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Mars NASA Space

Water Discovery Is Good News For Mars Colonists 247

Posted by timothy
from the especially-the-thirstiest-ones dept.
astroengine writes "By now, we probably all know that there was once significant quantities of water on the Martian surface and, although the red planet is bone dry by terrestrial standards, water persists as ice just below the surface to this day. Now, according to a series of new papers published in the journal Science, NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity has found that the Mars topsoil is laced with surprisingly high quantities of the wet stuff. And this could be good news for future Mars colonists. 'If you take a cubic foot of that soil you can basically get two pints of water out it — a couple of water bottles like you'd take to the gym, worth of water,' Curiosity scientist Laurie Leshin, of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, N.Y., told Discovery News."
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Water Discovery Is Good News For Mars Colonists

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 26, 2013 @03:45PM (#44963863)

    I know that US public education is going to hell, but do we really need articles to explain what a pint is?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 26, 2013 @03:48PM (#44963901)
      Pint, quarts and gallons are US measurements. In my region, we use milk jugs. We added the conversion to water bottles for heathens outside the US who haven't been educated in how to properly measure liquid.
      • by pla (258480) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @05:01PM (#44964677) Journal
        Pint, quarts and gallons are US measurements. In my region, we use milk jugs. We added the conversion to water bottles for heathens outside the US who haven't been educated in how to properly measure liquid.

        Heathens??? Pot, meet kettle. All the "civilized" countries use metric nowadays - decijugs, centijugs, millijugs, and so on.

        / And the same units work for bra sizes, too!
        • by loufoque (1400831)

          Even in metric countries, people still use pint to refer to beer.
          In a metric country, a pint is 50cl though. (a pint is actuallly between 47 and 56.8cl in the US or UK)

          In any case, two pints is not a couple of bottles. A normal-sized bottle of water is 1.5l. So you'd need 3 pints to make a single bottle.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yes. I'm not american and I have no idea how big a pint is. Can I get that in litres please?

      • What size are your glasses of beer? I thought that was a pretty standard glass size. It's the most beer you can drink at a reasonable pace before it gets warm.

        • 395 ml for a standard bottle, I'd like to know how they came up with that number as it's not a pint. A pint is almost half a litre, about 475 ml
    • Oblig (Score:5, Funny)

      by SrLnclt (870345) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @04:03PM (#44964061)
      Oblig XKCD [xkcd.com]
    • by MiniMike (234881) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @04:07PM (#44964087)

      water bottles like you'd take to the gym

      These comparisons are ridiculous- how can we know the amount of water indicated without knowing which gym we're taking it to, or what kind of workout we'll be doing? Is it aerobics? Weightlifting? Spin class? Are we just pretending to work out while ogling attractive people? Treadmill? We would need different amounts of water for each of these! Please provide information in units we can actually use.

    • by a1cypher (619776)

      Dumb it down for me.. how many library of congresses is 2 pints?

      • by gandhi_2 (1108023)

        Never underestimate a beowulf cluster of libraries of congress filled with martian soil and hot grits flying down the road on the back of a NASA rover.

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by Zero__Kelvin (151819)
        I'm not sure about that, but 2 pints is about 1/10th of a Ted Kennedy.
    • by strength_of_10_men (967050) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @04:27PM (#44964331)

      'If you take a cubic foot of that soil you can basically get two beer glasses-worth of water out it'

      I think that's pretty much an international standard, right?

      • by richlv (778496)

        of course not. most places in europe will have 0.5l as the "standard" size, british (and themed pubs elsewhere) will use pint. well, one of them :)

    • Pint is how you order beer, preferably an Imperial pint.
    • The real question is how many boots of water will it contain.

      • The real question is how many boots of water will it contain.

        Boots of water are no good. You'd have to drink it all before you could sit the container down.

    • by Artraze (600366)

      It's really quite bizarre. Nevermind 2 pints is a quart or 4 cups, both of which would carry more intuitive meaning than "2 pints", but they opt to provide an analogy for that when most people have no idea what a cubic foot looks like. I think it's more a comment of how reporting is going to hell than the education system. (After all, there's no evidence that the populace actually needed that 'helpful' comparison.)

      Here's a thought, writers, maybe instead of a crap analogy just convert it to something use

    • by omnichad (1198475)

      Well they did say:

      a couple of water bottles like you'd take to the gym, worth of water

      Which is 1-liter. I don't know why they felt we couldn't handle that measurement and instead rounded it to pints and then added a metric-by-proxy measurement.

