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Why Mars Is Not the Best Place To Look For Life

Soulskill posted about 3 years ago | from the red-dead-emption dept.

Mars 298

EccentricAnomaly writes "A story over at Science News quotes Alan Stern (former head of NASA Science missions) as saying: 'The three strongest candidates [for extraterrestrial life] are all in the outer solar system.' He's referring to Europa, Titan, and Enceladus. So why is NASA spending $2.5B on the next Mars Rover and planning to spend over $6B more on a Mars sample return when it can't find the money for much cheaper missions to Europa or Enceladus?"

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Mars is closer and easier to send people to (5, Insightful)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 3 years ago | (#37726048)

Mars is closer and easier to send people to

Re:Mars is closer and easier to send people to (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37726066)

I just like to imagine how relations between Earth and the colonies will play out over time... Will they be like the American colonies and eventually rebel? Or would they be like Canada?

Re:Mars is closer and easier to send people to (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | about 3 years ago | (#37726092)

Oh, I'm sure we'll find something to fight about. We always do...

Re:Mars is closer and easier to send people to (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37726446)

I have a harder time imagining Earth as a political entity than I do imagining Martian colonists. The colonization of Mars is going to be a lot like the colonization of the New World, except more difficult, time consuming, and expensive. I don't think we've learned enough from our history or developed the ability to overcome our nature for it to be any different this time. Some groups will be pushed to rebellion. Others won't.

Re:Mars is closer and easier to send people to (1)

History's Coming To (1059484) | about 3 years ago | (#37726070)

Yup, question answered. There's never been a sign of life on the moon, but we went there anyway, it's not all about finding life. In fact, that might not even have much commercial value in the long run.

Re:Mars is closer and easier to send people to (2, Insightful)

Narmacil (1189367) | about 3 years ago | (#37726084)

This is the correct answer.

Even if we don't find life on mars, it will be important as a second establishment of civilization, this is more important than finding other life (because it will prolong the period we can look for it)

Re:Mars is closer and easier to send people to (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37726124)

Why bother? We can't afford it, and have many local problems on our own planet fucking us up right here and now. One day, when technology has improved for space travel, and we have a massively better grasp on energy generation, I can see expanding the human race to other locations. But for the foreseeable future, and that is probably several decade or beyond, we can't even manage our own planet that we're perfectly developed for. Save your teraforming for future generations and cheesy sci-fi tales.

We could probably afford it if we strip the top 1% wealth from their assets.

Re:Mars is closer and easier to send people to (1, Insightful)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | about 3 years ago | (#37726168)

We could probably afford it if we strip the top 1% wealth from their assets.

This is why we need a "-1 Dumbass".

It would be heavily abused, of course. But it certainly applies to the above AC.

Re:Mars is closer and easier to send people to (-1, Troll)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 3 years ago | (#37726222)

What is dumpass with stripping the top 1% of he world population from their assets?

After all they have more than 1000 times the money the rest of the world has together.

Re:Mars is closer and easier to send people to (0)

0111 1110 (518466) | about 3 years ago | (#37726292)

Perhaps you'd like to kill them as well?

Re:Mars is closer and easier to send people to (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37726304)

Or why don't you just answer the question instead of driving things to ridiculous extremes?

Re:Mars is closer and easier to send people to (1)

jtownatpunk.net (245670) | about 3 years ago | (#37726312)

And served with a nice Chianti, I suspect.

Re:Mars is closer and easier to send people to (1)

Pence128 (1389345) | about 3 years ago | (#37726476)

To put things in to perspective, if a person has one billion dollars they can give away one dollar every 4 seconds for 100 years and still have over $2 million per year left over. Alternately, if a person made $1000 an hour, he would have to work for 114 years to have a billion dollars. Assuming a 40 hour work week, he'd have to live for over 500 years. $1 billion is minimum wage for life for 1000 people. How does any one person get this rich?

Re:Mars is closer and easier to send people to (1)

RCL (891376) | about 3 years ago | (#37726582)

You don't earn that kind of money by implementing someone else's ideas (which rules out 99% of jobs) and hoping that your employer will reward you appropriately.

Instead, you try to make people around you implement your ideas - including the idea to get insanely rich.

Re:Mars is closer and easier to send people to (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37726326)

Easy there, Che. We don't all love the idea of murdering our own people and stripping their families of everything just so we can later starve everyone to death anyway.

Re:Mars is closer and easier to send people to (2)

Culture20 (968837) | about 3 years ago | (#37726672)

What is dumpass

That phrase is the shit!

