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Mars Rover Opportunity Finds Life-Friendly Niche 55

astroengine writes "Gale Crater, the region being explored by NASA's Curiosity rover, isn't the only place on Mars where ancient microbes may have thrived. New evidence from NASA's senior robotic Mars scout, Opportunity, shows life-friendly water once mixed with telltale, clay-bearing rocks that now lie on the broken rim of Endeavour Crater, an ancient 14-mile wide basin on the other side of the planet from Gale. 'If I were to go Mars early in time and wanted to do a well, I'd do it there,' planetary scientist Ray Arvidson, with Washington University in St. Louis, told Discovery News. 'It's like drinking water. This would have been a niche for whatever life at the time existed.'"
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Mars Rover Opportunity Finds Life-Friendly Niche

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  • by TrollstonButterbeans ( 2914995 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @09:04PM (#46052615)
    Funny thing is though, the total surface area of Mars is only a little over 3 times the land area of Asia.

    Mars is quite small, so excavating at maybe under 40 sites on the entire planet should be statistically a good search.
  • Idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 23, 2014 @09:06PM (#46052631)

    Here is idea for studying the subsurface that is affordable enough that we could actually live long enough to see it; we know the position (orbit, velocity, etc) of Mars with great precision. Why not build a cheap, simple impactor and send it to Mars. Aim it a few hundred meters away from a rover and blow a crater in the surface, recording the impact for spectral analysis and throwing debris around the crater for close inspection. A carefully guided projectile should have a CEP of only tens of meters; risk to a rover would be negligible.

    So simple you can take the engineering for granted and so fast we could have it done in only slightly more time than the flight.

  • Re:Idea (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 24, 2014 @04:23AM (#46054315)

    "cheap and simple" and "Mars" do not occur together

    Mars mission costs are mostly sunk into the lander/package (i.e. rover.) Launchers aren't that expensive. The idea offered here is just a small inertial warhead with a simple guidance package. No tethers, retro-rockets, balloons, lander telemetry, solar collectors, autonomous navigation, etc., etc. All that complexity and cost is gone.

    The cost would be low and the mission profile simple; blow out a crater near a rover.

    current CEP for Mars landers is measured in kilometers

    We have reconnaissance orbiters around Mars now. The CEP could be reduced several orders of magnitude by using the orbiters for precise guidance.

    Part of the reason for high CEP with lander missions is the deceleration profile. This is not a lander. It's a high velocity projectile following a ballistic trajectory all the way to impact.

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