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Mars NASA Space Science

Probable Water Ice Sighted On Mars 393

CraftyJack writes "Bright white chunks in the trenches dug by the Phoenix Lander have disappeared, leading Peter Smith & co. to believe that the chunks were ice that has since sublimated."
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Probable Water Ice Sighted On Mars

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  • by notgm ( 1069012 ) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:19PM (#23868089)
    but super scientific ovens do? i suppose the ice melted before they could cook it?
  • Dry ice? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zygotic mitosis ( 833691 ) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:21PM (#23868103)
    In such a carbon dioxide rich atmosphere, how do we know it is water ice and not frozen CO2? What do we know of the Martian surface and subsurface temperatures?
  • by WaltBusterkeys ( 1156557 ) * on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:23PM (#23868121)
    Yes, we've even mapped the ice at the poles []. But this is still important for a couple of reasons.

    First, it's confirmation that the white stuff at the poles really is ice (and not some unknown martian substance that just looks like ice).

    Second it means that the lander is digging in the right places to find all of the interesting stuff that goes along with water. It's tremendously interesting to discover whether there's carbon-based fragments in the water (suggesting life did or could exist) and to figure out what else is in the water.
  • by Le Marteau ( 206396 ) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:30PM (#23868189) Journal
    These images show sublimation of ice in the trench informally called "Dodo-Goldilocks" over the course of four days.

    Oh really? No qualification there? No "this appears to be sublimation of ice" but a definite "this is a picture of ice"? The dumbing down of the net is officially complete.
  • by Ortega-Starfire ( 930563 ) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:59PM (#23868469) Journal

    No, you fail it. Heinlein figured out how to move things from luna to terra cheaply a long time ago, if Platinum was just lying about on the moon, we would catapult it to earth with little cost. Moving oil on the other hand might be a more dangerous endeavor.

  • by Adult film producer ( 866485 ) <> on Thursday June 19, 2008 @11:05PM (#23868517)
    Why is seeding a dead planet with life considered unethical? Since when? You say that we decided as a species that doing so was against our moral conduct but I've gotta ask.. when did that debate take place? By who? The supreme court of the world?

    Maybe you have a problem with it but the Chinese and Indians wont. So much for your supreme court ruling.
  • by 4D6963 ( 933028 ) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @11:16PM (#23868605)

    No. If there was, Brave President Shrubbery would have already launched a preemptive strike to libertyifacate and democratyatize the natives.

    If everytime we talk about Mars or Titan we must make jokes about oil and America we might as well pick the one jokes which were proven to be funny.

    "If that was oil the US would plan a manned mission for next year. They'd send the marines claiming that the Martians were hiding weapons of mass destruction." []

    "Well clearly we now need to spread Freedom and Democracy to the poor oppressed [Martians], who will welcome us with roses and be able to finance their own reconstruction." []

    "By an amazing coincidence, [Mars] doesn't actually have democracy over there... Yet." []

    You're welcome.

  • Re:co2 ice ? (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 19, 2008 @11:17PM (#23868613)

    Why the f*ck was I moderated troll ? I was wrong, but trolling ? Sheesh, get a life.
    Yeah I saw that too and thought it was some poor moderating. Only malicious postings should be moderated down. Factual errors that are on topic should just be discussed and not moderated down and jokes that you think are not funny should also not be moderated down, but ignored. Yeah like the whole thing about sublimation of ice would lead someone to read up on it, and it was totally on topic. And really, you did raise a good point about ice not sublimating readily. If it doesn't sublimate at 0.006 atmospheres or higher, then it probably isn't going to sublimate very quickly at any pressure.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 19, 2008 @11:19PM (#23868627)

    We don't know the planet is dead yet, doofus. There is still a very real possibility of extremophile microorganisms existing on mars.

  • by NotZed ( 19455 ) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @11:45PM (#23868815)

    "First, it's confirmation that the white stuff at the poles really is ice (and not some unknown martian substance that just looks like ice)."

    Or perhaps it is just weird martian substance that still looks like ice, even close up?

  • by T3Tech ( 1306739 ) <tj@t3techne[ ]om ['t.c' in gap]> on Thursday June 19, 2008 @11:48PM (#23868839) Homepage
    What flavor is it? And can we get it back through re-entry and into stores without it melting?
  • by hardburn ( 141468 ) <hardburn&wumpus-cave,net> on Thursday June 19, 2008 @11:50PM (#23868851)

    I know the above is meant as a (seriously overused) joke, but it did get me thinking. If there was previously liquid water on Mars, and carbon-based life developed roughly along the same lines as on Earth, and internal geothermal processes are similar, than it's conceivable that there is oil, too. Although that's an awful lot of "if's". Also, if we were capable of getting oil off Mars economically, we also wouldn't need oil for energy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 20, 2008 @01:22AM (#23869351)

    Cannot anything else sublimate? I would think dihydrogen monoxide is not the only substance capable of this feat.

