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Space Science

Mining Mars from Houston 63

An anonymous reader writes "Computer simulations of what bits of Earth, Mars and Venus might be found on the moon point to new methods for extraterrestrial sample return. Because the moon is lifeless, its sterile condition gives a very rare laboratory for collecting what may be as high as 3 grams of Earth's past, from the half-ton of lunar rocks and soil that Apollo returned for study [3 grams (Earth-terran), 0.03 grams (Mars), 0.003 grams (Venus)]. While such interplanetary exchanges are now thought common, what is surprising is these pristine samples often have never exceeded a temperature of around 100 F. Any similar planetary samples found today in, say, Antarctica, would have been weathered, eroded, or contaminated."
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Mining Mars from Houston

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  • Interesting stuff (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Matrix2110 ( 190829 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @07:42AM (#5518710) Journal
    One thing I would point out is that there is very little chance of recovering DNA from these samples, Correct me if I am wrong (I'm sure that will happen :) ) but organic matter would not stand a chance against the vacuum and radiation involved here.

    • Re:Interesting stuff (Score:4, Informative)

      by WegianWarrior ( 649800 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @07:55AM (#5518731) Journal

      While recovering DNA may be hard / impossible (I'm fixing military aircraft for a living, not extracting organinc matter from rocks), we still can learn a lot of interesting things. After all, we can't extract DNA from a fossil, yet it teaches us (or rather, the guys who do that sort of thing for a living or as a hobby) a lot about the creature in question.

      I am, however, reminded by a television programe I saw on Discovery Europe a while back... where they 'proved' - by setting up a simulated Mars-base in Antartica or somewhere - that human explorers might see signs of life that a robotic explorer would miss. And I'm sure they could set up a (simplified?) DNA-extraction lab in a potential Mars-base too, thus preventing any organic remains from beeing erradicated by the radiation in outer space.

    • I'm fairly certain that Space.com has had a couple recent stories to the effect that some organic molecules in fact could survive hard vacuum, if they were buried and sealed inside a meteorite. I think that high-energy ionizing radiation would be the most limiting factor to survival of any hypothetical DNA in these rocks. IIRC, there was even mention that they could be protected from the heat of reentry under the right conditions.

      "Weird, wild stuff," to quote Johnny Carson.

    • Here's the link (Score:5, Informative)

      by DredPirateRoberts ( 585155 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @08:06AM (#5518752)
      This article [space.com] is what I was thinking of.

    • Re:Interesting stuff (Score:2, Interesting)

      by s1234d ( 542588 )
      Apollo 12 landed on the moon next to a Surveyor probe that had been there for a couple of years. The astronauts cut off a camera, and brought it back to earth. Inside the camera some bacteria were still technically alive, but in a dormant state. So the vacuum won't destroy DNA by itself, and if bacteria if in a crack deep in a rock then radiation is not really an issue either.
  • by commodoresloat ( 172735 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @08:11AM (#5518764)
    You're kidding. There's oil on Mars?
    • how long 'till bush declares mars as their territory, and threatens whoever tries to colonize it with nuclear wars and no more friendship?
    • You're kidding. There's oil on Mars?

      Oil on Mars? But NASA doesn't know anything about drilling for oil! Who shall we send?


    • Definitely not. If there was oil on Mars, Dubya would have long declared war on it. :)
      • Re:from Houston? (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        You said: Definitely not. If there was oil on Mars, Dubya would have long declared war on it. :)

        <rant>Fuckups like you shouldn't breed. If we wanted the oil, we would appease Iraq so they could pump it all day long and bring the price to $10, not kick their leadership's ass.

        Do a little homework, and ask the FRENCH about the oil and $$$. There are NO American oil companies profiting in Iraq. Only French and Russian. Listen to what Iraqi's who are outside waiting to go back say. Why is is that e
  • Previous research (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LegendLength ( 231553 ) <legendlength @ g m a i l .com> on Saturday March 15, 2003 @08:12AM (#5518768)
    Unmanned gathering of moon rock was carried out back in 1972 by the Russians. It took 7 years after the analysis was published before anyone realized that there were organic patterns in the samples.

    Real images [panspermia.org] of the fossils show bacteria-like shapes. There were claims that these fossils prove existance of life elsewhere in space but it seems more likely to me that they somehow came from Earth.
  • by zzztkf ( 574953 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @08:14AM (#5518771)
    Japan's space agency,ISAS, is attepmting to send
    a probe to asteroid 1998SF36 and get sample to
    retrun to Earth.

    Launch will take place 2003, May.


  • Safe Sample Return (Score:3, Insightful)

    by photonrider ( 571060 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @09:22AM (#5518885)
    There are some scientists worred about bringing samples directly from Mars to Earth. Fears of some unknown contamination. A moon base would be a perfect place to return from a Mars trip with samples. Keeps Earth isolated from possible contaminants.
    • A moon base would be a perfect place to return from a Mars trip with samples.

      Yeah, but then you would have to take the samples (and astronauts, and gear) down into the Moon's gravity well, and eventually bring them back up again. Which is not to say that I'm opposed to a Moon base--it would be a valuable research site for any number of reasons. It's just that if you need a waypoint on the way back from Mars, why not use a preexisting continuously manned space station in earth orbit [nasa.gov]?

  • by billysara ( 264 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @09:50AM (#5518958)
    Funding research on bringing back oil/minerals from high-radiation, toxic environments will certainly come in handy if the middle-east goes nuclear....

    Yes, I'm feeling cynical today..... :-)

  • Mass, not weight. (Score:2, Informative)

    by AJWM ( 19027 )
    [3 grams (Earth-terran), 0.03 grams (Mars), 0.003 grams (Venus)]

    Harumph! Grams are a unit of mass, not of weight, and thus independant of the gravitational force exerted on it. 3 grams on Earth is 3 grams on Mars is 3 grams on Venus is 3 grams in freefall.

    Not only that, but the gravity of Venus is not one tenth that of Mars, it is closer to twice that of Mars: Venus is nearly as big as Earth. (Nor is the gravity of Mars only 1/100th Earth, it's about 1/3 Earth.)

    Geez. If somebody was trying to be
    • Huh? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by freeweed ( 309734 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @01:25PM (#5519763)
      The amounts they're talking about are what they expect to be able to extract from the half-ton or so that Apollo returned. 3 grams of material from Earth, 0.03g from Mars (makes sense, it's a hell of a lot further away), and 0.003g from Venus (far away, and closer to the sun. material has one hell of a time getting AWAY from the sun's gravitational well).

      I'd say yeesh, read the article before you spout off your ignorance, but hey, this is Slashdot.
      • The dense atmosphere of Venus also dissipates the kinetic energy of incoming projectiles and outgoing ejecta.

        It wasn't even necessary to read the article, just the /. blurb, to figure out they were talking about mass fractions of lunar soil.

I've noticed several design suggestions in your code.