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Mars Space Science

Mars Rover Solves Metallic Object Mystery, Unearths Another 179

Posted by samzenpus
from the hits-keep-coming dept.
SchrodingerZ writes "Last week the Mars Curiosity Rover spotted a shiny metallic-looking object in the martian soil. This week scientists have confirmed that it is plastic that has fallen off the 1-ton rover. However, the discovery of this trans-planetary littering has opened up another mystery for the science team. On October 12th the rover took a sample of soil from the ground, feeding it into its Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instruments for analysis, and a picture of the hole dug by the rover's claw revealed metallic particles in the dirt. The sample was subsequently dropped due to fears that particles from the rover had made it into the dirt. Further study now suggests that the metallic particles are actually native to Mars, as the photo reveals that they are embedded in the soil in clumps. In 2007 the older rover Spirit found evidence of silica for the first time, more testing will occur over the next few days to determine truly if this is again just Curiosity's littler, or something more profound."
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Mars Rover Solves Metallic Object Mystery, Unearths Another

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  • by The Grim Reefer (1162755) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @06:35PM (#41699483)
    I hope it finds massive amounts of palladium, iridium or some mix of rare metals. Nothing would kick-start a race to Mars like greed. Unfortunately.
    • by Anne_Nonymous (313852) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @06:41PM (#41699567) Homepage Journal

      >> Nothing would kick-start a race to Mars like greed.

      Well, that and the opportunity to litter.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        >> Nothing would kick-start a race to Mars like greed.

        Well, that and the opportunity to litter.

        Obviously we need to prep a mission ASAP to put up some "no littering!" signs.

      • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @11:07PM (#41701509) Homepage

        Well, that and the opportunity to litter.

        The word you're looking for is terraforming. Makes it sound all scientificy.

      • I'm reminded of a Mars movie that I saw in my youth (I spent a few minutes trying to remember the name, but it escapes me... even with internet help). In this movie, the native (humanoid) martians drove (wind powered?) boats and the (helmet-less) astronauts threw their garbage everywhere - throwing into streams was popular, as I recall. I remember watching it to the end.

        Does anyone remember this one?

    • by Synerg1y (2169962)

      As well as possibly an underground lost civilization with ghosts and monsters n' shit.

      • As well as possibly an underground lost civilization with ghosts and monsters n' shit.

        Hopefully that big ass oxygen reactor is still working after all these years.

        • by Ocker3 (1232550)
          If it needs to be restarted, where are we going to find an amnesiac super-spy with an identity crisis to restart it for us? We already have the three-breasted 'professional' lady
    • by Dan East (318230) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @07:51PM (#41700241) Homepage Journal

      I hope it finds massive amounts of palladium, iridium or some mix of rare metals. Nothing would kick-start a race to Mars like greed. Unfortunately.

      So by "Unfortunately" do you mean that the only reason we should go to the incredible expense and risk of visiting other planets is for purely academic or intellectual purposes? Is there anything of actual value to our planet Earth that we can glean from pure knowledge (and knowledge alone) of Mars? Say we learn more about the history of Mars. Humanity applies that information in exactly what way to better our species or improve our planet in some way?

      At the end of the day, for it to be worthwhile beyond the science that we are doing right this minute with rovers, there has to be something of value on Mars. Real, tangible value. Materials that are rare on earth, a stopover for energy to reach other parts of the Solar System and beyond, a low gravity place to make materials that we can't produce on Earth, or even a "lifeboat" for humanity - at the end of the day there has to be something a step beyond just knowledge for the sake of knowledge.

      • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday October 18, 2012 @09:57PM (#41701117) Homepage Journal

        So by "Unfortunately" do you mean that the only reason we should go to the incredible expense and risk of visiting other planets is for purely academic or intellectual purposes? Is there anything of actual value to our planet Earth that we can glean from pure knowledge (and knowledge alone) of Mars? Say we learn more about the history of Mars. Humanity applies that information in exactly what way to better our species or improve our planet in some way?

        Probably you should read Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars and see what the character Ann has to say about it before your next comment along these lines.

      • um... actually, knowledge for the sake of knowledge seems good enough to me.
        I agree it sounds selfish while there are still people starving to death, but knowledge in itself is a worthy goal.

      • Is there anything of actual value to our planet Earth that we can glean from pure knowledge (and knowledge alone) of Mars?

        The question itself precludes, by definition, the value of any answer.

      • by 10101001 10101001 (732688) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @11:47PM (#41701721) Journal

        So by "Unfortunately" do you mean that the only reason we should go to the incredible expense and risk of visiting other planets is for purely academic or intellectual purposes?

