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NASA Mars Robotics Space

NASA Suggests Nano Robots To Explore Mars 104

destinyland writes "'We're going to have to do extensive robotic exploration,' says the director of NASA's Ames Research Center, suggesting nanotechnology to build self-replicating robots on Mars. Genetically engineering extraction and construction microbes could 'grow' electrical components, and eventually convert carbon dioxide on Mars into oxygen. 'If we really want to settle Mars, and we don't want to have to carry millions of tons of equipment with us to duplicate the way we live on Earth, these technologies will be key.' This interview with Peter Worden, the director of NASA's Ames Research Center, was just featured in the summer issue of H+ magazine, and he also argues that robots will be necessary to first survey Mars for underground microbes and protect the unique Martian biosphere, since it may contain clues about earth's own first life forms. In fact, given the water and carbon that's been discovered on Mars, the possibility of underground microbes is still considered real, and Worden argues that Mars 'may already be supporting life.'"
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NASA Suggests Nano Robots To Explore Mars

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  • ... but most of the heavy lifting is going to come from genetically engineered microbes.

    I've been following with interest the bacteria that was recently revived from the ice core samples. The assumption (logical or not) is that if they can survive that extreme situation they may be adapted to this sort of extreme condition.

    With GE we can introduce traits, perhaps not as specific as we'd like, but still to tailor the needs. Bacteria that can break down iron oxide into Fe or other easily smeltable materials- that could extract gold (there has been some postulation that 'tracer' gold is nothing more than bacterial waste). We already have some plants that can selectively uptake metals and sequester them in the cellulose - but then breeding those with any other traits destroyed the character set that was capable of doing so.

    I should also state I'm a fan of Mars from KSR- and if we start introducing extremophile bacterial colonies we may never find out if life evolved on that planet. I for one am waiting for that little tidbit and the Vatican's response (I expect it to be something along the lines of "Not intelligent thus God discarded the world as unsuitable", but I digress).

    I say go for it... but I'd really really really want to know that the lab doing the work was fully set up to prevent accidental releases. While an extremophile may not like the conditions outside as too energetic... I'd hate to find out they're quickly adaptable - with those cell walls specifically thickened and hardened to handle UV (another assumption on my part) as well as low pressure they might just turn out to be a bitch to kill. Then again, keeping them in conflict with the UV sterilizer lights might just be the way to grow them hardier :)

  • Evil not included (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Colonel Korn ( 1258968 ) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @09:57AM (#28557055)

    Ignoring the robots-turning-evil angle on this, let's consider a more likely scenario. Probably any self replicating nano-things would be bacteria, or possibly very small machines that act like bacteria. I see two very likely scenarios that don't require any sort of thought, agency, or evil on their part:

    1) Being designed to convert CO2 to O2, some of these things get carried back to earth (inside of human lungs, perhaps) and radically alter earth's atmosphere, or

    2) They mutate and start metabolizing other things, like rocks or people.

  • by Tangent128 ( 1112197 ) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @11:00AM (#28557949)
    Hmm... semi-serious-question: how much would it cost to just surround the Martian equator with a closed circuit of solar cells? And would that current generate a sufficient magnetic field?

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