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Space Science

Recent Evidence Of Water On Mars Near Equator 133

mkasei writes "SpaceRef has an early press release with image from Brown University which reports evidence of recent liquid water near the surface of mars. What's important about this find is that it is near the equator making it more readily accessable for a mission, be it robotic or manned." Update: 07/25 09:49 PM by M : There's also a BBC story about water on Mars as well, and a brief Nature article about the possibility of water on Callisto.
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Recent Evidence Of Water On Mars Near Equator

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    there have been some planetary scientists who speculate that the features seen by Malin (Science, 30 June, 2000) could have been formed by no water at all (dry debris flows) or by debris flows fluidized by carbon dioxide. sorry no references off the top of my head. i'll look them up and post them later.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Evidence of water on the surface 100000 years ago makes it very likely that there's water elsewhere (eg, a bit deeper than the surface) still. Like you said, it's short in a geologic sense -- it's almost impossible for there to have been water 100000 years ago and have it all gone by today.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    i think the major interest in the recent equatorial water is its implication for (near) modern life-supporting habitats. makes the existence of martian life (perhaps even extant life) look more promising.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Dan Quayle was right! Remember when he said that there were canals on Mars, filled with water? And that they were probably used to irrigate "potatoe" fields?
  • my reading of the press release is that the brown u. researchers are claiming cyclicity in the martian climate. this climate would allow conditions ca. 100 ka ago that allowed ice to be stable. also, i would need to think a bit more about this, but i would imagine that the soil and dust mantle could have a stabilizing effect on the ice, making it possible for it to not immediately sublimate, even at pressures and temperatures outside of the stable p-t field for solid and liquid water.
  • If you jump over to the BBC there reporting something like enough water to cover the planet upto 25 centimeters. It's all trapped in ice just a few meters below the surface. I guess we really won't know until Odyssey reaches the planet to scan it with THEMIS [nasa.gov]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 25, 2001 @05:48PM (#2193097)
    In related news, NASA has also released an offer to bargain with commercial entitities who may wish to deal in the MARS TLD. ICANN, logically, has contested this.
  • That must be some pretty good imagery they have considering almost the entire planet is rust coloured anyway...
  • Its the short sightedness of people like you that is dooming the human race.
  • by shogun ( 657 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2001 @08:48PM (#2193100)
    You haven't been paying much attention to the latest on in-situ propellent production that has been pushed by Zubrin. Basicly you only carry the fuel required to get you to the destination and when you are there you start a small chemical plant that creates the required return propellant out of chemicals present in the martian atmosphere. It is a proven process however its the kind simple and elegant solutions that don't seem to sit to well with today's NASA.
  • I for one would drink it after it's been run through a simple little reverse osmosis unit.

  • Looks like the remnants of the ice comet Brennan sent crashing into Mars to me!

    I'm glad we don't have to worry about those dangerous Martians anymore...

    (For those who don't get the reference, read Protector, by Larry Niven)

  • Even I have seen traces of water flows in Mars in places much more near the equator:


    And I am one among many... And not only in water. Take a trip to NW Hellas and look at the traces left by the "wind devils". No the problem is not on these atmospheric phenomena but on what they denude and how this soil seems to "recover".
  • Hey what about me? Am I being denied the possibility of a life on Mars? Evolution intentionally deprived me of my autonomy!
  • Most current Mars missions are being sent at about one-quarter to one-half the price of a single shuttle launch. A manned mission is another story, but all the current unmanned Mars missions are amazingly, incredibly cheap.
  • If there's no liquid on the surface of Mars, water or otherwise, then what is this stuff? [usgs.gov]. People examining the high-res surface pictures coming back from Global Surveyor have found literally hundreds of "stains" that sure look like current or recent liquid flows. And suprise!, they are clustered around the equator [qwest.net] in an area of upthrust called the Tharsis Rise.

  • Actually, there are 3 bills up that claim will "blast open the closed door to a national space economy".

    Private investment may allow things to happen faster then you think. Read up at
    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewnews.html?id=378 [spaceref.com]
  • by Wee ( 17189 )
    fortunately, it's just executing a print statment, however, you could easily replace "print" with "system" and your encoded command.

    Yeah, you'd be able to see the system call. You could probably make it more insidious using exec or something embedded in the print statement. But since they'd know where the damage came from, it's not a good idea be malicious in a .sig (not that it's a good idea to be malicious anyway, but you get the point... :-)

    About the h38 instead fo h36. My email used to be wrhodes1@san.rr.com. I was too lazy to change it all the way (and it works just as well -- h5000 would work fine). Run 'perldoc -f pack' to see some helpful info as well.


