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Space Science

NASA Says Mars Once "Drenched With Water" 1048

NASA is currently holding a press conference (carried live on NASA TV) where they are discussing findings from the Mars rovers. They are saying that the crater that the second rover has landed in has convincing evidence that it was once drenched or covered in liquid water. They cite the tiny spherules, odd holes in the rocks, sulfur in the spectrometric analyses, and evidence of an iron sulfate hydrate (a hydrate is a chemical compound which includes water molecules in the crystal lattice). Update: 03/02 19:45 GMT by M : CNN has a story, or see the NASA press release.
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NASA Says Mars Once "Drenched With Water"

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  • Re:Key point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RLW ( 662014 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:15PM (#8443240)
    if there was life to swim in those seas.
  • Re:Key point (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Halvard ( 102061 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:15PM (#8443255)

    are going to

    That should read could.

  • Re:Key point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mukaikubo ( 724906 ) <[ ] ['tec' in gap]> on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:16PM (#8443269) Journal
    Very true. If there was life in this 'ocean', then it's very likely fossils are in sedimentary rocks in that region. If there are no fossils? Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but it'll be a really curious coincidence.
  • Re:Key point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wankledot ( 712148 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:18PM (#8443318)
    If we brought back 10 tons of mars rocks, the chances of getting a fossil are still slim to none. Talk about needle in a haystack. Not to mention the fact that you have to land near some of it to begin with.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:18PM (#8443319)
    I doubt that the reason the moon was covered or drenched in water was that comets containing miniscule amounts of water hit the moon and it melted.
  • by dknight ( 202308 ) <damen@ k n i g h t> on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:18PM (#8443338) Homepage Journal
    Non-christian religions.

    For example, as a Taoist, I fail to see how this would in any way effect my religious beliefs.

    However, if I believed in a creator-god and in the uniqueness and specialness of human life in the universe, then yea, that would cause some issues. Thankfully, not all religions are like that.
  • by System.out.println() ( 755533 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:19PM (#8443354) Journal
    The next find I expect is simple life living on Mars.

    Water != life

    How can any religion survive that revelation?

    I don't recall the Bible saying that there was no life anywhere but Earth. I've always believed it was possible that simple life could exist elsewhere. Intelligent life would throw religion a curve, though... I haven't thought as much about that.
  • by FreemanPatrickHenry ( 317847 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:19PM (#8443356)
    Well here goes my karma...

    How can any religion survive that revelation? ...because no religion is dependent upon the earth being the only planet with life on it?
  • by rayvd ( 155635 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:20PM (#8443368) Homepage Journal
    As far as Christianity is concerned, where in the Bible does it say life only exists / was created on earth?
  • by Wickedtribe ( 719468 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:21PM (#8443383)
    I see a pattern in your post. Every time religion is shown to be wrong, they internalize the error and come up with a new story that fits the truth that their flocks believe. In answer to your question, 'How can any religion survive that revelation?' Just as long as their are sheep out there who dont want to think for themselves.
  • by 23skiddoo ( 31460 ) * <worthog.edwardsbrewing@com> on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:22PM (#8443403)
    Even though I am an atheist, I must disagree with what you say. The revelation only refutes a portion of the Judeo-Christian(-Muslim?) tradition of the creationism story (which could easily and eventually be modified and bent to the new evidence). But in terms of philosphies, especially in regards to how we treat one another and our surroundings, abundant life in the universe is a non-issue. Other religions like Buddhism aren't touched by the news either.

    My $0.02...
  • by kippy ( 416183 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:23PM (#8443426)
    This is a troll if I ever saw one but I'll bite.

    The idea that God created the universe with countless planets, stars and habitable worlds is not in conflict with at least Catholicism. I'm willing to bet that there are a lot of other religions who would have no problem with such an idea but I'm no religious scholar.

    If I recall correctly, nowhere in the Bible does it say that Earth is the only world in the universe or even the only one with life, intelligent or not. It's kind of an open question.

    Please give me a verse if I'm wrong.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:23PM (#8443430)
    If I already believe that daily events on planet Earth are influenced by a 2,000-year-old dead guy

    That "2000-year-old dead guy" DOES have a major influence on daily events, and you would be a fool to say otherwise. Whether that influence is supernatural or not is another story.
  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <> on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:23PM (#8443432) Journal
    All finding simple life on mars would prove is that it's scientifically possible for life to develop independantly within the parameters and rules that this universe operates in, and does not require what might be seen as miraculous occurences. This only renders God irrellevent if you believe that God didn't actually create _everything_ that exists in the first place. Ironic, isn't it?
  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:24PM (#8443453) Journal
    How can any religion survive that revelation?
    I know I'm going to get modded down as a troll, but why would you think this? Firstly, I don't think any mainstream religion DEPENDS on any of your ideas.

