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Rover Exiting Crater To Continue Martian Marathon

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the keep-on-truckin' dept.

Mars 150

Riding with Robots writes "The robotic geologist Opportunity has nearly reached the rim of Victoria Crater, which it is leaving after a year of exploration inside. Rover handlers decided to abandon attempts to approach the crater's cliff walls when they saw a power spike similar to the one that preceded a broken wheel on its twin, Spirit. Opportunity is already making do with a stuck robotic arm. The mission's manager said, 'Both rovers show signs of aging, but they are both still capable of exciting exploration and scientific discovery.' Opportunity is set to continue trekking across the Meridiani Plains of Mars, even though its wheels have already seen 10 times the use they were designed for. Meanwhile, Spirit has survived yet another harsh Martian winter to produce another striking panorama." Adam Korbitz notes other Mars-related news that funding has been approved for the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Genomes (SETG) Project. The project was one of 15 selected to receive funds through a NASA research opportunity program. The stated goal of the proposal is to "develop a PCR detector for in situ analysis on other planets, most immediately, Mars. This instrument is so sensitive it should allow the detection very low levels of microbial life on Mars, and will determine its phylogenetic position by analysis of the DNA sequence of the genes detected in situ."

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PCR? With what primers? (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780025)

PCR requires 2 primers of known sequence, roughly 20 bases long, between 100 and 1000 base pairs apart. Given that we have absolutely no sequence information from which to design these primers, how do they expect to do PCR on completely unknown DNA?

Re:PCR? With what primers? (5, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780045)

Using the DNA samples from Area 51 that we obtained from the Martians that crash landed in Roswell, of course. Duh.

Re:PCR? With what primers? (4, Insightful)

Shimmer (3036) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780255)

It's much worse than that. What makes them (or you) think that alien life will have any DNA at all?

They seem to be assuming that alien life will share a common ancestor with Terran life. This seems like a pretty dubious assumption to me.

Re:PCR? With what primers? (5, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780469)

Because they have to start somewhere? It isn't unreasonable to think that most naturally occurring forms of life are based on DNA. Yes, that is an assumption that could be wrong. We have one data point to work from. If our assumption is wrong, we can create different methods of detection other types of life.

My question to you: what kind of machine would you put together that would search for microscopic life forms that are of a type we have yet to imagine? When you answer this, then you can mock the article's approach.

Re:PCR? With what primers? (2, Interesting)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780563)

I think that's a ludicrous assumption. A reasonably safe assumption is that most life in the Universe is carbon-based, simply because carbon is capable of making the largest and most complex molecules. There's no reason I can think of to think that the end result of any abiogenesis process has to be DNA as the replicating molecule. Carbon can probably be used to produce all sorts of replicating molecules.

Re:PCR? With what primers? (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780595)

I noticed that you did not answer the second part of my post. What kind of process WOULD you use to detect these Non-DNA based life forms?

Re:PCR? With what primers? (1)

eean (177028) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780841)

I liked the idea that got struck from the Viking mission. Put out a petri dish with some yummy organics, and drop some martian dust on it. See if anything grows.

IANAChemist, but seems like there should be some way to detect interesting organics other then a DNA test...

Re:PCR? With what primers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24780855)

There are any number of much better ways, ranging from the "wolf trap" to microscopes. I would think that at least finding evidence of complex carbon based molecules would take precedence over trying to run PCR on hypothetical DNA (in truth, NASA would likely want that evidence before sending this device). That said, Mars is actually the only planet where this has a chance of working, given the number of possibly life bearing meteorites that have surely passed between there and here.

Re:PCR? With what primers? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780753)

Presumably the grant is for a few tens of thousands of dollars (I looked a bit but did not find an amount); if that is correct,(in my opinion) it is quite okay that it is based on a ludicrous assumption (because it might increase their ability to detect dna from 'negligible' to 'maybe').

Re:PCR? With what primers? (4, Insightful)

jesdynf (42915) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780627)

My question to you: what kind of machine would you put together that would search for microscopic life forms that are of a type we have yet to imagine?

A microscope.

Re:PCR? With what primers? (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780691)

At first, I thought this was snarky (and it may very well have been meant that way). However, if you could send the probe with a microscope, and a method for having the visual sent back to Earth for a team of analysts, this might not be a horrible idea.

Re:PCR? With what primers? (1)

jesdynf (42915) | more than 6 years ago | (#24781365)

Fifty-fifty sort of thing. Didn't some dudes recently make a microscope the size of a dime? I just think we've got better odds dropping microscopes from space and looking to see if they land on marscrobes than we do trying to genetype the damn things. GATTAQA?

Re:PCR? With what primers? (4, Informative)

drerwk (695572) | more than 6 years ago | (#24781599)

Kind of like the microscope on Phoenix? http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/phoenix/news/phoenix-20080814.html [nasa.gov]
100nm resolution. DNA however is only 3nm wide.

Re:PCR? With what primers? (1)

jesdynf (42915) | more than 6 years ago | (#24781945)

Question asked concerned a tool to find microscopic life. Microscopes are an excellent way to go about that. "Gorsh, nothing down there that looks like DNA" doesn't really answer the question, even if "yes, if it existed, it probably DID use a DNA analogue" is a good assumption.

Of course, finding DNA would be sweet, it's true.

Re:PCR? With what primers? (1)

beckerist (985855) | more than 6 years ago | (#24782109)

DNA information is still (generally) extracted chemically. Optical microsocopes will never have (thank you laws of physics!) the resolution required to be able to actually SEE DNA, and to send an electron microscope wouldn't be prudent at this juncture (thank you Dana Carvey!)

Re:PCR? With what primers? (1)

jesdynf (42915) | more than 6 years ago | (#24782919)

Yes. I know. That's why I keep talking about microscopic life. Microscopes are good at seeing microscopic life. The poster I was snarking at -- who, if he's reading this, has surely seen justice done at this point -- asked about microscopic life. So I mentioned a microscope.

Re:PCR? With what primers? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 6 years ago | (#24783191)

The problem with microscopes is that you often have to know what you're seeing to understand what you saw.... High magnification images are complex and there are many inorganic reactions that can give you complicated looking structures. Most optical microscopy is done using a pretreated and often stained sample. Likewise electron microscopy. Many microscopic images look like semi random garbage on first look.