  • by Wee ( 17189 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2001 @07:10PM (#2193109)
    ...carbon dioxide ice or methane ice or ammonia ice or some such. They mean frozen water. One or molecules composed of 2 hydrogens and one oxygen which fall some place on the left-ish side of this graph [sbu.ac.uk].

    After all, ice doesn't necessarily have to be water.


  • Dude I don't know where you've been, but a lot has happened since 1975.

    'Course, nothing on the scale of Kennedy's aspirations, if you're thinking of national efforts.
  • This article neglects the abuses of the National railroad act that were to follow.

    In essence it is a confirmation that corporations must occasionally be sanctioned as a matter of necessity.
  • What a stupid, unscientific, web-site.

    It ignores much when it is convenient to its lousy hole-ridden theories.

    Shame on you.
  • oh man, that'll piss Cheney off real good!
  • Are you kidding? Quite a life???

    Imagine being penned up with Billy Pilgrim!
  • Calling them unscientific simply because you don't like them is cause for shame.

    Well, had I done that I would be. But I didn't.
  • by ajs ( 35943 )
    What about the space beer [slashdot.org]? As others pointed out, there's simply evidence of fluid due to erosion... I say it's space beer! ;-)

    Aaron Sherman (ajs@ajs.com)
  • You actually answered your own question :-) If you land on the equator, you get the boost on takeoff. That extra push from the planet means you don't have to carry as much fuel, letting cut overall weight or put in more science.

  • It will never be done. Informative my butt.
  • It is FAR FAR more likely that China will be our new competition in the Space Race. They are prepared to send a manned mission to the moon within the next few years, and I doubt they will stop there simply because they have the whole Fascist government Pride thing going for them and a whole lot of cheap labor.
    My guess is that unless we step up our space program China will get up there, find a way to start mining some asteroids (or hell, the moon...) and get extremely rich extremely quickly, possibly even begin to export part of its population into space within the next 100 years. Maybe sooner if they beg/borrow/steal a lot of US/Japanese technology.

  • Ok. I think trying to get a mission to Mars going is just too hard (politically). How about another tack though. Try arguing for a mission to the moon. After all if the US could do it 30 years ago it should be a cinch now .. right. Of course once a shuttle is given extra fuel to go round the moon .. people are gonna say ... if that guy could go up as a tourist then then next tourist could whiz by the moon and maybe even we could rig something up to land ... after all we're so much further along now than then ... or are we ?

    So if you get missions to the moon then a mission to Mars suddenly looks more desirable because people can once more get into space exploration with the vanishingly faint but non-zero probability of tourists going there.


  • It's already been thought of. Go read Man Plus and its sequel Mars Plus by Frederik Pohl.

    In the original book they strap an IBM mainframe in a backpack to the main character, cut out his lungs and drop him on Mars. It's fun for the whole family.
  • Could you please point me to some sources of evidence on this? I've heard some of the theories about bacteria from meteorites and what-not bringing life to the planet, but i wanna know more... Enguiring Minds wanna know..
  • It's not just budget problems that hold NASA back... its a lack of the enthusiasm we once had for the space program. We once had a president who directly challenged the space program to reach new heights (like the MOON), and we once had a sense of competition with the USSR challenging our space ego. Since then, the last man to set foot on the moon is a senior citizen and our rate of progress has GREATLY diminished. The budget isn't to blame. If a mass, genuine interest were shown (not just by us techies, but by our elected officials, and the general public as a whole) in reaching new goals in space, the budget would be there and it would get done. Hopefully with the talk of Russia re-entering the race, something of merit will get done... something more than just crashing a robot into a nearby planet.
  • Moreover, the initiative to travel or occupy another planet or moon would likely not ever be based on intelligent astronomical or planetary curiousities but, rather, it would likely be based on human's animal instincts to survive.

    Actually, we'll probably go for money before circumstances necessitate a survival situation. Money has long been the driver for exploration and expansion. There's a lot of money to be made in space, it just takes a considerable amount of investment to jump-start the cash machine.

    To paraphrase Carl Sagan: Extraordinary returns require extraordinary capital.

  • IANAG, but I imagine water is the most probable liquid to be found for the non-extreme kinds of temperatures that Mars has. What other liquid could be flowing in large amounts enough to erode the ground? I'm sure it's not oil, or we'd already be there digging it out. Maybe it was Pepsi? :)

  • by stevens ( 84346 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2001 @06:06PM (#2193126) Homepage

    IANA Astronomer/Geologist/whatever, but why, when evidence of erosion patterns is found, do they always assume it was water that made them?