    Looked at it another way:
    The sun became the center of the universe. -Religion survived
    We found out we were one star in a galaxy that was the centre of the universe.. -Religion survived
    Then we found there were countless billions of stars. -Religion survived
    Now we find another local planet with ancient water on it.. -Religion will survive
    The next find I expect is simple life living on Mars. -Religion will survive
  • by Azog ( 20907 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:25PM (#8443462) Homepage
    Why would most religions care?

    Christians (at least _informed_ Christians, yes there are some) in particular, would not be disturbed to find that God had created life in more than one place. Why shouldn't He? It's not like the Bible says somewhere in it "Oh, and by the way... this planet is the only one with life on it."

    C.S. Lewis discussed the subject fairly completely in an essay decades ago. In case you don't know, he was a famous and very influential Christian author, as well as writing some science fiction and fantasy. Besides writing a non-fiction essay about it, you could view his "Space Trilogy" fiction as an examination of the life-on-other-planets issue with a Christian background.

    The more interesting question (also discussed by C.S. Lewis and many others) is how different religions would react to the discovery of _intelligent_ life somewhere else in the universe.

    Microbes on Mars... scientifically, that's amazing. From a religious point of view... well, it's "just" another example of a Creator God at work.

  • by kaleposhobios ( 757438 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:25PM (#8443466)
    Why would finding life on Mars take away faith in a divine being? Surely a god could have created life there too...
  • by General Alcazar ( 726259 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:25PM (#8443469)
    Religion can be a lot of things besides explaining our physical reality. In my humble opinion, one of the major issues it struggles with is, what is the meaning of our existence.

    Of course, I understand your criticism, which is, I think, directed mostly at dogmatic adherence to ancient traditions without questioning them. However, religion will survive, I am sure. Religion and science are not mutually exclusive. Science is concerned with one aspect of our reality - the quantifiable, and predictable. Religion is concerned with all those things that you cannot quantify - love, anger, thought, the experience of death, wonder, awe, consciousness. They are both parts of our reality, and neither can be used to explain everything.

  • by real_smiff ( 611054 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:26PM (#8443483)
    finding life on Mars would probably be the biggest scientific discovery in a lifetime. finding water doesn't really do anything for me (sorry!) :) Unless you're further in the story than me and they HAVE found life.. !
  • by SB9876 ( 723368 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:27PM (#8443499)
    Unlikely, the uncertainties of the atmospheric entry result in a landing footprint that's (IIRC) a few thousand square miles. The chances that we could get a new rover down within driving range of an existing rover is pretty small. By the time we've got rovers capable of driving those sorts of distances or landings that are accurate enough to make that plan practical, I think that we'd have enough experience that there wouldn't be much to be gained from going back and looking at the old rovers.
  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <> on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:28PM (#8443505) Journal
    Just a quick question for you (before I get modded to -1 offtopic)...

    Why do you seem so eager to see religion eliminated?

    Is it by any chance because they are always so "in your face" with their bible thumping and telling you that you're going to hell and all that?

    Because if so, aren't you doing exactly the same thing as what you hate about them? Being intolerant of other people's values?

  • Re:Key point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Valdrax ( 32670 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:28PM (#8443513)
    "Swim" is a sufficiently vague term to apply well.
    Don't forget that bacteria can leave fossils too.
  • by DynaSoar ( 714234 ) * on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:31PM (#8443569) Journal
    cmowire (254489) sez: "No, comets contain water-ice. In a vaccum, ice subliminates into water vapor without an intervining liquid step."

