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Russia's Mars Mission Raising Concerns

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the wait-aren't-they-both-red dept.

Space 245

eldavojohn writes "Space.com has a blog on Russia's Phobos-Grunt project designed to explore the planet further. He voices concerns about part of this exploration that is dubbed LIFE (Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment) and backed by The Planetary Society that involves sending several samples of Earth's hardiest microbes to see if they can survive the round trip voyage. Space.com's correspondent Leonard David did some legwork to ensure that The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 was being upheld as it prevents cross-contamination between planets and receives some interesting responses from experts on this mission. The Phobos-Grunt mission will also deploy a Chinese sub-satellite 'Firefly-1,' which will attempt to figure out how water on Mars disappeared. Unfortunately, The United States is not taking part in Phobos-Grunt."

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RED (0, Offtopic)

rodrigoandrade (713371) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357821)

Is the red color on the title bar some kind of hidden Soviet Russia joke???

Re:RED (1)

GweeDo (127172) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357927)

Most likely some kind of hidden Red Planet joke...but then again...it isn't so well hidden now is it?

Only fitting Commie Bastards crash on Mars (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26358165)

Like the commie bastards crashed on Earth. The only ones worst than Imperialist Swines are the Commie Bastards.

United States? (2, Funny)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358391)

I remember them! The OTHER failed state!

Re:RED (1)

c0p0n (770852) | more than 5 years ago | (#26359113)

Yes it is. The webserver is slashdotted.

Re:RED (1)

Spazztastic (814296) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358003)

Is the red color on the title bar some kind of hidden Soviet Russia joke???

Newly posted articles seem to be red, I don't know the exact reason but it could be because it's "hot off the press" or something to that effect.

Re:RED (2, Funny)

Arthur Grumbine (1086397) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358047)

In Soviet Russia, we don't need to be inspired by a color to make bad jokes that end in...YOU!!

Who cares? (2, Insightful)

ashp (2042) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357833)

I don't know why we're so concerned about cross-contamination. The only potential downside to it that I can see is if it obscures evidence that life existed on other planets.

I just find it hard to care about balls of rock and their 'pristine environment'.

Re:Who cares? (5, Insightful)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357917)

The only potential downside to it that I can see is if it obscures evidence that life existed on other planets.

And wouldn't you say it's a pretty huge downside?

It's the tiny difference between finding extraterrestial life, or not. In exchange for... Absolutely nothing!

Does't seem like a great deal.

Re:Who cares? (4, Funny)

OglinTatas (710589) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358087)

"It's the tiny difference between finding extraterrestial life, or not. In exchange for... Absolutely nothing!"

If 1950s scifi movies have taught me anything, it is that "there are some things mankind was not meant to know"

Spock cares! (1)

Windows_NT (1353809) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358707)

They talk about some day Mars supporting life, the only way that will happen is if they Terraform and bring life from Earth to mars, that means bacteria and all. eventually these probes will basically be a Noah's ark space capsule. It don't think here should be a problem, as long as they're not filling the planet will small pox, aids or something like that. I would think that in the future when we do start to inhabit mars (yes, it will happen) the first things to go there will be bacteria and small organisms to start creating the right gases for the atmosphere. A lot of CO2 to warm up the atmosphere, and start storms. I'm not much of a biologist (or whomever does this stuff) but I've seen a few discovery channel shows, and seeing monkeys fucks just tells me that life on mars is possible.

Not really a downside. (-1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358191)

And wouldn't you say it's a pretty huge downside?

Hey, wouldn't a successful transplant of an organism from one planet to another show that life is more possible?

It's the tiny difference between finding extraterrestial life, or not. In exchange for... Absolutely nothing!

Well, no, because, if you put life on Mars, there would be extraterrestrial life, now, wouldn't it?

Re:Not really a downside. (4, Informative)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358323)

Hey, wouldn't a successful transplant of an organism from one planet to another show that life is more possible?

No. Given that the laws of physics apply everywhere, we expect Earth life to live anywhere there are suitable conditions. We also have a pretty good of what are "suitable conditions". In other words, we know that successful transplant of an organism from one planet to another is possible. Actually doing it is much less useful as a result.

Well, no, because, if you put life on Mars, there would be extraterrestrial life, now, wouldn't it?

Nope. It'd be terrestrial life on another planet. The point remains. If something is living on Mars now that isn't something we dragged from Earth, then that is tremendously valuable, even if it turns out to be equivalent to primitive bacteria. If we put terrestrial life on Mars, we risk destroying this data.