  • by trawg ( 308495 ) on Friday June 20, 2008 @01:25AM (#23869363) Homepage

    And there is always C & D. C: Robot lander lands on Mars and completes mission. D: Philip Fry completes mission, but the return module will not leave Mars. Will we ever try that again?
    While I agree with the main sentiment of your post - that robots are better to send in the short term than people - I'd like to think that even if the first manned Mars mission met with disaster, there'd still be brave people queuing up to try again a second time.

    See: Apollo 1 [].

  • by Fluffeh ( 1273756 ) on Friday June 20, 2008 @01:57AM (#23869525)
    I still can't say that I agree on your point of view.

    Space exploration has no benefit for society in general.
    So there is no point in understanding why we have tides? What about how sunspots generate random levels of radiation that plays havoc with the radio broadcasts and communications that we use? What about looking into the area of space around our humble planet to see if there is an asteroid or comet heading right for us? Don't you think that these three points off the top of my head have some sort of benefit for society in general?

    As for the swearing, my point is that if it is used as commonly as in your original thread, it really does water down. I got absolutely nothing against colorful language. My point is if you put in too much color, the whole thing becomes a gaudy mess rather than a well accentuated splash here and there.
  • by MarkusQ ( 450076 ) on Friday June 20, 2008 @02:31AM (#23869679) Journal

    Sorry if it sounds like I'm trolling, but I just can't understand our push into space. Maybe it's the engineer in me, but if we can't exploit it (or learn something exploitable from it), why pursue it? It's not that it's not interesting (even fascinating), but not particularly useful as far as I can see.

    You're right, it does sound like you are trolling. But I'll bite.

    First off, you are aware that one of the best ways to improve your national engineering cadre (and thus, your economy, standard of living, etc.) is to attempt things that are at the border of your capabilities, or even just a tad beyond, aren't you? Even if the only thing out there was a big brass ring that was way far away, it would pay to push your limits by constantly trying to grab it faster, or cheaper, or whatever.

    Second, you realize I hope that NASA's budget is minuscule in the big scheme of things; we spend much more on things like professional sports and junk food that are even less useful. Our entire space program from 1958 to today cost less than our current misadventures in the middle east.

    Third, did you ever stop to think about where the vast majority of the available resources are? From energy to precious metals to useful chemical to just plain space the overwhelming majority of the resources we know about are out in space.

    Given all that, it hardly seems sensible to deride the space program as useless.


  • by speedtux ( 1307149 ) on Friday June 20, 2008 @03:26AM (#23869921)

    The Viking lander already observed frost: []

    Furthermore, experiments with simulated soil and athmosphere suggest that that frost actually turns liquid when it melts.

  • by nicklott ( 533496 ) on Friday June 20, 2008 @03:41AM (#23869973)
    You, sir, are a pedant. When I get up every morning I don't know that my dog is really my dog and hasn't been stolen overnight and replaced with a very clever mechanical copy. I can't really check without dissecting him and that tends to upset both of us, so I assume that it being highly improbable that burglars would have replaced my crappy dog with a very expensive robot he is still my dog. It makes life much simpler.

    Likewise we know there is ice on mars, and one of the very few ways that a solid lump can disappear without trace is for it to sublimate. Other ways are for something with long limbs to have reached over and picked it up or perhaps they were iron rocks attracted by passing magnetic clouds, or perhaps a tiny blackhole opened for just long enough to remove those pebbles. However we've pretty much proved conclusively that there is no long-limbed life on Mars and every other way is vanishingly improbable so Occam's razor tells us that it is likely enough that this is ice that we can, on website designed for popular consumption, dispense with the endless qualifiers.

  • by Zadaz ( 950521 ) on Friday June 20, 2008 @04:13AM (#23870135)

    Manned space flight is afraid of a few deaths? What evidence do you have?

    Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee die during a ground test and we still landed on the moon 2 years later.

    Dick Scobee, Michael Smith, Judith Resnik, Ellison Onizuka, Ronald McNair, Gregory Jarvis and Christa McAuliff died in the Challenger explosion and we were back riding the same design to orbit 2 years later.

    We lost Rick Husband, William McCool, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Michael Anderson, Laurel Clark and Ilan Ramon in the Colombia reentry. And again, 2 years later we're back in space on the same vehicle.

    Just because you're too much of a wimp to risk your life doing something amazing and unique, don't condemn the rest of us to mediocrity.

  • WTF (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Phaid ( 938 ) on Friday June 20, 2008 @05:05AM (#23870349) Homepage

    Jesus, I thought I signed onto slashdot, but after reading the comments I realize I must have clicked on Fark by mistake.

  • by zwei2stein ( 782480 ) on Friday June 20, 2008 @05:21AM (#23870419) Homepage

    There are plenty of people who would volunteer for such suicide mission even if they were NOT terminally ill.

    Really, if you can have people whose JOB is to murder other people and public is totally confortable with it (hint: its Soldier), volunteers for suicide missions should not concern public at all.

    Cultural taboo to overcome is "suicide", not "kill".

  • by MLS100 ( 1073958 ) on Friday June 20, 2008 @05:31AM (#23870449)
    Not to mention they'd get a spot in the history books as the first person(s) on Mars.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 20, 2008 @06:28AM (#23870745)

    Yes, that's the scientific way. Don't prove it for yourself, take someone else's word for it.