Now, it's a bit of a no brainer to put some sort of microscopy on future planet probes, but using them to find entirely new lifeforms is harder than you might think.

Or maybe a flow cytometer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24783049)

My question to you: what kind of machine would you put together that would search for microscopic life forms that are of a type we have yet to imagine?

A microscope.

Images are nice, but a flow cytometer could test thousands of particles per minute and sort likely cells (using fluorescent stains for lipids, proteins, nucleic acids etc.) that alien microbes are much more likely to have than DNA similar enough to ours for PCR to work. Fancy flow cytometers can even snap pictures of the one-in-a-thousand particles that test positive.

Re:PCR? With what primers? (1)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 6 years ago | (#24783319)

Oh my God. Thank the heavens that you are so much smarter than the scientists at NASA. What would they do without you! I highly recommend they bring you on staff, and you can be in the much vaunted position of "Minister of Keepin' it Real".

Re:PCR? With what primers? (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#24783719)

A microscope.

The physical detection approach is so 80's. Google for life's MySpace page instead.
       

Re:PCR? With what primers? (2, Informative)

waferbuster (580266) | more than 6 years ago | (#24782479)

yep, based on the single datapoint of earth life using DNA, it's reasonable to expect and look for ET DNA. However, after rolling a die once and getting 4 it would be similarly reasonable to expect subsequent rolls to also be 4.
Extrapolating based on a single datapoint is shaky at best. But without alternative substances to check for, DNA seems reasonable.

This reminds me of the old saying about when holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Re:PCR? With what primers? (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 6 years ago | (#24782733)

And that is what is so exciting yet frustrating about this type of thing. We know so very little that we don't even know the right questions to ask.

(much like sex )

Re:PCR? With what primers? (1)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780651)

Yes and no. I think it is entirely more likely that life inside our solar system shared a common past at some point, than it is for life to just so happened to form completely independent of one another.

If life happened to form in two different places, independently, within our solar system, either we hit the cosmic jackpot, or life is much easier to form than we ever thought possible. And if that is the case, then through the vast amounts of universe that there is, we would have seen SOMETHING SOMEWHERE from a more intelligent race. After all, we can't be the only beings that would be sending/looking for extraterrestrial signals, could we?

It just seems to me, that it is more probable that if life isn't plentiful and easy to form, that finding life somewhere else in our own back yard means that we came from the same origin.

Re:PCR? With what primers? (2, Insightful)

Jhon (241832) | more than 6 years ago | (#24783379)

And if that is the case, then through the vast amounts of universe that there is, we would have seen SOMETHING SOMEWHERE from a more intelligent race.

(A) we're either the first, or basically it takes ~X amount of time (X being the age of the universe) for intellegent life to evolve and we can't see ET sending us signals because he hasn't evolved yet or he's sending them from 200k light years away as we speak and wont see them for a very long time.

(B) Signal loss is so huge in the vastness of space we just cant possibily detect ET's version of Eight is Enough and Electro Woman and Dyna Girl. Maybe it's a blessing...

After all, we can't be the only beings that would be sending/looking for extraterrestrial signals, could we?

Yes we could.

Re:PCR? With what primers? (2, Interesting)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780743)

> This seems like a pretty dubious assumption to me.

We don't know how life arose on Earth but the assembly of complex self-reproducers from simpler compounds doesn't seem like any everyday occurrence. We do know that material can be transferred from Mars to Earth and possibly vice versa. So if we find life on Mars we have three scenarios:

  1. Life arises spontaneously on Mars by unknown mechanism. Life arises spontaneously on Earth by unknown mechanism.
  2. Life arises spontaneously on Mars by unknown mechanism. Life is transported to Earth by known mechanism.
  3. Life arises spontaneously on Earth by unknown mechanism. Life is transported to Mars by known mechanism.

A simple application of Bayes' theorem tells us that the first is the least likely.

Re:PCR? With what primers? (1)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | more than 6 years ago | (#24781191)

>the assembly of complex self-reproducers from simpler compounds doesn't seem like any everyday occurrence.

The evidence seems to show that the appearance of cellular life occurred quickly after the Earth developed a stable surface cool enough for widespread liquid water. That would argue that "life arising spontaneously" is not particularly unlikely. That might change which variable you assign as A and B in Bayes' Theorem.

Re:PCR? With what primers? (1)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 6 years ago | (#24782271)

> The evidence seems to show that the appearance of cellular life occurred quickly after the Earth developed a stable surface cool enough for widespread liquid water.

That's an interesting but tricky way to argue. After all, what we observe is conditioned on the fact that we are here now and hence that there needs to have been ample time for our own evolution. Frankly, as soon as we veer to close to anthropic arguments I'm no longer as confident as I once was about what arguments are valid. (But check out section 3.6 of Barrow and Tipler.)

Re:PCR? With what primers? (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 6 years ago | (#24781617)

Or even:

4. Life arises somewhere else, and is transported to Earth and Mars by a known mechanism

Re:PCR? With what primers? (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 6 years ago | (#24782653)

A simple application of Bayes' theorem tells us that the first is the least likely.

Hidden in that bunch of pseudo-mathematical drivel you still haven't got a clue what the probabilities are, so you're just making it up. Who says life is rare? We find life in the stranges places here on earth, maybe the solution to abiogensis (creation of life) is blatantly simple but we can't see it because there's so much life, so much competition and evolution it's difficult to imagine the most basic of forms life could take on. If there was any other phenomenon in the universe, any at all, my first thought would be "cool, we can have trinary star systems" not "cool, that must be the only trinary star system in the whole universe". Why really, should life here on Earth be unique?

They'd be earth organisms (1)

phr2 (545169) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780831)

that got there aboard Viking, Mariner, etc. The terraforming has already begun.