    Why couldn't it have been some other fluid? Why don't they say it's evidence of some sort of luquid or fluid?

    Can any knowledgable geologists help me out?

  • I bet it was trying to tear out the eyes of our beloved cydonia! (what! that's not cydonia?)
  • Some posts are talking about using the water for drinking...
    Well I don't know.
    I've been warned about just drinking the water in a foreign country and now you're talking about drinking water from another planet?
    I sure would hate to be spending my time on mars on the can.
  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2001 @05:54PM (#2193129) Homepage Journal
    Recent satellite images of Mars reveal rust colored spots which scientists believe are Amelia Earhart's crashed airplane. "We believe Mrs Earhart was abducted by martians," said one scientist, "we think she had quite a life on mars and finally decided to try to fly her airplane around the planet. However she was unable to make it all the way around and crashed somewhere near the equator."
  • Yeah, and it's kinda shaped like the hand-print switch-thingy that Arnie used to set off all the air in Total Recall. It's clearly some huge and unnecessarily complicated conspiracy.
  • $20 to $100B? This is easy for Bill Gate to fund the project so that he can be as far away from the goverment as possible.

  • actually lots has happened in last quarter of 20th century. for every year there is a more money being invested into r&d than the previous one. offcourse now we dont have any high-profile projects (star wars?) so its harder to notice improvements. i believe that most money nowadays goes into it and biotechnology. now that hugo project has been finished we can except huge influx of new medicine.

    also it takes for a new technologies between 10-20 years to become widespread thus we mostly see applications that have been developed during 70-ies and 80-ies (minidisc, cd, mobile phones...)
  • But is a 100,000 year of water basin worth a costly mission to confirm it

    you are missing the point. we are not sending manned mission to mars to confirm water. importance of liquid water existing on the surface of the mars is that our future manned missions are going to be much cheaper (we dont have to take water with us) while we are not going to have to be confined to polar regions of the mars.
  • actually i wander about this one too. as far as i know most of the mars mountanious regions are located on equator. shouldnt this make landing harder ?
  • The only real difficulties in sending a manned expedition to the moon are human (i.e. money and psychology). The simplest and most direct method is simply to build a Mars lander similar to the lunar landers and provision it adequately to lift off from Mars, even if there is no suitable chemical source on Mars (unlikely). This approach has been kicked around since the days of Werner von Braun and became demonstrably possible from an engineering point of view as soon as we landed men on the Moon. Throw enough resources and money at the problem and the trip is engineering child's play. The martian gravity well is nowhere near the problem the earth's is. The trip could even be staged with fuel sent ahead by slower orbits while the crew waited for more optimal transfer possibilities and for the fuel and gear to arrive ahead of them.

    The real pinch is assembling the talent and funding. The current climate would lead to profoundly idiotic questions from the White House and the lamer members of congress about cost and whether it would be good for business.

    The other human issue is how well a crew could stand the mixture of isolation and inability to avoid their fellow crew on such a trip. The situation could become a pyschological pressure cooker that could put new meaning to "going postal."

  • I just can't get excited about 100,000 year old lakes on Mars. I'm not sure why. Hubble, ISS, Voyager, stuff like that - really cool.

    Well, quite a few pictures taken by Hubble show things in state they were millions or even more years ago, so the possible water in Mars is rather recent stuff compared to that... ;)

  • The article isn't crap. The Slashdot poster is just misleading. The article says there is evidence for water ice near the surface, not liquid water. The article says there may have been liquid water 100,000 years ago, which is recent compared to many other estimates. From this, mkasei stated that there is evidence of "recent" liquid water.

    -- Agthorr

  • Well perhaps we should spend the money on education to teach people like you how to spell!

    Hacker: A criminal who breaks into computer systems
  • I noticed the /. blurb mentioned making the mission easier because the liquid was near the equator? what does this have to do with it? how does it make the mission easier? I understand lifting off into space is easier from the equator, but landing?

  • ahhhh, but I read the blurb as they don't mean to take off and come back to Earth. That being the case, why does it matter? as for amount of fuel as suggested by other /. poster, due to plane of orbit, are we on the same plane as Mars (and I mean exactly)? otherwise, we have to burn fuel to line-up w/Mars equator. so again, all things being equal, assuming probe is not returning, does it make a difference in how hard it is to land on Mars (assuming no polar-to-polar orbit)? once Mars is reached, how hard is it to put down halfway to the polar circle from an equatorial orbit? they should only have to do a small burn sideways (I'd think) to get them moving in that direction?
  • Throw enough resources and money at the problem and the trip is engineering child's play. The martian gravity well is nowhere near the problem the earth's is. The trip could even be staged with fuel sent ahead by slower orbits while the crew waited for more optimal transfer possibilities and for the fuel and gear to arrive ahead of them.

