they strap themselves to the gigantic firework built by the lowest bidder. I know I couldn't do it.

                • by FTWinston (1332785) on Monday December 12, 2011 @11:56AM (#38343452) Homepage
                  So what you're saying is, we need to send Bruce Willis and a bunch of morons?
                • by Muros (1167213)
                  I think the obvious thing is that we need to have a fully operational and self sustaining (barring energy source) habitat on Mars before we send any people. Send whatever cannot be manufactured on Mars, and machinery to make what can be manufactured there. We would need shelter for humans, so earth moving machinery for construction would be needed. We would probably want machinery for production of heavy glass and sealants, both for keeping the place reasonably airtight and for some kind of greenhouse. You
            • by loufoque (1400831) on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:53AM (#38342724)

              That's nothing compared to the amount of russian cosmonauts who died, or probably also the unknown amount of chinese ones.

            • by RivenAleem (1590553) on Monday December 12, 2011 @11:02AM (#38342834)

              There are too many people on Slashdot that disagree just to be contrary

              Oh no there isn't.

            • There are too many people on Slashdot that disagree just to be contrary

              That's not true. Everybody I know doesn't do that.

            • He wasn't being contrary. He was originally making a point about how it would be risky to send a manned mission to mars banking on the presence of liquid water as a source of jet propellant. Somersault saw the words "risk my life" and thought "HA! You're not risking YOUR life, you pansy, chunkity assed nerd! The astronauts are, and they'll bet their life on any long shot, no matter how suicidal it might be: they strap rockets directly to their asses and say to hell with procedure, let's do this! Those boys
              • by Canazza (1428553)

                Also the fact that he's a physical coward. He had to be slowly coaxed into attacking fleeing civilians in our last D&D Game.

            • by Nyder (754090)

              You do realise that manned spacecraft tend to be rigorously tested first? The first moon landing was done by the 11th Apollo craft for a reason, you know.

              Do you realize that everyone came within a hairs breadth of dying on the 13th Apollo mission? Oh yeah, everyone DID die on the space shuttle challenger AND Columbia. Also, don't forget the entire Apollo 1 crew died in a fire on the ground. Sure it's tested, but that doesn't mean it's safe.

              There are too many people on Slashdot that disagree just to be contrary

              Point? Airplanes are tested, and yet they crash. Cars are tested and yet they crash. And yes, they kill people also.

              Lots of close calls also.

              Maybe I'm just being contrary...

          • You do realise that manned spacecraft tend to be rigorously tested first?

            Yes I do. I also realise that people make mistakes, and that even the tiniest mistake becomes a very big deal when you're surrounded by vacuum, with no AAA to dial for help.

            • We're kinda arguing the same thing here. I'm only really trying to say that its risky enough even with extensive testing, to the extent that I wouldn't additionally add in a massive untested risk.
              • Yep I was just being kind of snarky. I thought it was funny that you would talk of not risking your life when you've already risked it by travelling to Mars.

                I suspect there are a few people out there who would gladly take the risk just to visit Mars. I'm not one of them though - I don't really find the idea of space travel that interesting compared to life on Earth. Zero G would be a lot of fun for a while, but that's about it for the up sides.

                It would make sense to run tests first of course.

          • by Kjella (173770)

            my short-sightedness

            You may mean nearsightedness, unless you really meant being shortsighted = not good at planning.

            • Actually, not being american, I do mean shortsightedness. But I'll say Myopia [wikipedia.org] if that helps.
              • by Kjella (173770)

                Checking some dictionaries you're right, shortsighedness can mean the eye disorder. The dictionaries didn't say anything about UK vs US English either, so I guess it's just in my head. In a listing like that it's certainly ambiguous...

                • Wikipedia page I links says near-sightedness (AmE) and short-sightedness (BrE) which I assume mean American and British English, respectively. Do you guys use "far-sightedness" where we'd use "long-sightedness" then?
                  • by Canazza (1428553)

                    "far-sightedness" - Only if you're a shaman.

      • Pffft, I'd sign up for a one way trip to Mars any day to get off this piece of crap planet.
      • by mosb1000 (710161)

        It probably wouldn't be worthwhile to build all this just for a sample-return mission, because of the small amount of mass you'd need to return. But you certainly would want a working system in place before you attempted a manned mission.