THe problem is life vs. chemical process (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#24781099)

the problem is which is which. It should be obvious they are making the assumption that life that we are interested in has DNA. After all, we know about prions (not life, but certainly infective). But unless we have a FULL chemical lab there, we will not know what to look for. So the safest (and easiest) solution is to assume that life has some common grounds. What I am going to be curious about, is that it is possible for DNA/RNA to have different base pairs. This will ahve to assume the bases that we know. So, it is also possible that we will miss life unless it had a common heritage with us.

BTW, this does show something interesting. In the end, our lack of ability to detect life unless it is similar to ours shows that our first explorers will need to be on a one way trip. At the very least, they will need to be with out earth contact for at least 10 years if not longer. Do we really want to risk bringing back something "new and interesting"?

Re:THe problem is life vs. chemical process (1)

Missing_dc (1074809) | more than 6 years ago | (#24781733)

It's like the stories you hear about an army guy getting the permanent assignment overseas because his "helmet-head spaceman" caught something, is turning black and gooey and the army does not want him bringing it back home.

Re:PCR? With what primers? (1)

JebusIsLord (566856) | more than 6 years ago | (#24781713)

If life is commonplace, there are probably at least some chemical commonalities (carbon, for example). It may be that the formation of DNA or DNA-like molecules is simply inevitable in an organic chemical soup... we really should be checking the composition of organics on asteroids, I think.

If the test is robust enough to detect DNA-like structures (DNA/RNA/etc with maybe different base pairs, but the same general structure) or complex proteins, i would make a semi-educated guess that we'd be able to identify life.

If life is really exotic, then we might have to meet it face-to-face, and STILL not recognize it as such.

Re:PCR? With what primers? (2, Interesting)

drolli (522659) | more than 6 years ago | (#24781717)

Well.

a) Working point for life is liquid-solid

b) To form structures, valence bonds are suitable

c) Combinatorics requires more than two valence bonds to make different molecules

d) bonds should be strong in comparison to temperature, yet not forever

All this make carbon a pretty likely candidate to be involved. Hydrogen is painly so abundant that it *will* be involved and oxygen is also not seldom. So it is not unlikely that life somewhere else may be based on a cemistry similar to ours.

Re:PCR? With what primers? (1)

m.ducharme (1082683) | more than 6 years ago | (#24781847)

That assumption is probably one of the things they are trying to prove, namely did Earth life originate off-planet? If they get a negative result because they don't find common ancestry, they've added some evidence against the panspermia theory.

Re:PCR? With what primers? (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 6 years ago | (#24781871)

What makes them (or you) think that alien life will have any DNA at all?

The Earth and Mars have been exchanging biological material all along, through meteor impacts. To me, that makes it highly likely that there is a biosystem there, and fairly likely that there is some commonality between the two biosystems.

Re:PCR? With what primers? (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | more than 6 years ago | (#24783139)

It's much worse than that. What makes them (or you) think that alien life will have any DNA at all?

Because it may not be alien. Martian rocks have been found on earth. [wikipedia.org] They were apparently ejected into space during metor impacts on Mars, drifted through space, and eventually landed on Earth. It is reasonable to assume that some terrestrial rocks made the opposite journey. Life may have hitchhiked on these rocks in either direction. So Martian life may have originated on Earth, or vice versa.

Easy work around (1)

MaizeMan (1076255) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780269)

You can get around the need for primers by fracturing the DNA using restriction enzymes or mechanical sheering to break the unknown DNA into shorter fragments and then ligating adaptors onto the ends of your new 100-1000 bp fragments. Then you use primers complementary to your adaptors and viola you're in business.

My question is why we'd expect life on Mars to use DNA at all.

Re:Easy work around (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24780437)

My question is why we would not expect life on Mars to have DNA?

From the f'ing article (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24780419)

16S RNA gene PCR, the most sensitive detector for life on Earth

This detector is an amplification strategy called the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) that is based on artificial replication of DNA. PCR is a technique which is used to amplify the number of copies of a specific region of DNA, in order to produce enough DNA to be further analyzed. In order to use PCR, one must know the exact DNA sequences which lie on either side of a given region of interest in DNA. One need not know the DNA sequence in-between. A DNA sequence is the precise order of appearance of 4 different deoxyribonucleotides. The 4 components are: Adenine, Thymidine, Cytosine and Guanine, abbreviated A, T, C and G, respectively. The arrangement of this 4-letter alphabet is the DNA sequence.

The PCR strategy for life detection emerged from the exploration of the diversity of life, which revealed about 500 Ã'universal genesÃ" that are carried in the DNA of every known living thing on Earth (7). The gene that has changed the least over the past 3-4 billion years is the 16S (or the related eukaryotic 18S) ribosomal RNA gene. Ribosomal RNAs are the main structural and catalytic components of the ribosome, a molecular machine that translates RNA into proteins (8,9).

It is the slow rate of change of the 16S gene that makes it the best detector of life. Within the ~1500 nucleotides of the 16S gene, there are multiple 15 to 20 nucleotide segments that are exactly the same in all known organisms (8). These regions of the 16S gene are essential for its catalytic activity and have remained unchanged over billions of years (8).

  The technology of PCR involves adding stable 15-20 nucleotide long DNA primers, a stable enzyme nucleotide triphosphate monomers, and a simple heat pump that thermally cycles 20-30 times in 2 hours. To amplify 16S genes from a crude sample, universal DNA primers from the ribosomal RNA gene that are about 18 bases long, oriented towards each other, and about 1000 bases apart are added to crudely purified DNA isolated from an environmental sample (for example, 1 ml of sea water or 1 gram of earth). For the ribosomal genes, the DNA primer 5Ã GTGCCAGCAGCCGCGGTAA 3Ã which corresponds to nucleotides 515 to 533 of a ribosomal gene, and 3Ã TTCAGCATTGTTCCAWYGGCAT 5' which corresponds to the base pairing complement of nucleotides 1492 to 1510 are added to an extract prepared from soil (M, Y, and W are codes for mixtures of two such nucleotides necessary to capture all 16S genes). Upon heating to 95ÂC and then cooling to 55ÂC, these DNA primers pair with their complement on each DNA strand, even if there are only a few DNA molecules in a sample. After heating to 75ÂC, the DNA polymerase will polymerize the nucleotide monomer components also in the tube to duplicate the DNA strands. There will now be four strands, where originally there were only two. If one repeats the thermal cycle with all the same components in the same tube, now there will be eight strands; repeat again - now 16, etc. Thirty cycles will produce one billion (230) copies of the original sequences. Because the DNA polymerase enzyme used derives from a thermophilic microbe, it can survive repeated cycles of heating to 95ÂC. The amplified DNAs from the PCR can be analysed for size or DNA sequence. PCR will even amplify complex mixtures of 16S ribosomal RNA genes from communities of organisms in environmental samples. Thus, PCR with DNA primers corresponding to the conserved elements can be used to amplify DNA from any species more than a billion fold, without need to isolate, culture, or grow the organism in any way (9).

