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"The Mars we thought we knew was not the real Mars," says Ken Edgett, a geologist with Malin Space Science Systems of San Diego, California, which built the orbiter's cameras. "I'm personally surprised."
His team, led by Massachusetts Institute of Technology geologist Maria Zuber, measured the plains of northern Mars and found them to be extraordinarily flat.
"It's as if from L.A. to Washington it is so flat that there is only a deviation of 10 meters (32.8 feet)," he said. "That is about as flat as can be."
Such data could provide important evidence that the northern plains in at least some part of Mars' past were in fact oceans. The ocean theory remains controversial, given that water on the surface of Mars today would dissipate immediately into the thin atmosphere.
Mars Weather It's Stranger Than You Thought
There is no doubt in Mumma’s mind that something is going on at Mars. "Mars was wet…was it also alive…or is it now alive?"
But "alive" could be geologically alive and not necessarily biologically alive, Mumma said.
"Or Mars could be biologically alive," he added. "Or maybe both. So to me that’s the real issue. Now we think that Mars is not a dead planet. Even if it’s just geology that is occurring and releasing this methane…that’s pretty darn interesting. And the geologists are very excited about this prospect."
Your wanting Mars to be alive doesn't breathe Life into it, even with magical incantations such as "life will find a way."
Originally posted by Doc Velocity
Well, it goes without saying that the longer we search, the more we'll learn...hopefully. But when discussing the current state of our scientific knowledge of The Red Planet, the glaring fact is that Mars is not alive.
Any counter declaration is pure speculation, at best, and drug-induced fantasy, at worst.
Determining the release locales for methane on Mars is critical to the selection of future landing sites, "to search for organics that are either biological or abiotic," Mumma said. Finding out whether methane releases are seasonally dependent is also of keen interest, he said.
There is no doubt in Mumma’s mind that something is going on at Mars. "Mars was wet … was it also alive … or is it now alive?"
"Alive" could mean merely geologically alive, Mumma said.
"Or Mars could be biologically alive," he added. "Or maybe both. So to me that’s the real issue. Now we think that Mars is not a dead planet. Even if it’s just geology that is occurring and releasing this methane … that’s pretty darn interesting. And the geologists are very excited about this prospect."
Perhaps tomorrow they'll find a human footprint on Mars with a trilobite fossil embedded in the heel.
Until recently, hopes for life on Mars were slim. The Viking landers of the mid-Seventies appeared to show that the planet was barren. But the discovery of peculiar microscopic fossils inside meteorites originating from Mars in the late Eighties and early Nineties once again raised the prospect of alien life.
Now two separate studies, published in yesterday’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, make a strong case for the fossilized life theory and may just put the controversy to rest.
Imre Friedmann and his team of researchers from the NASA Ames Research Center point out that the magnetite crystals inside ALH84001 form chains with gaps between t hem, resembling a string of pearls. These crystal chains are difficult to explain without the presence of life: "Such a chain of magnets outside an organism would immediately collapse into a clump due to magnetic forces," Friedmann explains. The other researchers, led by Kathie Thomas-Keprta of the NASA Johnson Space Center, offer supporting evidence: they note that the magnetite crystals inside the meteorite are both physically and chemically identical to those found in terrestrial magnetotactic bacteria—organisms that use a string of magnetic crystals inside their bodies to navigate, much like an internal compass. If these crystals are in fact remains of magnetotactic bacteria, they are not only definite proof of past life on Mars but evidence of the oldest life ever found. --Harald Franzen
Among the featured guest scientists were Dr's. Matthew Golombeck, Michael Carr, and Jack Farmer. Dr. Golombeck is a geologist and was
Project Scientist for the Mars Pathfinder mission; Dr. Michael Carr is a USGS geologist working with NASA, and Dr. Jack Farmer, a NASA Exobiologist at the Ames Research Center in California.
