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Mars Space Science

Mars Orbiter Finds Evidence For Ancient Rivers, Lakes 130

Cowards Anonymous points out news that studies based on data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have found that vast regions of Mars contained rivers and lakes when the planet was young. The studies also suggest that the water existed for quite some time, often in standing pools, which are conducive to the formation of basic organic matter. NASA provides a color-enhanced photo of a delta within a crater. Quoting: "The clay-like minerals, called phyllosilicates, preserve a record of the interaction of water with rocks dating back to what is called the Noachian period of Mars' history, approximately 4.6 billion to 3.8 billion years ago. This period corresponds to the earliest years of the solar system, when Earth, the moon and Mars sustained a cosmic bombardment by comets and asteroids. Rocks of this age have largely been destroyed on Earth by plate tectonics. They are preserved on the moon, but were never exposed to liquid water. The phyllosilicate-containing rocks on Mars preserve a unique record of liquid water environments possibly suitable for life in the early solar system."
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Mars Orbiter Finds Evidence For Ancient Rivers, Lakes

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  • by 2.7182 ( 819680 ) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @10:22AM (#24253417)
    Their obviously an underground civilization. Will make excellent troglodytes. Get their corbamite!
    • The only way we'll get the will of world Government to do so would be if they have oil.

    • Free Mars! (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "Quaid.......start the reaaacctoorrr..."

    • Martian Vampires (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Doc Ruby ( 173196 )

      Mars is teeming with vampires in underground caverns. They've covered the surface with a layer of blood dust to protect themselves from the Sun's rays. It's time to start arming our probes and orbital satellite bases with SOLASERS, to focus the Sun's power through cracks we dig in their defenses.

      Otherwise, the biters will just ride back to Earth our probes, and raise their earthling cousins into an army to destroy us while the Sun's back is turned.

    • by jcuervo ( 715139 )
      Your supply is not enough?
  • too bad (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I guess the Martians didn't have enough powerboats and jetskis to create greenhouse gases to keep the planet warm enough to keep those rivers and lakes..

    • Re:too bad (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19, 2008 @10:31AM (#24253453)

      They had plenty of greenhouse gases. The problem was that after the geomagnetic field of Mars was lost, the solar wind was able to strip away the atmosphere, leaving it today at about 5 to 10 millibars (in contrast with the Earth which is about 1000 millibars).

  • This proves that men really are from Mars.
  • by lottameez ( 816335 ) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @10:40AM (#24253499)
    What is that? Boy that sounds like a Cliff Claven quote if I've ever heard one. "Y'see Noam - it was back in the Noahchian period of Mahs when the mahtians would take baths in the wahtah and lakes. This has been proved with the phyllosilicahtes found up thah.
    • Re:Noachian Period? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19, 2008 @11:10AM (#24253717)

      Martian geological time [] is subdivided into a number of time periods [] based upon major geomorphological features seen from orbit -- major crater basins, the density of craters (generally speaking, crater frequency was higher in the deep past -- as on the Earth's Moon), canyons and channels such as Valles Marinaris, and volcanoes. While it isn't possible to determine their exact numerical age, it is possible to figure out their relative age (i.e. the order of the events that made them). For example, the overlapping shapes of craters tells you which impact formed first. If a volcano has a crater on it, then obviously the volcano formed first and then the crater. If a channel is eroded into a crater, then the channel came after. That kind of thing. So, there's a reasonably detailed relative chronology for events on Mars, and this is divided into eras known as (from oldest to youngest) the Noachian, the Hesperian, and the Amazonian.

      Using crater densities and the fact that rocks were recovered and dated on the Moon, it is possible to link the better-known chronology of the Moon to that of Mars. There are significant uncertainties of course, but generally speaking that allows people to estimate that the Noachian was from about 4.6 billion to about 3.5 billion years ago, essentially the time when the cratering frequency started to drop off on the Moon. There is ample evidence that at this time on Mars there was freely-flowing water on the surface, hence, "Noachian".

      The pages cited above has some really nice charts and descriptions, and the wikipedia page has a map showing the distribution of the deposits of different ages.