Re:PCR? With what primers? (4, Informative)

Eicos (1338783) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780565)

They would use random primers. A DNA hexamer (six-base sequence) is sufficiently long to serve as a PCR primer, but short enough that it would take only 4096 different types of molecule to comprise all possible sequences. Of course, we don't want the sample DNA to be plastered in our primers, so we'll pare those 4096 down to a handful, at least one of which, in any sample sequence of significant length, will nonetheless find somewhere to anneal. Once we've gone through enough cycles, it's likely that we'll have amplified at least some segment of the sample DNA. Then, getting the reaction contents purified and sequenced is simply a matter of applied microfluidics.

Re:PCR? With what primers? (3, Informative)

SlashBugs (1339813) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780587)

Use random primers, just like you do for reverse transcription when you want to pick up all the RNA sequences in your sample. The reaction's efficiency would take a hit, but if all they want to do is detect DNA (or maybe even sequence a few very short sections) it could probably be made to work.

A bigger problem is the enzyme used in the PCR. IANABiochemist, but I'd expect the PCR to only work if the Martian bugs hava genomes based on double-stranded DNA chemically very similar to ours.

There are plenty of stable nucleotides that could work as components of DNA but, for some reason, aren't used in Earth's life. Ditto chirality: Using the same constituent atoms, one can build almost identical but left- or right-"handed" versions of molecules. For some reason -- probably just chance -- Earth's life is based on "lefthanded" molecules, meaning that we can't produce or consume right-handed molecules. For example, if we synthesise right-handed sugars (easy for a chemist to do, but expensive), they have the same chemical composition, melting point etc, but the structure is such that our enzymes can't use it as a source of energy. Heck, even the sequence of any DNA scooped into the chamber will be important, as if influences the reaction conditions you need for the PCR to work.

If there is life on Mars, this test would only be able to detect it if Martian life is spookily similar to our own. Which would, I'll admit, be even more exciting than just "life on Mars" because it would hint toward evidence of Panspermia or possibly some sort of fundamental rules about what life is able to look like.

Re:PCR? With what primers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24780911)

There are exactly 8 bio-suited information storage molecules.

L-sDNA
L-sRNA
L-dDNA
L-dRNA
R-sDNA
R-sRNA
R-dDNA
R-dRNA

Cellular life uses R-dDNA for data storage and R-sRNA for data transport. All R- variants are used by at least one kind of virus. As dDNA is the most stable storage medium most life on Mars should be using it.

The only thing that is liable to be missed is the chance that it uses L-dDNA, which would be a facinating discovery (independent origin).

Re:PCR? With what primers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24780623)

Simply STFW (skimming the fine webpage?) one notes a phrase "did life catch a ride?"

That phrase implies that they're not looking for "super freaky unique and un-predictable alien genetic matter" so much as "something similar to earth dna," which renders the "what are they going to use for a base?!?!?!!" question irrelevant.

Re:PCR? With what primers? (1)

Slackcity (211117) | more than 6 years ago | (#24781267)

To paraphrase the article: there is a sequence of nucleotides common to all terrestrial organisms with known end sequences (possibly multiple alleles thereof) and hence known PCR primers. If PCR succeeds that would tell us that DNA of common ancestry was present. Subsequent analysis would tell us the sequence and hence when the organism diverged from terrestrial common ancestor.

The article also addresses contamination and engineering issues.

The article is a slow and difficult read if you don't know PCR in detail but I thought I'd paraphrase as best I can since, while I'm not a molecular biologist, I've spent the last year writing SSO analysis software... As always, wikipedia is your friend.

Re:PCR? With what primers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24782451)

um... obviously from the Roswell bodies, duh!

Re:PCR? With what primers? (2, Informative)

Dr.Dubious DDQ (11968) | more than 6 years ago | (#24782453)

Their working hypothesis (spelled out on the linked page) is that early in the development of microbial life there is (they claim) a statistically relevant chance that microbes developed on either Earth or Mars could have survived transfer from one planet to another via "meteoric exchange", which there would appear to have been a lot more of back ~3.5billion years ago when the first signs of modern-style microbes appear in the geological record.

Their assumption is that regardless of whether microbial life originated on Earth and possibly got blown to Mars during a major meteor impact, or vice-versa, if there are microbes growing in both environments now they'll be related.

I was going to say that you don't necessarily need specific bases for DNA amplification - there are some "whole genome amplification" techniques now that use a mix of small "random" primers to get amplification of (hopefully) most or all of the DNA in a sample rather than just one gene.

However, the description of the project does explicitly say they're planning to try to amplify 16s ribosomal DNA sequences, which are very handy for phylogenetic analysis of known terrestrial prokaryotes:

"a set of DNA oligonucleotides that also universally detect ribosomal genes (906-922F=GAAACTTAAAKGAATTG and 1407-1391R= GACGGGCGGTGWGTRCA, where K = G or T, W = A or T, and R=G or A) but prime within the 519 to 1492 region amplifed in the first step will be used. "

I'm a bit skeptical of the "universality" of "universal" primers, especially as to their usefulness after ~3,000,000,000 years of divergence. On the other hand, unlike some of the previous tests a positive result from this experiment would be very unambiguous if they can rule out contamination.

zzz (2, Interesting)

apodyopsis (1048476) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780047)

so.. we all know what would happen if Microsoft designed a motor car, but what would happen if the Rover Team designed one?

