Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Mars NASA Space Science

BOLD Plan To Find Mars Life On the Cheap 61

Posted by samzenpus
from the budget-search dept.
techfun89 writes "There is a BOLD new plan for detecting signs of microbial life on Mars. The nickname is BOLD, which stands for Biological Oxidant and Life Detection Initiative, would be a follow-up to the 1976 Mars Viking life-detection experiments. 'We have much better technology that we could use,' says BOLD lead scientist Dirk Schulze-Makuch, with Washington State University. He elaborates, 'Our idea is to make a relatively cheap mission and go more directly to characterize and solve the big question about the soil properties on Mars and life detection.' To help figure out the life-detection mystery, Schulze-Makuch and his colleagues would fly a set of six pyramid-shaped probes that would crash land, pointy end down, so they embed themselves four to eight inches into the soil. One of the instruments includes a sensor that can detect a single molecule of DNA or other nucleotide."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

BOLD Plan To Find Mars Life On the Cheap

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...who pictured Stargate when they read this?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 27, 2012 @05:26AM (#39818363)

    Because there is bugger all down here on earth

  • Crash land? (Score:4, Funny)

    by sleiper (1772326) on Friday April 27, 2012 @05:27AM (#39818371)
    Just run this as a joint mission between the US and the EU, problem solved.
  • BOLD plan? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Friday April 27, 2012 @05:30AM (#39818385)

    Looks more like an all-caps plan to me.

  • I may be mad... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by die standing (2626663) on Friday April 27, 2012 @06:32AM (#39818657)
    but I'm sober. How is it that life as we know it, consciousness, sentience, etc. is not enough? Think about it. Same universe. Same galaxy. Isn't life (as we know/call it) even in ONE place... enough? Beyond amazing, beyond impossible, totally and utterly improbable... yet here we are! So we get to mars and find a small pond of goo with some amino acids and proteins in it. So what? What's the big deal?
    • by GauteL (29207)

      If this is the argument that comes from being sober, then we should be glad that so many of our brilliant scientists were inebriated for large parts of their lives.

      To be more serious; it is about a thirst for knowledge and discovery, one of the main reasons for any scientific advances. Why should we be satisfied with exploring earth? Why shouldn't we explore the rest of our universe for life and other discoveries?

    • by Rogerborg (306625)

      You're asking this question using the culmination of 40,000 years of technological advancement, every single step of which was based on the premise that our reach should always exceed our grasp.

      On the day that we all collectively shrug and say "Eh, that's good enough" (likely after plugging in the first holosuite), then we're done as a species and might as well hand things over to the rats or cockroaches.

    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      utterly improbable

      What if it's not? What if, instead, life is very probable in places with the right environment? What would that mean? What would that imply about all the planets around other stars that we are finding? Could there be life, even civilizations? Are they watching our star and wondering about the rocky planets orbiting it?

      All of these just being components of one of the biggest questions humanity has ever asked itself:

      Are we alone in the universe?

      If you just aren't interested in the answer, fine, but to me

    • by Tablizer (95088)

      and find a small pond of goo with some amino acids and proteins in it.

      it's called "soup" here on Earth.

  • False positives? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by srussia (884021) on Friday April 27, 2012 @06:46AM (#39818719)
    FTFS: "One of the instruments includes a sensor that can detect a single molecule of DNA or other nucleotide."

    I wonder how many DNA molecules the probe might encounter on its way to Mars.
    • Re:False positives? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Thiez (1281866) on Friday April 27, 2012 @08:35AM (#39819285)

      Not sure why you got modded insightful. Space is almost a perfect vacuum, and the vast majority of the matter out there will be hydrogen with very little else. Even if there was DNA floating around in space, it would get destroyed by the radiation that's out there. If the probe can make it out of our atmosphere without getting contaminated with DNA then it will make it to Mars without encountering any DNA.

  • Valles Marineres (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 27, 2012 @07:00AM (#39818783)

    They should make a seventh probe, and aim it at the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valles_Marineris. It's kilometres deep so the atmosphere down there ought to be thicker (it's certainly more turbulent). Assuming Mars once had a thick atmosphere and running water (which seems to be the prevailing consensus) then it seems to me that the place that environment and any possible inhabitants would have been preserved longest is in the Valles.