    If it was childs play, what happened to the last three martian probes? (yes, I know what HAPPENED, my point is that it happened at all...) Sending fuel and food ahead in a slower orbit is only usefull if it actually GETS there. And I seriously doubt our ability to get it there with enough reliability to stake a mission on it.

    Then again, missions without risk gain us nothing. So, if you can find folks willing to starve to death on mars, I say go for it.

  • by StudMuffin ( 167171 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2001 @05:41PM (#2193142) Homepage
    With budgets being slashed and Nasa having trouble getting robots to land, what does everyone think the reality of a manned mission in our lifetime is?
  • by Viadd ( 173388 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2001 @07:33PM (#2193143)

    -53C is the global average, rather than the equatorial average. Mars gets as warm as 27 C. The pressure is also dependent on the altitude, just as it is on Earth, and Valles Marinaris is 7 km deep. The highest pressure is up to about 9 millibars, well above the 6 millibars of the triple point of water. (See the nine planets [arizona.edu] for a handy reference).

    In low-lying equatorial regions, you can temporarily get conditions that support liquid water.

  • by duber007 ( 180719 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2001 @05:50PM (#2193144) Homepage
    I don't think a manned mission will happen any time soon, but with technology seeming to stagnate (compared to the periods of quick and important advances in the first 3/4 of the 20th century) we need something to "light a fire under our asses". Aside from a major world war, nothing helped improve the rate of technological advancement more than the space race of the 60s. There hasn't really been any monumental discoveries/acheivements (besides the genome project) in the last 20 or so years - just refinement of current technology. Just the fact that Moore's Law for computing power is still relevant attests to this.

    Since we don't want another world war, a good old fashioned space race would do wonders for all the R&D guys out there - increased funding, less pressure to make projects financially viable, etc.

    Only problem is finding someone to race against.....don't think the Russians can handle it anymore - maybe the Chinese?
  • Some of the fringe sites have been talking about this [enterprisemission.com] since july 2000 [enterprisemission.com]

    Of Course, being the fringe, they have alot of other weird things as well.

    The way I look at it, when you turn up the sensitivity on the radar, you tend to get more noise along with extra advanced warning.

    It comes with the territory.

  • by SlushDot ( 182874 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2001 @06:22PM (#2193146)
    Anyone who has seen a phase transition diagram of water [sbu.ac.uk] and is familiar with Martian surface temperature and pressure [ucl.ac.uk], will tell you that this article is pure sensationalist tripe. Liquid water cannot exist on Mars. Period. Ye canna change the laws ah physics, kiptain!

    Earth's atmospheric pressure is 1 atm or converting to kPa [chromatography.co.uk], 100 kPa. Martian atmospheric pressure is about 1% of Earth's or about 1 kPa (10^3 Pa on the chart). Average Martian surface temperatures at the equator are -53C or 220K. Now looking at our chart again, we see that at this point, water cannot exist as a liquid, but only as a solid (ice). As day/night termperatures shift, water will alternate between solid and gas only, never even passing through the liquid state, and once a gas, not likely to collect on the ground, but remain suspended as ice crystals high in the air. So for now, the collecting frozen water from near the poles, storing it in canisters , and transporting those to any camps remains the only realistic wat of getting water on Mars.

  • I thought it was a cool sig as well and played around with it for a bit. It appears that h36 is the optimal number, instead of h38 -- has to do with the length (see camel book).

    fortunately, it's just executing a print statment, however, you could easily replace "print" with "system" and your encoded command.

  • that makes total sense considering other forms of ice seem to be much more common in our solar system.
  • Looks like a giant bony hand is submerged in the sand. Wait until the "Face on Mars" supporters get a hold of this pic...they'll enhance the image and find evidence for a wedding ring, nailpolish, wrinkles.
  • The Omni Future Almanac of 1980 predicted by 2000 there would be 10000 people working in space and on the moon.

    I think the biggest hurdle facing a manned mission to mars is how to coop-up 5-10 people for 2 years in a tin can with the living space of an apartment without them going bonkers and killing each other. Until they find a way to shorten the trip down from months to weeks a manned flight isn't too likely.

  • Interesting thing is, the carbon's not primal - it had to be made by other processes later on. The only primal elements are hydrogen (75%), helium (25%), and a very small amount of litium (0.001%, if that). All the other elements were made from reactions between these three.