(I don't know about you, but I think still working after 4 years is damn impressive)

Re:zzz (4, Funny)

Cheerio Boy (82178) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780205)

so.. we all know what would happen if Microsoft designed a motor car, but what would happen if the Rover Team designed one? (I don't know about you, but I think still working after 4 years is damn impressive)

It would use almost no gas, almost never break down, but there would be a 4 to 40 minute lag between when you push the gas pedal and when it moves. :-D

Re:zzz (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24780297)

Well, it has 33% of those features in common with your average US* made car then.

* please replace with your own country if you are not from the US, to achieve maximum insult level.

Re:zzz (5, Funny)

TempeTerra (83076) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780951)

And when one of the wheels seizes up, support will tell you to be excited because your car is now also a plow!

Re:zzz (1)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780969)

It would also have a maximum speed of .1 mph.

Re:zzz (2, Interesting)

captainClassLoader (240591) | more than 6 years ago | (#24782717)

And a tire life of ~400K miles (~644K km).

Re:zzz (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24780407)

so.. we all know what would happen if Microsoft designed a motor car, but what would happen if the Rover Team designed one?

It doesn't matter, you couldn't afford it... Even if you are Bill Gates and Oprah's kid. Wiki:"The total cost of building, launching, landing and operating the rovers on the surface for the initial 90 day primary mission was about US$820 million." Ignoring the costs, the teams of trained operators in mission control, the autonomous technology, and the types of redundancy and preparation that go into a highly visible space project with this kind of visibility ... wouldn't you be left with a solar powered golf cart?

Panorama (1)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780107)

Does someone have a link to a medium-res copy? The thumbnail is tantalizing, but I don't want to download a 42MB TIFF.

Re:Panorama (4, Funny)

TheModelEskimo (968202) | more than 6 years ago | (#24781095)

Re:Panorama (1)

pomakis (323200) | more than 6 years ago | (#24781925)

OMG!!! If you look closely at this photo, you can see alien life!!! How could the NASA folks have missed seeing this!

Re:Panorama (2, Funny)

TheModelEskimo (968202) | more than 6 years ago | (#24782049)

Yeah, forgot to mention my source image was from a friend who used to be in the Republican Guard...he says NASA always edit their panos before the public see them. Some of their cattle mutilation images from Titan are pretty impressive.

Re:Panorama (1)

JeepFanatic (993244) | more than 6 years ago | (#24781143)

http://www.digitalaura.net/mars/269438main_Bonestell_1477A_1599A_L257atc-resized.jpg [digitalaura.net]

50% of original size saved as 100% quality JPEG - file size about 5MB.

Re:Panorama (1)

doti (966971) | more than 6 years ago | (#24781903)

100% jpeg is not worth it.
98% gives the same result, and half the size.

I mean, as you increase the quality factor, the size grows more and more, and the quality drops less and less.

secrets to rovers' success? (2, Interesting)

jschen (1249578) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780151)

Are there any key lessons to be learned from these rovers' success? Or is it simply that they have no critical consumables (being solar powered and all) and they evidently were overengineered? I guess for starters, having redundancy and the ability to turn off failing components is good, seeing as they're six wheel drive and one of the rovers is now dragging a bad wheel around. What else has been learned from these rovers about engineering long-lasting probes?

Re:secrets to rovers' success? (4, Insightful)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780303)

Are there any key lessons to be learned from these rovers' success? Or is it simply that they have no critical consumables (being solar powered and all) and they evidently were overengineered? I guess for starters, having redundancy and the ability to turn off failing components is good, seeing as they're six wheel drive and one of the rovers is now dragging a bad wheel around. What else has been learned from these rovers about engineering long-lasting probes?

Another lesson to learn is that despite highly publicized mistakes, NASA does have a lot engineers who are both brilliant and wise.

Re:secrets to rovers' success? (3, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780765)

Another lesson to learn is that despite highly publicized mistakes, NASA does have a lot engineers who are both brilliant and wise.

I don't think anyone has questioned that. But one mistake from one engineer and it's game over, so it takes a very unique process to deliver on that. Even in healthcare people die because of mistakes, and while fatal to the patient it's not like the hospital will crash and burn because of it. It doesn't matter how remote in the wilderness you are here on Earth, it's a lot easier to fix or try again than any space probe. I think SpaceX is starting to figure out how hard it is to avoid all potential problems at once...

Re:secrets to rovers' success? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24780391)

Have JPL---i.e. government bureaucrats for you insipid libertarians---manage the primary engineering, not private prime contractors.

Re:secrets to rovers' success? (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#24782819)

I guess for starters, having redundancy and the ability to turn off failing components is good, seeing as they're six wheel drive and one of the rovers is now dragging a bad wheel around.

I don't think they turned "off" Spirit's wheel. It simply doesn't work. Perhaps they can stop sending voltage to it to save power, but it drags non-rotating because its broken. Ideally, it would be free-rolling, at least as an option. As it is now, it plows through the soil and gets snagged on rocks and crevices.

They're afraid of Opportunity's wheel getting stuck like this also while still in the crater. The pre-symptoms in Oppy's wheel is very similar to what Spirit first reported several months before outright wheel failure. Thus, they decided to have Oppy leave the crater and explore the flat-lands rather than risk being unable to crawl out of the crater if the wheel croaks the same way.
 

Re:secrets to rovers' success? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24782945)

Are there any key lessons to be learned from these rovers' success? Or is it simply that they have no critical consumables (being solar powered and all) and they evidently were overengineered?

The detail you're missing is a misconception that they are "overengineered".

Let's take as example TFA's statement: "even though its wheels have already seen 10 times the use they were designed for". The Rovers have a design life that they must meet without physical intervention; at the end of the design life they must be fully functional. As a result they are going to be in very good shape at the end of the design life, and it will take quite a bit more use before they become non-functional.

This is completely different than what we're used to because most of what we use is easily replaceable. So something like a washing machine has a design life that requires only that a profitable number of units survive beyond their warranty period.

For the Rovers to do what was needed, they had to be as good on their "last" day as their first. The result is a "finished" mission with a very durable unit that has quite a bit of life left. One of the many useful things we're getting from continuing the mission is irreplaceable feedback on our engineering estimates for this sort of mission.

