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back to article 'The Mystery of the Martian Doughnut' solved by NASA sleuths

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory says it has solved the mystery of a doughnut-shaped rock that appeared in front of its Opportunity Mars rover in January. Mars doughnut Before and after doughnut delivery (click to enlarge) The 1.5-inch rock, dubbed Pinnacle Island, appeared on Opportunity's cameras on January 8, and NASA …

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I've just found some wolves hiding in my shed

poor things.

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Anonymous Coward

I still think it is a turd.

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talking ass, its probably fungus growing out of the rock with the same shape indent in on the left image before it appears

it them aliens leaving footsteps behind laughing at them

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Tinfoil

It's clearly a tinfoil hat belonging to a martian, to protect it from that scary alien robot.

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And the question which comes to mind after watching the video is "so, what is the blast radius of an on-the-pad Saturn V explosion?"

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Coat

@Phil O'Sophical

African or...

... sorry, wrong punchline.

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Mushroom

Blast Radius

And the question which comes to mind after watching the video is "so, what is the blast radius of an on-the-pad Saturn V explosion?"

Nearly as big as the radius of the blasts from the backsides of anyone near that Atlas when it went off I should think...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Blast Radius

Probably a lot bigger than they thought. I remember after Challenger blew up they moved people a LOT further away from Shuttle liftoffs.

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There's a good article about it here:

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/591/1

Except that the one thing it doesn't mention is the actual radius of the explosion they were expecting. However, the upper limit *if all the fuel went up in one go* was something like half a kiloton, so, I'd want to be a very long way away from that.

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To me this highlights why we ultimately need people up there alongside the rovers. It takes days to figure out what this is due to the restricted view and restricted motion, whilst a chap standing there and looking directly at it could figure it out in moments.

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Aye but would the conspiricy nuts believe them as they would all be saying that the 'nauts were being filmed on a back lot in Hollywood?

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@Graham Dawson

Cost is:

1. Astronaut (let's assume they're a loner and happy just being the one there)

2. Oxygen (substantial)

2.5. Adequate energy generation for all of it (let's suppose nuclear for size and self-containedness).

3. Water (a small amount, so let's ignore it)

4. a unit to reclaim water from waste (not a small thing, can't ignore it)

5. Food (substantial) (or growing units to make it on the fly - pretty bloody substantial esp. if producing oxygen as well)

6. habitation for the journey (substantial) (can't fold a 'naut up small and let them freeze)

7. extra rocket size + extra fuel + probably extra rockets to get it all up to orbit (mega expensive)

8. shielding for guy/gal from external rays and one's own nuclear reactor.

9. And same again to get them back if they choose.

10. The higher cost of the transport (rocket) needed for the higher quality of the cargo (a human) - very expensive!

11. insurance against loss much higher?

12. Potential much greater negative PR if chappie/chappess leaves mortal coil in a glory of fireworks, or they just die dismally (very likely)

Given that, they could have just lifted a much larger and more sophisticated robot.

Have one of my rare downvotes - sorry.

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Re: @Graham Dawson

Oxygen can be recycled from CO2, so you don't need "substantial" amounts of it.

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Re: @Graham Dawson

Yeeeesss... And given the readiness with which carbon and oxicen combine tells you how easy it will be to separate the two again..

Good thing a nuclear reactor is assumed to be present, may as well scale it up a bit to pull that one off...

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Re: @Graham Dawson

Given these are all issues that need to be overcome anyway if we're ever to get a permanent presence off this rock, I don't quite understand your objection.

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Re: issues that need to be overcome

I think the problem is that there are a lot of issues that need to be overcome, most of them have nothing to do with extraterrestrial habitats but are, strangely, more pressing.

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@BlueGreen

You have a very beancountery view of the world - you are only looking at direct costs and discard the indirect costs and the benefits.

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Re: @Graham Dawson

@DougS: Oxygen's needed at about 1kg per day per adult. A crew of 10 on a 2-year round trip to Mars would only need 7300kg (no margin) without recycling, just CO2 scrubbing. And before you recycle oxygen from CO2, keep in mind that the human metabolism as produces water (lots of hydrogen in food to react with inhaled oxygen). Mir and ISS both used water electrolysis to recover oxygen from water, while carbon dioxide is mostly scrubbed and dumped overboard.

@BlueGreen: you have touched on some of the differences and challenges for sending astronauts to Mars versus nuclear robo-tanks, but those are the tip of the iceberg. A nuclear submarine has most of the features you mentioned, but it's also not nearly as expensive as a manned Mars mission. The big difference is getting all those systems (or at least their backups) to work flawlessly for several years at absolute minimum masses. "When failure's not an option, success gets really expensive."

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Re: @Graham Dawson @cray74

> The big difference is getting all those systems (or at least their backups) to work flawlessly for several years at absolute minimum [...].

