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Mars Robot May Destroy Life It Was Sent To Find

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the oops-sorry-my-bad dept.

Mars 129

Hugh Pickens writes "New Scientist reports that instead of identifying chemicals that could point to life, NASA's robot explorers may have been toasting them by mistake. Even if Mars never had life, comets and asteroids that have struck the planet should have scattered at least some organic molecules over its surface but landers have failed to detect even minute quantities of organic compounds. Now scientists say they may have stumbled on something in the Martian soil that may have, in effect, been hiding the organics: a class of chemicals called perchlorates. At low temperatures, perchlorates are relatively harmless but when heated to hundreds of degrees Celsius perchlorates release a lot of oxygen, which tends to cause any nearby combustible material to burn. The Phoenix and Viking landers looked for organic molecules by heating soil samples to similarly high temperatures to evaporate them and analyse them in gas form. When Douglas Ming of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and colleagues tried heating organics and perchlorates like this on Earth, the resulting combustion left no trace of organics behind. "We haven't looked the right way," says Chris McKay of NASA's Ames Research Center. Jeffrey Bada of the University of California, San Diego, agrees that a new approach is needed. He is leading work on a new instrument called Urey which will be able to detect organic material at concentrations as low as a few parts per trillion. The good news is that, although Urey heats its samples, it does so in water, so the organics cannot burn up."

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129 comments

We can't let them kill the Mars life (5, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084161)

I suggest we send someone back in time to prevent the robot from killing the life on Mars.

Re:We can't let them kill the Mars life (4, Funny)

robably (1044462) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084321)

Is there a Bad Analogy Guy fan club? Or t-shirt, hat, walking stick, mouse pad, frisbee, wallpaper or carpet? Bad Analogy of the Day desk calendar? iPhone App? Your ideas intrigue me, I would like to subscribe to your newsletter. Or RSS feed, whichever.

Re:We can't let them kill the Mars life (4, Funny)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084477)

Is there a Bad Analogy Guy fan club?

Yes. [slashdot.org] Much bigger than yours [slashdot.org] , maybe half the size of mine [slashdot.org] (and thank you for your support.) :D

Anyone who says slashdot isn't a game isn't paying attention.

misapplied movie quote club (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 5 years ago | (#28086639)

Anyone who says slashdot isn't a game isn't paying attention.

"It was never meant to be a game!"

Re:We can't let them kill the Mars life (2, Informative)

Faylone (880739) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084587)

Actually, yes. You can get an RSS feed for ANY user on Slashdot in their profile.

Yes we can (1)

eclectro (227083) | more than 5 years ago | (#28085077)

I have never been a big fan of Martians [warnerbros.com] since that incident at Grover's Mill that was covered [wikipedia.org] up [imdb.com] .

Burn aliens, burn!

Re:We can't let them kill the Mars life (1)

Caledfwlch (1434813) | more than 5 years ago | (#28085395)

or at least send a very sincere apology to the Martian Ambassador

Re:We can't let them kill the Mars life (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28086137)

Maybe there exists a Heisenberg Uncertainty principle applied to alien life?

Re:We can't let them kill the Mars life (1)

djupedal (584558) | more than 5 years ago | (#28087643)

I said from the beginning that this was just a college recruiting stunt.

The dolts associated with this program should never have been allowed near any equipment in the first place...great waste of money, once again.

Re:We can't let them kill the Mars life (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28087759)

i say skip it and switch to terraforming.

Re:We can't let them kill the Mars life (1)

denshao2 (1515775) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088607)

We should just stop sending Daleks to Mars.

What (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084211)

comets and asteroids that have struck the planet should have scattered at least some organic molecules

Why would we expect comets or asteroids to carry organics? Haven't they been around much longer than life?

Simple explanation.. (5, Insightful)

gbutler69 (910166) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084411)

Organic "compounds" can be created (and often are) through other processes other than life. So, even if there were NO life on Mars, there should be some organic compounds. The fact that they are not finding any, combined with the finding of perchlorates (i.e. used for rocket fuel, explosives, etc) shows that there is something wrong with their experimental set-up.

