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Mars Science

Ancient Mars Could Have Supported Life 81

Posted by Soulskill
from the until-john-carter-killed-them-all dept.
sighted writes "NASA is announcing that analysis of a rock sample collected by the Curiosity rover shows ancient Mars could have supported living microbes. Scientists identified sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon in the powder Curiosity drilled out of a sedimentary rock near an ancient stream bed in Gale Crater last month. The announcement quotes Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program: 'A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment. From what we know now, the answer is yes.'"
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Ancient Mars Could Have Supported Life

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  • by Kittenman (971447) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @04:22PM (#43153183)
    I can speculate just as well as the next slashdotter. Mars could have done all sorts of things.
  • Ancient Mars decided to go down the Austerity path, and thus life never progressed and never got out of the dinosaur age.

    • by slick7 (1703596)

      Ancient Mars decided to go down the Austerity path, and thus life never progressed and never got out of the dinosaur age.

      Not really, they had politicians just like this planet and look what happened. In fact, or not, they are probably the same politicians exploiting the next planet du jour.

  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @04:35PM (#43153353)

    Morgan Fairchild could have made mad passionate love to me last night as my house supports an environment an actress could survive in. Geez, I thought that article on Panspermia was bad...

    • by mcmonkey (96054)

      Morgan Fairchild could have made mad passionate love to me last night as my house supports an environment an actress could survive in.

      I suppose she could...but if course, she didn't.

      After all, she is my wife!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      that's like saying the fact that a woman COULD have a baby isn't important unless she DOES have a baby. but it is important, because men CAN'T.

      this isn't a bad article at all. in fact it's huge news. KNOWING mars could have supported life is better than WONDERING if it could have. we now have evidence that life might once have existed on mars. we didn't know that before.

  • So after all that money spent on rovers, scientists still can't tell us something we don't already know?

    • by Kittenman (971447)

      So after all that money spent on rovers, scientists still can't tell us something we don't already know?

      Maybe scientists should have spent all the money on fake boobs?

    • Re:Nothing new (Score:4, Informative)

      by Jeremi (14640) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @11:43PM (#43156345) Homepage

      So after all that money spent on rovers, scientists still can't tell us something we don't already know?

      From the second paragraph of TFA: "Scientists identified sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon -- some of the key chemical ingredients for life -- in the powder Curiosity drilled out of a sedimentary rock near an ancient stream bed in Gale Crater on the Red Planet last month."

      That's something we didn't already know. Don't mistake your own inability to read the article for a shortcoming on NASA's part.

    • Yes, that money could have better spent blowing up another hut filled with men, women and children in the Middle East.

      I'm being sarcastic.

      Please read TFA, the key part is:

      Scientists were surprised to find a mixture of oxidized, less-oxidized, and even non-oxidized chemicals, providing an energy gradient of the sort many microbes on Earth exploit to live. This partial oxidation was first hinted at when the drill cuttings were revealed to be gray rather than red.

      If you know of another, cheaper way to know this I'm all ears.

    • by Xest (935314)

      No, we didn't already know this. Prior to this it was perfectly feasible that in fact Mars COULDN'T have supported life.

      Now that we know that Mars still COULD have supported life, there is even more reason to keep looking for evidence of it, because the possibility remains.

  • by mbone (558574) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @04:46PM (#43153479)

    If you just look at the photo [nasa.gov] of the powdered rock sample, you can see it doesn't look dusty red, like soil samples and rocks from elsewhere on Mars [nasa.gov]. The red is hematite, a sign of high-oxidation. The grey of Gale Crater says right away that this environment is different, less-oxidized, and probably also a good deal less acidic.

  • by neminem (561346) <neminem AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @04:50PM (#43153511) Homepage

    Granted, this *is* confirmation that the possibility requires fewer additional variables than it would've without the findings, which is decent news, though not overly exciting. Still, I've read great speculative but not overly soft scifi in which life was found was found in a gas giant (Manta's Gift), even in a freaking star (Dragon's Egg). Almost anywhere *could* have supported life, for some definition of life.

  • by Alotau (714890)

    Of course Mars supported life... until capitalism killed it. [reuters.com]

  • by Anachragnome (1008495) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @05:16PM (#43153735)

    Could have been....

    One aspect of the possibility of life on Mars that is rarely discussed is the fact that there are still a couple of other characteristics of Mars in it's current state that preclude life, as we know it--a lack of a strong magnetic field and the permanent sequestration of CO2 in the ground.

