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back to article Mars probably never wet enough for life, nuclear bomb crater indicates

Spoilsport French scientists probing unusual clay deposits discovered in an old nuclear bomb crater say they have found that the planet Mars has never been - as previous researchers have hoped/suggested - wet enough to support Earth-style life. Clays found on the red planet dating from its Noachian period (around four billion …

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Boffin

Well....

I'm no astrophysicist, so I don't know if this is actually feasible, but would it be possible to land a rover at one of the polar caps? That way we can easily discover whether water is still present on Mars and if there is microbial life, wouldn't there be traces in the water?

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Re: Well....

It couldn't be solar powered, those latitudes do not receive enough sunshine to power a rover. A nuclear battery would likely work.

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Re: Well....

Hell...OOO... Did you happen to actually read the article?

The author wrote the following: "Nobody is arguing that the red world is totally free of water even now: snow has been seen falling in its polar regions by robot landers..."

And here's the report from NASA:

September 29, 2008

"NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander [has] detected snow falling from Martian clouds. Spacecraft soil experiments also have provided evidence of past interaction between minerals and liquid water, processes that occur on Earth.

A laser instrument designed to gather knowledge of how the atmosphere and surface interact on Mars has detected snow from clouds about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) above the spacecraft's landing site. Data show the snow vaporizing before reaching the ground."

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/phoenix/news/phoenix-20080929.html

~OldDuck~

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Re: Well....

Hell...OOO...Did you happen actually to read the post?

The chap's making, on the face of it, the reasonable suggestion the water may be a good place to look; if there's any on or just below the polar surface (rather than just drifting down, frozen from the sky).

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It seems to me that this chap has jumped from "These clays *can* be created without water." to "These clays have been created without water." without any intervening experimental evidence.

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Well theres no evidence either way yet.

It seems likely from current knowledge of the early solar system that Mars was most likely pretty dry. There are signs on Mars that could be interpreted as being caused by water as we had no other explanation for these clays.

We now have so this is a more likely cause.

Shame, but science doesn't even pretend to grant wishes...

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indeed and, leaving aside the newspaper/tabloid interpretations of the current scientific research (*), one of the purposes of the current rover is to take the actual position of "these mars clays look similar to ones on earth that were created by water" and do some more research to see.

(*) - "mars clays look like water formed earth clays" = "OMG! Water found on Mars. 'Scientists' say that Mermaids Lived there. Phone this premium rate number for your Martian Psychic Mermaid Horoscope"

and of course, now we can have: "mars clays look a bit like atomic bomb formed earth clays" = "OMG! OMG! Martians Destroyed in Nuclear Holocaust! 'Scientists' say Martian Terrorists caused Planet's destruction"

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@AdamT: Not to mention...

You forgot to mention:

"Radiant redhead Dejah from Cydonia (18) says 'I think it's too early to say with any degree of certainty what processes might have formed these claylike deposits, but I can't wait to have my curiosity satisfied!"

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Anonymous Coward

> It seems to me that this chap has jumped from "These clays *can* be created without water." to "These clays have been created without water." without any intervening experimental evidence.

As opposed to previous scientific theory: these clays can be created with water therefore they must have been created with water. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

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Re: six of one

Indeed. I'm quite happy to slag off anyone who jumped to conclusions previously, but it would have been nice to think that the previous error made it *less* likely that the new evidence will be abused in the same way.

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Coat

Re: @AdamT: Not to mention...

"Radiant redhead Dejah from Cydonia (18) says ..."

So this sparkling insight was reported in an in depth interview on Page 3-Mammaries?

I know. I'm ashamed of it myself. :-)

Colin

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Trollface

Earth-style life.

What about Mars-style life?

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Mushroom

For a moment there...

...I thought Greenpeace had managed to drive French nuclear testing to Mars

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Joke

Re: "For a moment there..." Yep, the Force de Frappe took off on De Gaulle's.........

........orders and nuked Mars from orbit some time in the late sixties. They've been covering up ever since.