Re:Simple explanation.. (1)

Koby77 (992785) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084651)

Or (Occam's razor) organic compound formation is a very rare process.

Re:Simple explanation.. (3, Informative)

Ian Alexander (997430) | more than 5 years ago | (#28085197)

The only problem with that is that it's not a very rare process. Seems like every other week some scientist has looked somewhere odd you'd never suspect and has found organic chemistry happening there. All life (as we know it, Jim ;)) is organic chemistry, but not all organic chemistry is life.

Re:Simple explanation.. (1, Insightful)

bcmm (768152) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084813)

Did you mean to put quotes on "organic", not on "compounds"?

Re:What (3, Informative)

thirty-seven (568076) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084763)

Why would we expect comets or asteroids to carry organics? Haven't they been around much longer than life?

  • A) Because we know that comets, asteroids, and other interstellar objects and dust do contain organic chemicals: see astrochemistry [wikipedia.org]
  • B) Because organic chemicals have also been around much longer than life has. You may be interested to know that vitalism [wikipedia.org] has been discredited by the synthesis of urea [wikipedia.org] .

Re:What (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084861)

"Organic" chemicals are not the same as that organic food in the grocery store. Organic chemicals are any chemical based on carbon. This includes all life on earth, and quite a bit of not-life on earth.

Re:What (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084987)

Why would we expect comets or asteroids to carry organics?

Because we know that they do.

Some meteorites, the carbonaceous chondrites [wikipedia.org] , are chock full of organic material. They came from some asteroid or asteroids. Organic materials seem especially common in the outer part of the main asteroid belt.

Comets have been found to have all sorts of organic materials [liebertonline.com] in them.

Note that organic just means that it contains carbon compounds, not that it was produced by living things.

gotta have my Priorities, man. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28084213)

Who cares about Mars? It is like, 800 miles away and nobody is from there and its all like sandy and shit. Fuckin bimbos with their wack ass stereo blasting are a bigger problem -- when is Nasa going to shoot them into a black hole or something? Shit!

So it makes soup? (3, Funny)

Onyma (1018104) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084225)

Mmm... organics boiled in water. Now I know what I'm having for lunch.

Re:So it makes soup? (2, Funny)

Onyma (1018104) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084289)

Yes, replying to myself with an afterthought. Isn't this basically what we did to most of the life on our own planet? "Broiled or boiled, what would you prefer?"

Re:So it makes soup? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28084497)

Mmm... organics boiled in water. Now I know what I'm having for lunch.

Yeah, I thought that was a bit odd. Specifically:

The good news is that, although Urey heats its samples, it does so in water, so the organics cannot burn up.

If by "burn" they mean oxidation, It seems that the distinct lack of oxygen would have taken care of that. If they meant something other than the commonly understood meaning of "burn", like maybe phase changes or the denaturing of proteins, it'd be nice of them to have specified. Although, I think the atmosphere of Mars is so thin that it's almost a vacuum compared to that of Earth, so maybe some special measures had to be built into Urey to accommodate liquid water with which anything could be boiled.

Re:So it makes soup? (1)

Eternauta3k (680157) | more than 5 years ago | (#28085905)

the distinct lack of oxygen would have taken care of that

Perchlorates. RTFS

the atmosphere of Mars is so thin that it's almost a vacuum compared to that of Earth, so maybe some special measures had to be built into Urey to accommodate liquid water

Closed containers?

Re:So it makes soup? (1)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 5 years ago | (#28086055)

The point is, the perchlorates already in Martian soil are oxidizers. They do provide plenty of free Oxygen when they are heated, and so yes, what happens to the organic compounds being heated with them IS oxidation. The scientists are using burn up in its normal sense.

In other words, HG Wells had it backwards (4, Funny)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084253)

So, instead of the Martians coming here, blowing stuff up and then catching a cold and dying out, we go there, give them heat and wipe them out first? I suppose the best defense really is a good offense!

Re:In other words, HG Wells had it backwards (2, Funny)

JustOK (667959) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084369)

Where's the kaboom? There was supposed to be a Mars-shattering kaboom!