  • by MRe_nl ( 306212 ) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @10:45AM (#24253541)

    All kidding aside, beautifull images, it's amazing to me that from searching for microscopic traces of water a few years ago we're now "finding data from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter revealing that the Red Planet once hosted vast lakes, flowing rivers and a variety of other wet environments that had the potential to support life."

    • from searching for microscopic traces of water a few years ago we're now "finding data from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter revealing that the Red Planet once hosted vast lakes, flowing rivers
      Think back even further and it's come full circle. When Mars was first viewed through telescopes it was 'the place is full of canals of water!' Then for a long time it was 'No, no way there was ever any water on Mars.' Now we're back to there having been lots of water.

  • I think that it's possible that we will (probably during our inevitable colonisation of Mars at some point) find evidence of bacteria on Mars that wasn't brought there from Earth. Especially if the theory of Panspermia is correct, and since Earth and Mars have been known to swap rocks every now and again, it's not a giant leap to imagine that an asteroid bringing life to Earth may have also brought life to Mars. Now, if Mars had standing pools of water, rudimentary bacteria could have existed at some point.

    • by BlueParrot ( 965239 ) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @10:55AM (#24253619)

      Mars' magnetic field has not always been as weak as it is now. One theory is that as it's core cooled, the magnetic field vanished, allowing the solar wind to penetrate and blow away the atmosphere. If this turns out to be accurate it might be possible to teraform mars ( or rather, repair it ) by creating a magnetic field through artificial means.

      • Finally, a use for the hard drive magnets we've all been collecting.

        I've got a copy of War and Peace stuck to the freezer with one of those bad boys.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mbone ( 558574 )

        Mars' magnetic field has not always been as weak as it is now.

        One hypothesis I have brought forward is that Mars might have a reasonably strong dipole and is in a magnet field reversal right now, making the field at this epoch very non-dipolar. That is improbable, but not outlandishly so, and I believe is consistent with the data.

        • If this is true, does that mean that if/when the Earth's magentic field reverses polarity, we're boned? There has been evidence that the Earth has had the magnetic field reverse in the distant past (unsure of the rough estimate of when).
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Yazeran ( 313637 )

            No we are not doomed in the case of a field reversal. There has been literally hundreds of field reversals during since the Jurasic and life survived without problems. We cvould survive as well with only minor ajustments (for instance magnetic compasses would not work and magnetic storms temporarily taking out power distribution systems more often etc.)

            The difference is that the magnetic field on Mars did not come back allowing billions of years without a field thus stripping the atmosphere.

            Yours Yazeran


      • by imipak ( 254310 )
        Why yes, that's a fantastic idea; we'll just re-liquify the core and spin it back up. It's just a trivial matter of concentrating several magnitudes more energy than that generated by the whole of humanity in recorded history, in the middle of Mars. So what do you reckon, you think 2020 looks like a good aim point? 2050?
        • I would mod this funny if I had some mod points left.
        • He didn't say he wanted to re-liquify the core and spin it up, dumbass. There would be other ways to create a magnetic field around Mars, many of them considerably easier (though any one would still be a major undertaking, naturally).

        • by Hyppy ( 74366 )
          It worked in "The Core"...
    • by imipak ( 254310 ) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @11:11AM (#24253725) Journal

      our inevitable colonisation of Mars

      Look, we are never, never, ever going to "colonise" Mars. There's no reason to do it except SF fantasy wish fulfillment or too much time spent watching scientifically nonsensical films and books. IT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. James van Allen was right. There's no reason to go there when we can do anything humans can do with robots for a thousandth of the cost and risk. Yes, it's "slower" than spending a couple of hundred billion dollars over 20 years, but so what? Mars has been there for 4000,000,000 years; it's not going anywhere.

      If you're very very lucky, your children or grandchilden may live long enough to see a manned landing; personally, I very much doubt it. Hmmm, I must get round to setting up that thingy on ...

      • by Keill ( 920526 )

        Lol. You should never say NEVER about anything like this, since talking about unlimited timeframes for anything is not a very good bet. They used to say we'd never visit the moon - you know what happened there. Yes, it may take centuries, or even millennia to colonise another planet or moon, but since the moon and mars are the first on the list when such a thing actually occurs - I wouldn't say never.