Re:Not really a downside. (0)

gnick (1211984) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358487)

If something is living on Mars now that isn't something we dragged from Earth, then that is tremendously valuable, even if it turns out to be equivalent to primitive bacteria.

I don't really see the "tremendous value" in that knowledge. Or, more accurately, I can't fathom why that knowledge would be more valuable than learning that we can successfully transplant living organisms and watch them thrive.

I don't really care where life came from, I want to know where it can go.

Re:Not really a downside. (5, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358759)

I don't really see the "tremendous value" in that knowledge. Or, more accurately, I can't fathom why that knowledge would be more valuable than learning that we can successfully transplant living organisms and watch them thrive.

What is the value of life in the first place? As I see it, it is the culmination of billions of years of evolution. The same goes for native life on Mars with one important exception. It is unlikely that there is any evolution in common with Earth (unless some of the panspermia theories are correct). New biological processes, new knowledge unlike anything seen on Earth. It might even be incorporated into terrestrial life at some point to improve survivability or other properties. That'd be valuable. And if we find evidence of panspermia. Then you have a huge puzzle bigger than merely figuring out how to spread life around.

I don't really care where life came from, I want to know where it can go.

It can go anywhere. So now that you know, can we get back to not erasing important data?

Re:Not really a downside. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26359297)

I don't really care where life came from, I want to know where it can go.

It can go anywhere.

Kind of. Except that usually when you move life out of its natural environment, it ceases to be "alive"...

Re:Not really a downside. (2)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358827)

Its probably extremely important to know where life came from to understand where it can go. After all unless you can see the future, you only have the past and the now to go off of.

Re:Not really a downside. (3, Insightful)

bds1986 (1268378) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358939)

I'm sure some people might not have seen the tremendous value in the mould gave us penicillin. Fortunately someone did.

Re:Who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26358459)

No, it's not a downside at all.

Look, either life on Mars is so similar to life on Earth that we're not going to be able to tell whether it originated on Mars or originally came from Earth via transpermia; or whatever life is there is going to be very obviously different in which case it's really not going to matter if there are a few Earth microbes around.

Re:Who cares? (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#26359157)

Unless the few microbes around kill anything that was already there.

Re:Who cares? (0)

sunking2 (521698) | more than 5 years ago | (#26359265)

Do we really care? We did it to the Native Americans with less fanfare than this less than .0001% chance of it happening is receiving. Lets me real here. The odds are very heavily in favor that the planet is dead, or whatever 'life' there is on it is worthless to us. Not to open this book or worms, but we can aboirt a fetus, but don't want to kill some bacteria or microbes that probably don't exist anyway.

Re:Who cares? (1)

StormyWeather (543593) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358767)

For absolutely nothing? What if we sent microbes to another planet and they were able to survive, then earth was destroyed in a cosmic event. That would mean that humans achieved moving life from earth to another planet. Yea, maybe we would be toast, but evolution would have still succeeded.

Re:Who cares? (0)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358781)

If life is found on Mars which is similar in cellular structure to life on Earth, it demonstrates cross-contamination (either from spacecraft or meteors). If life is found on Mars which is completely different at the cellular level, it shows life evolved on Mars.

Either way, deliberately sending microbes from Earth would not prevent us from determining if there was a separate biogenesis on Mars.

Re:Who cares? (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358841)

If life is found on Mars which is similar in cellular structure to life on Earth, it demonstrates cross-contamination (either from spacecraft or meteors).

And, in that situation, how do you demonstrate that there wasn't life just a moment ago and that our contamination killed it?

Re:Who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26359149)

The fossil record.

Re:Who cares? (2)

BobReturns (1424847) | more than 5 years ago | (#26359361)

Most forms of life aren't actually preserved in the fossil record. Barring rapid burial in tarpits, or amber or some such, most lifeforms which are preserved have a hard mineral shell or skeleton.

Re:Who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26357947)

Balls of rock you say? I wouldn't count on it.

Re:Who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26357959)

because there might be native life. having our first contact with intelligent aliens be a distress call because we attacked them would be bad.

Re:Who cares? (5, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357975)

I don't know why we're so concerned about cross-contamination. The only potential downside to it that I can see is if it obscures evidence that life existed on other planets.

I just find it hard to care about balls of rock and their 'pristine environment'.