I want a proper tinfoil hat icon.

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Alien

duh

It's a well known conspiracy theory I just made up that all the water on Earth was once on Mars. And it escaped from an asteroid strike and traveled to Earth taking life with it. Everyone knows that!

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Your conspiracy theory

needs more conspiracy. I suggest something involving Dick Cheney.

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Re: Your conspiracy theory

Will that be plausible in a theory about intelligent life?

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Re: Your conspiracy theory

No but Space Nazis will definitely be in it!

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Re: Your conspiracy theory

"No but Space Nazis will definitely be in it!"

Don't be so utterly, utterly ridiculous.

Space Nazis are on the Moon, not Mars. Have you not seen the documentary 'Iron Sky'?

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Re: Your conspiracy theory

Spot on. They fled Nazi Germany at the end of WW2 - you know back when all they had was a couple of 8 year old boys defending Berlin with sling shots - yes they all fled Nazi germany in GIANT FLYING SAUCERS armed with death rays - you know that could probably have helped them win the war but they didn't use them cos it would've been really uncool and they weren't that bothered about the war really - and went to live in Antarctica for a bit where they had a secret MASSIVE WAR with the US fleet, then went to live on the moon and are secretly running shit now. That documentary was awesome. Anyway the discussion of life on Mars is redundant as it was already proven beyond all reasonable doubt that humans came to Earth from Mars in that previous Mars mission where Tim Robbins got killed and Gary Sinise became the human ambassador to our new alien friends.

NASA really should do their homework before wasting tax payers' money in such a cavalier fashion.

Disgusted, Midlands.

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Joke

Mars: a lesson from prehistory

Billions of years ago Mrs was inhabited by organic farmers and renewable energy enthusiasts.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Mars: a lesson from prehistory

There's something missing from that statement. Was it supposed to say "my Mrs" :)

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Pint

Life on Mars

could not possibly be any more crueler than life on earth.

Have beer mate and cry yer heart out.

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Snow on Mars

All the details in the link: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/phoenix/news/phoenix-20080929.html

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Alien

Mars the "most Earthlike planet "?

Venus would eclipse Mars in the "most Earthlike" stakes. For starters, Venus is 80% the mass of Earth, while Mars is just 10%. Venus also wins on radius (95% vs 50%). It's closer to the Earth, too. And while life on Venus is unlikely, its not impossible. It's just that Mars is so much easier to explore; and no human is ever going to stand on Venus.

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Flame

A rather unmanly drill on Curiosity

What's needed is a big honking excavation drill and lots of bulldozers. If there's life there, it's seriously subterranean. Pecking at little rocks with a dentist drill and eyelash brushes is not respectable. It minces. We need Massive Thrudge on Mars.

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FAIL

Venus

Word on Venus - Terraforming. Blue-green algae sprinkled into the upper atmosphere percolate down and Viola! (as opposed to Violoncello) - tasty Venusian real estate. You can't odds that, chief.

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Re: Venus

Primo, it's "Voilà", not "Viola!"

And then, Venus is drier than an old mummy roasted in the desert, most of the water having been cracked and the hydrogen blown into space.

There still MAY be Heechee tunnels, but don't put your money on these.

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Re: Venus

Why would you want to voyage to Venus to venture your viola?

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IT Angle

Re: Mars the "most Earthlike planet "?

Indeed, planetary scientists like to call Venus "Earth's twin".

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Re: Venus @Destroy All Monsters

Hey Destroy, have you lost your sense of humour today? If "Viola!" is a good enough exclamation for Down Under, it'll do for me.

Parlo francese, apprezzo uno scherzo.

Paris, because je voudrais toursuiller with elle.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Mars the "most Earthlike planet "?

If you think it's so good, you go on holiday there ;)

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Mushroom

Obviously

The ancient Martians totally destroyed the environment and created these Noahcide clays by Nuclear war?

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Re: Obviously

Indeed yes Sir!

It is now clear to me that global warming has been caused by unwise French nuclear testing.