I'd very much like to know what the projected ultimate life of the wheels is. That's quite different from the mission design life, and it's what we're watching play out now.

Re:secrets to rovers' success? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24783441)

Maybe it's the swiss quality no compromise engines:
http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/swissinfo.html?siteSect=105&sid=4943257

i'm surprised the spiders haven't destroyed it (1)

AP31R0N (723649) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780159)

Or that Optimus Prime hasn't stomped on it.

Re:i'm surprised the spiders haven't destroyed it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24782265)

I'm surprised the Spin let it through to begin with.

I hope V'Ger has an Acrobat reader (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24780167)

Because the SETG team's directions to lab/shipping info is only available in pdf format.

Why do we look for martians? (0)

nickswitzer (1352967) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780191)

Why look for martians? If we find one, they're just going to be turned into a celebrity and buy a small poodle and say, "That's hot" to everything... wait a second! Is Paris a.... nevermind, can't be, she's way too dumb, and definitely not a good actress.

Life forms... o/~ (1, Offtopic)

Caspian (99221) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780201)

those precious little life forms...
Those tiny little life forms... o/~
Where are you... o/~

Re:Life forms... o/~ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24780525)

I just love scanning for lifeforms. Only when I have my emotion chip installed though.

creators to continue planet/population rescue (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24780211)

you could help. fear is unprecedented evile's primary weapon. that, along with deception & coercion, helps most of us remain (unwittingly?) dependent on its' greed/fear/ego based hired goons' agenda. Most of yOUR dwindling resources are being squandered on the 'war', & continuation of the billionerrors stock markup FraUD/pyramid scheme. nobody ever mentions the real long term costs of those debacles in both life & the notion of prosperity, not to mention the abuse of the consciences of those of us who still have one. see you on the other side of it. the lights are coming up all over now. conspiracy theorists are being vindicated. some might choose a tin umbrella to go with their hats. the fairytail is winding down now. let your conscience be yOUR guide. you can be more helpful than you might have imagined. there are still some choices. if they do not suit you, consider the likely results of continuing to follow the corepirate nazi hypenosys story LIEn, whereas anything of relevance is replaced almost instantly with pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking propaganda or 'celebrity' trivia 'foam'. meanwhile; don't forget to get a little more oxygen on yOUR brain, & look up in the sky from time to time, starting early in the day. there's lots going on up there.

http://news.google.com/?ncl=1216734813&hl=en&topic=n
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/31/opinion/31mon1.html?em&ex=1199336400&en=c4b5414371631707&ei=5087%0A
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/29/world/29amnesty.html?hp
http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/06/02/nasa.global.warming.ap/index.html
http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/weather/06/05/severe.weather.ap/index.html
http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/weather/06/02/honore.preparedness/index.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/01/opinion/01dowd.html?em&ex=1212638400&en=744b7cebc86723e5&ei=5087%0A
http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/06/05/senate.iraq/index.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/17/washington/17contractor.html?hp
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/03/world/middleeast/03kurdistan.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin
http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/080708/cheney_climate.html
http://news.yahoo.com/s/politico/20080805/pl_politico/12308;_ylt=A0wNcxTPdJhILAYAVQms0NUE

is it time to get real yet? A LOT of energy is being squandered in attempts to keep US in the dark. in the end (give or take a few 1000 years), the creators will prevail (world without end, etc...), as it has always been. the process of gaining yOUR release from the current hostage situation may not be what you might think it is. butt of course, most of US don't know, or care what a precarious/fatal situation we're in. for example; the insidious attempts by the felonious corepirate nazi execrable to block the suns' light, interfering with a requirement (sunlight) for us to stay healthy/alive. it's likely not good for yOUR health/memories 'else they'd be bragging about it? we're intending for the whoreabully deceptive (they'll do ANYTHING for a bit more monIE/power) felons to give up/fail even further, in attempting to control the 'weather', as well as a # of other things/events.

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=weather+manipulation&btnG=Search
http://video.google.com/videosearch?hl=en&q=video+cloud+spraying

dictator style micro management has never worked (for very long). it's an illness. tie that with life0cidal aggression & softwar gangster style bullying, & what do we have? a greed/fear/ego based recipe for disaster. meanwhile, you can help to stop the bleeding (loss of life & limb);

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/28/vermont.banning.bush.ap/index.html

the bleeding must be stopped before any healing can begin. jailing a couple of corepirate nazi hired goons would send a clear message to the rest of the world from US. any truthful look at the 'scorecard' would reveal that we are a society in decline/deep doo-doo, despite all of the scriptdead pr ?firm? generated drum beating & flag waving propaganda that we are constantly bombarded with. is it time to get real yet? please consider carefully ALL of yOUR other 'options'. the creators will prevail. as it has always been.

corepirate nazi execrable costs outweigh benefits
(Score:-)mynuts won, the king is a fink)
by ourselves on everyday 24/7

as there are no benefits, just more&more death/debt & disruption. fortunately there's an 'army' of light bringers, coming yOUR way. the little ones/innocents must/will be protected. after the big flash, ALL of yOUR imaginary 'borders' may blur a bit? for each of the creators' innocents harmed in any way, there is a debt that must/will be repaid by you/us, as the perpetrators/minions of unprecedented evile, will not be available. 'vote' with (what's left in) yOUR wallet, & by your behaviors. help bring an end to unprecedented evile's manifestation through yOUR owned felonious corepirate nazi glowbull warmongering execrable. some of US should consider ourselves somewhat fortunate to be among those scheduled to survive after the big flash/implementation of the creators' wwwildly popular planet/population rescue initiative/mandate. it's right in the manual, 'world without end', etc.... as we all ?know?, change is inevitable, & denying/ignoring gravity, logic, morality, etc..., is only possible, on a temporary basis. concern about the course of events that will occur should the life0cidal execrable fail to be intervened upon is in order. 'do not be dismayed' (also from the manual). however, it's ok/recommended, to not attempt to live under/accept, fauxking nazi felon greed/fear/ego based pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking hypenosys.