Re:In other words, HG Wells had it backwards (2, Funny)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084539)

This way we get to keep their stuff, if you're going to raze you might as well pillage!

Re:In other words, HG Wells had it backwards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28084791)

If Americans want to be the leading country and representing Earth, all what we get from that is all aliens against us, while Americans are blaming aliens as terrorists!

US just goes to other countries, blows stuff up, kill civilians and builds up a Muppet government. And when people there are f* up and tries to get US out of the country, US says to world that civilians are terrorists, ask president to give a order to use military to kill them and get bigger budget and so on.

And same thing would happend on universum size...

Re:In other words, HG Wells had it backwards (1)

Abreu (173023) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084991)

Invaders from the dreaded blue-star!!

Re:In other words, HG Wells had it backwards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28087625)

A pre-emptive strike on Mars? We've exported the Bush doctrine to space?

Great, now some pissed off alien species is going to fly a couple of spaceships into Japan and Taiwan.

Bring water to mars (1)

pipatron (966506) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084341)

OK, so now they are going to bring water to Mars as well? Might as well bring bacteria and other life as well and contaminate away..

Re:Bring water to mars (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084551)

They'd make a killing in the cremation biz.

Re:Bring water to mars and some sharks (1)

ae1294 (1547521) | more than 5 years ago | (#28085611)

Might as well bring bacteria and other life as well and contaminate away..

Yes we already did that so what is the next step? ... profit? http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/08/the-dirt-on-mar/ [wired.com]

Re:Bring water to mars (1)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 5 years ago | (#28089003)

1: Mars has water. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_on_mars [wikipedia.org]

2: We can make water almost pure H2O. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pure_Water [wikipedia.org]

3: Bacteria doesn't live exclusively in water. If were were going to contaminate the place, the large pieces of complex machinery should do the trick just as well as a small vial of water...

FAILED! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28084355)

This is a miserable fail on the part of humanity...

2.45 GHz (0, Redundant)

JustOK (667959) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084357)

Wouldn't em with a wavelenght around 12.24 cm at 2.45 GHz have been quicker, and with a nice satisfying PING when done?

Re:2.45 GHz (0, Redundant)

Viraptor (898832) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084515)

> em with a wavelenght around 12.24 cm at 2.45 GHz

Redundant information is redundant. Besides, that's a wavelength of ~54 potrzebie

Re:2.45 GHz (0, Redundant)

_ivy_ivy_ (1081273) | more than 5 years ago | (#28085303)

Redundant information is redundant.

This message was brought to you by the Ministry, Department, Bureau, and Directorate for the Promulgation and Distribution of the Excessive, Superfluous, Gratuitous, and Redundant.

Re:2.45 GHz (2, Informative)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084781)

Wouldn't you want to use an IR Spectrometer?

I'm actually somewhat surprised that we've never sent one up to Mars, given that you can find one in most research facilities today.

Re:2.45 GHz (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28086913)

"Wouldn't you want to use an IR Spectrometer?"

A number of infrared spectrometers have been sent to Mars, both on orbiters and rovers. It is, however, very difficult to see the spectroscopic signature of organics when they are at low concentrations in a soil/mineral matrix.

Some NASA engineer laughs... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28084399)

Some NASA engineer laughs quietly to himself, knowing he prematurely stopped the Martian invasion of Earth before it even had a chance to begin.

Man,it took a rocket scientist to figure that out? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28084403)

Ha ha ha, get it?

Also, did I ever tell you the time I was a programmer for Microsoft and worked on DOS? I have a funny anecdote about it that'd be completely true, if it weren't false.

Didn't they test this before? (2, Insightful)

societyofrobots (1396043) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084423)

I see it odd they didn't even test the chemical detector process in realistic simulant soil before launching it to Mars . . .

Re:Didn't they test this before? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28084819)

I see it odd they didn't even test the chemical detector process in realistic simulant soil before launching it to Mars . . .

And how were they supposed to obtain a realistic simulant soil? Finding perchlorate was unexpected.

Re:Didn't they test this before? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28085307)

How the hell were they supposed to know what a "realistic simulant soil" would contain before running it through a chemical detector process?