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Alien

Re: Obviously

"The ancient Martians totally destroyed the environment and created these Noahcide clays by Nuclear war?"

Yup, the few 'filthy rich' jumped into their space 'Noah's Ark' type vehicle, pressed the 'Fire' button and watched the destruction while heading off to planet Earth. Where....................... Zillions of years later, the whole scenario is starting up again, but this time in reverse. When Will They Ever Learn?

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Fossil Finds...

Somehow, I get the feeling that if any fossils are found in the next 2 years, we'll never hear about it in OUR lifetimes.

But, it WOULD be astonishing and kewl if suddenly, out of NOwhere, former, now-extinct life remains are found, even if they are 20,000,000 long dead. Would be too scary if they were found dead, but only about 5,000 years dead. If dead THAT recently, we could be doomed because it could be natural, or because there may be dormant beings undiscovered.

Either way, it would cast a whole new perspective on our place in the Uniwerse.

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Unhappy

Re: Fossil Finds...

Either way, it would cast a whole new perspective on our place in the Uniwerse.

Unfortunately, not so (unless Martian biochemistry proves to be utterly un-earthlike). Extinction-level meteor impacts can eject bits of Mars into orbits that are later captured by Earth, and to a lesser extent (because it's more "uphill") vice versa. Microbes can survive incredible accelerations, and a long time in vacuum. Therefore, it's a near certainty that whichever planet first evolved microbial life would have spread its microbes to the other. So if we find familar RNA-based microbes on Mars, they probably originated here. That, or Earthlife originated on Mars.

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Re: Fossil Finds...

What i failed to articulate was that it would impact our perception of our place in the universe, WRT the fact that to date, we think we are the only sentient beings. That's because so far, nobody/nothing has ever proven us right or wrong. But, for fear or entertainment purposes, or calls to prepare for the end of the world, or claims to prophesy and so on, imagine would it be like if suddenly, finally, we can let our hair down that right in our own back yard we find evidence of an extinct advanced set of animals or other beings. Of course, given that we've not found structures, roads, or the like, even if we did find fossils, they'd likely be very very pre-advance -- assuming no interstellar travelers crashed and died there trying to get to what WE call Earth. Then again, it could be that WE are in "the back yard", but the front-yard-occupants got killed off.

At any rate, it seems to hold that Earth had the optimal conditions for sustaining life that was started here locallly, and Mars was just too hot, too dry, and not right at the time for life that we can visualize. But, "Martian life" is still a possibility. That is probably why NASA and international bodies want to avoid introducing to Mars microbes not likely present on Mars or avoid reintroducing them in case what we take to there is active.

As for the risk of contamination, if non-contamination is THAT important, why hasn't there been build a "Decontamination Chamber" of sorts (send ahead of Curiosity) into which the Rover would be driven, parked, and repeatedly subjected to ND-TC (non-destructive-to-Curiosity) treatment that solar UV and G forces might not have killed. If it's just the drill bits, it probably would not need to be ST:TNG-grade stuff, especially since we don't have pattern buffers, collimators, quantum force fields, or other Treknobabble-of-the-week stuff at our disposal (decontamination was complicated by the unique structure of the pre-anu-dioxcipitall pre-cortex lobes behind his 3rd condron filament...... You know, bowl-of-soup-spewing babble like that, which in itself would be a reason to watch TNG, to see which episode would on the floor rolling my ass off in laughter as the writers one-up themselves, possibly on inhalable/injectable contaminants, themselves..... (really, many TV adverts that defy ordinary logic arise from stress-induced people resorting to drugs to take the edge off their lives -- one of my friends working in the insanely-competitive and cutthroat marketing/advertising industry in the 90s was serious when I joked about it... Anyway....)).