Well, the article cites fear of Forward-Contamination [wikipedia.org] which is

the contamination of other worlds with Earth microbes. The risk of forward-contamination is twofold: that human beings may accidentally seed a previously sterile world, thus creating "extraterrestrials" that are really of terrestrial origin (and which might even make it impossible to determine whether the life later found is terrestric or local); or that an actual alien biosphere could be devastated by Earth's bacteria.

So if these escape on Mars and we land later and find microbes how do we know that 1) they aren't really terrestrial or evolved descendants of our microbes and 2) they didn't inadvertently disrupt or destroy original organisms to the planet.

I think it's more so a caution but scientists and people interested in the idea of life forming independently on other planets care very much so.

Re:Who cares? (2, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358139)

the problem with being concerned with forward contamination is that you can't even step off into the bushes and take a shit. these are real issues, but until we actually go to some other worlds and kill them all off with smallpox blankets we can't really be sure who, if anyone, is actually in danger. the big question (other than, is there life out there not based on ours or that we are not based on) is whether life necessarily follows the same lines, or is different enough to where it won't matter.

Re:Who cares? (3, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358365)

the problem with being concerned with forward contamination is that you can't even step off into the bushes and take a shit.

Are we really able to put a person on the moon but not properly dispose of their waste?

these are real issues, but until we actually go to some other worlds and kill them all off with smallpox blankets we can't really be sure who, if anyone, is actually in danger.

I'm not sure why you brought up smallpox blankets ... I thought those were things designed to destroy the populations of already known indigenous peoples? I think a better analogy would be the rats that were on board the ship from Europe that made it to the New World or maybe even the pigs that escaped and made short work of the squash/tuber/corn plant systems the Native Americans depended so heavily upon? Look around you, there are many species in North America that were 'accidentally' brought here. Look at the Kudzu vine that was in resource contention with plants that didn't stand a chance against it? Smallpox blankets were basically germ warfare ... why would we bring germ warfare to another planet?

we can't really be sure who, if anyone, is actually in danger. the big question (other than, is there life out there not based on ours or that we are not based on) is whether life necessarily follows the same lines, or is different enough to where it won't matter.

Well, I have more faith in our current technologies and I am saddened that you don't think we can learn from our errors. You seem to be resigned to the fact that we will destroy whatever we visit but I disagree. We have the ability to manufacture germ free CPUs here on earth and I think we should do our best to keep our external systems and machines also germ free. I think we have even been fairly successful in that.

Lastly, this outer space treaty was signed by many countries and for good reason: all the scientist thought it an absolute necessity.

Re:Who cares? (1, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358693)

Are we really able to put a person on the moon but not properly dispose of their waste?

Able is not the issue. We CAN do it. The issue is, will we given the cost? It's a lot cheaper to just eject waste, after all.

I'm not talking so much about the moon; if we took a life form there it would almost certainly die (then again, MIR fungus... but anyway.)

I'm talking about the Sci-Fi future of visiting other planets where there really is significant life. And again, there is the big question. We have seen (in the lab) that the basic building blocks of life as we know them are capable of self-assembly. So theoretically, given a sufficient quantity of primordial soup and the proper energy levels, life might be the natural conclusion given a sufficiently long time scale. We have a sample size of 1 solar system and just a small handful of celestial bodies that we've stuck a probe in. Of the bodies we can conceive of supporting life (besides Earth, Mars and Europa come immediately to mind) Earth is the only one we're in a position to know about so far. This is where I'm talking about stepping into the bushes (conspicuously absent on Earth's moon) to relieve oneself, which results in a massive release of bacteria which could potentially have adverse effects upon an alien world.

We won't know more about the numbers until our technology improves to the point that we can learn more about the universe around us. Right now, 'earthlike' means what? Within an order of magnitude of Earth's mass or something?

I'm not sure why you brought up smallpox blankets ... I thought those were things designed to destroy the populations of already known indigenous peoples? I think a better analogy would be the rats that were on board the ship from Europe that made it to the New World or maybe even the pigs that escaped and made short work of the squash/tuber/corn plant systems the Native Americans depended so heavily upon?

I brought it up because not all of the people giving out the blankets knew what they were doing.

In any case, we could step out onto the first alien world capable of supporting human life and potentially destroy it (at least, its ecosystem) with a sneeze, if the system at that point is fragile enough. Then you have the question of whether that is wrong or not, which we shouldn't go into now.