        • You're right, in that the additional launch mass required for the drilling mechanism would seem likely to outweigh that needed for sufficient fuel to return the payload to orbit. But as a precursor to manned return ... I'd want the drilling mechanism in place and demonstrated to be working before I set off. Ideally I'd want a nice habitat too, with a warm shower, robot butler and nice 1/3 g beds!
      • by Baron_Yam (643147)

        There's already a method for generating fuel from Martian atmosphere that's been tested with a practical model here on Earth. You have to carry a bit of catalyst with you, I believe, and a source of energy if you're not patient enough to wait for the weak solar available on Mars.

        It's still likely easier than remote drilling, recovery, and refining.

      • That's how Alien started.
      • But unless it had a track record, I'd be wary of risking my life on the assumption that fuel could be extracted.

        I would gladly go to Mars specifically in order to die so that the engineers could learn from the experience and make the trip safer for the next batch of meatsacks.

      • But unless it had a track record, I'd be wary of risking my life on the assumption that fuel could be extracted.

        You don't have to risk your life on the assumption that fuel could be extracted. Send the fuel refinery ahead on an unmanned mission, wait for it to refine the fuel, then send the manned mission.

        Note that you don't really need water to do this, though it helps. If you have some H2 (by far the smallest fraction of your propellant), you can turn CO2 into O2 and CH4, which are more storable than H

    • by Tharsman (1364603)

      If we hit oil, does that means:

      A) We can quit looking for life and start sending our real drillers?
      B) We can complain that fosil fuel burning is warming up Mars?
      C) We can bomb Mars?

      • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:41AM (#38342604)

        I know you were not being serious, but if they found oil it wouldn't be of any practical value since mars lacks an oxygen atmosphere. On the other hand, it would have a lot of scientific importance because it would mean either that mars had significant quantities of life in the past, or that oil can formed through processes that do not require life.

        • by vlm (69642) on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:59AM (#38342798)

          I know you were not being serious, but if they found oil it wouldn't be of any practical value since mars lacks an oxygen atmosphere.

          It would be of immense practical value as a reservoir of organic chems.

          Heres a weird example to think about. If we colonize mars, nothing will be painted. All plain bare metal. Why? No organic compounds and solvents to spare to make paint, and filtering paint solvents out in the air handlers is a PITA anyway. No problemo you say, we'll just power coat everything, powder coat is made out of plastic which is made out of ... Err, we'll make everything interior out of aluminum and anodize it, you just anodize aluminum and dip it in hyperconcentrated organic dyes, and those dyes are made out of ... Hmm. All those sci-fi sets with great paint jobs are just not gonna happen, are they?

          The best artsy craftsy idea I can come up with is ceramic enamel jobs done with solar powered rock grinders and solar powered kilns. But again, put up a solar powered artsy kiln and someone is gonna whine that it should be PV cells instead of a kiln at the focus...

          Technically you could turn your olive oil into paint given a huge energy intensive chemical plant, but wouldn't you rather ... eat? I'd rather spend the kilowatt hours and Kg of carbon on a nice beef steak than a nice paint job. Hmm.

          • by mosb1000 (710161)

            You could use it to produce plastic products, but crude oil does need a lot of refining before it can even be used as a feedstock. You'd probably need to have a pretty large colony in place already before you could justify such an endeavor. The oil wouldn't be useful as either an energy source or a source of rocket fuel, so it wouldn't be useable early on.

            Also, you wouldn't need paint on mars, because the atmosphere there is not as corrosive as the atmosphere on earth (it doesn't have any oxygen to speak of

            • by vlm (69642)

              You could use it to produce plastic products, but crude oil does need a lot of refining before it can even be used as a feedstock.

              Lots of refining and processing, but less than, say, vegetable refuse. Thermal depolymerization is a good although energy intensive start. Of course vegetable refuse would be under intense demand for compost... that the problem, eat, or paint.

              Also, you wouldn't need paint on mars, because the atmosphere there is not as corrosive as the atmosphere on earth (it doesn't have any oxygen to speak of).

              Nope you'd need paint or some kind of surface finish indoors just as much as you "need" it on earth. According to shows I've seen on HGTV (no I'm not in the closet, I just watch TV sometimes, you know?) buying a couple cans of paint raises the value of your trendy h

              • by mosb1000 (710161)

                I figured you'd just build everything out of welded aluminum and then bury it. Aluminum's light, and it's easy to weld oxygen free environment.