I had been studying some Ordovician Period rocks I had found along the shores of Lake Ontario. They contained ubiquitous holes on all sides, and were the result of 500 million year old Bryozoans.The Bryozoan fossils were eventually dissolved out of the sandstone matrix by acidic waters percolating through the rock for thousands of years. In many of the samples I collected, there were no body fossils at all - only the holes were they once resided.
On a coffee break, I approached first, Dr. Golombeck, and then Dr. Carr, and asked if they could give me a brief interpretation of how they thought the holes were made in my Lake Ontario specimens. In separate statements made to me by both scientists, each said that only volcanic outgasing could
Explain the numerous holes.
I then specifically asked if there could be a biological interpretation for the holes - both of these scientists said no. Needless to say, I was very surprised by their answers.
Keep in mind, I have the utmost respect for both Dr. Carr and Dr. Golombeck. However, they are not biologists or paleontologists. Dr. Jack
Farmer who was sitting nearby was next, what would he say, I thought? I pulled out my Lake Ontario specimens and handed one to Dr. Farmer.
He asked me where I had found it? I told him I would disclose the location after he gave me his interpretation of the numerous holes in the sandstone. At first he considered a volcanic origin as did Dr's. Golombeck and Carr, but then said he had seen similar holes produced by bivalves along the coast of California. Bingo. The exobiologist gets the cigar! What I did not tell the three NASA scientists is that I was writing a paper on a hypothesis I had based on my Lake Ontario specimens and rock images I have studied from the Viking 2 Landing site on Mars.
As I detailed in my paper (published in the Ichnology Newsletter - an informal scientific review of trace fossils), the holes in the rocks at the Viking 2 site look very much like the Bryozoan dissolution cavities from my Lake Ontario specimens.Of course they also look like the sort of holes bivalves produce along the shorelines of California as Dr. Farmer suggested. But that was it - here was a viable biological hypothesis.
The reason I decided to make the comparison between the Lake Ontario rocks and Viking Lander rocks is because no one had postulated a biological interpretation up to this point- at least not in any scientific literature available to me
Since the Viking mission to Mars 30 years ago, no mission to Mars has focused exclusively on searching for evidence of organic material or biological activity, Storrie-Lombardi said. Now the ongoing Phoenix mission and the planned Mars Science Laboratory and ExoMars missions are positioned to reverse that trend.
"The addition of an ultraviolet triage system to search for hints of organic material fits well into the extensive suite of organic detection instruments planned for the MSL and ExoMars expedition," he said.
The Spirit rover, and its twin, Opportunity, which is scheduled to land later this month, cannot perform complex chemical or biological tests that could prove the presence of life. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration aims to tackle the hardest questions last, after years of geological spade work to see if Mars was, or still is, conducive to life. The robot geologists are to look mainly for traces of water, examine rocks, minerals and land forms for clues to the planet's watery past.
The Phoenix mission has its limitations beside a shoestring budget of $420 million. It doesn't carry instruments capable of identifying fossils or living things. Rather, the lander has a set of ovens and a gas analyzer that will heat soil and ice and sniff the resulting vapors for life-friendly elements. Its wet chemistry lab will test the pH, or acidity, of the soil much like a gardener would. And its microscope will examine soil granules for minerals that may indicate past presence of water.
Until then, Mars isn't even a graveyard. It's just a super-cold ball of dust.
Originally posted by Doc Velocity
So, the point is we'll always be limited in how we exploit Mars, we'll always be living in pressurized containers and wearing self-contained breathing apparatus.
Originally posted by pynner
so... good soil... water ice... damp soil... there are arguably "trees" on mars, or at least some other plant life... why can't they just come out with it already!!!
thanks for the update
Originally posted by weedwhacker
Originally posted by zorgon
Well instead of 'just saying' how about showing me a machine that works in the deserts on Earth...
Originally posted by no name needed
Show me a several hundred million dollar machine in the desert here on Earth and I will show you a machine that works just like you describe.