Re:Didn't they test this before? (2, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#28085791)

Before the launched the chemical detectors to Mars, they didn't have a real good idea what chemicals were present in the soil in order to develop the a realistic simulant.

We come in peace! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28084443)

You come in peaces... :P

Re:We come in peace! (1)

Farmer Tim (530755) | more than 5 years ago | (#28085135)

You come in peaces

War machines come flat-packed? Good, we can defeat the Martian invaders with poorly translated assembly instructions.

I'm worried (1)

Norsefire (1494323) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084523)

So we might have been inadvertently killing alien life? Like in Ender's Game, only we're killing them.

Re:I'm worried (1)

The Archon V2.0 (782634) | more than 5 years ago | (#28085101)

So we might have been inadvertently killing alien life? Like in Ender's Game, only we're killing them.

Put more simply: Like Ender's Game, only we're the Buggers.

Sounds 'bout right.

Wow, that sucks. (1)

RabidMoose (746680) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084527)

It's got to be terrible, finding out after 5 years that the process you've been using was destroying the very thing you were seeking out.

This is the discussion about the man with ovucidal sperm, right?

Sorry to reply to myself... (1, Flamebait)

RabidMoose (746680) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084663)

...but I think I just invented a new form of birth control. Just from a quick look over Wikipedia, and what I remember from college biology, there's multiple enzymatic exchanges between sperm and egg before fertilization can complete. So, it should be possible to engineer a relatively simple, non-hormonal drug for men to take, which would prevent sperm from being produced all of the necessary enzymes (or purposefully carry an improper, but similarly binding enzyme), which could effectively kill any receptive egg that the sperm came in contact with, rather than fertilizing it.

Or am I completely delusional and in need of biology refresher courses? (it's entirely possible...)

Re:Sorry to reply to myself... (2, Funny)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#28085357)

I am not sticking that part of myself into an oven, if that's what you're getting at.

Re:Sorry to reply to myself... (1)

RabidMoose (746680) | more than 5 years ago | (#28085711)

Think of it as giving each of your little guys a microscopic explosive. They will train in one of two spec ops facilities, for one-time deployment. Upon sighting the overwhelmingly larger enemy, one will penetrate the defenses, reach the enemy nerve center, and detonate, destroying the enemy's ability to function, and thus saving you from 18-25 years imprisonment.

Re:Sorry to reply to myself... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28087347)

...but I think I just invented a new form of birth control. Just from a quick look over Wikipedia, and what I remember from college biology, there's multiple enzymatic exchanges between sperm and egg before fertilization can complete. So, it should be possible to engineer a relatively simple, non-hormonal drug for men to take, which would prevent sperm from being produced all of the necessary enzymes (or purposefully carry an improper, but similarly binding enzyme), which could effectively kill any receptive egg that the sperm came in contact with, rather than fertilizing it. Or am I completely delusional and in need of biology refresher courses? (it's entirely possible...)

I think sometimes that we're not going to see a truly effective, cheap, widely available, non-surgical birth control drug/pill for men because the existence of such a thing would drastically reduce the population. I say that because I believe it's something we could have if we really wanted it, but instead birth control is in the hands of the segment of the population most likely to want children (i.e. women). This would also alter the balance of power between the sexes. Right now in the USA if you are a man and you impregnate a woman, she can abort the fetus or carry it to term and you have absolutely no say-so in the matter even though you may want the child and even though you'll have a legal obligation to support the child if it is born. This remains so even if you could prove that she misrepresented whether or not she was taking birth control, which should be treated like any other form of fraud. It's actually worse than most other forms of fraud, since those involve only property. We would treat that like fraud and prosecute it as such if we were interested in justice and if we were interested in using a reasonable deterrent to reduce the number of fatherless children. That is, then more women would either use birth control, tell their partner truthfully whether or not they are on birth control so he can make an informed decision, or choose to have sex only with men who want to have children. A male version of "the pill" would make all of this much less of a problem.