    Mars is dead. The core of Mars has long since cooled, leaving it with a much thicker solid mantle then Earth currently has. It may have similar "ingredients" to Earth, but those ingredients on Mars have stopped flowing--much of the magnetic field on Earth is a result of not only the ferrous content, but the motion of that content within the Earth, motion that can only occur in non-solids.

    Why is this important? Without a swirling interior, you have a much weaker magnetic field protecting the planet from solar radiation, radiation that is harmful to life. Another more important aspect is the effect of a magnetic field in terms of solar pressure (the same pressure that propels a "solar sail") on the atmosphere of Mars. Here on Earth, our magnetic field counters that pressure from solar winds and literally keeps our atmosphere from "blowing" away. There are other things that keeps our atmosphere around (ha!), like gravity, but protection from solar pressure is important--the solar pressure exerted on Mars is greater then the countering effect generated by Mars' magnetic field.

    There is nothing to keep Mars' atmosphere from blowing away.

    http://www-ssc.igpp.ucla.edu/personnel/russell/papers/mars_mag/ [ucla.edu]

    All of that being said, any CO2 released from the ground--CO2 that would create a greenhouse effect--doesn't stay in the atmosphere. The idea of Terra-forming Mars wouldn't work--we could bring the entire atmosphere of Earth along with us to Mars and it would simply blow away into space.

    But, Tardigrades have survived in space a very long time...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tardigrades [wikipedia.org]

    • by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @05:26PM (#43153833)

      Right, but if Mars was one warm and squishy, then it gradually cooled off and hardened internally.

      So each successive generation would have selective pressure to survive a slightly lower temperature, a slightly weaker em field, a slightly more hostile environment. That's happening in geological time, and it's perfect for an evolutionary development of a species that could survive there.

      It's unlikely though, and until they see fossils or movement, then it's still just potential. If we all lived up to our potential half of us would be living in space.

    • by mug funky (910186)

      the core would come to life again if we simply start the reactor.

      the Cohagen and his corporate interests wont let that happen.

    • While the point you make about the slar wind blowing away any potential atmosphere on Mars, that is a process that takes MILLIONS of years. It is not a sudden process. Millions of years is enough for bacteria to evolve to the gradually increasing harshness of the environment. Also, it is important to consider that sub-surface bacteria do not need an atmosphere, light or even oxygen to survive.
  • and if the Holy Therns had left the atmosphere plants alone, it still would.

  • Isn't anyone doing any research on Snickers?
  • Earth-based or Mars-originated? Let's know that before we go claiming anything.
  • Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars. It all makes sense now!
  • It's now believed that early Mars could have supported Starbucks. It's thought the coffee chain might have spread to Earth when the collapsing Martian economy could no longer support over priced coffee drinks.
  • It could right now. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wisnoskij (1206448) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @07:42PM (#43154935) Homepage

    As far as we know their is life under the ice right this moment, where their might be large lakes or seas of liquid water. This life could even be fish like.
    Hell we have bacteria living in ice on earth, we might find the same thing there.

    Mars was very earth like far before Earth became more than a ball of molten rock and metal. If life is at all common, it probably had it, as it probably had about the same chances of it forming.

  • by Pecisk (688001) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @02:38AM (#43157037)

    I think for common crowd and media it is quite frustrating: "didn't we already know that?". Well, for scientists to "know" isn't enough - they need evidence, facts, proof. Now proof just become much stronger.

    I personally think that acknowledgment of "could have supported" is enough for me to be excited. I still in doubt and I think Mars probably didn't have any bacteria floating around, but it shows that scenario for setting up reasonable good odds for life isn't that unique. Yes, you need strong magnetic field aka natural protection from particle bombardment. Yes, life need to survive heavy artillery - like meteoroids, dino killers, etc. But still...

    Also this is huge from supporting human colony there. Strange that no one here talks about that.

  • Haven't we already seen this post? How many times have we seen something about Mars having or supporting life? It's getting redundant. I love the fact were still going at it hard but it's sounding like a broken record. There have been at least four other posts in the last few years about the possibility of life on Mars and so when you finally find it, is it that big a deal.
  • Drilling holes isn't going to find you anything. Just sake down a thumper and wait for the sandworm to come. They always come.
  • This theory about panspermia was created to get around the fact that nobody can explain scientifically how life emerged spontaneously through abiogenesis (life from lifelessness) so instead they say "mars did it". The problem is that then one has to ask, that if panspermia occurred, how did abiogenesis occur on mars.

    They are just shifting the cups around on the table without explaining a damn thing. What they should do is just admit that they don't know instead of creating even more convoluted "theories"

It was kinda like stuffing the wrong card in a computer, when you're stickin' those artificial stimulants in your arm. -- Dion, noted computer scientist

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