You seem to be resigned to the fact that we will destroy whatever we visit but I disagree.

Actually, I am open to other possibilities, including that it will destroy us, or that they will be stable enough to not be destroyed (as a world) just as ours appears to be - over long enough time scales.

Species can and will go extinct over time. Right now, things are just seriously out of whack (CO2, anyone?) to the point where it is unclear if the natural regulating mechanisms will be able to correct the problem without killing off more of the complex life forms on Earth than is usual. But it seems highly unlikely that anything Humans have done is actually a serious threat to life on Earth. On the other hand, everything more complex than a fungus could die...

Lastly, this outer space treaty was signed by many countries and for good reason: all the scientist thought it an absolute necessity.

This subject has been covered in some detail in Science Fiction. In particular one good example is Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy. The basic argument on that planet is that if you allow human microbes to get out we will never know if life was there before we got there... versus the idea that Mars could be made more livable for humans, the extension of which argument is that things are special because someone is there to perceive them as special and understand their specialness, so terraforming is more important than science.

This argument is thus an interesting and relevant but essentially masturbatory exercise until we are actually in a position to survey Mars for life. The real truth is that we really can't learn much about the planet without disrupting it, and the more stuff we send there the more likely we are to contaminate it. We can't really find out if there is or isn't life there without doing some serious core samples, given our current technology. And we can't really affordably get that much mass there until we have a space elevator, anyway. Heavy lifting is expensive! And once we HAVE the capability, we're going to want to send people there, and those people will have to be supported...

I love the way (5, Insightful)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | more than 5 years ago | (#26359137)

The 'real estate' value of Mars is always so totally overstated. NOBODY WILL EVER LIVE THERE. You want to know why?

1) Because it will make much more sense to live in free space (IE on an asteroid or space colony) where you avoid the huge energy cost of going up and down a gravity well.

2) Mars provides virtually nothing in the way of resources which are not available in places easier to get to.

3) The environment of Mars is actually MUCH harsher than the environment in space, and probably much harsher than the environment of the Moon. So why exactly would we so desire to live there?

4) If environments as harsh as Mars are desirable real estate for people to live on, then why aren't Antarctica and Green Land, and the Sahara Desert all chock full of people already? They are CERTAINLY much less harsh and much cheaper places to live. Good luck selling those Martian building lots...

5) Even speculating about Terraforming is pretty much beyond science. The time and energy inputs required are probably 1000's and maybe millions or billions of times anything we can deploy today. The time frame could easily range into the millions of years no matter how capable you are. There is certainly no sense at all in planning a space program based on a payoff that somehow relies on a technology that is no more than an idle dream which might exist in 200 or 1000 years, if ever.

This does all tie in to some extent to the OP, Mars' value is not ever going to be economic. Its value is purely scientific and there is no reasonable anticipation that it will ever be otherwise. Spoiling the pristine conditions on Mars would seriously degrade the value of exo-biology work done there in the future. So it IS a bad idea, and it would be a costly mistake.

Now, the question of the actual safety of Phobos-Grunt is a whole other thing. We'll just have to leave that to experts. At least they value the principle of avoiding contamination. Maybe they're a little biased, but the risk doesn't seem super excessive to me. OTOH it also sounds like the experiment itself is mostly a PR stunt, so on that basis I'd give it the thumbs down. Not worth making a huge stink about though.

Re:Who cares? (4, Insightful)

mapsjanhere (1130359) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358875)

The whole "keep Mars sterile" will go out of the window as soon as we put humans on the surface. It's impossible to 100% decontaminate the space suits before every single EVA. So we better figure out first if there's any indigenous life form close enough to our own make-up (if we find living silicon on Mars we probably didn't transfer it, but anything DNA based would be highly suspicious). I've worked on Mars sample return projects, and the requirements are pretty damn strict. But guaranteeing that not a single mold spore survives anywhere is pretty much impossible.

Re:Who cares? (1)

SL Baur (19540) | more than 5 years ago | (#26359217)

Are we really able to put a person on the moon but not properly dispose of their waste?

I would presume so. We can't make a zero-g toilet worth a damn either.

Re:Who cares? (1)

SirWhoopass (108232) | more than 5 years ago | (#26359219)

why would we bring germ warfare to another planet?