    So somehow these clouds had to form from hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen, then be blown into interstellar space, but not hard enough to break them down. I wonder if anyone has done an analysis of these to determine the isotope ratios....
  • Not quite.

    Liquid "water" is possible on Mars, in the form of brines - essentially, salts dissolved in water. Mix a bunch of table salt into a glass of water and put in in the freezer - some may freeze, but as it does, it concentrates the salt in the liquid portion until equilibrium is reached. Remember that pure water is rare, it is much more likely to have salt in it (Earth's oceans).

    So, instead of looking only at the phase diagram of water, take a look at the binary or ternary phases diagram of water and various salts - some brines are liquids at -53C.

    And there are other ways of making water on Mars - the atmosphere contains a few parts per million of water vapor. Yes, vapor, not ice. Run that past a zeolite bed, an extreme dessicant, and the level drops to a few parts per billion. Eventually, the zeolite absorbs about 20% of its mass in water. You then close the container, heat it up, and the water vapor is driven off to be collected and liquified. We don't have to go to the poles for water. The energy balance on this scheme works out to around 10 kWh per kilogram of water produced, quite doable with a few radioisotope thermal generators.

    I recommend to every one Robert Zubrin's excellent book, The Case for Mars. You can buy it from the Mars Society, linked below.
  • From the article:
    "Maybe we don't have to go to the poles to find water ice. It's easier for a spacecraft to survive at the equator," Mustard said.

    Does anyone know why it's easier for a spacecraft to survive at the equator? Is Mustard (I love that name!) just referring to colder temperatures?

  • The how and why of washboard [alaska.edu]roads.
  • I don't understand. So what's the big deal? It's just water. I know, everyone is hoping that Water = Life. But there are many other components necessary for life. The presence of water does not mean life exists or ever existed. In fact, frankly, the chances that life has ever existed on any "water" planet are pretty low. This article is just NASA pushing out more propaganda trying to save its funding.
  • ice in the soil was once present as close to the equator as 30 degrees and as recently as 100,000 years

    100,000 years ago?

    Was that when the last Martians left to colonise Earth?

  • I think we should definitely get a manned mission to Mars as soon as possible.

    When I was born, we had just made it to the moon. I wish I could have been alive to witness that moment. In my 30 years, there hasn't been a single truly amazing technological accomplishment like reaching the moon. Sure, things have gotten smaller, faster, and cheaper. But nothing Earth-shattering has happened that just makes us sit down and say "Wow!"

    We've been on cruise control for 32 years. That's bad. Any country--and indeed all mankind--needs a goal. Something to shoot for, keep the scientists thinking, keep everyone dreaming. Just waiting out the recession and waiting for profit reports for the next quarter isn't sufficient motivation for mankind to continue advancing in meaningful ways. Not only do we need to create wealth, we need to continue scientific advances. Humans have always explored "the next frontier," be it out of greed, curiosity, or necessity. There is plenty of room on Mars for all of these, eventually.

    Apparently the Russians are planning a manned mission [space.com] to Mars by 2020 and are asking for international cooperation. That's fine, but I hope America takes the lead as it has in the past. Especially considering Russia's financial situation there's really no way they're going anywhere unless they get a ride with the rest of the world.

    In any case, I'd much prefer my tax dollars to be spent on meaningful scientific research that gets us to Mars or a colony on the moon rather than our many entitlement programs. If we'd even spend 1/5th of our entitlement budget on scientific R&D we'd have an outpost on the moon followed by a manned mission and outpost on Mars rather than paying people to stay at home and watch TV instead of working.

  • i wanna taste the water the little green men drink...
  • Whoa! Nice work. The salts. Man, you schooled 'em with that one. That's straight off a scantron test.
    That sure do make too helluva much sense that you'd encounter brines on the surface of a planet, don't it? I mean what with our own beloved oceans all full of magnesium and sodium and whatnot. And Mars supposedly having dried up oceans. That sounds like a damn salty situation to me.
    And the cruel thing is that those bitter tears of the earlier poster when he realizes what a fool he was and cries himself to sleep will remind him in their saltiness of his own failure to observe the obvious.
  • Agreed. The BBC article is much more reasonable. It doesn't however provide any details with respect to the theorising of the existance of ice crystals binding together dust on the surface of mars - a much more reasonable hypothesys.
  • The area the hand is located also looks like an eye socket, with the nose in the middle of the picture.

    very freaky
  • that was debunked years ago as a play of light, is anyone else freaked out by a hand that looks like it was torn off of Predator in this picture: http://www.spaceref.com/redirect.html?id=0&url=ima ges.spaceref.com/news/2001/01-006a.jpg
  • I smell an economic bottleneck.