        Of course, if you meant 'in our life-time', then you'd probably be correct.

        • A relevant quote (Score:5, Interesting)

          by dreamchaser ( 49529 ) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @11:34AM (#24253869) Homepage Journal

          This is somewhat appropriate for this discussion:

          "When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong."
          --Arthur C. Clarke

          • Physically and scientifically, it's certainly possible to colonize Mars; nobody is disputing that.

            The question is whether people are going to be willing to make the economic and social sacrifices to do it.

            I don't think so. The societies that could afford it are so fearful, lazy, and self-absorbed that they will never finance colonization of other planets.

            The only chance I see for colonizing other planets is if some large group of religious nuts makes it a priority. But given the general level of corruptio

          • "When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong."

            That people would consider garbage like that insightful is a good reason why elementary logic should be taught at school. Consider:

            elderly scientist A:
            "It is impossible to travel to Mars."
            elderly scientist B:
            "It is impossible to be right when claiming it is impossible to travel to Mars."

            By Clarke's rule both these scientists are

          • that quote is always missed by so many fools.
      • I wouldn't go as far to say that we'd [b]never[/b] colonise. If there were sufficient water we may be able to terraform. Would that take a hell of a long time? Yes. Will we send robots there first? Yes, but I think we should work on robots I can have sex with first then send some to mars.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by mbunch5 ( 548430 )
        You seem to have the wrong conception of why people set out to colonize *anywhere.* It has nothing to do with science, but the desire of one group of people to live apart from another group, or make another group live apart from them. Or do you think the Puritans were that interested in studying the natural history and native society of the New World? Or the inmates that were shipped to Australia? The only thing holding back space colonization right now is the lack of technology. Once that technology becom
        • by imipak ( 254310 )

          People's desires to live apart don't trump the laws of physics I'm afraid.

          The technology you speak of IS a magic wand, not only by today's technological standards, but because of the laws of physics. Yes, yes, there are still some fundamental problems in physics remaining to be solved. I will grant you that if some super-Witten unifies relativity and The Quantum ((tm) pterry) and somehow finds a source of infinite free energy, lots of things become possible including colonising Mars, turning Pluto into a gi

          • People's desires to live apart don't trump the laws of physics I'm afraid

            [If someone] finds a source of infinite free energy, lots of things become possible including colonising Mars

            You're talking total tripe, because we don't need free energy nor wormholes nor warp drives nor any other nonexistent inventions nor any new physics to make travelling to Mars cheap and widely available. All we need is *time* (a lot of it) for our engineering systems to mature.

            Travel is a matter of harnessing energy, and energy

            • by imipak ( 254310 )

              You dismiss my assertion as tripe, then attempt to demonstrate that by resorting to magic wand technological solutions. If it's a simple question of engineering, why hasn't it happened yet? Don't give me "politicians" or "whining ecofreaks" - if there was cheap energy to be had that easily, we'd have done it by now. And as there's no sign of anything like that happening even now, when energy prices just went up by an order of magnitude, doesn't that tell you something?

              travel within the solar system will be effectively unlimited in an easily forseeable future. It's a sure bet.

              Care to put some actual folding cash mo

              • by Teancum ( 67324 )

                There is cheap energy to be had easily. Why do you think that you can go to a nearby airport and purchase a ticket to fly anywhere in the globe for about 1 months of a working persons wage (in the USA) and end up literally anywhere on the surface of this planet in less than a day. OK, maybe a couple months wage, but it is easily within the budget range of an ordinary person if they have the desire for it.

                BTW, Energy prices didn't go up an order of magnitude. Only one particular source of energy that is b

                • by imipak ( 254310 )

                  There is cheap energy to be had easily.

                  OK, I stopped reading there, because you're either an idiot or delusional.

                  • by Teancum ( 67324 )

                    Who is an idiot or delusional? For such a bold statement to be made about me, I hope that you know me, which you don't.

                    I'm pointing out that the average person has far more power and energy at their disposal than at any other era in the entire history of humanity, and indeed the last 15 to 20 years have been remarkable for a substantial fraction of the world's population "catching up" to standards long enjoyed in Europe and North America.