What is dumpass with stripping the top 1% of he world population from their assets?

And then what, distribute it evenly between everyone? So now everyone has $5000(?) extra in their pocket, and prices for everything just rise to compensate because everyone knows everyone else has a little extra to spend? The end result is just to hurt the 1% and cause inflation. Kinda sadistic.

Re:Mars is closer and easier to send people to (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 3 years ago | (#37726172)

You don't come up with the technology to terraform and colonize planets overnight. Look at how many thousands of years and indirect pathways it took from the harnessing of fire to the exploration of space. As distance as those two events are, they are inherently linked. The future of humanity in space and the spread of our civilization across space started 50 years ago, and anything we do now is one step closer to that future. And for all we know, it won't even be Western civilization that first colonizes space. It could very well be some future, totally different civilization. A utopian, unified world government or a militaristic fascist state, someone will eventually colonize space, unless we somehow manage to eradicate all human life in an instant.

Re:Mars is closer and easier to send people to (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37726458)

It will be chinese men, no doubt involved in homosexual relationships colonizing Mars for the 'Glory of the People's Republic!' in the slim hope that it will net them wives as promised by the politicos. Only what will instead happen is that after toiling away for half their lives to set up a self sustaining colony, they'll send some snooty prefect and entourage to take over management of the outpost, relegating the initial colonists to slavelike conditions, while publicly hailing them as heroes and showing what a happy rosy place the new mars outpost is.

Or it could be halliburton. Either way it doesn't sound pleasant.

Take from the rich and give to the... rich (0)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 3 years ago | (#37726280)

We could probably afford it if we strip the top 1% wealth from their assets.

You do realize if you try that, you simply change the names of the 1% as they take over the transfer...

There will always be people with more than others. Leave people who have earned what they have alone to keep it and keep producing more, like water the money is recycled eventually in ways that benefit us all.

Re:Take from the rich and give to the... rich (5, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | about 3 years ago | (#37726360)

You do realize if you try that, you simply change the names of the 1% as they take over the transfer...

Although you are technically correct (the best kind of correct), that's a rather useless way of viewing money. In the U.S., the top 20% have about 85% of the accumulated wealth, and the top 5% have almost 60%, which makes it a remarkably lopsided distribution, with the vast majority of people living below the mean.

What this means is that if you repeatedly cut the top 1% down to the mean and distribute it among everyone else, it doesn't take long before you have dramatically increased the overall standard of living.

The bigger problem I have with your post is the assumption that the rich have predominantly earned their money. There's earned income, and there's unearned income (capital gains, interest, etc.). The vast majority of working class income falls into the first category. The vast majority of upper class income falls into the latter category. So any tax scheme that does not tax the upper class more than the working class is unfair because it takes away money that the working class have earned to allow the rich to keep more money that they haven't earned.

Re:Take from the rich and give to the... rich (3, Insightful)

the gnat (153162) | about 3 years ago | (#37726450)

There's earned income, and there's unearned income (capital gains, interest, etc.)

I don't want to get caught up in another endless thread about class warfare, but how are capital gains and interest "unearned"? Investing money can be hard work, and that money isn't just sitting there - it becomes available for other purposes, such as funding new companies. I grew up watching my father spend many hours each week looking over the family's investments and planning for the next several decades of our lives - he managed to pay for several college educations this way. But according to you, he didn't "earn" any of the money he made through his investments, so it's okay to confiscate it?

Now, the argument that people who make the majority of their income solely through capital gains should be taxed at the same rate as the rest of us - that I can pretty much agree with. But they earned it just as much as I earn my salary. I also have no problem with the concept that the tax burden should be proportional to income, or that the working poor should get a steep reduction in taxes. I don't really object to taxing the rich at a slightly higher rate either. But I'm really not comfortable telling someone that they don't deserve their wealth and should forfeit it to the government, especially given some of the batshit insane things we spend it on. And yes, colonizing Mars falls into that category.

Re:Take from the rich and give to the... rich (3, Interesting)

cyber-vandal (148830) | about 3 years ago | (#37726388)

No, it sits in vaults doing nothing while most of the human race starve. My favourite rich guy story is this [bbc.co.uk] one where he was so rich he didn't even notice for a couple of years that someone had stolen loads of money from him. Trickle-down is bullshit.

Re:Take from the rich and give to the... rich (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37726500)

"Leave people who have earned what they have alone to keep it and keep producing more, like water the money is recycled eventually in ways that benefit us all."