C'mon! That was one of my favorite tactics in Masters of Orion. I'd design Armageddon ships that were nothing but forward shielding and bio-warfare bombs. They'd survive a direct run through the enemy fleet long enough to destroy the plant.

Well a lot of people do care (2, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357987)

If we did discover native extra-terrestrial microbes it would answer a lot of interesting questions. If it had a similar DNA basis it would support the idea of panspermia - that life on earth may have been seeded by space. If it is totally different who knows what we might learn.

It would also be interesting to ask the young earth creationists on which day God created the Martian life and if Noah really had two of every species how did he get the samples form Mars.

Re:Well a lot of people do care (2, Insightful)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358175)

>If we did discover native extra-terrestrial microbes it would
>answer a lot of interesting questions. If it had a similar DNA basis
>it would support the idea of panspermia - that life on earth may
>have been seeded by space

It would be consistent with pan-spermia, but it would not be very strong evidence supporting it. Similar DNA could just mean that there is only one way to do DNA that can lead to life.

Re:Well a lot of people do care (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358293)

Similar DNA could just mean that there is only one way to do DNA that can lead to life.

Is that all most of the aliens in Star Trek, Star Wars, Babylon 5, blah, blah, blah all look vaguely humanoid? ;)

Re:Well a lot of people do care (5, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358363)

Of course. Everyone knows that the primary difference between almost all intelligent life throughout the universe is forehead appearance.

Re:Well a lot of people do care (1)

OldeTimeGeek (725417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358789)

Maybe god had a bigger budget than Paramount, Fox and Warner Brothers did...

Re:Well a lot of people do care (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26359409)

Maybe god had a bigger budget than Paramount, Fox and Warner Brothers did...

I don't know, he seems to need contributions every Sunday.

Re:Well a lot of people do care (1)

genner (694963) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358269)

It would also be interesting to ask the young earth creationists on which day God created the Martian life and if Noah really had two of every species how did he get the samples form Mars.

Mars didn't have the flood.
:P

Re:Well a lot of people do care (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26359035)

It would also be interesting to ask the young earth creationists on which day God created the Martian life and if Noah really had two of every species how did he get the samples form Mars.

Well that's easy. *They* believe in an omnipotent God. Therefore He did whatever, whenever it pleased Him. Its not rational nor logical - so why would you expect that such a question as yours should bother them?

You shouldn't bother asking questions when you should already know the answer those folks will give -- it marks you out as taunting and a bit of an ass. Its like razzing a downs syndrome kid -- it reflects more on your being a jerk than on their mental handicap.

I say stick to the subject instead of trying to act superior by picking on people who are essentially retarded when it comes to science.

Re:Who cares? (2, Insightful)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358143)

Obscuring evidence that life existed on other planets is a huge downside. Once this has been done we can never go back and know whether or not life started only on Earth, or independently on the other planet. Since we only have a very limited number of potential abodes for life in the Solar System, and no realistic hope of ever leaving the Solar System, failing to ensure that there is no cross-contamination could ensure that we will never be able to answer some of the fundamental questions about life.

Re:Who cares? (4, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358427)

and no realistic hope of ever leaving the Solar System

That's a pretty pessimistic view. Is our knowledge of the universe so complete that you feel safe making that assumption?

Re:Who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26359281)

That's a pretty pessimistic view. Is our knowledge of the universe so complete that you feel safe making that assumption?

Yes. The knowledge we have of physics and space tells us we cannot and will not.

Re:Who cares? (1)

Sperbels (1008585) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358985)

I'm not sure why we're worried about contamination either. As soon as one human steps foot on Mars it will inevitably be contaminated anyway. We need these "contaminants" to stay alive...they permeate our living environments. Any artificial human martian habitat we place on Mars will ooze microorganisms like lava from a volcano. If we were at all interested in maintaining a pristine martian ecosystem we'd never land there. Trying to prevent it is ridiculous. Even if we could prevent it, it only takes one dissenting martian colonist to let some algae out the airlock.

Frist red post from red planet for red story. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26357857)

Dear Earthen brothers,

we are not concerned by the Russia Vodka delivery service. In fact, we ordered it via amazon.ms.

Obligatory Firefly reference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26357893)

Obligatory Firefly reference and DMCA takedown bait:

Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand
I don't care, I'm still free
You can't take the sky from me
Take me out to the black
Tell them I ain't comin' back
Burn the land and boil the sea
You can't take the sky from me
There's no place I can be
Since I found Serenity
But you can't take the sky from me...