    We live on a water based planet and have a water based economy.. this was not necessarily clear when water was plentiful enuf to be free, but now as it becomes scarce we see how much of our society is undergirded by it.

    Hence we are going to Mars with water technology.. water as the base for hydrogen fuel and oxygen for a manned mission. And we wish to terraform Mars, taking hundreds of years and quadrillions of dollars to conform a planet to our needs.

    Why don't we do the quicker thing and conform ourselves to the planet's needs?

    Consider that we have broken through cloning technology, genetic engineering, etc. before having solved the long distance space transport problem to the degree that would suit the human biology. In other words, it's historically and technologically easier to adapt *ourselves* to Mars, rather than vice versa.

    We should engineer carbon-breathing people, able to breathe rarefied Mars air and survive under cold and heat and low gravity..although this would necessitate a fundamental revision of the ATP cycle and other biological processes, in generational terms it may be easier than basing everything on water, which is very rare in the universe. We may benefit here on Earth by reformatting our biology, as we have been steadily destroying the ecology that created us.

  • What NASA needs to do is claim that they have discovered huge oil reserves on Mars and George will have us there next week! :P


  • This is an unpopular opinion here, but frankly: I think the chances of a manned mission in our lifetime (well, say, before the end of the century) is NIL. And - strap yourselves in - I think that's a good thing. Even the most swivel-eyed Destiny of Man is Beyond This Earth lunatics concede that the most drastically trimmed down, everything-works-first-time mission with hopelessly optimistic assumptions about private industry, producing food and fuel in situ mission - one where they're trying desperately to get the cost down as low as possible - would cost 30 billion dollars. And for what? Basically, it all boils down to "it'd be cool!!". Sorry folks, no matter how cool the pictures, no-ones going to spend that kind of money on something so risky with such small returns.
  • If a dramatic increase in technology reduced it to around $1 billion, I can imagine private investors funding the mission -- imagine Larry Ellison or Bill Gates as the first man on Mars!

    If my aunt was a bicycle, I could ride her into town. As they say.

    Reason to Go. Right now the reasons to go include "because it's there" and "because we might find evidence of life".
    There is of course no need for a crewed Mars mission to find evidence of life on Mars, unless it's buried under hundreds of metres of rock - even then, it's probable that pushing automated technology to the point where that scale of drilling could be done remotely would be much cheaper and safer than sending humans. Why would discovery of life make a crewed mission more likely? Surely it would increase the risk of contamination, thus making it LESS likely.

    Otherwise, the only reasons to go are "It would make cool TV" and vague handwaving "human spirit" type guff. Frankly I want something a bit more substantial for my $200 billion.

  • This is a complete fantasy. The "small chemical plant" would be far to big and heavy to send - even if such a thing were practical, which is highly speculative to put it politely.
  • I just can't get excited about 100,000 year old lakes on Mars. I'm not sure why. Hubble, ISS, Voyager, stuff like that - really cool. But is a 100,000 year of water basin worth a costly mission to confirm it - maybe - but I guess I'd rather see the money spent on things like ISS expansion, better weather sats, comm stas, etc, etc. I think spac exploration is great, but folks calling for new manned or unmanned missions to mars everytime a new sign of old water is found seem unrealistic. Don't get me wrong - the robotic camera that sent back panoramic views of Mars was incredible. But we've been there, done that and have awesome pics of the surface. DO we really need to spend billions finding out what the red dirt is made of? I guess you can say that about any mission, but I support most of them. It just seems like Mars missions are stretching teh realism of current space budgets
  • If there's no liquid on the surface of Mars, water or otherwise, then what is this stuff?.
    That sure did look like a fake to me...what is all that shade doing there? Is it supposed to be clouds or something? I'm no image expert, but I did not really get any new knowledge from that picture
  • imagine Larry Ellison or Bill Gates as the first man on Mars!

    Only if we could leave them there.

  • CNN.com is running running basically the same story [cnn.com] -Theed
  • Yes, the old sailing ships are one of many counter-examples to those worries about space crews going bonkers from "isolation." It's perhaps not the best one because (1) the smallest crews were around 20 men, considerably larger than any space mission currently under consideration, (2) ships rarely went more than 6 months between landfall, and (3) it wasn't at all uncommon for the early explorers to murder a bunch of natives as soon as they landed... 8-/ But seriously, sailing ships didn't have radio and therefore were much more isolated than a space mission would be. The military/exploration vessels were also much more crowded, at least until crewmen started dying of scurvy, etc. And modern nuclear submarines, which have radios but usually aren't allowed to use them, are also more isolated than a spaceship.