        Nice strawman, there. I mean, it's good to know that to scoff at greed is equivalent to be interested in something "for purely academic or intellectual purposes". Perhaps the scoffing has something to do with the fact that greed as a motivator to do things has all sorts of very negative side-effects--economic bubbles are a big one. Or perhaps it has to do with the point that a view that moderation is a good thing and liable to produce much more desirable long-term results while greed tends to, in focusing on being an end unto itself, be an almost pointless exercise a lot of the time.

        Is there anything of actual value to our planet Earth that we can glean from pure knowledge (and knowledge alone) of Mars?

        That's a pretty good begging the question. If you don't view "knowledge alone" as something "of actual value to our planet Earth", then there's little point in asking the question because no response that could be given would be acceptable to you. It entirely ignores that there are people who do, obviously, see value in knowledge alone and that a trip to Mars focused on expansion of humanity into the cosmos would be more than a pure knowledge expedition and not a greed motivated one.

        Say we learn more about the history of Mars. Humanity applies that information in exactly what way to better our species or improve our planet in some way?

        Are you serious? The very fact that Mars once had an atmosphere, once had [possibly flowing] water, was once possibly habitable, etc and yet now lacks those things means its precisely a very good potential model of what Earth may become in the distant future. Knowing this and specifically examining what is left on Mars may do very much to help us figure out either to cope with those risks or to even entirely avoid them realizing that Mars is a cautionary tale of what may happen if humanity does nothing--although odds are good, humanity won't be around by then. In short, we'd be able to learn from the history of Mars just like how we learn from our own history, to use as a guide of what has and could happen to decide on what to do to avoid bad things from happening again.

        At the end of the day, for it to be worthwhile beyond the science that we are doing right this minute with rovers, there has to be something of value on Mars. Real, tangible value.

        At the end of the day, the real question is what one places value on. Is it shiny trinkets and beads? Or is it one's life to enjoy those shiny trinkets and beads? And if one is forward thinking enough to recognize this, maybe one may be forward thinking enough to consider one's grand children or great grand children and just exactly what steps are necessary, in general, for the survival of humanity. But, you know, that all depends on if you see any value in humanity.

        Materials that are rare on earth, a stopover for energy to reach other parts of the Solar System and beyond, a low gravity place to make materials that we can't produce on Earth, or even a "lifeboat" for humanity - at the end of the day there has to be something a step beyond just knowledge for the sake of knowledge.

        Rare on Earth materials? Quite pointless except for a Mars colony itself. Stopover for energy for other pats of the Solar System and beyond? Not really sensical in any way since a free-floating platform would be actually maneuverable and would avoid almost all the escape velocity concerns. Low gravity for making materials? Uh...why not LEO and whatever gravity as needed through rotation instead of flying all the way to Mars and back? "Lifeboat" for humanity? Pretty well outside the scope of reasonable given the shear scope of reach to make Mar

        • The very fact that Mars once had an atmosphere, once had [possibly flowing] water, was once possibly habitable, etc and yet now lacks those things means its precisely a very good potential model of what Earth may become in the distant future

          That's the handwaving feelgood version... In reality, it's bullshit. The pre-conditions that made Mars what it is (low insolation, no magnetic field due to a massive impactor, low gravity, etc...) aren't anything humans can either cause or survive if (by magic in a cou

      • at the end of the day there has to be something a step beyond just knowledge for the sake of knowledge.

        History has proven over and over that there is not a single piece of "knowledge for the sake of knowledge" that hasn't turned out useful in one way or another later. Some people are too shortsighted and impatient.

        To the skeptics of foundational research: Please take a look at the state of knowledge 300 years ago and try to find an example of genuine knowledge of that time that has no useful applications today. I don't claim it's impossible to find examples, but I'd submit that it's fairly hard. A typical ex

        • I remember watching the old BBC show, 'Connections'

          It was a fascinating take on history, but after a while I noted that almost every invention was first developed (at great cost) to aid some war effort (blow up stuff, target artillery, canned food for soldiers, refrigerated beef for soldiers...)

          Even a vast amount of 'foundational' research that produced our beloved net-centric world was largely produced to provide decentralized communications following a nuclear war...

          So, then 'profit' is probably a better

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Not this, again. You expect me to believe there's a Confederate ironclad space rocket, in a dry riverbed on Mars? Aliens are dying from a plague which is really caused by rare metal contamination of their underground water supply? A local martian warlord is suppressing the local population, while the ESA has a secret contract with them to store our nuclear waste in their disposal facility?