    • by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @05:19PM (#44964871) Homepage

      The average American kid probably knows better what a pint is better than what a gym is, or what kind of bottle you'd bring to one.

  • by Penguinisto (415985) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @03:46PM (#44963881) Journal

    If you couple it with water/fluid recycling techniques, you stand a good change of doing well.

    I find it strange that they would focus on just drinking water in the summary, when water will give you fuel and oxygen as well, and will likely be the greatest byproducts of this type of mining.

    • by X0563511 (793323)

      They also said "like you'd take to the gym" as a way of explaining pints, and used cubic feet.

      In other words drinking water was the most "understandable" part of it for the audience it was written for, and oxygen and fuel would have just drawn blank stares.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 26, 2013 @03:46PM (#44963883)

    I thought since a certain missed orbital maneuver, people talking about Mars had agreed to only use metric...

    • by Russ1642 (1087959) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @04:06PM (#44964081)

      No. We agreed to use imperial only. Didn't we? Oh, shit! I have a phone call to make.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I thought since a certain missed orbital maneuver, people talking about Mars had agreed to only use metric...

      Scientists studying Mars have only used metric for decades. American reporters only use imperial units. If you don't translate for them, they nearly always mess up the conversion. As far as that failed orbital maneuver, it was the defense contractor that use imperial units. As I said before, NASA and the scientists have used metric exclusively for a very long time.

      • by Russ1642 (1087959)

        As long as you label your units you're generally ok but for some reason people feel they don't need to maintain unit labels when they're programming.

        • by Nadaka (224565)

          That is why they should code in Ada, forced units of conversion for the win.

        • As long as you trust your eyes and common sense you're generally ok as well. Regarding that "certain maneuver" mentioned above, it was NASA who refused to correct course, despite their own (not mixed-up) sensors telling them that the probe was coming in too low.

          Even properly converted and labeled units are no match for stupid management.

      • by osu-neko (2604)

        American reporters only use imperial units. If you don't translate for them, they nearly always mess up the conversion. As far as that failed orbital maneuver, it was the defense contractor that use imperial units.

        Um, no, definitely not. Very few people in the US use imperial units. They tend to use US customary units. If you used imperial units, especially when talking volume, you'll confuse the heck out of everyone, since that's one of the areas where US customary units are quite different from imperial units.

  • by erikkemperman (252014) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @03:48PM (#44963905)

    Water Discovery Is Good News For Mars Colonists

    Well, duh.

    Now beer, that would be news!

  • by NewWorldDan (899800) <dan@gen-tracker.com> on Thursday September 26, 2013 @03:52PM (#44963933) Homepage Journal

    Ok, next step, let's find some plants that might be able to grow there. Let's make Mars a green planet. I think that's really the next step, can we take a desolate planet and make it remotely suitable for life. I'd like to do the same thing with Venus, which I'm sure will be much more of a challenge.

    • by seven of five (578993) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @04:09PM (#44964115) Homepage
      I take a lichen to that idea...
    • by MiniMike (234881) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @04:10PM (#44964123)

      I generously offer as the first plant to go to Mars a sample of the very hardy crabgrass found in my yard. I'm sure it will do fine there.

    • by lannocc (568669)
      I suggest we try hemp.
    • No, next step is heating Mars up with probably greenhouse gasses.

      • by Yosho (135835)

        But how are you going to get those greenhouse gasses to stay on the planet? With Mars' lower gravity and lack of a magnetic field, the solar winds will blow away any excess atmosphere.

        • I watched a tv documentary a while back that said the rate of loss of atmosphere is slow enough to make terraforming Mars possible. I'm not sure what you do about the lack of a magnetic field or ozone layer. I'm assuming it builds up over time after plants start generating oxygen.

      • by roc97007 (608802)

        Mars' atmosphere is already 98% carbon dioxide. If that's all it took, we'd be there by now.

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      I think I've read that story [wikipedia.org].

    • It helps if the planet in question has a more substantial atmosphere than

      about 0.6% of Earth's mean sea level pressure of 101.3 kilopascals

      if youre wanting to grow plants

  • I love how the dilemma of what units to use is highlighted by mixing feet, pints and the generic gym water bottle units. The Imperial system has dumbed Americans down to the point where they can only understand measurements by comparing distances, sizes, weights and volumes to things like football fields, elephants, bowling balls and water bottles.
    • by bmo (77928)

      >Europeans use Wales as a measurement of area
      >Criticize the US for using "comparative measurements"

      Look at the troll. Look at the troll and laugh.