    If it's anything like the Apollo missions, what will drive them crazy won't be isolation, it will be the CNN cameras watching them for two years!

  • It's easy enough to purify. And, unlike the water in most cities, you aren't starting with the sewage outflow from the next city up the river... But actually, if drinking water is an issue, the spacecraft wasn't rigged right for a long mission. The crew will produce more than enough water as long as they've got food and oxygen.

    The digestible parts of food are mostly chains of HCOH units. Your body burns that with O2 to produce CO2 + H2O. Some of the water is excreted and some evaporates from the lungs, skin, etc. The air system in the cabin has to capture that evaporated water before the humidity gets so high the instruments fog up. So I think you'd get enough drinking water from the dehumidifier, if the designers pay a bit of attention to the materials and arrangements so it didn't get contaminated. But if you want a shower, that's going to be in recycled sewage...

  • by markmoss ( 301064 ) on Thursday July 26, 2001 @01:28PM (#2193174)
    If you read the whole article, it's not just erosion that they're looking at (in fact, the erosion in that picture is from wind), but rather a waffle-like pattern that they think comes from something melting or evaporating out from under the surface. Mars isn't quite cold enough to get much frozen CO2 (except at the poles in winter), so it's probably water ice. Two less likely possibilities that some chemical reaction peculiar to the martian environment produced very large quantities of some other substance which can freeze and melt or sublimate at Martian temperatures to cause those potholes, are that some other mechanism entirely, which is not geologically significant here, produced features that just happen to look like potholes (uneven erosion by swirls in the wind, the footprints of invisible Martian elephant herds). I think about a 75% chance they have the right interpretation and those potholes are the tracks of ice deposits which have evaporated. (They are definitely not indication of ice being in that spot now, but probably the water went back underground somewhere else.)

    That's good enough odds to do more studies and try to pick the right spot to send a robot drilling rig to look for ice. But certain other proposals like sending out a manned expedition with one-way fuel and the equipment to electrolyze water into rocket fuel will have to wait until the robots actually find ice that is there NOW, rather than the tracks of evaporated ice deposits.

  • This guy should be banned from /. for life. He needs to wake up so he might discover what fucking century he's living in. This isn't the 1800's and frankly if any one needs shipping anywhere it's him. Preferably to the nearest penal colony or sanitarium. Who's moderating here anyway?
  • A 7-Eleven spokesperson added "This profound discovery will shave years off our plans to offer Slurpies(R) on the Martian surface, and represents a giant leap toward the goal of ubiquitous instant refreshment." While current plans include only the popular Coke and grape flavors, an insider confirmed that the 7-Eleven R&D department is already hard at work creating flavors unique to the Red Planet, such as "Extreme Exfoliating Sandstorm Fury", and "Cup of Dirt and Rocks".

  • sounds cool, but you're missing one very important cost involved -- changing human societies such that we could accept variations like the one you describe. We still struggle with issues of race and gender; how could we even begin to deal with differences on the scale required for a person to live comfortably on Mars due to genetic modifications?

    Furthermore, a human being engineered to live on Mars would have very little choice about his/her future, as the modifications would likely prohibit a life on Earth. We would be intentionally depriving these people of their autonomy.

    Taken together, this represents a significant cost in human terms, even though the financial gains might be promising.

  • by Eryq ( 313869 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2001 @06:09PM (#2193185) Homepage
    1 in 1, if:
    • ...you tell George Bush that they discovered oil up there.
    • ...you tell Bill Gates that none of the Martians are running Windows 2000 yet.
  • From the article:

    ... ice in the soil was once present as close to the equator as 30 degrees and as recently as 100,000 years

    I realize that's a very short time in geologic time, but that's an awfully long time to consider there's still useful amounts of water anywhere near the equator:
    Astronaut 1: Where's the water?
    Astronaut 2: Water?
    Astronaut 1: You know...for drinking, creating fuel for the trip home...that sort of thing.
    Astronaut 2: Oh, that! I dunno...it was here a 100,000 years ago!

    Still, it's interesting data about the changes on Mars.

  • Now, in addition to the face of Cydonia [mt.net], we have a giant claw [spaceref.com] (just look at the bottom of the picture): four fingers with opposable thumb. It looks like it was trying to reach up to the cliff and slipped. What other body parts are we going to find???
  • I think the biggest hurdle facing a manned mission to mars is how to coop-up 5-10 people for 2 years in a tin can with the living space of an apartment without them going bonkers and killing each other.

