Discussion Curiosity and the life on Mars question.

RGClark

Mathematician
Joined
Jan 27, 2010
Messages
1,635
Reaction score
0
Points
36
Location
Philadelphia
Website
exoscientist.blogspot.com
There had been concern expressed by some scientists that for its cost the Mars Science Laboratory rover had been a disappointment. But two separate discoveries relating to life on Mars may have reversed that sentiment:

‘A Great Moment’: Rover Finds Methane, a Clue That Mars May Harbor Life
By KENNETH CHANG DEC. 16, 2014
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/17/science/a-new-clue-in-the-search-for-life-on-mars.html

Curiosity Rover Finds Life's Building Blocks on Mars.
by Mike Wall, Space.com Senior Writer | December 17, 2014 07:00am ET
http://www.space.com/28033-mars-life-building-blocks-curiosity-rover.html

This second discovery relates to the finding of organic molecules in surface samples on Mars. The Viking missions of the 70's led to the wide spread conclusion of no life on Mars because the Viking landers were unable to identify organics in the samples collected, and because it was felt liquid water could not exist under Mars surface conditions.

Now, with the realization that liquid water can exist in small quantities in supercooled conditions under Mars conditions and that organics do exist on Mars, the question of current life on Mars needs to be revisited.


Bob Clark
 

Admiral_Ritt

New member
Joined
Jul 31, 2012
Messages
77
Reaction score
0
Points
0
What is disappointing is that the landing site and 1st year travel path , while safe, it is also monotonous (things have gotten more interesting
more recently)

As someone suggested a while back, there were very exciting alternative site for curiosity land near. Near lava tubes, Inside Mariner valley at it's widest point. Near the Pole where Ice water is not far. Instead we are
treated to something like what I see on my way to Flagstaff AZ, on the Southwest Chief, which is fine for price I paid for the train ride.

I think Curiosity's legacy is also very strong Rover Engineering and landing systems, it will make future landing's less risky enabling MORE variety of landing sites.
 

Thunder Chicken

Fine Threads since 2008
Donator
Joined
Mar 22, 2008
Messages
3,191
Reaction score
1,637
Points
138
Location
Massachusetts
I think some of the monotony of the expedition is that it is an endless repeat of "Curiosity found signs of X, where X is something believed to be required for life". From a scientific standpoint this is excellent. From a public enthusiasm standpoint it is getting old. I personally think Curiosity was well worth the investment, great bang for the buck, but the public wants little green men, not endless vistas of desert and statements of "Might have been water here, interesting!".

I think back in the days of Viking we really thought of Mars as a completely alien world, and we thought that the requirements for life were not available on Mars. Forty years on we now know a lot more about the extreme conditions under which life can live, and we're seeing that Mars really isn't so hostile as compared to some of those extremes. We're also seeing that organics are not uncommon throughout the solar system or even the universe. Mars frankly isn't that weird or alien to us anymore.

The natural follow-on question is "Great, so is/was there life on Mars"? What finding would put this question to bed? What measurements need to be made? Do we need to get a microscope on some soil to see if there are critters in it? Is this something that we really need to have done by humans, or can we do this robotically? I think if there is life on Mars, it will be surprisingly similar to organisms that might be found in Antarctica. What would one need to do to determine if life existed in a shovel full of sand from Antarctica?
 

BruceJohnJennerLawso

Dread Lord of the Idiots
Addon Developer
Joined
Apr 14, 2012
Messages
2,585
Reaction score
0
Points
36
I think some of the monotony of the expedition is that it is an endless repeat of "Curiosity found signs of X, where X is something believed to be required for life". From a scientific standpoint this is excellent. From a public enthusiasm standpoint it is getting old. I personally think Curiosity was well worth the investment, great bang for the buck, but the public wants little green men, not endless vistas of desert and statements of "Might have been water here, interesting!".