consult with/trust in yOUR creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

meanwhile, the life0cidal philistines continue on their path of death, debt, & disruption for most of US. gov. bush denies health care for the little ones;

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/10/03/bush.veto/index.html

whilst demanding/extorting billions to paint more targets on the bigger kids;

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/12/bush.war.funding/index.html

& pretending that it isn't happening here;

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article3086937.ece
all is not lost/forgotten/forgiven

(yOUR elected) president al gore (deciding not to wait for the much anticipated 'lonesome al answers yOUR questions' interview here on /.) continues to attempt to shed some light on yOUR foibles. talk about reverse polarity;

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article3046116.ece

Gene expressions? (2, Insightful)

KasperMeerts (1305097) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780245)

WTF? I think we should first concentrate on finding something that somewhat resembles our microbial life before we spend a lot of government funds to ship a PCR detector there.
Not only do they assume that life there has genes in about the same way as ours but also that they are made from the same nucleotides. What would be the odds of that? (excluding panspermia and so on).

Re:Gene expressions? (2, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780661)

I don't see any plans to fly a PCR detector - only to develop a PCR detector. Expanding the technology base for compact, low power, automated laboratory and detector systems will be useful as it could lead to any number of useful spinoffs. Like portable blood sugar analyzers, or pregnancy detection kits, or decreasing the time it takes to perform forensic DNA analysis...

Re:Gene expressions? (5, Interesting)

clonan (64380) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780669)

Actually, there are fairly good odds that alien life uses DNA in a similar way that we do.

Primarily because proteins/amino acids are the only chemical family that has the variation needed for life to function. Sugars don't have the variety necessary and lipids have difficulty interacting with aqueous environments. the 20 amino acids we use cover the full range of conditions, acid/base/hydrophobic/hydrophilic/big/small/odd (proline). It is unlikley that other lifeforms will use significantly more or less amino acids even if the specific chemistry is slightly different.

The biggest problem with proteins is that they can't store information. They can't form complements and unfolding a protein to directly read off the amino acid sequence typically destroys the original protein. Life needs a repository of information that is self correcting and is non-destructive to existing proteins.

Since sugars and amino acids are common (sugar forms easily and amino acids are necessary for efficient life) it is not unlikley that DNA/RNA (which is based off of these two molecular families) would form and it DOES fit the bill for data storage. Since simplicity provides stability, it is unlikley that a huge number of different base pairs would be used so either 2 or 4 bases are likley. Due to space limitations it is very unlikley that a DNA/RNA system would use more than 3 hydrogen bonds and 1 hydrogen bond is too weak. Therefore the list of usefull base pairs drops to either 2 or 3 bonds and we call them adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine.

I freely admit that this is based off of an N of 1. But even with that said it is important to remember that life is hard and the simpiler/more efficient a system is the better able a life form is to survive. While the system we use isn't mandatory, it is very likley that it is representative of other similarly effective systems.

A PCR system would be able to detect the residue of a lifeform that looks even remotly like us on a molecular level. Since we know our system works and we have no knowledge of a different life system it is only reasonable to look for a system we know works. PCR is our best bet for identifying life.

Search for Extra-Terrestrial Genomes? (5, Funny)

OolimPhon (1120895) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780253)

"...the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Genomes (SETG) Project..." Sigh. I read that as "the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Gnomes Project". It's late. I'm tired. Perhaps I should stop coding now...

Re:Search for Extra-Terrestrial Genomes? (1)

Vohar (1344259) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780425)

Oh good, it wasn't just me then.

Re:Search for Extra-Terrestrial Genomes? (1)

Alpha Whisky (1264174) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780707)

It wasn't just you. According to the BBC [bbc.co.uk] they already did find an Extra-Terrestrial Gnome on Mars.

Mars looks like tatooine (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780413)

I can just see Luke coming up over that ridge in the speeder... too bad for the whole 'no oxygen' thing.

Upon Initially Reading The Title +1, Helpful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24780499)

I read "Rove Exiting Crater To Continue Martian Marathon".

Can John McCain be shipped to Mars? Apparently he has recently diagnosed Alzheimer's Disease.

Thanks.

Kind of a waste (3, Insightful)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780521)

I wish NASA would get off the "looking for ET life" kick. The probability of finding any sort of life on Mars is vanishingly small. I suspect that NASA knows this, but thinks that it can capture the public's imagination (and thus pocketbook) by pushing the whole "Searching For Life" thing. There are so many other experiments we could do that have a much higher payoff.

I don't think the search for life is going to fire the public's imagination more than the cool photographs they get back. If they *really* want to get the public excited, send an HDTV recorder up there to zoom around... maybe even stereo HDTV so we could see 3D. Let me see a Martian sunset. Those are tactile things that everyone can be excited about. The search for life is an endless string of boring failures. Sure, if it *did* succeed, it would be immensely exciting, but that's like saying it would be exciting to win the lottery, instead of paying the rent. Except winning the lottery is a lot more probable.

Re:Kind of a waste (2, Interesting)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780671)

I tend to agree as far as finding life on Mars. Even if there is, it's either far under the surface (and it's highly unlikely that any robotic mission is going to get complex enough to wield great big drills), or they're looking the wrong places. I would think a more profitable region to look would be something like Valles Marineris, which at its deepest would have quite a bit denser atmosphere (maybe dense enough for liquid water).

Re:Kind of a waste (3, Insightful)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 6 years ago | (#24781479)

The probability of finding any sort of life on Mars is vanishingly small.

How can you know this without knowing the outcome ahead of time?

There are so many other experiments we could do that have a much higher payoff.

Such as...? And how do you define 'payoff?'

I don't think the search for life is going to fire the public's imagination more than the cool photographs they get back.

Sure, if it *did* succeed, it would be immensely exciting

Which is it? Is the search for life exciting or isn't it?

I don't think the search for life is going to fire the public's imagination more than the cool photographs they get back.

Huh? 'Cool photographs' are better than performing actual science to answer one of the greatest questions that has been on the minds of man ever since we discovered that ours was not the only world in the universe? What's it going to be next? Canceling experiments on the ISS to make way for a weekend visit by Paris Hilton?