Experiment, people! (1, Interesting)

martas (1439879) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357905)

I say, cross-contaminate! Send a Noah's ark of bacteria and fungi to Mars, see what happens. At the very least it'd be fun to watch them die. Of course you'd also need to send microscopes along to observe them. But I think at least something will survive. "Life will find a way". -martas

Re:Experiment, people! (1)

Cornwallis (1188489) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357951)

They should just send a boatload of rabbits. What could possible go wrong?

Re:Experiment, people! (1)

Spazztastic (814296) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358015)

They should just send a boatload of rabbits. What could possible go wrong?

Hundreds upon thousands of rabbits suffocating?

Re:Experiment, people! (1)

jeffshoaf (611794) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358101)

I vote we send a boatload of pointy-haired bosses!

Re:Experiment, people! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26357989)

Fun to watch bacteria and fungi die?! You should take up a hobby, another one I mean.

Re:Experiment, people! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26357999)

Yeah except that whatever we send could kill whatever is already there. Then we may never know about the original life and its properties.

Re:Experiment, people! (1)

JamesP (688957) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358187)

"I sent bacteria to mars just to watch it die"

Re:Experiment, people! (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358497)

"I sent bacteria to mars just to watch it die"

Just don't let PETA find out.

Exactly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26357937)

That's exactly why they are concerned. And to make sure that if there is life on some planet that our microbes don't kill it.

The water (1)

noundi (1044080) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357943)

The Phobos-Grunt mission will also deploy a Chinese sub-satellite "Firefly-1" which will attempt to figure out how water on Mars disappeared while unfortunately The United States is not taking part in Phobos-Grunt.

Didn't we already conclude that the water was vaporized after Mars lost its atmosphere caused by intense solar winds?

Fastest way to terraform and colonize Mars (1)

starglider29a (719559) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357953)

I've long thought that crossing dandelions and cannabis would be the best way to terraform Mars. If for no other reason than to get McDonald's and Hostess to set up a presence there.

Firefly!!! (2, Funny)

jabster (198058) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357963)

Yes!

Joss is back!!

Way to go browncoats!!.....wait...damn....

Re:Firefly!!! (1)

Authoritative Douche (1255948) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358393)

Heh. I wondered why China chose the name Firefly for the satellite but then I remembered that all the cursing and mother insults were in Chinese. If their development labs sound anything like my garage when I'm working on my vehicles....

Just Let Me Know... (2, Funny)

AMSmith42 (60300) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357971)

...if they find any leather goddesses.

Re:Just Let Me Know... (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358879)

They did, but on Diemos. Unfortunately, here's a beauty contest photo [vat19.com] .

The "New World" (2, Interesting)

RobBebop (947356) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357983)

The more I hear about Mars, the more the analogy between the 1400-1700s exploration of America seems fit.

Whereas previously it had seemed (at least within my worldview) that USA was the only entity even considering Martian missions. Now it seems that USA, China, Russia, the EU, and India are in the same sort of colonization race that England, Spain, France, Portugal, and the Netherlands were in hundreds of year ago.

And what did that accomplish? Well, the host nations managed to spread their languages and gene pools to their "New World" destinations, but 300 years later the "mighty conquests" have all but melted into air as almost all of America's nations have attained independence.

Re:The "New World" (0)

ruin20 (1242396) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358091)

I don't care. Let the fricken mud ball be independant. But I'll see at least 9 billion on this mud ball by the end of my life and probably 14 billion by the time my son is my age. That's going to be a serious problem. So in my opinion we either need a place to emigrate to or another couple world wars for population control or else we're going to breed ourselves into destroying the planet.

Re:The "New World" (2, Insightful)

exploder (196936) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358157)

Flying to another planet will never relieve overpopulation. Just think for maybe two seconds about the number of babies born every minute, and the resources required to send a kilogram to Mars, or anywhere else.

Re:The "New World" (4, Funny)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358493)

No, but it can keep overpopulation (and other ills) from destroying every last vestige of civilization.

The dinosaurs died because they insisted on "fixing problems here on Earth first."

Re:The "New World" (1)

bendodge (998616) | more than 5 years ago | (#26359329)

No, but it can keep overpopulation (and other ills) from destroying every last vestige of civilization.

The dinosaurs died because they insisted on "fixing problems here on Earth first."

Rubbish. They died in a sudden, watery catastrophe they had no control over.

