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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 @09:02AM (#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.

  • Well duh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CyberK (1191465) on Monday December 12, 2011 @09:05AM (#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?
  • by FTWinston (1332785) on Monday December 12, 2011 @09:06AM (#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 @09:11AM (#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 Hentes (2461350) on Monday December 12, 2011 @09:12AM (#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!

  • by FTWinston (1332785) on Monday December 12, 2011 @09:13AM (#38342266) Homepage
    Let's bring back some martian soil and ... contaminate it??? Urgh!
  • by FTWinston (1332785) on Monday December 12, 2011 @09:17AM (#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 @09:27AM (#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 CPTreese (2114124) on Monday December 12, 2011 @09:31AM (#38342482) Journal

    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

  • by Hentes (2461350) on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:13AM (#38342946)

    It's not the soil that's expensive, but the delivery.

  • Apples to apples (Score:4, Insightful)

    by flaming error (1041742) on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:16AM (#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 vlm (69642) on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:22AM (#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 @10:29AM (#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%

  • by Canazza (1428553) on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:51AM (#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.

  • Re:A reason (Score:4, Insightful)

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

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