I was fully aware of this - see point 10.

> "When failure's not an option, success gets really expensive."

That's a great quote, like it!

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Re: @BlueGreen @Vladimir Plouzhnikov

> You have a very beancountery view of the world

Abso-fucking-lutely I do.

> you are only looking at direct costs and discard the indirect costs and the benefits.

So you're criticising not my muttering, hunched-over Dickensian beancounteryness, but that I missed out some beans???

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Re: @BlueGreen @Vladimir Plouzhnikov

"but that I missed out some beans???"

Oh, yes! Send 20 mindless rovers to mill about aimlessly on Mars and your combined mission costs (including all the support on the home planet) will add up to something close to a manned mission and for little or no return other than some pretty pictures and continuous employment of a certain number of personnel. Send a team of humans and you will get science done, useful and useable returns and much more publicity (even if your humans would sadly expire in the process).

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What I don't understand is why they didn't include some sort of dry-wipe mechanism for the solar panels on Opportunity.

A swiffa cloth would have done the job!

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no robotic swiffas... it isn't worth it

... the rate of dust precipitation over the operational item's lifespan, as well as the risk of extraordinary 'dustings' et al, just don't warrant the cost. Remember that you can't use normal ICs, electronic circuits, and any additional mechanical or powered complexity also has a significant 'planetary transfer' cost- let alone the testing and bureaucracy cost...

Might be better that we put a robot cleaner up there someday to revive all the dusty panels, let alone clean up the donuts, turds and Chinese trash left all over the place- then again, if we ever colonise the place, maybe these things are best left well alone so the first inhabitants can feel they are well at home!

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Re: no robotic swiffas... it isn't worth it

How about a miniature gas compressor, then it can be used to blow the dust off

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Then again, if it's a type of fungus you'd expect it to pop up elsewhere in similar shape and chemical composition, especially at places you stirred up the surface and (perhaps) some fleeting captured moisture. Not only rocks roll down hill, you know?

It's not that I don't believe NASA but to really falsify any fungus speculation, just release the definite spectrometry so other scientists can determine it to be a dry rock mass of some kind using the numbers. But just to show another weird rock shape and suppose "origination" is not really scientific sounding.

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If NASA

Are going to give names to every small pebble they come across, they are going to run out of options preety soon. There's a lot of them pebbles out there ...

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Re: If NASA

> There's a lot of them pebbles out there ...

There's a lot of people down here.

Probably enough to give everyone a few Martian pebbles of their own.

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NASA funding

solved.

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Re: If NASA

Excellent, a new business idea, selling Martian pebbles!

C'mon NASA can you give them boring names like PEB-23791c so I can rename them and sell them to numpties? They'll get a certificate and everything!

Come to think of it, two would be enough, they'd never know! At ease!

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Anonymous Coward

That stone is tiny. Aren't Islands supposed to be a bit bigger?

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If it were a moss or fungus on Mars

What is to stop the darn stuff growing on the nice warm solar panels and gradually reducing their efficacy

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Anonymous Coward

" a former WWII paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne, and [...] a former missionary"

Good combo, apparently.

Kudos!

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Has anybody seen the "evidence" that Rhawn Joseph claimed to have showing that the pebble is fungus?

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Here it is (pdf). The article contains 25 photographs of various candidates of algae, fungi, and lichens on Mars. It's tricky though, attempting science from interpreting photographs and just on some personal title. The only defence I could think of is that at least these type of life forms would be expected, if any complex biology would be there. And they would battle for available water and perhaps pop up on the track of the rover. Sadly enough nobody predicted that ahead of time. Post-priori is all too easy...

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Windy on Mars?

So what is the surface pressure? And what are the constituent gases and ratios? I guess the gas types and pressure could lead to some interesting experiments here on earth. Just curious.

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Facepalm

Re: Windy on Mars?

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=atmosphere+of+Mars

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and there are no sensors on the machine to check and see just what it is?

imagine something of use and value all over the planet just under the coating of dust going unnoticed

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OK, so they've explained the doughnut

But who will explain why there are astronaut's footprints all over Mars, eh?

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Re: OK, so they've explained the doughnut

My thought too! Either that, or Martians wear shows with the same pattern as mine around the garden ...

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Anonymous Coward

We drove over it. We can see the track.

This looks like bootsteps to me.

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Anonymous Coward

it's a shell from a Martian crustacean. I have pictures that look like it. QED.

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There's some guy in NASA's spacecraft final preparation group who has been wondering all this time where he set down his jelly dougnut.

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Amazing times we live in

Finally an answer to, Which came first the cop or the donut? Now to see a real martian you need the rover to lay out a solitare spread and a martian will be along in a moment to tell the rover how to play it.

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