    Unless, of course, this huge crack in Mars was the epicentre of some great event that stripped away the atmosphere in the first place...

  • by KritonK (949258) on Friday April 27, 2012 @07:16AM (#39818841)

    a set of six pyramid-shaped probes

    So that's what the title of the Doctor Who episode was referring to! I wonder if the probes will locate Sutekh.

    • by Tablizer (95088)

      Remember, the Spirit rover had a BSOD moment when it tried to grind into a pyramid-shaped rock. Perhaps they should try another shape. Cones don't seem demon-associated much (unless Marvin tries to put CO2 ice-cream in it.)

  • by macraig (621737) <mark DOT a DOT craig AT gmail DOT com> on Friday April 27, 2012 @07:30AM (#39818899)

    Mars may be smaller than Terra, but it's still an awfully big place. Even if life exists or once existed on Mars, there's no guarantees its presence would leave a mark everywhere. Six immovable probes might find nothing and STILL not answer the question. The only way we get a useful answer at all from just six bullets fired into the dunes is that one of them actually finds something; if they find nothing it still doesn't disprove the presence of life.

    It's great that the people behind this want to make names for themselves, but we need to think - and plan and budget - much bigger than this if we truly want a definitive answer. This plan with a spaghetti western budget won't give us one. It's essentially a waste of time. Bold, yes, but also pointless where the stated goal is concerned.

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      Even if life exists or once existed on Mars, there's no guarantees its presence would leave a mark everywhere.

      If it's anything like terrestrial life, it would.

      But you are right in that this project will not give a definitive answer. There are many points of failure, the instruments can go wrong, the craft can introduce contamination to the sample etc. The only solid proof would be returning some soil sample to earth and finding the actual bacteria in it, but currently that's out of our reach both financially and technically.

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      It's great that the people behind this want to make names for themselves, but we need to think - and plan and budget - much bigger than this if we truly want a definitive answer. This plan with a spaghetti western budget won't give us one.

      An even better plan is to do a few simple experiments do help decide on what the big plan should be. If we can eliminate a few things first then it can make the big plan a whole lot cheaper.

  • Let's just hope we don't turn up any black monoliths.

  • They should just embed a microphone, if they hear "ouch", they found life... well... alive up till then.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beagle_2

  • Obama cut the Mars budget 38%, mainly in punishment for doubling the Curiosity lander cost. Another MAVEN orbiter is in assembly. After than no new Mars probes funded. Takes 5-9 years to plan, launch and execute a probe. NASA ended development of triple-probe sample return project and a joint ESA Mars-probe.

    And this is before conservative republicans chop the budget, which they could do with a congressional majority next year.
  • All these plans to "find life" on Mars will inevitably result in humans putting life on Mars...which we will find later. How much "contaminants" do we put on a planet's surface before we realize that something will eventually slip through the cracks?

    • by Belial6 (794905)
      If and when that happens, it will be it's own distinct accomplishment. It will hold it's own distinct scientific discovery. If we could transplant life to Mars and it could take hold, Mars will have life. It would be a huge indicator that Panspermia is a good hypothesis. We only have one Mars, so we have to think about what scientific questions we want answered from it. If we contaminate it, then we can do experiments that revolve around putting Earth life on non Earth planets.
  • That they've been sending a fair number of landers to Mars over the past decade? There was little Sojourner, then Spirit, Opportunity and now Curiosity is one it's way there. And the tech changes between rovers. While the first three were solar, the latter is nuclear using an RTG meaning she doesn't need sunlight to do science. And Curiosity also has some AI features too which means she'll roam father over Mars surface.
  • After all of the newspaper headlines reading 'MARS IS DEAD, NO LIFE FOUND!' killed public interest of Mars back during the 70s after the Viking probes' questionable experiments, I'm not sure firing six small static probes at a sizable planet to look for DNA is a good idea. If history is any indicator it seems like a big risk to the entire exploration effort.

Just because he's dead is no reason to lay off work.

Working...