                    I will boldly assert that I have direct access to far more energy tha

      • by mikael ( 484 ) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @12:01PM (#24254045)

        The experts said, "mechanised rail travel was impossible because people would suffocate from the change in air pressure", then they said heavier-than-air flight was impossible", then they said "supersonic flight was impossible because the aircraft would shake itself apart". Up until 60 years ago, traveling between the USA and Europe was on the order of months of time, rather than hours.

        But developing the technology to allow for high speed travel for long distances is an evolutionary process. Good examples are the evolution of sea-going craft from simple coracles, currachs, log rafts, then wooden ships, paddle-steamers, iron-hull craft up to ocean liners and nuclear powered air-craft carriers.

        Any kind of interplanetary travel would be the same - protecting the crew from the elements (radiation) is the first obstacle, then there is the problem of propulsion over a long period of time. And then there is the actual process of manufacture if the vessel cannot travel from the surface of a planet.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Some people use those same arguments to illustrate that we will one day figure out how to surpass the speed of light. While perhaps we may someday, the difference is that while there was never any evidence or rigorous empirical work done on the impossibility of rail and air travel, quite the opposite is true for the speed of light. Our entire technological world in its current form would not be able to exist without a finite speed of light at exactly 3x10^8. There was even a slashdot story about the consist

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Teancum ( 67324 )

            Don't confuse interstellar and interplanetary travel. They are two completely different issues, and I will admit that interstellar travel is something that is so far out there that the method of travel is something certainly of Science Fiction. It is also something I don't think will happen in the next couple of millenia other than some robotic missions to only the very closest of stars. Manned exploration of nearby stars is akin to suggesting a 17th Century sailor is going to make it to Mars somehow. T

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by osu-neko ( 2604 )

          ... Up until 60 years ago, traveling between the USA and Europe was on the order of months of time, rather than hours.

          Excuse me? Believe it or not, we had something better than sailboats, even before 1948. The great trans-atlantic passenger lingers (e.g. the Titanic) would go between the USA and Europe in under a week. In 1938 (70 years ago), the Queen Mary did it in 3 days.

          • by Teancum ( 67324 )

            The travel time in weeks and months was more an issue of the era of sail ships. That was mostly 19th Century and earlier. It should be noted that travel between America and Europe wasn't considered that big of a deal even with much of the ordinary working poor who were willing to make that sort of crossing in sub-standard conditions, and millions of people made that crossing well before the era of steamships.

            Even so, having the Queen Mary make a crossing in three days was a remarkable achievement. You ca

        • by imipak ( 254310 )
          Those people weren't experts, even in the laws of science as understood at the time. They were idiots. Remember what Sagan said about Bozo the Clown?
      • There's no reason to go back there when we can...

        There, fixed that for you.

      • I think it goes without saying that humankind will eventually need more living space than what is offered here on Earth. I guess we could expand habitation into the oceans on platforms, or force people to live in much close quarters than they would like. I suspect either way at some point we will need more real estate. That being said, perhaps space habitations would be the solution rather than colonization / terra forming.

        Either way, whether the need for more real estate exists, the need to explore wil
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I think it goes without saying that humankind will eventually need more living space than what is offered here on Earth.

          No--it goes without saying that humankind will eventually need to control its number in order not to overpopulate Earth. That's all.

          Space migration? You will not migrate the billions that Earth can't sustain to Mars, at least not without completely exhausting our resources ...

          Possibly mankind will move to space/Mars. But that means a few hundred or some thousands--not billions--of people w

        • by osu-neko ( 2604 )

          I think it goes without saying that humankind will eventually need more living space than what is offered here on Earth.