Re:The "New World" (1)

jezreel (261337) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358181)

Well, then it doesn't seem like a bad idea to kill the yet-unknown original inhabitants by cross-contamination to keep the analogy up

Re:The "New World" (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358193)

And what did that accomplish?

Humongous amounts of precious metals.

If the rest of the world doesn't care about Spain and Portugal invading Mars, taking everything that shines (for starters), and giving the land back 300 years later, I don't think Spain and Portugal would find it unresonably harsh.

Re:The "New World" (1)

solios (53048) | more than 5 years ago | (#26359357)

Yeah - off the top of my head, out of an entire hemisphere.... Denmark has Greenland and the UK has the Falkland Islands.

I dunno how to file Quebec.

Why "unfortunately"? (1, Interesting)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358027)

Unfortunately, The United States is not taking part in Phobos-Grunt.

Why is that unfortunate? We get all of the results with none of the investment. Sounds great to me if other nations and organizations want to make the commitments independent from the US while still sharing the results.

Re:Why "unfortunately"? (1)

bendodge (998616) | more than 5 years ago | (#26359389)

That word "unfortunate" is called innuendo, and it reveals a bias on the part of the article writer. Writers use words like that to imply that something is good or bad without backing it up. Slashdot is an excellent place to practice bias detection. I probably tag every third science article 'bias'.

infocom tag (3, Funny)

Speare (84249) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358061)

With a mission name like Phobos-Grunt, I was immediately tempted to add the 'leathergoddesses' tag. Now if only I could find my "T remover" device.

Re:infocom tag (1)

Roman Mamedov (793802) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358107)

"Grunt" in Russian [wikipedia.org] basically means "Soil".

Re:infocom tag (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26358575)

"Grunt" in Russian basically means "Soil".

Or, to use an English term that's more closely related, "ground".

Terraforming (1)

phrostie (121428) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358079)

" The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 was being upheld as it prevents cross-contamination between planets and receives some interesting responses from experts on this mission."

doesn't this make terraforming outlawed as well?

Re:Terraforming (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358387)

Not really since the Outer Space treaty does not ban this ... The Moon Treaty does but of the space faring nations only India and Japan have signed up

*attempts* to prevent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26358689)

It should say that it ***attempts*** to prevent cross-contamination.

Treaties Schmeaties (2, Funny)

toddhisattva (127032) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358099)

ensure that The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 was being upheld

Such treaties are only meant to hogtie the United States.

Re:Treaties Schmeaties (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26358919)

Like the Kyoto Protocol?

Fucking Americans want to ruin the future world of the Chinese and Indians!

ON THE RED PLANET!!!!! (1)

dwosilverdragon (1447085) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358219)

OH NO THE RED PLANET HAS GONE RED!!!!!!! we must liberate it from its communist ways.

The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 (1)

ciderVisor (1318765) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358223)

I think The Airplane, The Dead and Hendrix played at that gig.

A ridiculous interpretation of this treaty. (3, Informative)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358285)

Read the Treaty Text. The original poster is a retard. The original purpose of the outer space treaty was essentially a deal to keep a great power from "taking over" space, made at a time, when the military importance of space was recognized but no leading nation was willing to bet its future on it winning the space race.

http://www.state.gov/t/ac/trt/5181.htm [state.gov]

There is absolutely nothing that precludes the deposit of life on other planets. Its legal to seed the moon, mars or any other body with life and to terraform it.

Re:A ridiculous interpretation of this treaty. (5, Interesting)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 5 years ago | (#26359079)

From your link, by searching for "contamination"

Article IX

In the exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, States Parties to the Treaty shall be guided by the principle of co-operation and mutual assistance and shall conduct all their activities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, with due regard to the corresponding interests of all other States Parties to the Treaty. States Parties to the Treaty shall pursue studies of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, and conduct exploration of them so as to avoid their harmful contamination and also adverse changes in the environment of the Earth resulting from the introduction of extraterrestrial matter and, where necessary, shall adopt appropriate measures for this purpose.

The debate is already in Kim Stanley Robinson's "Red Mars" novel : should we protect other planets from earth's lifeforms ? While it would be nice to find definite proofs in favor or against panspermia, I would tend to be in favor of as much contamination as possible, as early as possible. Terraformation will eventually be scheduled. The sooner we start, the better.