    Pressure is pressure. Kinetic pressure due to impact will overcome (by many orders of magnitude) vaccuum. Water ice impacting at interplanetary speeds will form all manner of different phases according to the chaotic nature of the impact (no idealized impacts in nature). It is extremely unlikely there was no liquid water on Mars. The question, as I stated in another thread, is "how much for how long". If it existed for minutes, we could see some of the results they're finding, but obviously that won't have anything to do with the possibility of life.
  • by Kphrak ( 230261 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:31PM (#8443571) Homepage

    There is no place in the Bible that claims that Earth is the only source of life in the universe. In addition, by "religion", you are most likely referring only to the three major monotheistic ones: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

    Plenty of Christians believed that the earth was not the center of the universe even back when this was the prevailing worldview. The Bible itself does not stipulate that Earth is the center of the universe. Aristotle believed that Earth was the center of the universe (plenty of his contemporaries disagreed), and his works became "canonized" as the only view during the Middle Ages, along with other great thinkers of the ancient world such as Ptolemy, who used an overly complex method to explain the orbits of heavenly bodies, and Galen, who was the first doctor in the West to link the nervous system to the brain, but based all his findings on pig anatomy (couldn't dissect humans back then).

    Having a religion does not exclude common sense. In persisting in this belief, many atheists (or at least ./ atheists) are often more intolerant and ignorant than followers of organized religion.

  • by System.out.println() ( 755533 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:33PM (#8443596) Journal
    Do you honestly expect every single thing God created to be written down?
    And Sirius begat M-551, and M-551 begat Polaris, and....
    Someone's going to say "Life elsewhere would be pretty important."
    Sure, to you. Probably not so interesting to most people living 4000+ years ago, who would have been quite shocked to discover that there was more than one continent, or that the world was round.
  • by RobertB-DC ( 622190 ) * on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:36PM (#8443646) Homepage Journal
    As far as Christianity is concerned, where in the Bible does it say life only exists / was created on earth?

    Excellent point. I think my fundamentalist brethren tend to forget that when God came to Moses, he wasn't dealing with a Carl Sagan or Stephen Hawking -- or even a Galileo. He was dealing with a guy whose claim to fame was running away from a life of luxury to tend sheep. At the best, Moses' idea of the universe might have dealt with Egyptian gods, and a universe whose origin was a direct result of some rather kinky onanism.

    God came to Moses in a way Moses could understand, in a way that his fellow shepherds and stonemasons could understand.

    Imagine Moses up on the mountain, getting the first four books of what we now call the Old Testament from the Almighty:
    Moses: So, where did we come from?

    God: Well, I started with a singularity. Pretty much an undifferentiated soup of degenerate nucleons at first, but a little stir here and there produced some dense spots. Of course, it was just a few million years until the nucleons were able to condense into fermions, and then baryons...

    Moses: tilt!

    God: Oh, just tell 'em that the world was created from the void.

    Moses: How long did it take to create the world?

    God: Well, it took a few billion years to... oh, never mind, let's call it "seven days".
    A bit cheeky, but the point is: God comes to us in a way we can understand. That's different for an illiterate goat breeder in 2000 BC than it is for a nuclear physicist in 2000 AD. Whether you choose to believe doesn't have as much to do with how God appears as it does with your own faith.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:40PM (#8443690)
    That means we could possibly

    They could possibly.

    Could we come back with another rover

    Could they.

    You know NASA right? That's the place where you don't work, don't do research, and have never even been to.

  • Re:Sample Return? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by applemasker ( 694059 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:40PM (#8443702)
    At the press conference, they just adknowledged the "need" for a sample return but did not offer any timeline. Wonder if Zubrin's in-situ propellant producing sample return architecture will get a closer look now.
  • Quarantine Mars? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Shannon Love ( 705240 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:46PM (#8443780) Homepage
    If Mars does have water and possibly life, wouldn't that mean that we would have effectively quarantine Mars from human or any other biological contact? If not, we would run the risk of destroying an entire planetary ecosystem no matter how small or primitive it might be.

    Life on Mars would prevent terraforming or perhaps any human colonization at all.

    I printing off my "Save the Martian Microbes!" bumper stickers right now.
  • by (void*) ( 113680 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:50PM (#8443836)
    You have to account for the Martian pressure.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:51PM (#8443853)
    "And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.

    -- Mark 7:18-20

    Sorry, Jesus repealed this one. So, unless, you're a Jew, God doesn't hate shrimp.
  • Ifs Ands & Buts (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WormholeFiend ( 674934 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:53PM (#8443878)
    gotta love em

    If we bring back a few samples with the help of a robotic probe, EVEN IF they dont contain any fossils, those samples will still be invaluable to science.