Doesn't seem to work that way. To continue your water analogy:

Evaporation takes water from the sea and rains it out on the land, where it runs off down brooks, streams, and rivers back to the sea. And lots of people use small volumes of it as it flows back to the sea, from whence its cyclic journey begins again. And the small volumes of water used by many individuals goes back to the sea as they pee, die, run their waterwheels, whatever. Yep, a nicely recycling hydrological or monetary ecosystem. Some folks have more, others less, but most people have plenty for their needs.

Then 1% of the people figure out how to impound runoff behind dams. These few folks impound 80% of the runoff, and they set guards around their dams and lakes to deny it to the other 99% of the population. Meanwhile, the reservoirs get deeper and wider, concentrating more and more of the available runoff into the hands of the 1% because there's just no effin' way *one* guy can use the *entirety of Lake Mead*, while ten million guys can easily keep that amount of water (money) in useful circulation.

Hydrological/ecological result is big, deep guarded lakes in surrounding desert until water overtops the dams and breaks them. Economical/ecological result is increasing wealth concentration and societal breakdown, followed by revolution. Look around you, it's not hard to see the signs.

Re:Mars is closer and easier to send people to (3, Insightful)

gmuslera (3436) | about 3 years ago | (#37726320)

Look a bit closer. Even getting into orbit could had the very same reasoning behind. Even today we aren't having our colony vacations in orbit, and probably won't for decades if ever. But how much it changed the world getting there for something else, and developing the associated technologies for getting there and taking advantage of that fact? A lot of the consequences of getting there wasnt even imagined by the time the race started. Not sure if we will ever terraform Mars, or even put self sustainable colonies up there. But all that we should develop to get that goal will give us a lot of benefits down here.

Also, that kind of reasoning will delay that forever, always should be a better use of money in the present instead of betting on having a future. Earth history is full of events that could make all saved pennies worthless, our time here could be running out, no matter if that will be next year, next millenium, or a millon years later, and we can do something about it now, not sure later.

Regarding the "top 1%", if an incoming disaster threaten us in the middle/short term, if its the solution their assets will finance a colony on mars... and they will be the ones that will be saved. We've seen that so many times in movies that will not surprise anyone if it ever happens.

Re:Mars is closer and easier to send people to (3, Insightful)

canadian_right (410687) | about 3 years ago | (#37726338)

We can afford it. All the USA needs to do is slow down killing other people and use about 10%o f the military budget for Mars and it is a done deal.

Problems on Earth are mainly not due to technology or money, but poor government. People are not starving because there isn't enough food. They starve because they live in places with incompetent, corrupt, or evil governments. Going to Mars is cheap and easy compared to solving poverty.

We are much better at managing the planet. There has never been such widespread wealth and peace [samharris.org] for such an extended time. Room for improvement, but we are on the right track. Well, maybe not the Tea Party.

Re:Mars is closer and easier to send people to (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | about 3 years ago | (#37726394)

The world is like a ride at an amusement park. And when you choose to go on it, you think that it's real because that's how powerful our minds are. And the ride goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills, and it's very brightly coloured, and it's very loud and it's fun, for a while. Some people have been on the ride for a long time, and they begin to question - is this real, or is this just a ride? And other people have remembered, and they come back to us. They say 'Hey! Don't worry, don't be afraid, ever, because, this is just a ride.' And we...kill those people. Ha ha ha. 'Shut him up! We have a lot invested in this ride. SHUT HIM UP! Look at my furrows of worry. Look at my big bank account and family. This just has to be real.' It's just a ride.

But we always kill those good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok. But it doesn't matter because: it's just a ride. And we can change it anytime we want. It's only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings, and money. A choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourselves off. The eyes of love, instead, see all of us as one. Here's what you can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money that we spend on weapons and defence each year, and instead spend it feeding, clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, for ever, in peace.

- The late, great Bill Hicks. Gone much too soon...

Re:Mars is closer and easier to send people to (1)

InfiniteZero (587028) | about 3 years ago | (#37726350)

Why stop at 1%? How about 5%... and that would include most Americans if you look at the wealth of the world.

Re:Mars is closer and easier to send people to (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37726444)

I'm so sick of the "Americans have it so much better than the 3rd world, so they should be happy with what they have and stop protesting" argument. By that logic, why can't the wealthy here be happy with what is considered wealthy in, say, Somalia, or Zimbabwe? Somehow I doubt they'd be happy with their vast fortune of tens of thousands of dollars...