  • by zehaeva ( 1136559 ) <`zehaeva+slashdot' `at' `'> on Friday June 20, 2008 @07:47AM (#23871241)
    well if you can not understand our push to space then you have not read into anything about Asteroid Mining []. see, there is a lot of material out there, far more than is on our little rock here. given that Jupiter is composed of almost entirely of hydrogen scooping off its atmosphere would be a wonderful source of the stuff that we would not have to refine at all. also i can not imagine that we would not find any nuclear fuels in space as well. given the abundance of resources within our solar system i can not see us living our constantly accelerating lives without at least puttering around our own solar system, if not going to the stars.

  • by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Friday June 20, 2008 @08:47AM (#23871677)

    But in order to know if that phase diagram is correct, it must first be proved by someone.

    Yes. Better yet, under stringent laboratory conditions. Which means a much more controlled environment than the inside of your freezer (e.g. in an environment that contains _only_ water. Water vapor behaves somewhat different from an ideal gas, which means that your results may deviate as soon as you have other gases in the environment). If you do the freezer/ice cube tray experiment, how do you make sure that there isn't any liquid water involved when you're not looking ? (Oh, I know: You _know_ that water cannot be liquid below 0.01 Celsius ... which means that you're relying on the phase diagram to be correct. Congratulations, you've just proven the correctness of the phase diagram by relying on the phase diagram to be correct.).

    If the current phase diagram had fundamental errors in it, a lot of the processes that rely on water behaving exactly this way simply wouldn't work. Also, there'd probably be something on the order of a Nobel prize in for anyone who can prove the error ... and experimenting with water really isn't rocket science.

  • by mysticgoat ( 582871 ) on Friday June 20, 2008 @10:00AM (#23872585) Homepage Journal

    Whether parent is a troll or not, the question raised deserves some kind of answer.

    Getting into space is not the long term goal.

    The long term goal is to get back into The Garden. The way to do that is to move all the factories (and most of the engineers) into space. This is all spelled out in the Ecological Manifesto. Which you can find written in the reflection of the clouds on any stillwater lake where you've got solitude surrounded by a few acres of wilderness.

  • Re:fake picture? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Beezlebub33 ( 1220368 ) on Friday June 20, 2008 @10:44AM (#23873181)

    Well, I don't think it looks fake. But, you could easily point your radio telescope at Mars and verify that there is a signal coming from that direction.

    20 years from now, we're going to have junior high school students saying that Phoenix and Spirit/Opportunity were faked. I only say this because my spouse is a science teacher and still hears that the Moon landings were faked.

  • by DanOrc451 ( 1302609 ) on Friday June 20, 2008 @11:29AM (#23873815)

    Human psychology, particularly when dealing with nations of people, doesn't always work logically.

    Each one of those three cases you mention, while tragic and horrible, don't really fall into the nightmare scenario of human space exploration.

    It's not just the deaths we fear, it's the helplessness and impotence of an impending death we can do nothing about in the void of space, or the horror of unretreived bodies. A fiery death is something we as humans understand. There is tragedy, there is heroism and glory, we honor their sacrifice, and we can move forward.

    There is a huge difference, emotionally speaking, between a shuttle reentering Earth's atmosphere and incinerating, and what could possibly happen on a manned mission to the Moon or Mars.

    Imagine a scenario where, say, Apollo 17's boosters fail to fire after landing on the moon, dooming the landing crew to run out of oxygen and die on the moon. No amount of Apollo 13-style duct tape heroics can save them. They slowly die as a horrified public watches, and there is nothing that anyone can do to save them. Their bodies remain on the Moon, and every time someone looks up at the night sky, they see dead Americans in adddition to or in place of a crowning human achievement, until a future mission possibly retrieves their bodies.

    Or imagine a manned Mars mission where a critical rocket malfuntions and the crew is doomed to hurtle out into the void of space, and there is NEVER realistically a possibility of retrieving the bodies once they finally die.

    Now, I don't know if this would usher in a new dark age of space exploration, because it has never happened. I'm not advocating against human space exploration either. Clearly, for all of our costly fleshly limitations, humans are by far still the greatest possible conductors of science and exploration.

    However, it is also important to acknowledge that we don't truly know how humanity as a whole would react to the worst that could possibly happen in human space exploration because, thanks to the brilliance of engineers and a good deal of luck, it hasn't happened yet.
  • by THE anonymus coward ( 92468 ) on Friday June 20, 2008 @12:01PM (#23874257) Homepage

    Just my two cents to add...

    Exploration of the next horizon is part of being human. To stop exploring would be to deny something that is fundamental to who we are. The principle of utility is a horrible metric when the objective is poorly understood....

    For a long time, art made no sense to me, seemed like a waste of time, but it is an expression of human creativity and a reaching for beauty. Unless you care about seeking beauty, art doesn't make sense. Unless you care about seeking the truth of the universe, space exploration doesn't make sense.

    So, the question I would pose to the grandparent is what happened to make you lose interest in exploration? Have you never been curious about what is over the next hill that you haven't seen? Because really, that is what this is all about.

Always leave room to add an explanation if it doesn't work out.