    Well, a few hundred years ago they used to coop up dozens of people in a wooden barrel with the living space of an apartment and send them on journeys that could last for years. I guess a few of them probably killed each other, but it didn't seem to deter them.

  • Why couldn't it have been some other fluid?

    I vote for beer. (Which is consistent with both H2O and CO2 hypotheses, BTW.)

  • The issue is not water per se -- although as one poster pointed out, existence of water could make a manned mission much cheaper. The issue is that liquid water and an energy source are the only two things that life on Earth seems to require. Thus, wherever liquid water is, there would likely be life. The implications of discovering life on another planet would be profound, and well worth the expense.
  • by s20451 ( 410424 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2001 @06:03PM (#2193202) Journal

    what does everyone think the reality of a manned mission in our lifetime is?

    It depends on a couple of things:

    • Cost. This is probably the big one. Estimates for the cost of a manned Mars mission range from $20 billion to over $100 billion; bearing in mind that estimates for the cost of the Apollo project drastically undershot the actual cost, the mission would probably cost $200 billion or more with existing technology. Meanwhile, NASA is working on single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) technology, as well as "living off the land" technology - producing propellant from Martian gases, etc., which if successful will cut the cost of launch by an order of magnitude. With a price tag of hundreds of billions, there probably won't be a mission for 30 years or more. However, if the cost goes down to around $10 billion, a mission could happen within a decade. If a dramatic increase in technology reduced it to around $1 billion, I can imagine private investors funding the mission -- imagine Larry Ellison or Bill Gates as the first man on Mars!
    • Reason to Go. Right now the reasons to go include "because it's there" and "because we might find evidence of life". The Apollo missions happened as quickly as they did due to political competition; that's unlikely to be repeated. However, if compelling evidence of Martian life is ever found, along with the region of Mars in which it is most likely to be located, I expect that will dramatically increase interest in a manned mission.
  • by s20451 ( 410424 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2001 @06:21PM (#2193203) Journal

    I think the biggest hurdle facing a manned mission to mars is how to coop-up 5-10 people for 2 years in a tin can with the living space of an apartment without them going bonkers and killing each other.

    Aren't they doing something like that on Fox this season?

  • I, for one, am sick of stories related to how humans could, one day, occupy or travel to another planet or moon. As well all know, since the walk on the moon during the cold war, no nation or community of nations has taken a substantive step to occupy or physically visit another planet or moon.

    If such an event has yet to occur, then I doubt to see it during my lifetime and I doubt any user at /. will see it. Generally, humankind does not prepare for such a monumential undertaking unless it is threatened or if a catastrophe has occurred/is about to occur. In other words, unless a meteor hits earth or some other horrible event occurs, I doubt humankind will be motivated to do nothing more than talk the talk. By then, it would probably be too late to save mankind by moving/finding a new planet.

    Moreover, the initiative to travel or occupy another planet or moon would likely not ever be based on intelligent astronomical or planetary curiousities but, rather, it would likely be based on human's animal instincts to survive. If this was not true, then does mankind not currently possess such intelligent curiousities and the technology for a substantive developments?
  • ...to sell the broadcast rights to Fox to finance the mission.

  • Uh, I suppose that's why the article used the word "ice" as in the hard, decidedly non-liquid form of H2O.
  • by cooper13 ( 471076 ) on Thursday July 26, 2001 @06:57AM (#2193222)
    As one of the authors of the Nature article, I'd like to respond and say that it is not about liquid water, but rather about water ice. The ice collects in the dusty surface during certain climate conditions, then sublimates (solid->vapor) under warmer conditions. However, there are many situations that others have touched on that allow liquid water to exist on the surface of Mars under current conditions, at least temporarily. The phase diagram only tells us that it is not thermodynamically stable, not whether it may exist unstably (i.e. boiling away). This is a kinetic problem. Imagine that water exists in liquid form underneath the surface (i.e. the added pressure of the rock above moves you into a stable zone in the phase diagram). Then if some of this water is moved to the surface , it will take some time for it to freeze or evaporate. Again, though, this isn't the case for our terrain that we reported on in Nature.
  • by cooper13 ( 471076 ) on Thursday July 26, 2001 @07:09AM (#2193223)
    As a planetary geologist (and co-author of the Nature article in question), we suspect water as the fluid involved partly because of the large amount of water in the polar ice caps, the small amount of water in the atmosphere, and the general abundance of water in the solar system and universe (hydrogen is the most common element, and oxygen is up there too). Plus, the climate conditions on Mars are pretty close to allowing liquid water, so it is reasonable to suspect it could have been liquid under past climates.

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