Re:A ridiculous interpretation of this treaty. (1)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 5 years ago | (#26359299)

Read the Treaty Text. The original poster is a retard. The original purpose of the outer space treaty was essentially a deal to keep a great power from "taking over" space, made at a time, when the military importance of space was recognized but no leading nation was willing to bet its future on it winning the space race.

http://www.state.gov/t/ac/trt/5181.htm [state.gov]

There is absolutely nothing that precludes the deposit of life on other planets. Its legal to seed the moon, mars or any other body with life and to terraform it

Did you read the Treaty ?

Article IX
In the exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, States Parties to the Treaty shall be guided by the principle of co-operation and mutual assistance and shall conduct all their activities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, with due regard to the corresponding interests of all other States Parties to the Treaty. States Parties to the Treaty shall pursue studies of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, and conduct exploration of them so as to avoid their harmful contamination and also adverse changes in the environment of the Earth resulting from the introduction of extraterrestrial matter and, where necessary, shall adopt appropriate measures for this purpose.

My bold.

dare I say it ?

Ha Ha !

Probe being run under Ninnle! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26358331)

I came across a news story about this project which mentioned that the hardware onboard this probe will be running under an embedded version of Ninnle Linux. It seems the Russian scientists and analysts involved view Ninnle as the most robust, most secure option of all the distributions they looked at. I should see if I can dig it up again.

Russia has form (1)

benjfowler (239527) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358351)

Russia has a long record of acting irresponsibly in scientific endeavours.

Besides some of the insane stuff they've done on their own territory, there's the small case of their deliberate and senseless vandalism of Lake Vostok in the Antarctic. Despite a massive world outcry, they insisted of drilling into the deep, pressurised lake, contaminating it in the process.

Arrogance and stupidity is a bad combination.

Re:Russia has form (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26358535)

Russia has a long record of acting irresponsibly in scientific endeavours.

While USA never participated [about.com] in irresponsible scientific endeavours...

Re:Russia has form (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26358803)

Arrogance and stupidity is a bad combination.

Really, such blatant grouping of an entire country under "arrogant and stupid" really speaks volumes of your own arrogance, and most importantly, your stupidity.

competition versus cooperation (4, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358397)

Unfortunately, The United States is not taking part in Phobos-Grunt."

What's unfortunate about this? Why should everyone participate in everything? As I see it competition remains the best form of cooperation. It is good that there are Mars missions that don't involve the US. That means that they can develope their own technology, procedures, etc without US contamination. We are more likely to see new innovations this way.

Pales besides the US plans... (1)

clickety6 (141178) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358453)

As the US is making plans to send a few kilos of bacteria(*) to Mars, I don't see why a few microbes should cause such concern.

* Estimate of around 2 kilos of bacteria in and on the average human body.

there are already terrestrial microbes on Mars... (1)

swimsaturn (1239646) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358573)

(albeit in very low numbers) - they arrived with Viking, Pathfinder, MER, Phoenix, etc.

the landers are very clean, but they're not that clean. Of course, whether or not they survived the trip is another question.

Kidding ourselves (1)

MikeURL (890801) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358935)

I think we're kidding ourselves if we think we haven't already landed viruses/bacteria on Mars. We're literally swimming in viruses, bacteria, prions, etc etc and everything we touch is covered in these things.

The bell curve being what it is you can reduce the "contamination" down to a tiny fraction but to think, for example, that the rovers didn't introduce any biological material is, IMO, foolish.

Australian Rabbits (2, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 5 years ago | (#26359055)

Let's send some Australian Rabbits (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbits_in_Australia) to Mars instead.

The idea of importing rabbits into Australia seems to have worked out ok.

And the soil of Australia is red, just like Mars.

This should work.

Protecting Earth's Species (5, Insightful)

sherriw (794536) | more than 5 years ago | (#26359115)

I find it funny that we are concerned with damaging an extraterrestrial biosphere but are completely ok with trashing our own. I bet those up in arms about some _potential_ mars bacteria being wiped out, give a shrug and a yawn when told of the countless Earth species on the brink of extinction. I'm not saying they aren't worth protecting, but rather, we need to get our priorities straight here on the ground too.

Shiny (1)

pcgabe (712924) | more than 5 years ago | (#26359435)

The Phobos-Grunt mission will also deploy a Chinese sub-satellite 'Firefly-1,'

Dahng rahn it's Chinese, the question is who's behind it? The Alliance? Blue Sun?

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