I think back in the days of Viking we really thought of Mars as a completely alien world, and we thought that the requirements for life were not available on Mars. Forty years on we now know a lot more about the extreme conditions under which life can live, and we're seeing that Mars really isn't so hostile as compared to some of those extremes. We're also seeing that organics are not uncommon throughout the solar system or even the universe. Mars frankly isn't that weird or alien to us anymore.

The natural follow-on question is "Great, so is/was there life on Mars"? What finding would put this question to bed? What measurements need to be made? Do we need to get a microscope on some soil to see if there are critters in it? Is this something that we really need to have done by humans, or can we do this robotically? I think if there is life on Mars, it will be surprisingly similar to organisms that might be found in Antarctica. What would one need to do to determine if life existed in a shovel full of sand from Antarctica?

Im not a biologist, but I think the idea of a robotic microscope isnt too absurd. Given all of the imaging apparatus already on curiosity, I see no specific reason why a remote optical microscope couldnt be sent, other than the usual challenges in building mars rover hardware. (big enough as it is)

The real difficulty would be confirming that any detected microbes were definitely not carried along by the rover itself. We already do this to outbound spacecraft, but all it would take to contaminate the sample would be one bacterium...
 

RGClark

Mathematician
Joined
Jan 27, 2010
Messages
1,635
Reaction score
0
Points
36
Location
Philadelphia
Website
exoscientist.blogspot.com
Somehow missed this when it came out in April:

On Mars, Liquid Water Appears at Night, Study Suggests.
by Calla Cofield, Space.com Staff Writer April 13, 2015 01:01pm ET
http://www.space.com/29072-mars-liquid-water-at-night.html

Combined with Curiosity's discovery of organics on Mars, this raises the possibility that Viking did indeed discover life back in the 70's:

IN DEPTH
PLANETARY SCIENCE
Mars rover finds long-chain organic compounds.
Eric Hand*
Science 27 March 2015: Vol. 347 no. 6229 pp. 1402-1403
DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6229.1402
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/347/6229/1402.summary?sid=6473d5b5-79f7-4226-a8aa-6e1d8665f6be

Bob Clark
 

RGClark

Mathematician
Joined
Jan 27, 2010
Messages
1,635
Reaction score
0
Points
36
Location
Philadelphia
Website
exoscientist.blogspot.com
Somehow missed this when it came out in April:

On Mars, Liquid Water Appears at Night, Study Suggests.
by Calla Cofield, Space.com Staff Writer April 13, 2015 01:01pm ET
http://www.space.com/29072-mars-liquid-water-at-night.html

Combined with Curiosity's discovery of organics on Mars, this raises the possibility that Viking did indeed discover life back in the 70's:

IN DEPTH
PLANETARY SCIENCE
Mars rover finds long-chain organic compounds.
Eric Hand*
Science 27 March 2015: Vol. 347 no. 6229 pp. 1402-1403
DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6229.1402
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/347/6229/1402.summary?sid=6473d5b5-79f7-4226-a8aa-6e1d8665f6be


Did 40-year-old Viking experiment discover life on Mars?
http://phys.org/news/2016-10-year-old-viking-life-mars.html

The definitive book on the subject:

Mars: the Living Planet.
By Barry E. DiGregorio
https://www.amazon.com/Mars-Living-Planet-Barry-DiGregorio/dp/B005ZOFKI8

The Case for Extant Life on Mars and Its Possible Detection by the Viking Labeled Release Experiment.
Gilbert V. Levin
Patricia Ann Straat
Both authors were affiliated with Biospherics Incorporated, Rockville, Maryland, throughout the development and execution of the Viking Labeled Release experiment.
Address correspondence to:
Gilbert V. Levin
10709 Blossom Dr.
Goodyear, AZ 85338
E-mail: [email protected]
Astrobiology
Vol. 16: Issue. 10: Pages. 798-810
(Issue publication date: October 2016)
DOI: 10.1089/ast.2015.1464
http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/ast.2015.1464#/doi/full/10.1089/ast.2015.1464 [free open source]

Bob Clark
 
Top