                • by vlm (69642)

                  Yeah but then you're back to the old psychological problem of literally living inside a tin can. You're not going to convince the hot green skinned Orion girl from the bar to visit your tin can bachelor pad, your best bet is drink a few more synthahol beers until the Wookie starts looking good. Or something like that.

                  Also aluminum corrodes like heck if unpainted or not anodized. It can survive awhile, but... For a good laugh, ask a machinist to flycut some aluminum and run your hand along the smooth fres

                  • by Tharsman (1364603)

                    In Mars most living spaces are likely going to be underground, and glass can be easily produced by melting the ground. You can make some gorgeous and fashionable living spaces just with tick glass over rock walls. Metal can be used to spice up the design here and there. Rock itself can be used to design too, who knows how many colors of soil we can find to add to glass structures creating amazing looks.

                    Glass will likely become way more predominant in every day's life. I just worry about things like cabling

                  • by Doc Ruby (173196)

                    Aluminum corrodes in oxygen. I don't think it does in the Martian atmosphere that is mostly CO2.

          • I seem to remember someone using laser engraving to produce colours...
        • by Artraze (600366)

          While it's true that one couldn't burn the oil for power, the carbon itself would be incredibly valuable. Nearly all of the chemical and plastics we make today use oil/natgas/coal as feedstock. Without plants and oil, any Mars base would either have to import chemicals and plastics from Earth or convert CO2 into hydrocarbons, consuming a great deal of water and energy (15kWh and 2.25kg water per kg methane produced) in the process. Even refining the iron available on Mars would be very costly without che

        • It has been known for a long time that the formation of hydrocarbons does not require life: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cassini/multimedia/pia11001.html [nasa.gov] The red spots on Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus is Methane. The gas giant planets are giant Esso stations in the sky.
    • According to NASA, liquid groundwater would probably be a few kilometers [nasa.gov] beneath the surface of mars. The deepest oil wells are around 9 kilometers deep, so drilling down to it would be possible, as long as you knew where to drill for it.

      • by vlm (69642)

        Chicken and the egg situation, hard to bootstrap on Mars. According to my oil relatives in Louisiana, it takes a good barge full of oil or water based drilling mud to fill a hole that deep, and all our current drilling technology on earth relies on that drilling mud to cool and clean the cutting bit which would otherwise approximately instantly jam, overheat, lose its temper/hardness and thereafter fail to cut. Not saying its impossible to make that hole by an entirely new technology, just saying the enti

        • Re:A few kilometers. (Score:5, Informative)

          by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Monday December 12, 2011 @11:56AM (#38343450)

          There are several types of drill rigs that do not require a working fluid. Probably the best one for this application is a cable tool rig [wikipedia.org] which drops a bit suspend by a cable to break up the rock, and then a bailer to remove the broken rock. This is a very slow process, but depths of 3.7 km have been achieved with it and it doesn't require a drilling fluid so I think it could get the job done.

  • Well duh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CyberK (1191465) on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:05AM (#38342184)
    Since Earth is a lot larger than Mars, and the habitable regions typically lie somewhere near the surface, it's no surprise that a larger proportion of Mars's volume is habitable. (The outer layer of an onion is larger in comparison to the onion when the onion is smaller.) The real question is that of absolute size: How many cubic metres of life-bearing volume is there on Mars in comparison to Earth?
    • "Life-bearing" is presumably a relative term - Mars doesn't have plate tectonics, so there's not gonna be enough energy to stand-in for sunlight, like hydrothermal vents might do on Europa. I'd imagine that the only viable life would be rock-eating microbes.
      • by tgd (2822)

        I didn't read the article, but it stands to reason that there may be upsides to that, as well. Presumably the core is still hot, even if there isn't active volcanism and plate tectonics, and it would seem reasonable that there could be a wider swath of the crust that may have habitable conditions, because on Earth you'll eventually get too hot and hit the mantle.

        • by mangu (126918)

          Presumably the core is still hot, even if there isn't active volcanism and plate tectonics

          The core being hot is one of the causes, not an effect, of plate tectonics.

