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Mars

Mars Rover Opportunity Finds Life-Friendly Niche 55

Posted by samzenpus
from the marvin's-room dept.
astroengine writes "Gale Crater, the region being explored by NASA's Curiosity rover, isn't the only place on Mars where ancient microbes may have thrived. New evidence from NASA's senior robotic Mars scout, Opportunity, shows life-friendly water once mixed with telltale, clay-bearing rocks that now lie on the broken rim of Endeavour Crater, an ancient 14-mile wide basin on the other side of the planet from Gale. 'If I were to go Mars early in time and wanted to do a well, I'd do it there,' planetary scientist Ray Arvidson, with Washington University in St. Louis, told Discovery News. 'It's like drinking water. This would have been a niche for whatever life at the time existed.'"
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Mars Rover Opportunity Finds Life-Friendly Niche

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  • by jeffb (2.718) (1189693) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @08:41PM (#46052473)

    We get it already -- there was water there, and apparently there still is water under the surface. If Mars One actually goes through, I hope they take lots of shovels, and do lots of digging.

    • by TrollstonButterbeans (2914995) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @09:04PM (#46052615)
      Funny thing is though, the total surface area of Mars is only a little over 3 times the land area of Asia.

      Mars is quite small, so excavating at maybe under 40 sites on the entire planet should be statistically a good search.
      • by icebike (68054) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @10:56PM (#46053227)

        Right. the LAND area of Mars and Earth are close.

        Land area of Earth 148 million km.
        Surface area of Mars 144.8 million km

        So our sample to date is pretty miserable.
        However, our samples to date agree with out space based observations. Both on earth and on mars. We don't have to turn over every rock.

        We need rovers that can get to some more risky locations. http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap03... [nasa.gov]

        • Good point!
        • by dargaud (518470)

          We need rovers that can get to some more risky locations

          Indeed. Why don't they land a rover at the bottom of the very deepest canyon ? Higher air pressure, more humidity... They should start mass producing those rovers. Making 10 of them is probably hardly more expensive than just making one anyway.

          • Why don't they land a rover at the bottom of the very deepest canyon ? Higher air pressure, more humidity...

            Orders of magnitude more difficult to reach, far more difficult terrain to rover, far narrower communications windows.... The targeting teams have a very difficult job indeed, they have to reach places that are both scientifically interesting, *and* that the vehicles have a reasonable chance of surviving a landing at, *and* offers terrain the rovers can operate over, *and* which doesn't impose excess

            • by icebike (68054)

              Orders of magnitude more difficult to reach, far more difficult terrain to rover, far narrower communications windows...

              Orders of magnitude more difficult to reach? I doubt that.
              Some of these canyons are very wide, with large flat bottoms, but you don't even have to go for the worst canyons
              just the most interesting ones. http://www.msss.com/mars_image... [msss.com]
              The radar directed skycrane mechanism used for Curiosity, with a little more fuel could probably drop in much tighter quarters that they've been willing to try so far.

              We've got enough orbiters that the communications windows are also less of a problem.
              I think the rovers need

              • Orders of magnitude more difficult to reach? I doubt that.

                Of course you doubt it, you're clueless idiot.

                We've got enough orbiters that the communications windows are also less of a problem.

                Moron. The problem isn't the number of birds, it's having the view of the sky cut off by canyon walls.

                I think the rovers need bigger diameter wheels. It would reduce wheel wear and wheel loading, and allow traversing much more cluttered ground, and perhaps steeper slopes.

                No shit sherlock. What other genius insights do y

          • by Urza9814 (883915)

            Making 10 of them is probably hardly more expensive than just making one anyway.

            http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/mi... [nasa.gov]

            $1.8 billion for development and investigations. This would probably not increase significantly.

            $0.7 billion for launch and operations. This will.

            So, one rover is $2.5 billion; ten rovers at once are a minimum of $8.8 billion.

            Basically even if they're using a bunch of identical rovers, each additional rover is probably gonna add nearly a billion in costs. Getting stuff all the way to Mars is *expensive*!

            Should we ever get some kind of space elevator or something that should

            • by icebike (68054)

              On the other hand, lets say we send another Curiosity, with minimal changes.
              Building 10 of these in parallel.
              That 1.8 billion drops dramatically, because its already developed. We build in better wheels (they are taking a beating), but leave the rest pretty much the same, resisting the urge to redesign everything from scratch all over again.

              Now that 1.8B drops to just the cost in time and personnel to build, test, and package, I'm guessing maybe .2B ea, but lets go with .5B.
              Same .7B to launch and operate f

    • Idea (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 23, 2014 @09:06PM (#46052631)

      Here is idea for studying the subsurface that is affordable enough that we could actually live long enough to see it; we know the position (orbit, velocity, etc) of Mars with great precision. Why not build a cheap, simple impactor and send it to Mars. Aim it a few hundred meters away from a rover and blow a crater in the surface, recording the impact for spectral analysis and throwing debris around the crater for close inspection. A carefully guided projectile should have a CEP of only tens of meters; risk to a rover would be negligible.

      So simple you can take the engineering for granted and so fast we could have it done in only slightly more time than the flight.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        What would Piccard say!?

      • Why not build a cheap, simple impactor and send it to Mars.