OK, I'll give you that the likes of the Apollo program might have had a skewed ratio of scientific usefulness to inspirational value, but I have my doubts that cool photography from Mars is more inspiring than the possibility of finding evidence of life there.

Re:Kind of a waste (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 6 years ago | (#24781691)

How can you know this without knowing the outcome ahead of time?

Because it's an *extremely* low resource environment. Sure, it's theoretically possible, but it's vanishingly unlikely.

Such as...? And how do you define 'payoff?'

Payoff = advancement of knowledge beyond a result of "Negative for life." And are you really that low on imagination that you can't think of any experiments to run on Mars?

Which is it? Is the search for life exciting or isn't it?

The *search* is utterly boring. It would be extremely exciting if it turned up something, but the probability of that is so low, that it's a ridiculous waste. Hence, all we have left is the boringness. I'm not saying to never do the experiments ... but do them in a hundred years when the cost to visit isn't so high that we *need* to optimize what we send there.

Huh? 'Cool photographs' are better than performing actual science to answer one of the greatest questions that has been on the minds of man ever since we discovered that ours was not the only world in the universe?

Read what I wrote. 'Cool movies' (which is what I was really pushing for) are far more exciting in terms of capturing the public interest, which is what NASA's goal is with these useless life experiments. If NASA is going to blow money on P.R. stunts, I'd much rather have HDTV movies beamed back than this utter waste of precious space on the landers.

Re:Kind of a waste (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#24783791)

I wish NASA would get off the "looking for ET life" kick. The probability of finding any sort of life on Mars is vanishingly small

If you mean arise by itself, I would tend to agree. However, evidence suggests that life from Earth (and other planets) can potentially be blasted or possibly even air-hitched (glance off) into space, hidden inside boulders and survive the journey to another planet. Remember, it takes only one spore to seed another planet. One stinkin' little spore. Thus, if 99.999999% of the spores die in an impact, that will not stop The One. (Cue "Still the One" for dramatic effect...)
         

Re:Kind of a waste (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 6 years ago | (#24784071)

Remember, it takes only one spore to seed another planet.

Eh, that's a bit of an oversimplification. I'm sure different spores have different requirements, but I don't know if there are any that just need heat and water. I think people tend to imagine Mars as this Earth-style desert, but it's not... it's an unbelievably harsh environment. It's a rock. Huge temperature extremes, (possibly) no liquid water, no oxygen, and even if they manage to find liquid water, it's probably deep enough for no sunlight. So even if Mr. Spore made it to Mars, it's only chance would be to get buried to a level that evens out the temperature, with liquid water. Assuming you have a Spore that can even reproduce under those conditions.

Wow. Looks just like New Mexico (3, Funny)

azav (469988) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780571)

But without all the poverty.

Where i can buy the technology? (1)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780769)

Where i can buy the technology used on Spirit? I will like a device with capacity to work ten times the estimated working life (but will be the terror of companys, off course. A TV don't exploding on one year of use? wooo!)

Rounded? (0)

jannik (567712) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780791)

Anyone noticed the absence of round features?

Re:Rounded? (1)

Domint (1111399) | more than 6 years ago | (#24781391)

Anyone noticed the absence of round features?

If by 'round features' you mean rolling hills, smooth rocks, etc. there is a good reason for that. Such features here on Earth were created over millions of years through the subtle movement of continent-spanning glaciers. Whether or not Mars ever had sustained liquid water, I doubt it ever had enough to have glacial features spanning a majority of its surface for any length of time. Now get one of those rovers up towards the poles and it could be a completely different story - there's plenty of ice-like material there that could be performing glacial-like erosion.

look for DNA first (1)

speedtux (1307149) | more than 6 years ago | (#24780919)

Even developing a space-ready PCR system seems premature at this point. What about looking whether there is DNA there in the first place?

phylogenics? As in Earth critturs? (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 6 years ago | (#24781739)

This instrument is so sensitive it should allow the detection very low levels of microbial life on Mars, and will determine its phylogenetic position by analysis of the DNA sequence of the genes detected in situ.

So, what makes them think that a DNA based creature from MARS is going to be in any particular phylum that we know and/or can comprehend?

RS

Is Vista out? (1)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 6 years ago | (#24781837)

Or is it already dead?

Well not quite a marathon. (1)

misterjava66 (1265146) | more than 6 years ago | (#24782613)

From the marsrovers.nasa.gov website:
As of sol 1634 (Aug. 7, 2008), Spirit's total odometry remained at 7,528.0 meters (4.7 miles).
As of sol 1598 (July 22, 2008), Opportunity's total odometry was 11,725.96 meters (7.29 miles).

From Wiki and numerous other sources:
The marathon is a long-distance running event with an official distance of 42.195 kilometers (26 miles 385 yards) that is usually run as a road race.

As you can see, neither rover has even travelled a 1/2 Marathon.

snick, ;-P

but, wow, that's alot of driving to do 40-240M miles from home.

trendy science ? (1)

KernelMuncher (989766) | more than 6 years ago | (#24782727)

The scientific merit of this proposal is dubious at best.

My guess is that NASA is trying to ride the genomics wave and add something that is biological to get more people interested / get more funding. Politics over good science.

Martian Trash? (2, Interesting)

trongey (21550) | more than 6 years ago | (#24782755)

Did anybody else who's dowloaded the high res pic notice the white plastic pill bottle just right of center, about 1/3 of the way up from the bottom?

More Mars color BS (2, Interesting)

Teilo (91279) | more than 6 years ago | (#24783663)

Once again, another BS color image from Mars.

Anyone who cares to, do this: Open the image in Gimp or Photoshop.

Look at the per-channel histograms. You will see that someone compressed the Blue and Green channels before posting the image.

To fix:

Normalize each channel individually so that 0-255 spans the full channel range.

The result? Mars as Opportunity actually photographed it.

Does NASA really think that we are so simple-minded that we would be too confused and disoriented to see a Mars without red sky?

Re:More Mars color BS (2, Informative)

Teilo (91279) | more than 6 years ago | (#24783861)

Here is a before and after, if anyone cares:

http://tinyurl.com/5mon9r [tinyurl.com]

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