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Mars NASA Space

Mars Rover Curiosity Finds Ancient Lakebed 74

astroengine writes "The site where NASA's Mars rover Curiosity landed last year contains at least one lake that would have been perfectly suited for colonies of simple, rock-eating microbes found in caves and hydrothermal vents on Earth. Analysis of mudstones in an area known as Yellowknife Bay, located inside the rover's Gale Crater landing site, show that fresh water pooled on the surface for tens of thousands — or even hundreds of thousands — of years. 'The results show that the lake was definitely a habitable environment,' Curiosity lead scientist John Grotzinger, with the California Institute of Technology, told Discovery News. The finding was announced at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco."
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Mars Rover Curiosity Finds Ancient Lakebed

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 09, 2013 @03:13PM (#45642033)

    I find it incredible that we're getting all these results today, that it isn't some scifi or something. JPL, NASA etc are really doing a great job.

    I mean, it's pretty much been determined that Mars used to be habitable. We may be only a short time from someone finding real microbe fossils there.

    At the same time, exoplanet research is exploding. Someone just found oxygen in the atmosphere of some exoplanet. In the near future, we may be able to detect signatures of life on exoplanets, at least spectroscopically.

    Disclaimer: My niece works at JPL. I'm therefore somewhat biased in favour of them, and may not be completely objective. However, I believe my interest in these matters to be true. I was fucked in the ass by a goat yesterday.

    • I find it incredible that we're getting all these results today,.

      Why? Remember that congress is in the process of putting together the continued funding of the Federal Government as I type this. Time is running out on the temporary agreements currently in place and the horse trading is kicking up into high gear.

      Such announcements are at least partially timed by the political reality of having to obtain funding. NASA and JPL are just getting started sooner than the rest I guess.

  • by schlachter ( 862210 ) on Monday December 09, 2013 @03:13PM (#45642039)

    We welcome our rock eating microbe overlords...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "When I was your age, I made love to your grandmother by that lake! Eh? WHAT. No, WHAT? There ain't no more water in that lake? That's the first I heard of that."
    This was the response from my geriatric grandfather as I just read him the story from the tablet. Sigh.
    Now get off my lawn... ... ...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 09, 2013 @03:37PM (#45642317)

    ...still searching for new source of NASA funding.

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      ...searching for new source of NASA funding

      They can just claim they found dark life in dark rocks. Solid evidence not required. Works for astrophysics. (Although you risk getting elusive dark funding).

  • I really hate it when I have had something on my 'to visit' list and then find out I've waited too long...
  • genesis of life (Score:1, Insightful)

    by kipsate ( 314423 )
    On earth, it took 1 billion years before life started to appear. Just let that amount of time sink in for a second. A billion years. During this astoundingly long period, the conditions for life to appear have been orders of magnitudes better than on Mars. Lower radiation due to an atmosphere, warmer but not too warm, less toxic chemicals on the surface, and covered mostly with oceans.

    Now although there might have existed water on Mars, and even oceans, the reality is that the chance that life had been ab
    • Re:genesis of life (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 09, 2013 @03:54PM (#45642551)

      Mars had an atmosphere before it's core cooled and it lost it's magnetic field, so it would have been significantly more hospitable way back in the day. It wasn't always a "dried up" "reddish rock".

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Latest evidence is that life on Earth started a lot faster than that, maybe even less than half a billion.

      Mars cooled faster than Earth (in part because of the incident which led to Earth's Moon), and early Mars had a magnetic field and relatively thick atmosphere. It took over a billion (maybe 1.5, maybe as long as 2) for Mars to dry up.

      It's entirely possible that life started on Mars before it did on Earth. It's even possible (unlikely, but not impossible) that life started on Mars first then transfe

    • by JustNiz ( 692889 )

      I think I'm right in saying that the environment on earth when life started to appear would actually be lethal to most current-day life including humans, i.e. too hot/unbreathable/toxic and too much radioactivity.

    • the reality is that the chance that life had been able to start on Mars before it dried up and turned into a reddish rock is zero.

      Got a source to cite for that or are you reading from the book of Armchair Science for Slashdot?

      • by kipsate ( 314423 )
        I'm sorry, but this is just common sense. Life does not spontaneously appear if you stir in a bowl of water. The chances of a self-copying molecule (because that's all the first "life" can have been) to spontaneously appear is so small, that it took a billion years on earth to happen. Mars, being an environment orders of magnitude less favorable, there's just zero chance.
        • The whole "spontaneous" thing is ancient thinking. Today, we understand that the Universe consists of a complex set of reactions (which may yet be more complex, or our model overcomplicated). From Wiki [wikipedia.org]:

          The now-famous "Miller–Urey experiment" used a highly reduced mixture of gases—methane, ammonia and hydrogen—to form basic organic monomers, such as amino acids.[26] This provided direct experimental support for the second point of the "soup" theory, and it is around the remaining two points of the theory that much of the debate now centers. In the Miller–Urey experiment, a mixture of water, hydrogen, methane, and ammonia was cycled through an apparatus that delivered electrical sparks to the mixture. After one week, it was found that about 10% to 15% of the carbon in the system was now in the form of a racemic mixture of organic compounds, including amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins.

          Sounds a lot like mixing a "bowl of water" (calling it a bowl of water is oversimplifying too much for my taste) to me. Let's not start in on your blatant abuse of probability: orders of magnitude less does not equal zero. Try out Zeno's Paradox sometimes.

    • Re:genesis of life (Score:5, Interesting)

      by laura20 ( 21566 ) on Monday December 09, 2013 @04:22PM (#45642887) Homepage

      Not really true, at least in terms of conditions for life being better than on Mars. The Late Heavy Bombardment probably ended about 3.8 Ma ago, and even the more conservative estimates have life leaving identifiable marks by 3.6 Ma, and there are arguments for rocks even earlier than that -- and we don't have many of those. Life seems to have appeared on Earth not long after the crust cooled enough for such to survive.

    • ...the conditions for life to appear have been orders of magnitudes better than on Mars. Lower radiation due to an atmosphere, warmer but not too warm, less toxic chemicals on the surface, and covered mostly with oceans.

      For Earth-Life, yes. Now for hypothetical extraterrestrial life on the other hand...

  • All these reports of finding topographic depressions is depressing

    /buh dum tish

  • Beer cans, trolling jigs and outboard motors lost overboard.

  • Only if one can obtain intricately-organized molecules of amino acids, ALL laevo-rotary, to make up a system that can then communicate with concurrently-existing enzymes that are then able to reproduce that molecule. In other words, the "life" you're looking for needs so much more than mere "water" that to say "life" might've been possible is a good way to say, "I wanna seem ridiculous."
  • is alive, every rock around and in every lakebed or former lakebed is alive; guess it just depends on how we see things - the rocks, the trees, the birds, the bees, the yous, the mees - are all alive - they/we are expressions of life - the life that has been breathed into the all-everything from the one LIFE; and the expression of life is not life.

Radioactive cats have 18 half-lives.