          Planets such as Mars and Earth have hot cores because of the decomposition of radioactive isotopes. That's also what causes helium to appear in underground deposits of gas and oil.

          In a physics lab course I took in college we measured the amount of radioactive gases emitted by the walls in a basement. We put a fan blowing air through a filter paper for two weeks in a sealed basement room, then measured the amount of radioactive substa

          • by tgd (2822)

            The core being hot is one of the causes, not an effect, of plate tectonics.

            No shit, sherlock.

            The point was, I have no idea how much Mars' core has cooled. I've seen the math before, but don't actually recall it. My point was the GP was talking about plate tectonics being absent, and my point was the core is likely still hot, even without any outward signs, and that heat is a good thing, because you likely have a broader amount of the crust with habitable temperatures than Earth, with a very thin crust that heats up very quickly.

      • by Gotung (571984)
        There is methane in Mars' atmosphere. Methane breaks down pretty quickly, so it had to come from somewhere recently. "No Plate Tectonics" means there are no continents still moving around, but it doesn't mean the core is cold, or that it isn't still venting interesting chemicals (like methane) to the upper crust and atmosphere. You could easily have large pools of liquid water deep underground that have methane bubbling through them. That is a fine recipe for life.
    • How many cubic metres of life-bearing volume is there on Mars in comparison to Earth?

      Seriously? On this site someone has to ask this? We already have the information we need.

      Volume of Earth: 1083210000000 km^3 (Google it). TFS states 1% is habitable / life bearing.
      Volume of Mars: 163115609799 km^3 (Google it). TFS states 3% is potentially habitable / life bearing

      Divide both by 100 for 1% of each volume, multiply Mars result by 3 for 3% = Earth 10832100000km^3, Mars 4893468294km^3.

      Earth / Mars = 2.2. Earth has 2.2x the habitable volume of Mars.

      • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

        Since they are talking about habitable / life bearing areas under ground, wouldn't you need to also subtract the volume of water from the total volume of the earth to get an accurate comparison? There is about 1,386,000,000km^3 water on earth, so the Earth /Mars ratio would be 1.93.

  • by Hentes (2461350) on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:12AM (#38342258)

    Let's bring back some martian soil, put it in a chamber emulating its atmosphere and climate, mix in some extremophiles and see what happens!

  • Original article (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:31AM (#38342484)

    The paper can be found here [anu.edu.au].

    The slant they're putting on it is slightly different. They've noted that in a large proportion of areas on Earth where there is liquid water there isn't necessarily life, so simply searching for liquid water in space isn't necessarily the best way to go about looking for other life or places which would be habitable: you need to bear in mind other factors as well if you want to narrow it down.

    Terrestrial life is known to require liquid water, but not all terrestrial water is inhabited. Thus, liquid water is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for life...If the known limits of terrestrial life do not change significantly, these limits represent important constraints on our biosphere and, potentially, on others, since ~4 billion years of evolution have not allowed life to adapt to a large fraction of the volume of Earth where liquid water exists

    • by vlm (69642)

      They've noted that in a large proportion of areas on Earth where there is liquid water there isn't necessarily life,

      Where are you finding this biologically empty, spectrographically pure water on earth? Supposedly a billion humans don't have access to safe drinking water, so there appears to be a demand for some of this stuff... I'm guessing they're talking about fossil aquifers miles below the surface?

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:38AM (#38342572) Journal
    We need to send a dragon on a mission their to get the facts. I think that one with a couple of nukes inside would be interesting. Even better would be if it had the ability to hop a few places. Perhaps modify it use methane/LOX and then at each landing sites, while science is being done, generate the fuel.

    What I find interesting is that so many ppl want to send ppl on a 2--way mission. Instead, it should be thought of as a 1-way mission and have them go there and stay at least a decade. One of the most important reasons is that Mars DOES have the likelihood of having life. If so, the last thing that we want to do, is bring it back here.

    Basically, the group of ppl would focus on survival, building out a base, and of course science. But much of the work there could be carried out by robotics, with the ppl their to control and fix them. In addition, it would actually be cheaper and safer to do the 1-way.
    • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

      In addition, it would actually be cheaper and safer to do the 1-way.

      True, but it would be cheapest and safest not to send people at all and just send machines.

      • Nope. Real bad idea.