          Why would such a highly questionable assertion "go without saying"? The more we modernize, the less we reproduce. In the most advanced and prosperous nations on Earth today, population growth figures are already trending into the negative, and there's no reason to assume this won't be true for the rest of the world as they too achieve higher levels of development. It's quite entirely possible we'll be using less living space in 2200 than we do today, given that there's a good possibility there will be a

      • well .. if human kind worked together like a swarm, a collective, then i suppose you could be right. But someone will get there first. someone will be king. The race is on!
      • You are incorrect for many, many reasons. 1. Earth is a finite place, with a finite number of resources. 2. The human population has a reproductive capacity approaching infinite ability, barring accident or self-destruction. 3. Technologies allowing us to leave the planet are progressing well, and new competition from burgeoning space-faring countries like China will drive research for other countries. 4. Humanity WILL have to expand off this planet at some point and space stations are far more complex
        • by imipak ( 254310 )
          (1) and (2) are given. On (3) you are stonkingly, incredibly, stupefyingly wrong. You couldn't be more wrong if you'd set out to be Captain Wrong. (It's the "technologies" bit.) For starters, could you explain your solution to the Mach 5 problem? (No, I know you don't know what that is, I'm using it to illustrate my point, vis., that you are talking bollocks about something you know nothing about. Now go away and google and read for a few years.
        • by Teancum ( 67324 )

          Responses like this are counter-productive to space advocacy. There is no reason why humanity simply must expand off this planet, as it appears as though human population growth is leveling off.

          European populations are shrinking in size, and America's only population growth at the moment comes from immigration. The U.S. Census Bureau anticipates that in the next 20 years or so this trend will continue where even immigration won't be able to offset the population decline in America. China's population has

      • Can a robot produce a human? Until then, we should, and almost certainly will, continue to shoot for Mars with Humans. As it is, I think that we will be there by 2025. I also suspect that China is shooting for it by 2020. As it is, they said that long march 5 would be done by 2013, and they just announced trial have started. By 2009, they will have a launching rocket similar in class to EELVs/Soyuz. My understanding is that they have already started on one to compete against the ares V.
        • by imipak ( 254310 )

          I think that we will be there by 2025.

          fsm give me strength...

          Are you aware that if we were to do a MSR (sample return) mission, the earliest possible launch opportunity is 2020/2022? There's considerable doubt whether anyone will evenpropose such a thing, for complicated technical reasons you can google up for yourself. But you think that three years after that, we're going to put humans on Mars.

          • They only reason why the MSR is taking forever is due to lack of funds. We could easily have sent a trip there over the last couple of decades as well as even within 5 years. China and our billionares have the funding to send ppl to the moon. BTW, I think that the first couple of trips will be a one way trip. It will not be trying to send a group there AND back. As such, the costs will be MUCH lower and easier to do.
            • by imipak ( 254310 )
              Yes, if very large sums were thrown at it, MSR is do-able. (This is a different discussion altogether from manned colonisation, of course.) Personally I'd be delighted if it happened. However I think the 2020/22 window is looking pretty unlikely at this point. Given that the US economy is going down the toilet and the need to slash government spending (whoops, except that politically sensitive defense budget of course) - and the size of the technological challenge - and the length of time needed to develop,
              • NASA is not going to Mars via their means. It will be private enterprise. More importantly, all the parts are being developed. I think that we will see spacex, bigelow, and (blue origin|armadillo). It is almost certain that some billionaire will fund it. And as I have said numerous times, these will be one way trips for at least the first few trips. It is the only way to keep costs low. NASA will scream the first time that somebody dies, but the missions will continue. Why? Because we will have ppl on Mars
                • by imipak ( 254310 )

                  It will be private enterprise.

                  Where's the profit in landing on Mars? Remember, you've got to cover your $100B+ costs, first. (A lot more than that, actually, unless you "borrow" a lot of NASA facilities like service and launch infrastructure, the DSN, etc.)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bertok ( 226922 )

        Unfortunately the parent post is right - space colonization in the foreseeable future is unlikely for many reasons that somehow seem glossed over by the "true believers".

        Lets face the cold hard reality of space - it is both cold and hard. There's nothing out there but rocks. Nobody wants to live on cold hard rocks. Some people might go there for science, or out of the curiosity of a tourist, but nobody will ever want to make a life there.

        I'm sure of this because people already have the opportunity to go liv

        • by Teancum ( 67324 )

          Perhaps I'm viewing this issue a little bit differently.