There's another reason why you aren't likely to see a male version of "the pill." Governments and other powers-that-be generally want a higher population. If you ignore everything they say and look at what they do (which is how you should deal with governments and corporations anyway), you'll see that this is part of the reason why many countries have tax credits and other incentives for having children. More people = larger tax base. Not to mention that in the USA, a declining population would hasten the collapse of the Ponzai scheme known as Social Security. To understand the pattern of how such a thing would be suppressed while maintaining the illusion of a free market, just do some research into the high-MPG vehicles that have been around since about the 1960s.

Re:Wow, that sucks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28084737)

One would think that this experiment was done before the probe was launched.

what are we trying to prove then? (1)

stabiesoft (733417) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084535)

So if there should be organic molecules present from comets, then what does it prove if we find them with the new test? It seems to me, that if we proved the test inaccuracte because there must be organics, then how does it prove there was life if there are organics? It sounds like we just spent a whole lot of effort to prove the experiemt was flawed.

Re:what are we trying to prove then? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28084625)

The test doesn't merely return a yes/no, but it lists which organic molecules it found. Some organic compounds don't last very long, so they would indicate life.

Apropos alien life (4, Interesting)

rkaa (162066) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084547)

For the benefit of new readers and the general perspective; an old short-story by Terry Bisson: http://www.netfunny.com/rhf/jokes/96q1/meat.html [netfunny.com]
It's a "must read" if you haven't, just give in and click the link.

So let me get this straight.. (2, Funny)

stonetony (464331) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084555)

They've built a perchlorate percolator?

Misleading headline (5, Informative)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084629)

Mars Robot May Destroy Life It Was Sent To Find

implies that it destroyed all life on the planet (the "life it was sent to find"). Instead, it sounds like its life detector merely destroys signs of life in the samples it's testing.

Re:Misleading headline (1)

mizhi (186984) | more than 5 years ago | (#28087571)

Mars Robot May Destroy Life It Was Sent To Find

implies that it destroyed all life on the planet (the "life it was sent to find"). Instead, it sounds like its life detector merely destroys signs of life in the samples it's testing.

The misleading, screaming headline keeps Slashdot's servers warm.

Re:Misleading headline (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088161)

I submit this as the next headline: Mars Robot May Spontaneously Undergo Nuclear Fusion, Releasing Huge Amounts of Energy that Melt Planet

We don't take No as an answer (1)

findoutmoretoday (1475299) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084641)

Clever:
Previous test where negative, but flawed.  So give us another billion and we will produce the new flawed life on Mars test.

What NASA (0)

Fri13 (963421) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084729)

What NASA now tried to tell, is that they went to Mars with technology what wasn't tested on the Earth at all.

We have very expensive small machine on Mars, what we use by remote control and delays of hours. And all what we can find out is that tests what it was doing, can not be succeed even on here on Earth!

Great... So what is left to hand? Nice photos of Mars? Are those even real?

We have so much problems to get even the satelites work on the Earth orbit by using current technology. And still decades ago we supposly went to moon landing and now we should be studying on the Mars and we fail on that too?

And still we have more serious and basic problems on earth what could be solved with that money what is used to Mars study. If we just would want to.

Re:What NASA (2)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#28085451)

Or better yet, just cut back your armed forces by 10%

take your pick (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28084789)

1-told you so!

2-this is why you don`t send a robot to do a Mans job

3-epic fail

or my personal favorite

4-Hahahahahahhahahahahahahahaha

robots? cheap? get off my lawn!!, you just wasted 3 decades dumbasses.

yes!, I am for Manned spaceflight, NOT damn stupid overgrown Tonka toys and peoples excessive faith in em.

Martian bonfires anyone ? (4, Interesting)

mbone (558574) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084815)

The title is very misleading.

No-one thought that heating samples to 400 or 600 C would be good for any bacteria. The point is that they thought samples would outgas any organics. Now it seems they might be burned in the process. But in neither case were these tests designed to keep microbes alive.

Note that one implication here is that Martian soil will burn even under Martian conditions if you heat it properly - it has its own oxygen supply.

Martian bonfires anyone ?

Re:Martian bonfires anyone ? (1)

CannedTurkey (920516) | more than 5 years ago | (#28085475)

No one thought that? Maybe someone should have bothered to test it.