BTW, in your lst para, you mentioned RNA-based microbes on Mar and possibly originating here... After all this time, the separation time and existence in two differrent environments, is it likely that the microbes would develop in compatible ways or diverge, possibly incompatibly? Is it necessarily so that cross-transferrence would result in cross-contamination? Even if today Curiosity's pre-exposed drill bit contaminates Mars, how many millions of years would it be before humans or the Martian microbes would know? In which direction would the finger point? Just some thoughts...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: we think we are the only sentient beings

The universe is just too big for Earth to have the only sentient life. Our chance of finding it is negligible, but it's probably out there, or has been, or will be.

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Even now...

There is ample evidence that liquid water flows on the planet from subsurface vents even now. Beneath the surface would be an ideal place to look for life!

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Boffin

It's a reasonable hypothesis but it doesn't account for the river and canyon formations which imply lots of water.

with all the enduring meteor impacts on Mars it something that would need to be considered.

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Go

No life?

If they find no life there, ever. Then is Mars of use to Mankind? I did read that terraforming would not work, as it can't retain a thick enough atmosphere. Now Venus can and does retain a very thick atmosphere, or so I'm told. Could Venus ever be Terraformed? or is to close to the sun?

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Re: No life?

Venus is too close to the sun for terraforming (unless orbiting sunshades are possible). Venus suffers/ suffered a runaway greenhouse effect caused in the first instance by water vapour, which we couldn't do without.

Mars's problem is low gravity, meaning atmosphere (especially water vapour) tends to drift off into space. However, that's a slow problem taking geological time. It *might* be possible to terraform Mars by directing a lot of cometary ice at the planet to replace or supply the necessary water. Then pump loads of CFCs into the Martian atmosphere to create a super-greenhouse effect, to compensate for the weaker sunlight.

Of course that way there would never be an ozone layer to keep UV out, but Mars is further from the Sun so theUV will at least be weaker by proportion. We'd have to colonise the Oort clouds first, though, to get hold of the vast amounts of water-ice it would take.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No life?

Well, it depends on what you mean by terraforming. If you want to recreate Earth, then you're out of luck unless there are some serious advances in Science. But if you want to make Mars habitable its not impossible. Tough, but not impossible.

Given enough time (say about 200 to 300 years of constant work on the planet, again barring major technological advances), we could probably make the Martian atmosphere breathable enough so plants, animals and people could walk on the surface, it'd be cold still though. Think along the lines of Mongolia or Central Asia during the Wintertime, but all year long.

The simplest way to do this would be by pumping greenhouse gases like halomethanes and halofluorines into the atmosphere to trap other gases, along with introducing bacteria and plants to fix the existing CO2 atmosphere to Oxygen. Remember CO2 is indeed plant food and some bacteria can convert it also. The trick is keeping them alive with the extremely low atmospheric pressure and the cold.

Kim Stanley Robinson actually included this theory somewhat in his Mars Trilogy. He didnt go into a lot of detail about specifics but Mars has the opposite problem with greenhouse gases (aside from CO2) than we do, we have to find a way to trap gases in the atmosphere.

Neither Mars nor Venus are easy, they will both take time and vast amounts of money, its like some kind of cosmic test.

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So the ancient Martians might not have had oceans of surface water, but the did apparently have nukes? ;)

FWIW, you Register folks use the word "boffin* WAY too much.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

"FWIW, you Register folks use the word boffin WAY too much."

No such thing as too much boffinry!

C.

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no they don't

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Actual boffinry is good. Overuse of the dumb word is not, imho. :)

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You guys at El Reg fed the troll

All this Frenchy was doing was getting some exposure for his rather boring research on clay.

Linking it to whatever is currently in the news, if it wasn’t for the convieient Mars Rover, he would have talked about how the track at the Olympics could have been impacted by lava flow or something else (probably)

The dammed Frenchy Boffins are learning the way of the PR Guru

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Happy

So, alternative pathway *found* but not *proven*

*but* if I were a betting life form I'd not that volcanoes turn up all over the solar system. Free water less so (on this evidence *alone* however).

So whenever this clay turns up the assumption is no longer *safe* that there is water around (you just have to find it).

Otherwise some first rate jokes and trolls.

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