While I disagree with targeting people based solely on their wealth and punishing success, I think that telling a swiftly growing class of poor "Hey, at least you're not 'Sub-Saharan Africa' poor!", is pretty ignorant.

Re:Mars is closer and easier to send people to (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37726482)

When an argument is based on: "But that guy has more than me!" the equally weak "Those people have less than you" is just as valid.

Re:Mars is closer and easier to send people to (1)

Sepodati (746220) | about 3 years ago | (#37726440)

We could probably afford it if we strip the top 1% wealth from their assets.

Genius! We should do this as many times as it takes, until there is no longer a top 1%!!

Re:Mars is closer and easier to send people to (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37726428)

Even if we don't find life on mars, it will be important as a second establishment of civilization, this is more important than finding other life (because it will prolong the period we can look for it)

Why?

It will be much easier to solve any problems on planet Earth than it will ever be to make Mars inhabitable and it'll be less resource intensive.

Having a Mars colony would be cool for the sake of it, but not cool enough to forgo scientific exploration. Colonization is an engineering problem; not a science one.

Re:Mars is closer and easier to send people to (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 3 years ago | (#37726318)

Mars ... has about 1/3rd of earth gravity. In summer at the equator it is about 20 degrees centigrade warm, even with an atmosphere of less then 10 milli bar, less then 5 even.
In valleys, canyons the pressure goes up to 100, or even 200 milli bars. They have 10km deep canyons on Mars, can you believe this? Colorado River Canyons are dwarfed against that.
You have the desert. The beautiful sunsets, the amazing sun rises.
With solar panels you can harvest sun, you can melt ice to get water, you can create methane and O2 to ave rocket fuel. You can fly planes or ballons. You can make a greenhouse and plant groceries.

On Europe: you have ice ... ice as far as the eye reaches, it is dark, so cold, and Jupiters radiation might kill you in a few days. The sky is marvelous, though. Jupiter, the god of this solar system, dwarfing the sun. But no resources, to build a habitat. No ... so cold ... so cold ... minus 150 degrees centigrade. And gravity is only less than half of Mars' 15% of earth gravity.

On Enceladus: even less gravity. Even more ice, even colder ... even farer away ... shudder.

If I was a viking and they promised me land moving into the outer solar system, I would head for mars. Any time.

Re:Mars is closer and easier to send people to (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37726472)

And the monolith told us not to go to europa

Re:Mars is closer and easier to send people to (1)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | about 3 years ago | (#37726514)

Plus there is no evidence that the Martians ever moved to Europa, Titan, and Enceladus.

Mars might be the best place to put life, though (1)

427_ci_505 (1009677) | about 3 years ago | (#37726056)

Certainly it would be easier getting humans there than the outer solar system places.

Re:Mars might be the best place to put life, thoug (1)

zixxt (1547061) | about 3 years ago | (#37726112)

Easier to get there but it would be impossible for humans to live on Mars.

Re:Mars might be the best place to put life, thoug (1)

Thantik (1207112) | about 3 years ago | (#37726282)

How so? Mars is red because of Iron Oxide. Oxide = Oxygen. Mars is similar to earth in basic composition. Just need a way to extract oxygen from rust reliably and efficiently and I see no reason that it would be impossible. Plants can also be genetically engineered to behave differently or to tolerate certain environments better. There is no reason at all to say that this is impossible. Improbable, maybe. Impossible...not at all.

Re:Mars might be the best place to put life, thoug (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37726510)

Then all we would have to do is figure out how to create a molten iron core in the planet and give said core rotational motion. Geez, it's just that easy..
Of course we could always burrow underground and contain ourselves within the artificial environment we create there. But if we are going to do that, we are better ff staying out of a gravity well.

Re:Mars might be the best place to put life, thoug (1)

CPNABEND (742114) | about 3 years ago | (#37726354)

Nahhh. I'm pretty sure there is a Wal~Mart there.

Even if Wal-mart is operating on Mars, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37726470)

and it's chock full of cheap plastic (organic) crap, it doesn't mean there's anything even remotely similar to life to be found there.

And who ever said that space exploration had to focused exclusively on finding extraterrestrial life? Mars holds untapped potential for investment! Once we're there and we've laid claim to it, we can start divvying it up and selling it off. The real estate market could real use shot in the arm (or the head).