      --
      BMO

    • or you could you know, read the actual article which ignores metric or imperial measurements and just gives percentages...

      âoeAbout 2 percent of the soil on the surface of Mars is made up of water, which is a great resource, and interesting scientifically.â
    • by invid (163714)

      The Imperial system has dumbed Americans down to the point where they can only understand measurements by comparing distances, sizes, weights and volumes to things like football fields, elephants, bowling balls and water bottles.

      Dumbed down! Are you kidding? The metric system is so simple and intuitive a two year old child can understand it! The American system of football fields and elephants is so complex and convoluted it takes a genius to get any real work done with it!

  • What I'm curious about is how deep would this layer of water go. If it is just the surface then colonists would be ranging pretty far in short order for water.
    • Don't know how deep the h20 goes, though it seems to be planetwide...

      “Mars has kind of a global layer, a layer of surface soil that has been mixed and distributed by frequent dust storms. So a scoop of this stuff is basically a microscopic Mars rock collection,” said Leshin. “If you mix many grains of it together, you probably have an accurate picture of typical martian crust. By learning about it in any one place, you’re learning about the entire planet.”

      http://news.rpi.edu [rpi.edu]

      • by Bucc5062 (856482)

        Now I RTFA and the other and my question still stands.

        ""If you take a cubic foot of that soil you can basically get two pints of water out it -- a couple of water bottles like you'd take to the gym, worth of water,""

        A cubic foot (or should I convert to metric (sigh)) can be measured a varying number of ways from 1x1x1 to 1x2x.5 where depth can 1 foot to a few inches. To obtain water from such a shallow surface area would preclude the need for a large land source. I think it is grand that water could be th

      • h20 is pretty useless.
        H2O is much better.

  • by jklovanc (1603149)

    So Martian dwellers will not die of thirst and possibly starvation. There are still the following to deal with;
    1. suicide
    2. homicide
    3. radiation
    4. equipment failure
    5. missed supply missions
    6. funding cuts which end supply missions.

    Water is only one part of the equation.

    • You're fun at parties, aren't you?

    • by Yosho (135835)

      1. suicide
      2. homicide

      There's nothing Mars-specific about those; they aren't even interplanetary travel problems. We have do deal with those here on Earth, so we're already pretty used to them.

      3. radiation
      4. equipment failure

      Valid problems, but sufficiently well-engineered hardware and equipment can mitigate them.

      5. missed supply missions
      6. funding cuts which end supply missions.

      Those aren't going to be problems because supply missions are pointless for a colony. It is so expensive and takes so long to send something to Mars that there's no point in building a colony that relies on resupplying from earth; a colony would nee

    • by ewibble (1655195)

      So Martian dwellers will not die of thirst and possibly starvation. There are still the following to deal with;
      1. suicide
      2. homicide
      3. radiation
      4. equipment failure
      5. missed supply missions
      6. funding cuts which end supply missions.

      Water is only one part of the equation.

      All of which can happen right here on earth, I am sure people have died in droughts from "funding cuts" (not meeting aid promises), and missed supply missions. The chances are just higher on mars. Suicide and homicide, we don't really have any statistics to show how likely that is to happen.

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      So Martian dwellers will not die of thirst and possibly starvation. There are still the following to deal with;
      1. suicide
      2. homicide
      3. radiation
      4. equipment failure
      5. missed supply missions
      6. funding cuts which end supply missions.

      Water is only one part of the equation.

      Pretty much just like here, then.

  • by TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @04:54PM (#44964597)

    Because finding water on Mars was their greatest challenge.

  • by portforward (313061) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @04:59PM (#44964641)

    very careful. They need to make sure that they bring plenty of appropriately sized filters or else something bad can happen.

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

  • My wife wrote a PhD thesis about Mars Colonization. She wrote it in polish language. The good news is that it is now 50% translated to english. I will publish this translation in next two or days. Then you will find it on my homepage. I hope that translation will be fully complete in next several months.
  • First, since the temperature of the ground on Earth is basically the same once you go down X amount of feet, this isn't exactly a surprise. Second, mars is really cold anyway so 2x the "not surprised." Third, they're completely neglecting the martian viruses that will turn people into zombies when they drink the martian dirt water.

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