        First off, we need to get off this planet with a base. By doing that, if something DOES happen here, they stand a chance of having humanity survive. But the real issue is that ppl on mars could re-program, re-build, re-think how things were happening. In addition, the amount of science that would flow would be MUCH cheaper than by doing robotic alone. No, we need BOTH there.
        • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

          Nope. Real bad idea.

          First off, we need to get off this planet with a base. By doing that, if something DOES happen here, they stand a chance of having humanity survive. But the real issue is that ppl on mars could re-program, re-build, re-think how things were happening. In addition, the amount of science that would flow would be MUCH cheaper than by doing robotic alone. No, we need BOTH there.

          You really think that providing a permanent residence on Mars (the original post was about one way only trips) would be cheaper than sending a bunch of robots? It seems that maintaining the international space station is quite costly and it is in orbit versus millions of miles away. Remember, no air, no water, no ozone or magnetic field to ward off radiation, etc. I agree that there are things in space that require human beings, but sending them is usually much, much more expensive than not.

          • First off, the running of the ISS is NOT that expensive. It was expensive because we were building it and using the shuttle. Now, that we are at a stopping point, the running of it is pretty cheap. It is also about to be cheaper with launches in no small part due to SpaceX. However there are 2 main issues with the ISS:
            1) they manufacture NOTHING. Absolutely NOTHING. EVERYTHING has to be imported, just like sending a bunch of robots to Mars.
            2) they do not do a good job of recycling. As such, it require
  • Apples to apples (Score:4, Insightful)

    by flaming error (1041742) on Monday December 12, 2011 @11:16AM (#38342988) Journal

    3 percent of the Martian volume could sustain Earth-like microbial life. As a comparison, only one percent of the volume of Earth contains life.

    That's no comparison. Compare % volumes that could sustain life. Or compare volumes that actually do contain life. But comparing one to the other reveals nothing.

  • by Synerg1y (2169962) on Monday December 12, 2011 @12:00PM (#38343510)

    As great as it sounds to start populating Mars, I haven't heard a whole lot on the economics of it, why would anybody want to?

    • Re:A reason (Score:4, Insightful)

      by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Monday December 12, 2011 @01:33PM (#38344678)

      That's why it's silly for people like Neil Armstrong to posit that private industry will do it first with government "assistance." It'll only happen as a scientific endeavor until the technology is developed enough for someone to monetize trips to Mars (how that would ever happen in the remotely near future is beyond me).

  • Shouldn't that title be "Life Possible Under Large Regions of Mars", not "On Large Regions of Mars?"

  • That's good news for microbes! Now, when the earth is about to be destroyed by a rogue comet, they can all jump on a ship, head towards Mars, borrow down a few kilometers and survive. For the rest of us, though, it doesn't look too promising.

    • by Doc Ruby (173196)

      We've already sent a bunch of ships to Mars that started in Earths microbe-swarming environment. We've probably already seeded Mars with Earth microbes.

      By the time we colonize Mars, it might already be growing enough cheese for us to eat, instead of the native cheese that eats us.

      • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

        We've already sent a bunch of ships to Mars that started in Earths microbe-swarming environment. We've probably already seeded Mars with Earth microbes.

        By the time we colonize Mars, it might already be growing enough cheese for us to eat, instead of the native cheese that eats us.

        Our microbes need water and can't handle the unshielded surface of Mars. The martian microbes are thought to be living a few kilometers underground.

        • by Doc Ruby (173196)

          More than one Mars probe have crashed through the surface. The Martian subsurface sounds like a darwinian filter for Earth extremophiles. Crash enough probes, and the race is on!

  • Why did they use this measure? With Mars being so much smaller, of course a higher percentage of the volume would be hospitable. Mars has 15% of the volume of Earth but 28% of the surface area. Just seems like bad comparison.
  • Once we get enough of an environment on there to sustain trees and plants, we will be able to create a natural atmosphere that will sustain itself, and create an ozone layer....

  • There might be microbial life below Mars' surface.

    But there sure is undead "life" below the surface. Where Mars teems with billions of vampires. They coated the surface with blood dust and headed below, where they're protected from the sunlight above.

    More unmanned probes to root them out before we send any humans there, and no return trips.

"Only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core." -- Hannah Arendt.

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