Re:Martian bonfires anyone ? (2, Insightful)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 5 years ago | (#28087387)

Test it on what all that other Martian top soil NASA has bags of in their garage?

Re:Martian bonfires anyone ? (2, Funny)

Farmer Tim (530755) | more than 5 years ago | (#28085617)

Martian bonfires anyone ?

Didn't he write Born To Be Wild [wikipedia.org] ?

I don't want to set the world on fire (1)

rabiddeity (941737) | more than 5 years ago | (#28086565)

I don't want to set Mars on fire,
I just want to start a flame in its soil.
In my heart I have but one desire
And that's perchlorate, no other will boil.

I've lost all ambition for Earthly acclaim
I just want to find some oxygen
And with the emissions with applied flame,
I'll have found the little Martian men, believe me!

I don't want to set Mars on fire,
I just want to start a flame in its soil!

Re:Martian bonfires anyone ? (2, Interesting)

Orange Crush (934731) | more than 5 years ago | (#28086707)

Note that one implication here is that Martian soil will burn even under Martian conditions if you heat it properly - it has its own oxygen supply.
Martian bonfires anyone ?

The soil itself won't catch fire. There just happens to be just enough perchlorate to combust the tiny amounts of organics at the right temperature. Heat the soil, it gives off a few wisps of smoke, maybe a sparkle or two. Not nearly enough to start a self-sustaining fire.

Re:Martian bonfires anyone ? (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088139)

The soil itself won't catch fire. There just happens to be just enough perchlorate to combust the tiny amounts of organics at the right temperature. Heat the soil, it gives off a few wisps of smoke, maybe a sparkle or two.

And you know this, how ?

Yes, it is unlikely that any given Martian soil will outright burn, but I would make a long bet that there will be some soil somewhere that does.

Re:Martian bonfires anyone ? (2, Interesting)

Stephen Samuel (106962) | more than 5 years ago | (#28087685)

OK: so the proper title would be: "...may destroy life signs it was sent to find."

On the bright side, though, if we can show that Martian soil contains a big enough volume of perchlorates, it might be possible to use that knowledge to lower the payload of a manned mission (in-situ oxygen generation).

I guess this was Rocket Science! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28084895)

I guess this was Rocket Science after all! Perhaps they should have called in the real rocket scientists to test this!

I am Lrrr (1)

neural.disruption (1290844) | more than 5 years ago | (#28084967)

from the planet Omicron Persei 8 and I want revenge for you have been killing our offspring in the nursery planet you Humans call Mars.

Re:I am Lrrr (3, Funny)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28085193)

Your cup of spunk is in the mail.

Paging Jackson Roykirk... (1)

afabbro (33948) | more than 5 years ago | (#28085011)

So NASA creates a probe which is sent to find life but instead destroys it...

...I think I heard this story once [memory-alpha.org] or twice [memory-alpha.org] before...

microscope? (1)

madcat2c (1292296) | more than 5 years ago | (#28085013)

Cant we just put a strong microscope on these things?

How it's supposed to be done. (2, Interesting)

had3l (814482) | more than 5 years ago | (#28085107)

Ah, the Human way of finding life:

Astronaut 1: "So, any signs of life?"

Astronaut 2: *shooting a flamethrower at the ground* "None."

Astronaut 1: "Ok, just to be sure let's blow everything up and scan the debris."

Carl Sagan (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28085175)

In Cosmos, Carl Sagan mentions an experiment that got scrubbed off of the Viking probes because of a lack of room. I forget the scientist who cooked up the idea (Wolf-something??), but it was really simple. Send up a container of food for whatever life you're expecting, throw some dirt in their, and see if anything develops. It was basically a petri dish for Mars.

midi-chlorian ?? (1)

PermanentMarker (916408) | more than 5 years ago | (#28085413)

The Force potential of an individual was measured in sentient creatures by a midi-chlorian count. While both the Jedi and the Sith used the Force to gain their power, there were as many different groups of users and views of the Force as uses of the Force itself.

Conquest of the New World (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28085437)

We weren't very concerned about bringing horses, gunpowder and smallpox to the New World. And that 'only' killed millions of people.

