Join 3,524 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


"And the Cadillac of rovers is not far behind...."
September 28, 2011 7:14 AM   Subscribe

Martian Life's Last Stand in the Trenches? "Scientists have found water-bearing deposits on Mars that are out of step with what was happening elsewhere on the planet, raising the prospect that the sites could have hosted Martian life's last stand."
posted by Fizz (27 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
could have hosted Martian life's last stand.

Or it's next one - if the explorers don't tear it up too much.
posted by three blind mice at 7:19 AM on September 28, 2011


Great headline, but not so big a discovery. There are layered deposits on Mars consisting of clays and sulfates of a variety of ages. Whether they have anything to do with lakes, rivers or oceans remains to be proven.
posted by spaceviking at 7:38 AM on September 28, 2011


Robotic missions can do a lot, but at some point you will need boots on the (Martian) ground to get a definitive answer.
posted by CosmicRayCharles at 7:41 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


With the way improvements are happening in robotics, I'd guess that we'll land a robot that can "wear those boots" before we send people.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:56 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why would you need people there?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:56 AM on September 28, 2011


Let's say you want to figure out if there was evidence for some sort of bacterial life. How do you do that robotically?
posted by spaceviking at 8:08 AM on September 28, 2011


It's possible, I suppose, that we could send a sophisticated humanoid robot as a component of a two-part exploration team (walker, rover), or a three-part (add a flying machine) sometime before the end of the century. That might tell us a lot. "Hardened," such a team might explore Titan, Europa, or even (maybe) Venus. I hope I live long enough to see it. Diehard manned spaceflight proponent though I am, I have to admit that there probably isn't any reason to send people to Mars unless some sort of really big discovery is made -- archeological remains, etc. This seems pretty unlikely, but who knows? Maybe intelligent life did evolve there but never got past (or even up to) the aboriginal stage...
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 8:08 AM on September 28, 2011


Robotic missions can do a lot, but at some point you will need boots on the (Martian) ground to get a definitive answer.

With the amount of money you'd spend planning, building a spacecraft, keeping your meat bag explorers safe, and figuring out how to get them back, you could have learned much more with robots. They're both disposable and durable.

If you want to learn something the last robot couldn't tell you, just build another one. It's worked fine so far.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 8:09 AM on September 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Noctis Labyrinthus smectites are believed to have formed around 2 to 3 billion years ago, possibly providing a haven for life when the rest of the planet dried out.

"It was a surprise to see such young clays that must have formed in . . .


Mars is a geologist's paradise. This clay probably formed about 2-3 billion years ago, and that's considered YOUNG! Without plate tectonics, the whole history of Mars is just sitting there, layer upon layer, waiting to be discovered.

It makes Earth seem insanely chaotic, wasteful, and desperate to cover its tracks.
posted by General Tonic at 8:29 AM on September 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


The deposits are a type of clay called smectites...

And that was the last time the geologists let Jerry Lewis name anything.
posted by PlusDistance at 8:32 AM on September 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


With the way improvements are happening in robotics, I'd guess that we'll land a robot that can "wear those boots" before we send people.

So, ro-boots on the ground, then?

Still, pretty cool.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:35 AM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Let's say you want to figure out if there was evidence for some sort of bacterial life. How do you do that robotically?

Spaceviking, your namesake robot did exactly that in the 70s: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viking_biological_experiments
posted by jjwiseman at 8:57 AM on September 28, 2011


Everyone knows that giant sentient worm-like beings live deep beneath the surface of Mars.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:18 AM on September 28, 2011


Everyone knows that giant sentient worm-like beings live deep beneath the surface of Mars.

Everyone knows now, blabbermouth.

Loose communication/ingestion appendages endanger the Empire!

The Godworm's Information Directorate will be contacting you shortly. Do not attempt to flee.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:40 AM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


If this was an episode of The Twillight Zone, we'd realise humans evolved on Mars and fled it's dying surface for Earth. Of course, we'd realise that just as Earth passed beyond the point of living on and/or leaving.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:42 AM on September 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Everyone knows that giant sentient worm-like beings live deep beneath the surface of Mars.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 5:18 PM on September 28


Well, I hope they've accepted our Lord Jesus Christ as their saviour.
posted by Decani at 10:26 AM on September 28, 2011


They have their own wormy prophet, of course.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 10:28 AM on September 28, 2011


Everyone knows that giant sentient worm-like beings live deep beneath the surface of Mars.