    But hey, we can always hope the samples contain Sand Kings... ;)
  • Re:Key point (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EpsCylonB ( 307640 ) <eps AT epscylonb DOT com> on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:56PM (#8443902) Homepage
    NASA has never lost a human in space, so sending them on a 1.5 year mission is actually safer than throwing them to orbit.

    Excuse me ?, I hope you are some kind of rocket scientist and can qualify that statement.

    I'm no expert myself but I reckon that taking into account the fact that humans have never travelled interplanetary before it is probably a little bit more difficult than you think.
  • by VoidPoint ( 634537 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @03:56PM (#8443910)
    It may take a century or two to be useful, but if Mars was once "livable", it's easier to live on, I would think.
  • Re:Key point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thales ( 32660 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @04:08PM (#8444052) Homepage Journal
    No Manned Missions should be sent to Mars until we are reasoably certain that no life presently exists on the Red Planet.

    Fossils can wait. We don't need to contaminate Mars with the Earth Bacteria that a manned mission would introduce until we are sure there is a very low probility of finding living independantly evolved life.
  • Re:Key point (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mikerich ( 120257 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @04:11PM (#8444089)
    Because sedimentary rocks are going to have fossils.

    If they aren't aeolian (wind-blown) deposits. At the moment we don't know if they were formed in water, or elsewhere, but later altered by water.

    Exciting stuff though.

    Best wishes,

  • Faith vs proof (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hoi Polloi ( 522990 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @04:13PM (#8444119) Journal
    Where does it say the sun revolves around the earth? That didn't stop the Catholic church from holding to that belief for over a thousand years. Religion isn't based on science anyway, it is based on faith and believers shouldn't look to science to confirm their faith. It has to come from the heart, not the head. Believers tried that with Copernicus and they learned their lesson, someday the anti-evolution crowd will do the same.

    I guess that is why it is called "faith".
  • by finkployd ( 12902 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @04:13PM (#8444123) Homepage
    Let's play a little game. Pretend you are God (pick your denomination, doesn't matter). You are going to reveal your existence to the primitive people living in your world and get some serious worshiping going.

    Now since you created everything, you understand how cells, quarks, thermodynamics, astrophysics, and non-Euclidian geometry work.

    HOWEVER, do you really think you are going to get into that with people who are struggling with the concept of simple tools? I don't have any particularily strong feelings on the topic either way, but it seems awfully silly when everytime a scientific discovery is made, someone points out that because the $RELIGIOUS_TEXT didn't deal with it, then that religion must be bogus. The arguement really then becomes: "Because the Bible did not explain every single thing about the universe around us, it must be bogus".

    Of course the excuse, the same that is used to explain the story of Noah, is that god created life elsewhere but it just wasn't written down.

    Oh perhaps it was and was lost, or we just don't know about it. When was it ever said that the Bible was a complete and comprehensive history of those times. To believe that you would have to believe there were only a few hundred people in the world at the time. Or perhaps the Bible (like any religious text, or history for that matter) doesn't tell the personal story of every living human on earth at the time.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @04:14PM (#8444132)
    Shut the hell up. Quit being stupid. Use your fucking head. Goddamn sheep piss me off.
  • Water (Score:1, Insightful)

    by dgagley ( 468178 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @04:16PM (#8444165)
    The information will help us predict situations on Earth and different systems.

    OK there was once water on Mars. What caused it to dissapear? What caused Mars to lose it's atmosphere and magnetosphere?

    How long did it take?

    Can it be reversed?

    Could, will and/or is this happening to Earth?

    You must answer one question before you can answer others and ask more questions. Our curiosity put us up there to expand our knowledge of our home system. Until we can understand what is here we will not have what is needed to properly understand what is going on farther out.
  • by mog007 ( 677810 ) <Mog007@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @04:23PM (#8444246)
    Those air plants had to evolve from something that DOES require liquid water.
  • by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <> on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @04:28PM (#8444301) Homepage Journal
    Sorry you had it that bad. I grew up in a conservative Christian household and was highly encouraged to choose what I wanted and what I was good at for a career. My parents were excited that I wanted to study science, and supported me every step of the way.

    My kids are growing up in a conservative Christian household and I am highly encouraging them to choose what they want and what they're good at for a career. I hope that they want to study science, but will support them every step of the way regardless of their decision.

    I know that doesn't help you any, but I thought you should know that Christianity and a love of science are not mutually exclusive. Any belief system (or lack thereof) will have a few bonehead adherents, but that doesn't mean that's the norm, or even particularly common.

  • Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wodelltech ( 168047 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @04:32PM (#8444359)
    Do you mean "water alone isn't enough for life to evolve"? Is there an 'evolutionary recipe' of some sort for life to come into being for which H2O and Time are the main ingredients?
  • Re:Key point (Score:2, Insightful)

    by zorgaliscious ( 619362 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @04:33PM (#8444369)
    it also means there may be oil on mars. Need we say more about why Dubya wants to go to mars?
  • Re:Dune (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cosmol ( 143886 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @04:35PM (#8444390)
    Isnt it strange that the places where human life first arose (africa and middle east) are now shithole deserts? Do we see a pattern here?
  • Re:Key point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DJayC ( 595440 ) * on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @04:37PM (#8444420)
    Couldn't the machines and devices we have sent have just as good of a chance to contaminate Mars than humans?
  • by Coulson ( 146956 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @04:39PM (#8444448) Homepage
    It's kind of unfortunate that God wasn't more accurately predictive. I'd be much more inclined to believe if, for instance, God had provided some information that wasn't known at the time, but was later proven or discovered to be true. Like, "the world is round." Why didn't he mention that to the people living 4000+ years ago? Maybe drop a hint or something? It might have helped them out a little. Why not provide a piece of true information that is unlikely to have been known or invented by an author at that time?

    The reliance on faith (God won't provide proof because he relies on faith to bring people to him) is a sticking point. The same data can be just as validly analyzed as "non-existence".
  • by zpok ( 604055 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @04:40PM (#8444458) Homepage
    Apart from welfare money, that's the best spent money in the US budget for years.
  • by Skeezix ( 14602 ) <> on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @04:41PM (#8444485) Homepage
    I'm sorry, what the hell does finding water on Mars have to do with religious belief? I don't see anyone of any religious faith claiming that there was no water on Mars because their religion says so.
  • Re:Key point (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cruciform ( 42896 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @04:43PM (#8444508) Homepage
    But you already knew where to look.

    If you were dropped off in Alberta and told to find some, but didn't know about Drumheller, you probably wouldn't find any there either :)
  • The problem is, that RTGs are huuuuge, for space stuff, and they really don't generate very much power, and introduce all sorts of cooling problems, cause they get hot.

    Don't be ridiculous. An RTG with twice the power output would have weighed far less than the batteries, solar panels, and mounting. Not to mention that 5 pounds of PU is pretty small (remember, atomic number in the 90's). Cooling is the least of their concerns on Mars. (Or getting it there, for that matter). They had a working RTG system for the Mars rover. NASA just backed off of it because of the outrage over Cassini. (Insert comment about stupid tree huggers with oatmeal for brains who can't even take 10 minutes to find out what the hell they're protesting over. And that also goes for that whats-his-name physicist who complained about Cassini. "Oh no! A little plutonium in an indestructible box that has had flight testing during several accidents is going to kill us all!!!! Run for the #$*%#$*%$%$ hills!!!!")

  • Re:Key point (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Moofie ( 22272 ) <`lee' `at' `'> on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @04:51PM (#8444639) Homepage
    Why not? Afraid of getting eaten?
  • Re:Key point (Score:4, Insightful)

    by T3kno ( 51315 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @05:03PM (#8444771) Homepage
    Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence

    I'm really not trying to flame here, honestly, but if the above is taken as an axiom, or even a good rule of thumb, what exactly is evidence of absence? Is it proving that if something, Y, did/does happen/exist that could not possibly happen if X happened/existed?

    Just curious, that seems like a very far reaching stipulation to me.
  • by parcel ( 145162 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @05:07PM (#8444813)
    The ISS and Mars have the forest. Hubble needs a tree.

    The cost so far for this most recent mars mission is over $800 million. Budgeting through further missions is set to exceed $15 billion. The ISS outdoes even this, with an expected cost of near $30 billion to finish the station, and estimated operating costs of $1.5 billion a year once completed.

    Hubble needs about $100 million for a single shuttle launch. $200 million in equipment has already been constructed and is only waiting in a warehouse for a mission.

    I don't deny the importance of the ISS and Mars missions. All these projects have significant importance for science, technology, and society as a whole. Hubble is about far more than "getting to see a black hole". We have made dramatic advances in astrophysics with the help of the telescope. We have gained immense insight into the depths of our universe, to an extent that won't be possible again for a very long time.

