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Mars Science

Has the Mars Rover Sniffed Methane? 119

First time accepted submitter GrimAndBearIt writes "NASA's Curiosity rover is poised to settle years of debate on the question of atmospheric methane on Mars, which would be a sign of microbial life. With parts per trillion sensitivity, it's not so much a question of whether the rover will be able to smell trace amounts of methane, but rather a question of how much. NASA has announced that Grotzinger's team will discuss atmospheric measurements at a briefing on 2 November. If the rover has detected methane at sufficiently high concentration, or exhibiting temporal variations of the kind that suggests microbial activity, then it will surely motivate a desire to identify and map the sources."
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Has the Mars Rover Sniffed Methane?

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  • Wow how sad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Friday November 02, 2012 @06:04AM (#41851145)

    8 posts so far, 8 fart jokes. I see space exploration is truly inspiring to Slashdot geeks...

  • by meglon ( 1001833 ) on Friday November 02, 2012 @06:14AM (#41851175)
    to go with a set of small, dedicated probes that can only do a few things (say mass spec, air sampling, basic instruments) that have no mobility. They'd be loaded in bulk onto a platform to go from Earth to Mars, then into orbit. As it orbits, the platform drops the probes off at certain intervals, or in certain specific places. You could have a mix of probes doing different things, and use the one that would give the most information for that area; hell, you ould make it refillable, and send more as needed.

    More limited than a rover, but much less expensive, and a lot less that could go wrong.... with a lot larger coverage area.
  • Re:Wow how sad (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jade_Wayfarer ( 1741180 ) on Friday November 02, 2012 @06:31AM (#41851229)
    Not only that - said jokes are really plain and primitive. You can make a wide variety of jokes starting from "yo mama" (yo mama is so fat, that even the rover on Mars smelt her methane), all through "Uranus" jokes (to precisely detect methane you'll have to send the rover to Uranus), to some more abstract (let's hope that Mars is not a really shy planet, otherwise it'll become even more Red Planet if we manage to find methane there) and so on.

    Even if not funny by themselves, these jokes at least be somewhat creative, and some even may be called elegant (not my examples, of course). And yet we get something on a level of a dumb teenager. Hmm... maybe it's a deep social or political satire in there? Like "look, candidates, with that level of funding all that NASA can attract is a bunch of stupid fart jokes lovers"?
  • Re:Wow how sad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord Lode ( 1290856 ) on Friday November 02, 2012 @07:32AM (#41851445)

    Maybe it's because the article title uses the word "Sniffed" rather than, for example, "Detected".

  • by Savage-Rabbit ( 308260 ) on Friday November 02, 2012 @07:36AM (#41851461)

    Even if there is temporal variation, why are they so certain that the methane in the air is due biological activities?

    They are not, in fact scientists have been really busy trying to come up with alternate explanations for the presence of methane on Mars. However, the indications that the methane may be due to life are strong enough to make this worth investigating even though the odds are probably rather slim.

  • Re:First (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Abstrackt ( 609015 ) on Friday November 02, 2012 @09:49AM (#41852355)

    Just out of curiosity (no pun intended), wouldn't it be fairly easy to identify false positives? For example, if the concentration of methane appears to increase the longer the rover is stationary the more likely it is that it's coming from the rover rather than the atmosphere, assuming no wind anyway. And if there was wind any methane produced by the rover would be carried away and become a non-issue as well, right?

Air is water with holes in it.