        Well, two reasons really. First, the words "cheap and simple" and "Mars" do not occur together in any rational world. Not if you intend to have more than a snowballs chance anyway. Second off, our current CEP for Mars landers is measured in kilometers, not hundreds of meters and certainly not in tens of meters. (And fixing that will do nothing but further ensure that it will be neither cheap nor simple.)

        • Re:Idea (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 24, 2014 @04:23AM (#46054315)

          "cheap and simple" and "Mars" do not occur together

          Mars mission costs are mostly sunk into the lander/package (i.e. rover.) Launchers aren't that expensive. The idea offered here is just a small inertial warhead with a simple guidance package. No tethers, retro-rockets, balloons, lander telemetry, solar collectors, autonomous navigation, etc., etc. All that complexity and cost is gone.

          The cost would be low and the mission profile simple; blow out a crater near a rover.

          current CEP for Mars landers is measured in kilometers

          We have reconnaissance orbiters around Mars now. The CEP could be reduced several orders of magnitude by using the orbiters for precise guidance.

          Part of the reason for high CEP with lander missions is the deceleration profile. This is not a lander. It's a high velocity projectile following a ballistic trajectory all the way to impact.

          • "cheap and simple" and "Mars" do not occur together

            Mars mission costs are mostly sunk into the lander/package (i.e. rover.) Launchers aren't that expensive. The idea offered here is just a small inertial warhead with a simple guidance package. No tethers, retro-rockets, balloons, lander telemetry, solar collectors, autonomous navigation, etc., etc. All that complexity and cost is gone.

            The guidance package required is neither simple nor cheap. Since you've gotten rid of the lander (which nowadays provides m

      • It's one thing to send rovers to scout Mars. But if we send bunker blasting missiles to Mars, then we'll only have ourselves to blame when Mars attacks.
    • Phoneix landed in late Martian summer when it was too warm for ice to exist at the surface. But its shovel just cleared off a couple centimeters of soil and hit ice. That ice promptly evaporated too.

      Phoenix died during the winter when it was thought probably at least a meter of snow-ice accumulated on top of it and crushed it. Or its batteries were drained beyond recovery during the winter.
  • But I feel ripped off the Mars doesn't have surface water now.

  • They're all making it sound Mars One will be a milk run.
    Donuts, water, milk.
    Garçon -- check please!

    • by rmdingler (1955220) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @11:00PM (#46053247)
      We're looking at real time pictures from fscking Mars!

      Each time a fail of any magnitude occurs, it is incessantly toasted by ambitiously administering the brogans to the deceased equine.

      Yet two rovers designed to last 90 days on another freaking planet operate 24x and 40x+ design specifications without overtaking the Bieber arrest in internet interest.

      We need a new PR guy.

      • by Dunbal (464142) * on Thursday January 23, 2014 @11:16PM (#46053315)
        No, we simply need to strap Bieber to the next mars rover. This would solve 2 problems.
      • by Irate Engineer (2814313) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @11:44PM (#46053527)
        Wish my mod points hadn't expired.

        I don't think it is so much bad PR from JPL - they do pretty well with their limited PR budget, but more that these explorations rapidly exhaust the short attention spans of most of the public. Sojourner landed in 1997, Spirit & Opportunity in 2004 (with Opportunity still operational today) and Curiosity in 2012. Kids have grown up for over 10 years with pictures from rovers on Mars. There are teenagers and young adults today who can't remember a time when we didn't have a rover on Mars. It's old news.

        And the missions themselves - launch day (big fiery fast moving things!) is pretty cool, but then you have a long, quiet coast phase. Then maybe you have a complicated and dramatic re-entry / touchdown that gets attention up (Pathfinder, the MER rovers, and the Curiosity skycrane ftw). But after that, it's a long slow roll across something that looks like the Arizona desert. The science is immensely interesting, but there isn't much gee whiz factor for the average person. And some of those average people are the ones that decide what gets aired on the news, so if they don't care to see it, few others will.

        I actually don't think that many people give a damn about Bieber's shenanigans, but somebody in the media thinks that is the noise that will attract the eyeballs to their ads.
        • by Sockatume (732728)

          Doesn't even have to be "gee whiz", just humanising it makes an enormous difference. Look at what Chris Hadfield did for manned space exploration; he's been in and out of the news for about a year now despite retiring. When someone involved in a project is popular, get them in front of the camera again. JPL should've given that amazing hair guy a big grant after Curiosity landed, when he was super popular, so he could go and make some Youtube videos.

      • by LeeRyman (1942792)

        I will start having faith in the human race when we start recognising the efforts of scientists, engineers, health professionals, volunteers and educators at the same level as sportspersons, politicians, pop-singers and actors. Seriously, what do most celebrities contribute to the betterment of the species?

        Sorry, I'm in a cynical mode at the moment.

  • by hcs_$reboot (1536101) on Friday January 24, 2014 @12:27AM (#46053717)

    14-mile wide basin on the other side of the plane

    Sorry but Martians used the metric system.

  • Where the hell is the chinese lunar rover? Anyone ever heard of it anymore?

IF I HAD A MINE SHAFT, I don't think I would just abandon it. There's got to be a better way. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.

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