          I live in the American West, where large tracts of undeveloped land has been an article of faith for generations, and that you could (once upon a time) purchase land for on the order of $100 per acre or even much less. Yeah, it was unproductive and essentially worthless, not to mention almost impossible to even live upon, but it was available.

          Unfortunately I don't see much of that kind of land any more out here. Huge subdivisions are springing up in

      • Look, we are never, never, ever going to "colonise" Mars. There's no reason to do it except SF fantasy wish fulfillment or too much time spent watching scientifically nonsensical films and books. IT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. James van Allen was right. There's no reason to go there when we can do anything humans can do with robots for a thousandth of the cost and risk.

        Don't neglect the power of capitalism. There are people who will pay good money, and lots of it, to live on an entirely different planet from p

        • by imipak ( 254310 )
          O rilly? Where are they, then? They're not even in LEO, let alone on Mars. They're stuck down here on good ol' Terra with the rest of us. A very few are actually doing some great work in private-funded launch, it even looks like SpaceX may have a viable LEO launcher, which'd be great. But there's a market for that vehicle at that cost (to launch satellites), and I don't see many people queuing up to may $50m plus for a one-way ride to orbit on non-man-rated launcher. (Yes Viginia, once you get there you ha
  • Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Frosty Piss ( 770223 )
    This is all interesting. But what are the net benefits to mankind from the expansion of billions of dollars in Mar exploration? Was there water? Is there water? So what? Does any of this help address any of the many serious problems facing us here on Earth? Will we ever colonize Mars? Will a manned visit to Mars help societies problems in any way? Nope...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by maxume ( 22995 )

      Does every single thing you do help address the many serious problems facing us here on Earth, or do you occasionally do frivolous things that you enjoy? Yeah, that's what I thought.

      • Well, it's one thing to be frivolous and have fun.

        It's another thing for government agencies to raise my taxes and be frivolous on my dime.

        I appreciate there's some tangible good and a fair amount of intangible good from, say, trying to send men to Mars in my lifetime... but I don't think it's nearly as much good as the trillions of dollars they'll be taxing people for. I can use my money for a lot of tangible and intangible good things as well.

        • by maxume ( 22995 )

          I was specifically referring to sending unmanned probes (read the post I replied to), which have been something less than 0.1% of the federal budget and an even smaller percentage of GDP (are we measuring against government or society...). Unless you are incredibly, unbelievably rich, you, like me, probably contributed about $10 to the Mars missions (well, I probably contributed a great deal less than that...age, income, etc).

          I see no reason to send people to Mars. I can see some purpose in a one-way hope t

    • by imipak ( 254310 )

      But what are the net benefits to mankind from the expansion of billions of dollars in Mar exploration?

      • Those dollars are spent on Earth, you realise?
      • Are you aware of the relative sizes of NASA's budget and the USG total budget?
      • Are you aware than America spends more on cigarettes in a year than the entire NASA budget?

      By the way, I think you'll find there's an "S" at the end of "Mars".

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by gmuslera ( 3436 )
      Short answer: all eggs in one basket.

      Earth wasn't always the almost paradise for human-like life that is still a bit today, almost all life was wiped several times in earth history. And that, without our "intelligent" intervention (why wait for a huge asteroid or a snowball earth period if we can destroy it all faster?). Don't waste money in this and humans will become a rich, but unfortunately extinct, race.

      One of the ways of having a backup is to be also somewhere else, preferably self-sustained. Explorat
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by maxume ( 22995 )

        Mars as a backup for Earth is a pipe dream, a crack-pipe dream.

        • by gmuslera ( 3436 )
          <quote><p>Mars as a backup for Earth is a pipe dream, a crack-pipe dream.</p></quote>

          Suggest another one, and is not a backup for earth, just for us.
          • by maxume ( 22995 )

            There pretty much isn't one. (and humans need food, so backing us up requires backing up ecosystems, especially if you want to do it over extended periods; at a minimum, you need pollination and such, a lot of people would be very unhappy without at least a little diversity in their diet, so you probably need milk and meat).