    Taking relative cost of the three projects into account, Hubble is by leaps and bounds the most effective. Do the math. Fixing the hubble will only take 0.2% of the cost of the ISS and Mars missions. Given the advances in science [] and technology [] we have extracted from Hubble, the return on this small investment is tremendous.

    That's why I sigh.
  • by JExtine ( 691267 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @05:08PM (#8444823) Homepage
    Given infinite time even the most improbable event will happen again... and again... and again...
  • Re:Key point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thales ( 32660 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @05:25PM (#8444995) Homepage Journal
    The Origin of life is one of the most important questions facing Science. We have made some good gusses about it, but we are handicapped by only having life from one planet to study. Finding Independantly evolved life would shed light on the questions of how common life is in the Cosmos and how it started. That is far more important than any information that can be gained by having Humans on the Surface of Mars.

    We need probes designed to answer that fundemental question, does life presently exist on Mars before we land Humans there. If we find that there is little likelyhood of Martian Life then it's time for Human Exploration. If we finf that there is life on Mars it needs to be carefully studided before we contaminate the planet with the Bacteria that a manned mission would introduce.

  • Re:Key point (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Total_Wimp ( 564548 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @05:28PM (#8445014)
    _Finally_ someone who understands statistics!

  • yeah... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by raygundan ( 16760 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @05:34PM (#8445086) Homepage
    Yeah, that's kinda the same thing as discriminating against racists. What was the question again?

  • by pclminion ( 145572 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @05:50PM (#8445248)
    So what's the big deal about finding out if life once existed on a neighbor planet in our own solar system?

    Because if life developed independently on two planets in the same solar system, that would imply that the development of life in any similar star system is not just possible, but likely..

    Look at it this way: if life is so common that it had evolved multiple times in the same little nook of the galaxy, then it's a very good bet that nearly every planetary system anywhere, with even remotely the right conditions, probably harbors life. That would be amazing.

  • by dAzED1 ( 33635 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @05:55PM (#8445309) Journal
    Hi ass, let me introduce myself. My name is Tax Payer.

    See, the funny thing is that "We the people" do all sorts of things. "We" are supposedly responsible for Iraq, right? Not France, England, and Russia, who made the mess in the first place decades, "we," the people of the US of A.

    No one could get to Mars on their own. No one person could even design a system capable of leaving the earth, flying to mars, landing on it, and scouting the ground there - not all of their own ideas. No way. And those that could even do it with someone else's ideas - those who could put the ideas together and make them work...guess what, they wouldn't have the money to do it.

    So yes..."we." Ass. Collectives do things all the time. "We" make open source work. "We" went to mars. "We" are hated by the baathists.


  • Re:Religion (Score:3, Insightful)

    by josh_freeman ( 114671 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @06:22PM (#8445548)
    It should have absolutely no bearing on Christianity. IANACL (I am not a canon lawyer), (I'm a lay Catholic) but as far as I know, there is nothing in Christian theology that would be seriously upset by the existence of life on other planets, even intelligent life. That being said, it would seriously shake the faith of some people who think that the earth is 6000 years old, and that the check out date is soon, but the existence of extraterrestrial life really shouldn't be seen as a threat to Christianity.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @06:31PM (#8445619)
    Probably a piece of airbag. Not destroyed... it blew away.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @07:17PM (#8446082)
    Given enough time and separate instances, then even an infintesimal chance for event x to occur assures without question that x WILL occur.

    Given an infinite time, which we don't have. And even then your conclusion is only valid for a uniform random distribution, which is most certainly not given either. (and that's not all... you're making a lot of assumptions.)

    Otherwise you are saying that, at some point, a 747 with every seat occupied by an encyclopedia salesman named "Fred" has flown out of a black hole. If you believe that then I have 440 sets of encyclopedias to sell you.
  • by mikerich ( 120257 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @07:27PM (#8446173)
    Don't be ridiculous. An RTG with twice the power output would have weighed far less than the batteries, solar panels, and mounting.

    I couldn't find any bang-up-to-date specs for RTGs, but those fitted to Galileo and Ulysses weighed 65 kilos, which is a sizeable chunk of the rover's 185kg. Don't forget that any rover using an RTG would need a major redesign so as to shed heat during the flight to Mars. It might have required the use of a Titan IV rather than the cheaper, but smaller Delta to get it to Mars.

    Of course what we need is someone to approach the Russians about using a Proton to send 4,500kg to Mars - then we could have some serious exploration!