      And right about then, Dr Who shows up. *cue the intro music*

    • Indeed. Maybe it's diamonds ;)

    • There's not a metal on Earth that, even if transport prices to/from Mars dropped by a factor of 100, would be worth fetching from Mars.

      • There's not a metal on Earth that, even if transport prices to/from Mars dropped by a factor of 100, would be worth fetching from Mars.

        Well duh, of course if it's a metal on Earth why send it to Mars?

    • by kenp2002 (545495)

      I think you have confused profitable with greed again...

    • by Gothmolly (148874) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @09:13PM (#41700845)

      It's not greed, it's simple math. No animal expends energy unless it can be reasonably sure the reward is more energy.

      • by Trogre (513942)

        How exactly does mating lead to such a reward? Are you trying to make a case for orgone energy?

    • by arth1 (260657)

      Nothing would kick-start a race to Mars like greed. Unfortunately.

      Barsoomian women would have, but so far we haven't found them.

  • by Onymous Coward (97719) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @06:37PM (#41699503) Homepage

    Might I recommend, as much as is possible, pack your trash.

    • Yea! what ever happened to "Take only pictures. Leave only footsteps." ?

      I mean, imprinting "JPL" in morse code over and over in the martian dust counts as footsteps, I guess, but....

    • by Longjmp (632577) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @08:21PM (#41700535)

      Might I recommend, as much as is possible, pack your trash.

      On the contrary. If I had the chance to go to Mars today, I'd take with me:
      A recent newspaper, a can of beer and a half-eaten sandwich.

      Then I'd place them somewhere were Curiosity was likely to spot it, and return to Earth silently.

      And probably run around with a huge grin on my face for the rest of my life.

    • You can do that on yours mar's rover.
  • It is for now, Unobtanium. ;)

    • by jo42 (227475)

      You mean Bullwankium. AKA the stuff the drops out the backside of a politician or upper management type or MBA.

  • Gold! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bware (148533) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @06:39PM (#41699539) Homepage

    Nuggets the size of your fist! Don't tell anyone!

    There. That always works to get the next territory settled.

  • Leave no trace. Maybe we can do an LNT workshop at NASA.

    • by AaronLS (1804210)

      I'm sure there's fragments from the sole of your hiking boats everywhere you've been, and little pieces of plastic from gear that's broken off without you even noticing ;)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Why does a bear get to leave that disgusting load wherever he wants but if I leave some delicious Dorritos suddenly I'M the bad guy?

  • how about ... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jest3r (458429) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @06:48PM (#41699617)

    Drive the rover as far away from the Mars Garbage Gyre as possible before sampling the soil.

    Otherwise it's like taking a dump in your own back yard and gardening it in.

  • by PPH (736903) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @07:14PM (#41699865)

    Are they sure it isn't a Land Rover?

  • Curiosity obliterated the Martian Cyber-cat...with its laser "spectrometer". (Come on, seriously, NASA? Everyone knows what death rays are for.)
  • Just a warning about that beer can.

    The Rainier logo gives it away, I think.

    • by macbeth66 (204889)

      No, not a beer can.

      A huge Coca-Cola sign. It's what the Allies found as they captured island after island during WWII.

      I wonder if the size will be limited to 24 oz.

  • Bad summary. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Curiosity did not reveal "metallic particles in the dirt." As the linked article states, it found "bright" particles. Bright does not mean metal!

  • Someone needs to animate the rover dropping a piece, driving a few yards away, turning around, dropping a piece, going to inspect the first piece it dropped...and on and on...until it falls apart. Maybe title it "Curiosity Killed the Curiosity".

    ...and somewhere in there is a metaphor for human endeavor :P
  • I'm fully aware I'm not a mechanical engineer, nor an expert of off world rovers.
    But when I see all those strings hand-knotted to tie the rover's (unshielded) cable, I feel a chill on my neck!
    Is that all the technology we could sport to have a reliable and durable rover?
    It's just my ... curiosity!
    • Cable lacing is a very good way to hold a wire harness together. It's more expensive than zip ties due to the labor needed, but less likely to damage the cables under stress. You don't see it very much these days since zip ties are cheap and good enough for static applications, but well-done lacing is used for high-end applications like the rovers.
  • NASA will issue an apology letter "well metal scratches and plastic flakes off, just like our competitors".

    But seriously, I know I can go to the beach with my niece and nephew and dig holes with $1 plastic dollar store shoves and not leave bits of it behind.

  • NASA is just like my boss: ignore the primary mission and instead chase after shiny GUI's and elusive sparkling rumors.

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