            Sure, we could probably, at a cost of trillions of dollars, put a few hundred people on Mars with the resources they would need to live a few decades (I mean the resources that they woul

          • by imipak ( 254310 )
            What makes you think the laws of physics owe humanity a "backup for earth"?
            • by gmuslera ( 3436 )

              Laws of physics forbid humanity or at least enough of it to go somewhere else?

              We lack the technology to terraform mars (at least now, afaik), but if enough base materials are there, probably would be easier to put something self sustained there than in i.e. moon or a space station. In fact (i think i said exactly this in a prev related discussion) whatever we research to help us live in as extreme environments as mars, could help us to live here too, if things go wrong.

              There are maybe more urgent things

              • by imipak ( 254310 )

                Laws of physics forbid humanity or at least enough of it to go somewhere else?

                Yes, that's right. For any realistic value of the return and the cost, permanent colonisation of other planets is impossible, in the absence of a magic-wand technology providing free energy.

  • Lakes! (Score:4, Funny)

    by owlnation ( 858981 ) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @10:57AM (#24253623)
    Thar she blows!

    Men of the Moon, quick! To the space whalers!
  • by imipak ( 254310 ) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @11:02AM (#24253657) Journal

    "'scuse me, 'scuse me, officer JPLNazi coming though... "

    ...vast regions of Mars contained rivers and lakes...

    This has been OLD NEWS since the Viking orbiters, more than thirty years ago, though thanks to the demands of the mass media, the goldfish-like attention spans of the general public and the rigours of academic tenure, publishing, and funding rounds (not to mention PR teams at academic institutions, who often seem to know jack shit about the subject they're writing a press release on) it gets recycled every time there's a water-related Mars discovery. I'm sure I've seen three or four water-related stories based on MER (rover) research, then there's the Mars Express data, Mars Odyssey's spectrometer data (hint: why do you think Phoenix happened to land somewhere where there's water ice 5cm below the surface - luck?). Oh yeah and of course Phoenix is just about to drop ice scrapings into the TEGA oven [] and cook out any water, carbonates, in fact everything else that vaporises at less than 1000 degrees C.

    The significant aspects of the two new papers (one in Nature, on in Nature Geoscience) are indeed the phyllosilicates, more commonly known as clay minerals. (if you're thinking of the clay in your back garden, imagine it after lying in an Antarctic dry valley for a three plus billion years, in a near vacuum, and hammered with UV. To the layperson this is what Arthur Dent would have identified thusly: "well, it's rock, isn't it?" It adds to the evidence for medium-term (up to 10^6 years) periods of free-standing or flowing water on the surface at essentially every scale, from regional morphology such as flash flood outflow channels, river deltas, coastlines and the like down to rock formations that are clearly indurated, contain silica minerals (google 'Spirit Tyrone') or haematite (blueberries, which are concretions formed in water-saturated rocks) and vugs (voids left by water-soluble crystals.) When you wet particular kinds of rocks that Mars is known to have a lot of, you get clays (phyllosilicates) as a result.

    By the way the NASA image isn't

    "colour enhanced"

    -- that's CRISM data overlaid on a visible-wavelengths image. (CRISM is a spectrometer and is the instrument that ID'd these minerals.)

    ...standing pools, which are conducive to the formation of basic organic matter.

    This statement is, uh, mistaken. What it's getting at is the notion that long periods of exposure to water is generally considered to be probably very very important if not essential to early life. ("organic matter" would be anything with a carbon atom in it, e.g. coal, plastic, methane, oil... it's one of those words that means something totally different in particular scientific context. Like "metals" (tho' that means at leat three different things to different sciences...)

    Much much more at a popular search engine near you.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      The question I want answered is where the hell did it all go? Did it evaporate into space, or is it all stuck in the ground?

      If they can scrape the ground and uncover ice, thats like frozen mud. If they were to heat up the soil would it become mud and return to the state the planet was in eons ago? And are there any extremophiles that could thrive, and eventually brings mars to the point where we could grow asparagus?