Well, I hope they've accepted our Lord Jesus Christ as their saviour.


I take it you haven't been following the Bachmann campaign?
posted by PlusDistance at 11:02 AM on September 28, 2011


Everyone knows that giant sentient worm-like beings live deep beneath the surface of Mars.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 5:18 PM on September 28

Everyone knows now, blabbermouth.
Loose communication/ingestion appendages endanger the Empire!


A fruit is not ready currently. You must prepare a fruit. The color of a fruit is green. The color of a fruit to taste great and put inside your body is red.
posted by FatherDagon at 11:05 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


jjwiseman,

You made my point for me. After the dust settled, the scientific consensus was that despite receiving a positive signal in the Viking life detection experiment, it was due to abiotic processes or superoxidants in the martian soil.

Another robot, Phoenix, finally identified at least one of those superoxidants to be perchlorate presumably validating this hypothesis. However recent results have shown that the superoxidants are likely to have destroyed any organic matter during analysis therefore obliterating any evidence for the existence of bacteria in the soil.

Now, the question remains, what robotic experiment could you send using today's technology that would definitively detect life?

My point is that this is a very hard measurement for a number of reasons, first off you need to find a promising spot for the bacteria to be concentrated - this requires a fair amount of leg work and analysis which is painstakingly slow. Secondly you then need to analyze things in a detailed manner requiring complex sample preparation (chemical treatments, separations etc.), all of which is not possible to do robotically.
posted by spaceviking at 12:19 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why would you need people there?

Because we haven't sent people there yet!

With the amount of money you'd spend planning, building a spacecraft, keeping your meat bag explorers safe, and figuring out how to get them back, you could have learned much more with robots.

Eh, debatable and by planning, building and testing ways to keep people alive, we learn a lot about stuff about geology and people. WIN WIN.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:13 PM on September 28, 2011


I'm convinced that anyone who is against manned space exploration is just bitter that they won't be able to go up. Because they are slackers. Slackers!
posted by Horselover Phattie at 2:15 PM on September 28, 2011


Everyone knows that giant sentient worm-like beings live deep beneath the surface of Mars.

Chtorr is just mars?! Lame.

Come on, gerrold, we got duke nukem, chinese democracy, and dance with dragons. where the fuck is madness?
posted by flaterik at 5:02 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


General Tonic: "It makes Earth seem insanely chaotic, wasteful, and desperate to cover its tracks."

Metafilter: insanely chaotic, wasteful, and desperate to cover its tracks.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 7:00 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


The planet's climate is then believed to have shifted...

That reminds me of this article.
posted by salvia at 7:51 AM on September 29, 2011


With the amount of money you'd spend planning, building a spacecraft, keeping your meat bag explorers safe, and figuring out how to get them back, you could have learned much more with robots.

More about Mars, maybe. More about how to keep meat bag explorers safe, no. How many advances in medical technology are directly attributable to the space program need for measurement and miniaturization? Respiration, metabolism, etc.
posted by DU at 5:15 AM on September 30, 2011


Robots and humans should be used for space exploration, with testing for that combo done on the moon. With the ability for humans to teleoperate robots, it seems brainless not to use that to help explore places and eventually build things for humans. With only a 1-3 lag between the Earth and the moon, I'm surprised that route isn't being. Build a base with robots, throw some gerbils in there to make sure it's pressurized and has oxygen, then send astronauts to finish things out or build more complex shapes or keep the robots running (oh the irony).

Getting to and staying on Mars should be really interesting, as with a 20 minute time delay, Mission Control won't be able to micromanage everything (though they may try). Those astronauts will really be on their own. Cost wise, probably too expensive for any one nation. Might also help to sell broadcasting rights (I know, I know, it makes me shudder too)
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:21 AM on September 30, 2011


« Older American Sabor: Latinos in US Popular Music...  |  After 33 years, it has been an... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments