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Old 10-12-2012, 05:24 AM
 
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BBC News - Nasa's Curiosity rover finds 'unusual rock'
Quote:
It was expected to be just another lump of dull basalt, but the first rock examined up close by Nasa's Mars rover proved to be a little more interesting.
The pyramidal object, nicknamed "Jake Matijevic" after a recently passed mission engineer, had a composition not seen on the planet before. Scientists have likened it to some unusual but well known rocks on Earth.
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Old 11-03-2012, 12:19 PM
 
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Curiosity took a sniff at the Martian atmosphere using the Sample Analysis of Mars (SAM) instrument in a first effort from the surface to search for the presence of methane. No methane has been detected yet. It will continue sampling the atmosphere during the mission. Methane has been previously detected on Mars by orbiters although I'm not sure if Gale Crater is located in the areas detected by the orbiters. Methane could be significant in that it could indicate possible past or present microbial life on the Mars, however Curiosity is not equipped to actually discover or observe such life forms. That would be a job for future rovers.


Curiosity Rover Finds No Methane on Mars
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Old 11-03-2012, 01:27 PM
 
Location: Wasilla, Alaska
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Originally Posted by NightBazaar View Post
Curiosity took a sniff at the Martian atmosphere using the Sample Analysis of Mars (SAM) instrument in a first effort from the surface to search for the presence of methane. No methane has been detected yet. It will continue sampling the atmosphere during the mission. Methane has been previously detected on Mars by orbiters although I'm not sure if Gale Crater is located in the areas detected by the orbiters. Methane could be significant in that it could indicate possible past or present microbial life on the Mars, however Curiosity is not equipped to actually discover or observe such life forms. That would be a job for future rovers.


Curiosity Rover Finds No Methane on Mars
The discovery of methane in the Martian atmosphere would certainly be a strong indicator of present microbial life, but I am not so sure about past microbial life. On Earth, with all its current and past microbial life for the last three billion years they have only contributed 0.000179% CH4 to Earth's atmosphere. Methane just does not appear to stick around in the atmosphere for very long. Oxygen is also a good indicator of microbial life, but since the Martian atmosphere is only 0.13% O2, it could be explained through other processes, such as dry static lightening or UV radiation that creates a chemical reaction, separating gas molecules.

I hope Curiosity is equipped to detect various forms of radiation. It would be important to know how much protection a manned-mission would require. Assuming we want to return them back to Earth alive. Since this also happens to be during a time when the sun is reaching its Solar Maximum cycle, it could let us know how bad things can get. If we were smart, we would plan a manned-mission during a Solar Minimum when Mars is closest to Earth.
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Old 11-03-2012, 04:59 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Glitch View Post
The discovery of methane in the Martian atmosphere would certainly be a strong indicator of present microbial life, but I am not so sure about past microbial life. On Earth, with all its current and past microbial life for the last three billion years they have only contributed 0.000179% CH4 to Earth's atmosphere. Methane just does not appear to stick around in the atmosphere for very long. Oxygen is also a good indicator of microbial life, but since the Martian atmosphere is only 0.13% O2, it could be explained through other processes, such as dry static lightening or UV radiation that creates a chemical reaction, separating gas molecules.

I hope Curiosity is equipped to detect various forms of radiation. It would be important to know how much protection a manned-mission would require. Assuming we want to return them back to Earth alive. Since this also happens to be during a time when the sun is reaching its Solar Maximum cycle, it could let us know how bad things can get. If we were smart, we would plan a manned-mission during a Solar Minimum when Mars is closest to Earth.
The idea of methane as an indicator of past life is that there could be pockets of methane below the surface which over time could be released by any number of events such as meteor collisions, erosion, landslides of crater walls, etc. But I agree there are other possible causes for methane. Still, where there's methane, there's a potential for life or past life. It's worth exploring to determine what exactly is causing methane eruptions (albeit very thin) on Mars. Methane doesn't appear to be planet wide in coverage, but seems show up here and there. A seasonal thing?

While people are anxious for a manned mission, I agree that we need to better understand what's involved before sending people. Robotics is the best way to blaze the trail. If future rovers discover evidence of present or past life, it might be a good idea to use robotics to collect samples and return them to Earth for more detailed study. In many ways Mars seems Earth-like, but at the same time, it's also a very hazardous place, as you note. Part of the key for a manned mission is going to be shielding from radiation. When the MSL was on the way to Mars, it was determined that there was less radiation in the interior of the craft and on the outside of it. The down side though is that the radiation levels inside were still far too high for humans. I'm sure we'll eventually resolve such problems.
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Old 11-08-2012, 01:33 PM
 
Location: Telford, Shropshire UK
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I do not believe there is any life on Mars. There's too much radiation, no surface water and barely any atmosphere. Even the most basic, microbial life would struggle under those conditions.

Life is more likely to be found on Jupiter's moon Europa, or Saturn's moon Titan. Aside from that, it's not likely to exist elsewhere in our own solar system.
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Old 11-08-2012, 02:03 PM
 
Location: Seattle, Washington
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Originally Posted by Nowaysis View Post
I do not believe there is any life on Mars. There's too much radiation, no surface water and barely any atmosphere. Even the most basic, microbial life would struggle under those conditions.

Life is more likely to be found on Jupiter's moon Europa, or Saturn's moon Titan. Aside from that, it's not likely to exist elsewhere in our own solar system.
I think extremophile lifeforms could very well exist below the surface of Mars.
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Old 11-08-2012, 02:28 PM
 
Location: Telford, Shropshire UK
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Originally Posted by cjg5 View Post
I think extremophile lifeforms could very well exist below the surface of Mars.
Mars is basically geologically dead. No liquid water beneath the surface, just ice. What would be their sources of heat / energy?
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Old 11-14-2012, 05:48 PM
 
Location: The Big O
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Originally Posted by Nowaysis View Post
Mars is basically geologically dead. No liquid water beneath the surface, just ice. What would be their sources of heat / energy?
Extremophiles have been found living inside of thick ice. Their energy sources can come from almost anything, including gas particles in the ice.

"Researchers have found microbes living in ice, in boiling water, in nuclear reactors."
Source: Extremophile Hunt Begins - NASA Science
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Old 11-16-2012, 05:55 PM
 
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Samples by Curiosity of radiation levels from the surface appear to suggest that Mars may be survivable for astronauts. So far, Curiosity is showing that surface radiation levels seem to be similar to that of low Earth orbit. If that turns out to be the case overall for the Martian surface, the question of radiation exposure to humans might be more easily resolved with regard to habitats and spacesuits. The trip getting to and from Mars though is another matter though in that better protective shielding is still likely to be necessary. Although it wasn't stated or determined, lower radiation levels could boost the prospect of whether or not microbes could have ever existed on Mars.


Astronauts Could Survive Mars Radiation, Curiosity Rover Finds | Space.com
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Old 11-20-2012, 04:58 PM
 
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It seems that the SAM lab on Curiosity might have something "earthshaking" to report in the coming weeks.

Big News From Mars? Rover Scientists Mum For Now : NPR
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