Yes, we should be careful, and yes, any definitive signs of life should be preserved as well as possible. But we really need to get over ourselves. If a Mars colony destroys bacteria which might evolve into life a billion years from now, then so be it. The survival and prosperity of the human race is far more important than a few microbes under a rock.

Re:Conquest of the New World (1)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 5 years ago | (#28086167)

The smallpox and gunpowder I'll give you, but I doubt that the horses killed millions, unless you mean they helped white guys chase the Native Americans down so they could be shot more easily. Might as well blame tarring ship hulls so bigger boats could transport the white guys over the Atlantic,

Re:Conquest of the New World (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28086827)

It was not my intent to 'blame' anything in particular, only to point out that we are always changing the environment, and That's Okay(tm), as long as we're smart about it.

But you probably already knew that. Anyway...

Onward to Mars!

Robinson Crusoe on Mars... (2, Informative)

CptNerd (455084) | more than 5 years ago | (#28085499)

Sounds like a major plot point of the old 60's movie "Robinson Crusoe on Mars", where the protagonist, a stranded astronaut, discovers that some rocks he found to put around his fire, release oxygen when heated (he discovers that just as he's running out of his bottled air). Sounds like it might be worth looking at as an oxygen source for colonies, if it produces enough O2 to be useful.

Re:Robinson Crusoe on Mars... (1)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 5 years ago | (#28087779)

wait... he's running out of oxygen, and the rare oxygen he managed to find is locked inside rocks... released only be the heat of his fire. His WHAT? Fire? How the hell does he have a fire if the oxygen is so rare its locked up in rocks?

Somethng better then the Urey device. (1)

PermanentMarker (916408) | more than 5 years ago | (#28085549)

The ultimate device to detect life on mars:


The Uri geller device.


Its better then the Urey device and comes with a free spoon!
So you can digg into the soil there.

War of the Worlds (1)

Ambiguous Coward (205751) | more than 5 years ago | (#28085599)

So in War of the Worlds when they tried to vaporize Tom Cruise, they were really just looking for life?

"Any life out there?"
"No, Captain, just a lot of small dust clouds. Nothing of interest yet."
"Well, let me know if we find anything."
...
ZZZZZZRRRRROWT

The dangers of space exploration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28086033)

When Douglas Ming of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and colleagues tried heating organics and perchlorates like this on Earth, the resulting combustion left no trace of organics behind.

Dr. Ming will be missed.

Goodbad (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 5 years ago | (#28086607)

The good news is that, although Urey heats its samples, it does so in water, so the organics cannot burn up.

The bad news is that Urey is in San Diego, and not Mars.

Re:Goodbad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28087427)

Urey is being developed by JPL, so it's actually in Pasadena, not San Diego.

Next up.... (1)

PhreezeVi (1435807) | more than 5 years ago | (#28087631)

Mars Robot May Drown Life It Was Sent To Find.

Researchers now believe that throttling, smothering, and using a machete is the safest way to discover if there is indeed life on Mars.

Also in the news - Why do aliens hate us so much?

Maybe the sensors are accurate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28087987)

Maybe there is just no life on Mars.

My thoughts exactly (1)

SilverHatHacker (1381259) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088483)

I had this great quote in my head, and I'm reading through the ~100 comments on the page thinking "YES! No one's said that yet!"... then I found yours at the very bottom.
You've gotta love the mindset of "We didn't validate our hypothesis, our tests must be flawed."

Simmer gently... (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088489)

It heats its sample in water. So it heats the frog slowly?

So where do you get the water? (1)

Photo_Nut (676334) | more than 5 years ago | (#28088691)

Don't you need to send water to Mars to do this new test?

And just by sending these probes to Mars, don't we pretty much send a couple bacteria there, some of them theoretically can survive? What if we planted the life on Mars that we are looking to find? After all, the fact that we have successfully put down these robots onto the ground gently enough that they are sending back scientific evidence could be enough to ensure that any stow-away life was shielded from the effects of entering the atmosphere...

Maybe this is a good thing, though... Maybe we have ensured that life will take hold on Mars, should we nuke the earth into oblivion.

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