      It would be a lot cooler to just launch canisters of bacteria, plants, and bugs to mars
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by imipak ( 254310 )
        No. If you wield a magic wand and warm the planet to the point that the polar caps and underground ice melts, you've only got a few thousand / tens of thousands of years before it's all boiled off into space. Low gravity, no core magnetic field.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by BoldlyGo ( 1288070 )

      This statement is, uh, mistaken. What it's getting at is the notion that long periods of exposure to water is generally considered to be probably very very important if not essential to early life. ("organic matter" would be anything with a carbon atom in it, e.g. coal, plastic, methane, oil..

      Coal, plastic, methane, and oil are all byproducts of life. Coal is from plants, plastic is from humans, the vast majority of methane is from biogenic sources, and oil is from plants, animals, and bacteria.

      The only carbon product you mentioned that might be formed without life is methane. The formation of methane usually involves water as either a reactant or product. In fact, simply burning methane produces water.

      I don't think there is anything wrong with the statement you are disagreeing with" s

      • Well, first, the guy was merely listing examples of organic compounds, not saying that they were natural or likely to be found on Mars.

        Second, methane can definitely be formed without life. It's found in the atmosphere of several moons, and was almost certainly a major component in the reducing atmosphere of the early Earth (before the advent of photosynthesis introduced a flood of free oxygen)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    NASA needs to say they have found evidence of OIL on Mars.

    Cheney and his neocon buddies will start to drool. Dick Cheney will order Bush to fund a mission to Mars. Bush will say that God told him that they need to liberate the Martians.

    NASA gets unlimited budget - will come out of the DOD's budget.

    WIN/WIN situation!

    • No, you are doing it wrong! Hubble Space Telescope has found OIL at Alpha Centauri! Quick, send a manned mission there! (Better yet, tell them that Osama is hiding there as well.)
  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @11:40AM (#24253903) Homepage Journal

    These cheap landers with specialized probes show just how much more powerful our science can be when we interact with its subjects through matter-on-matter operations, rather than just interacting with energy as we do in telescopes, or interacting with information as we do in simulations.

    When we actually send a human to Mars, a "generalized probe" with sensory and mechanical amplification equipment, we'll really be getting to work, down to brass tacks.

  • Some people say why go to space and let's focus on human problems on Earth. I am really fed up reading such comments, especially on fora where I would expect people to have other interests than food and playgirls. These people are obviously not nerds. Non-nerds's only interest in life is to eat well and live well, but nerds go beyond that. Nerds have passions: they are passionate about inquiring. Nerds want to know everything and not knowing the history of Mars is a very real problem for a nerd. A ner

    • Bless you, Wikinerd, thou hast seen the light. Your pirate hat is in the mail, and We now permit you to be addressed as "St.Wikinerd".

      Yours in Noodly Goodness,


  • It has long been thought that earth's earliest years were dry, but recent research suggests [] that 4.3 billion years ago earth had liquid water.
  • by mbone ( 558574 ) on Saturday July 19, 2008 @02:42PM (#24255335)

    These articles rarely mention that there are two camps in the scientific community, one of which is largely American, and rejects any evidence for recent liquid water on Mars, and the other of which is more European, and accepts it.

    The Mars cratering model [] indicates that a billion year old surface on Mars should have multiple 100 meter craters per square kilometer, and maybe ten 50 meter craters per square km . Basically, if you see a picture of the Martian surface, and there aren't lots of little craters on it, then that is not a billion year old surface, regard of what the press release says. It isn't hard [] to find such images. Here is another [], and another [].

  • Do the actual scientific articles have quantitative scales that express mineral abundances? Otherwise, what's the point of figures such as those given in the press release? Can't we do better than "green means clay is present"? Clays form very readily from common minerals (like feldspars) and are likely to be present to some degree everywhere on Mars (as with oxides and other secondary minerals). How much is "a lot"?
  • "Noachian"? As in Greg Bear's "noach" (no channel) from the Forge of GOd?
  • I'm willing to bet that one day we will dig up fossils on Mars. The only problem is that no one wants to go there and no one cares. If I were a ruthless billionaire I'd be financing a sample return mission (probably personned).

    Alas, I have no money, I'm a looney and the doctor gives me pills, so I will probably have to be content with watching the Human Race exterminate itself due to medieval religious superstition coupled with racial intolerance.

Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.