    Agree with you completely about the senseless scare stories sent around before the Cassini launch, you'd have thought NASA had a glowing chunk of plutonium mounted on the nose cone.

    Best wishes,

  • by HeghmoH ( 13204 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @07:27PM (#8446177) Homepage Journal
    This doesn't really disqualify Mars from terraforming. Stripping away the atmosphere is something that takes place over millions of years. If we crashed a bunch of comets into the planet and set up mirrors and heated it up, Mars would remain habitable for many times the total time that humanity has existed so far. IIRC, even the Moon can hold a full, breathable atmosphere for something like a million years before it all goes away.
  • by Dirtside ( 91468 ) on Tuesday March 02, 2004 @07:30PM (#8446205) Journal
    You didn't even read my comment. Evolutionary theory as it currently stands requires some form of abiogenesis to get started. It would NOT have good explanatory power for the life getting STARTED.
    No, it doesn't. Evolutionary theory in general is distinct from abiogenesis. It covers how new species arise from older ones, not how species arise from inorganic soup.
  • Re:Religion (Score:3, Insightful)

    by emil ( 695 ) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @12:11AM (#8448731)
    1. In the interaction between Newtonian and Quantum physics, we can infer that any creator might be both deterministic and chaotic. Asserting that this creator "willed" life on Mars is missing the point - perhaps the creator both willed it and allowed it to develop via probability. In the final analysis, just as we lack a full understanding of the universe around us, we cannot have full understanding of the one who created it. It's a Heisenberg thing.
    2. The Bible, like all of the other religious texts, are simple stories written for a simple people. Any of them might be true, and all of them might be true. If they are true, they must be seen as the most basic preperatory readers, on the level of a "Dick and Jane" school text. As you peruse a treatise on metaphysics or physical sciences, the Dick and Jane is still important, but it is less of a focus.

    In any case, just as you do not walk into a friends house and start telling them why they furnished it as they did, we should not assert that the creator is this or that. The creator is as it wishes to be, and if it wishes to predate the physical universe, then perhaps it does. If it does not wish to predate the physical universe, then perhaps it does not. In any case, it is certainly not my place to say one way or the other.

  • by 1stMode ( 755186 ) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @01:12AM (#8449127)
    Back to previous page Life from space? Unlikely ... Let's wait and see by Carl Wieland and Jonathan Sarfati The world's media is abuzz with the claim that life forms have been found coming in on the Earth from outer space. This is said to reinforce the belief that life has evolved in space and 'seeded' the Earth. This preliminary response was prepared prior to our being able to access original papers, but what we have been able to gather so far is as follows. What was actually found? The Scotsman (31 July 2001) reported: 'A fluorescent dye which is only taken up by the membranes of living cells was used to detect the presence of the organisms. Electron microscope images revealed coral-like clumps of material measuring between five and 15 micrometres across. ... "...we have detected between one and 10 clumps of these bacteria per litre of ambient air."' However, note the following: Presuming that the test with the membrane-sensitive dye is proof that they are bacteria, we are not told how they allegedly differ from Earth-bound ones. Evidently their membranes aren't too different! If their biochemistry or genetic machinery had been carefully compared, no doubt that would have featured prominently in the reports. There are many non-living things that have a 'ball-park' resemblance to bacteria. Recall the various false 'Mars rock (fossil) bacteria' claims. Shape and size are not enough. If the objects are indeed living organisms, it is true that living creatures have not been verified at that altitude before. But other scientists are saying there is no reason that the right weather conditions might not waft bacteria that far away from the Earth. In fact, it has been suggested in the past that Earth-bound bacteria may well get up high enough for radiation pressure to carry them off to other planets (see Planets can swap rocks). There is something intrinsically strange about a claim which essentially says: 'They're 40 km from Earth, so they can't have come from Earth, that's too far, so they have come from another place trillions of km away.' There is serious doubt whether bacteria, unprotected by e.g. being inside a rock, could survive the harsh conditions of outer space. Finally, it may be very significant to note that one of the scientists apparently involved in the claim, Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe, has long written about his theory (shared with Sir Fred Hoyle) that the Earth is being 'seeded' with living things from outer space. They developed this theory after they calculated how mathematically impossible it would be for life to evolve here on Earth. (Of course, their theory only shifts the impossibility to another part of the universe. And later they realised that the chance origin of life would defy the laws of probability even if the whole universe were filled with primordial soup!) Without wishing to be uncharitable, we are not the only ones pointing out that it may be no coincidence that the evidence is being interpreted to conform to that viewpoint. Conclusion In one sense we don't have enough information to even warrant responding yet, but with all that media attention, Christians will be asking us about it sooner rather than later. If these are bacteria, and it seems a big 'if' at present, it remains to be seen whether they indeed originated from outer space. If so, then knowing the incredible complexity of even the simplest living thing, they must also be the product of creation. Nevertheless, in the 'big picture' of the Bible, it would be an exceedingly strange thing to expect life forms in outer space. Our deep skepticism on this claim has both a scientific and a Biblical basis. As our subtitle said, though, 'let's wait and see'. Meanwhile, check out the articles on Q&A: Alien Life/UFOs.
  • by cavac ( 640390 ) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @01:17AM (#8449160) Homepage
    I'd say that the ISS will be fundamental in both manned and unmanned missions to mars in the future.

    First of all, it is important that a sample return mission from mars does not go to earth directly but gets the first analysis done in orbit (an that would mean ISS), to minimize the risk of contaminating earth's biosphere with extraterrestrial life-forms.

    And it will also be likely that a manned mission's mars rocket would be assembled in orbit because a rocket like that should be fairly large, because the astronauts have to live in it for at least 2 years, so the living space (and the storage space as well) has to be fairly large. In my opinion, the living space should at least approach that of the old MIR space station to protect from the greatest psychological problems...
  • Re:Key point (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mikerich ( 120257 ) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @05:53AM (#8450269)
    Life does not preferentially select carbon-12. Carbon-12 and -13 are chemically indistinguishable. There is no way that a (bio-)chemical mechanism could distinguish between them.

    Sorry you're wrong, isotopes are chemically almost identical, but you can separate them using chemical processes. Uranium is routinely enriched using chemical techniques. They may also be separated physically, the heavier isotope tending to have slightly higher boiling points and very slightly lower reactivity. The processes that incorporate carbon into living tissues favour the lighter isotope of carbon over the heavier.

    The depletion of carbon 13 in plant tissues is one method of determining nutrient sources for herbivores. Since different groups of plants have slightly different photosynthetic pathways they produce slightly different depletions of carbon 13 (so-called dC13) in their tissues which can be traced through into animal tissue.

    And a quick scan of the Beagle 2 page [] shows that they were trying to get a C12/13 ratio from Mars.

    If life did select -12, then radio-carbon dating would simply say that all dead things are exactly the same age.

    And why is that, when radiocarbon measures the amount of carbon 14 in a sample?

    Since the c-13 decays (known half-life) then the current ratio of c-12 to c-13 implies the time passed between death and now.

    Oh dear. carbon 13 is perfectly stable. You're thinking of carbon 14 which no one has even mentioned in this context as yet. C14 dating is hardly ever used in geology because the half-life is too short for all but the most recent of sediments.

    Best wishes,

  • by drakaan ( 688386 ) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @11:15AM (#8451929) Homepage Journal
    How does anyone know that magnetite ONLY occurs in lifeforms from Earth.

    You've misread that, I think...I think you should adjust your parser so that reads

    "How does anyone know that only LIFEFORMS on earth can create that type of magnetite? Couldn't it occur naturally?"

    To which, the answer is "No."

  • by ajagci ( 737734 ) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @03:38PM (#8454753)
    Don't change the argument. You wrote:
    Russia continued to burn up RTGs even after we'd stopped. One satellite actually burned up over Canada. No deaths were ever linked to the incident,

    That's just a stupid argument. I'm sorry if you don't understand why that's a stupid argument despite my explanation, but that's your problem.

    As for how dangerous Plutonium actually is, that's an entirely different question. As I was saying, it's probably not very dangerous, but that isn't the main issue in deciding whether to use it on space missions. I'm sorry if that also goes over your head, but, again, that's your own intellectual limitation.
  • by Tim C ( 15259 ) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @07:53PM (#8458006)
    Yes, you can hold an alpha emitter in your hand with few ill effects, if any. It's a little different, though, if the emitter is pulverised and you ingest the dust; then you may well have problems (I forget what, if any, biological path Pu takes, or whether there are any alpha emitters that are absorbed rather than just being excreted).

    Not saying that Pu is some sort of doomsday material that will kill us all; just pointing out that it's not entirely harmless either, given the right set of circumstances.

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