Re:Mars might be the best place to put life, thoug (1)

Teun (17872) | about 3 years ago | (#37726502)

A Wal-Mart, you mean the Chinese got to Mars?

Re:Mars might be the best place to put life, thoug (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37726540)

A Wal-Mart, you mean the Chinese got to Mars?

Yeah, where else do you expect the red chinese to be?

Re:Mars might be the best place to put life, thoug (1)

muon-catalyzed (2483394) | about 3 years ago | (#37726522)

> would be impossible for humans to live on Mars

Who cares? This is all about "the first post" thing, the first human who sets his foot on Mars wins, period.

Re:Mars might be the best place to put life, thoug (1)

SteveW928 (2030878) | about 3 years ago | (#37726144)

I'm just not sure what the point of that would be. Terraforming makes nice sci-fi, but isn't sustainable without incredible amounts of resources (let alone getting it started). If we want a 'launch-pad' outside of Earth's gravity, the moon would make a much better place. If we're just looking for evidence to put towards the origins of life debate, the moon is going to give us much more evidence of early earth-life. There isn't likely to be any life on Mars (other than earth-life remnants blown into space that might have landed there), as under the evolutionary paradigm, the conditions aren't right and any place where they might have been, were incredibly brief.

Re:Mars might be the best place to put life, thoug (1)

s_p_oneil (795792) | about 3 years ago | (#37726404)

I imagine bio-engineering would be the direction to take to avoid that. If scientists can design a self-replicating micro-organism to extract oxygen from the soil and release it (and then die without leaving something toxic behind), it may be possible to make Mars easier for humans to live on. Yes it's a big "if", but it's an area scientists are making a lot of progress in, so I wouldn't discount it completely.

However, I'd be more worried about this:
http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2001/ast31jan_1/ [nasa.gov]

If that's true, you'd be fighting a losing battle no matter what you do.

Re:Mars might be the best place to put life, thoug (1)

Ruke (857276) | about 3 years ago | (#37726552)

We're not looking to discover what early Earth life looked like; we have Earth for that. What we're looking for is life that evolved in a completely isolated environment. Life on earth pretty much all uses DNA and RNA - it was the "fittest" self-replicating pattern, and it's pretty much got a monopoly on Earth. But if we can find life out there that hasn't had to compete with any of the lifeforms on earth, and didn't evolve from any life forms on earth, that would be incredibly interesting. We'd get to see if our set of amino acids were just the solution that life on earth stumbled upon, or if they're so head-and-shoulders above the competition that they will form wherever they can form.

I can't figure out what you mean by "the conditions aren't right under the evolutionary paradigm." Honestly, the sentence parses as gibberish. The basic ideas behind evolution don't even require organic matter. As Dawkins points out in "The Blind Watchmaker," any pattern that is predisposed to create copies of itself will show up in an environment more often than a pattern which is not. If the copying process has the potential to introduce random transcription errors, the it has all it needs to perform a search of the local pattern-space for "best pattern at copying itself." And, with scarce resources, there is an external pressure for these self-replicating patterns to be best at self-replicating. Nothing in here demands a perfectly earth-like environment. Water certainly helps, because all sorts of interesting chemical reactions occur at an impressive rate in aqueous solutions, but if we're looking for life outside of Earth, we need to be prepared to look for life not-quite-as-we-know-it.

Mars Ain't the Kind of Place to Search for Life... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37726080)

...in fact, it's cold as hell.

Re:Mars Ain't the Kind of Place to Search for Life (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37726392)

All of a sudden I want to go out and buy a Passat. At least I don't have to make the obligatory Rocket Man post.

My money... (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | about 3 years ago | (#37726082)

is on Europa. I hope I live long enough to see whether I lose that bet.

Re:My money... (1)

SteveW928 (2030878) | about 3 years ago | (#37726170)

Isn't Europa tidally locked?

Re:My money... (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | about 3 years ago | (#37726200)

Yes, but they hypothesize that the intense gravity from Jupiter causes tidal flexing, which in theory could create enough heat through eruptions and such to maintain a liquid water ocean under the frozen surface.

never.. (1)

formfeed (703859) | about 3 years ago | (#37726302)

.. would the tea party support a NASA budget that wants to spend money for going to Europe.

Because it's closer. (4, Insightful)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 3 years ago | (#37726086)

Mars is closer to us than Europa, Titan, and Enceladus. Not just physically, but culturally. Literature, film, etc, Mars has played a big role in the past 50-75 years. If you hear "little green men", the average person is going to immediately think "Mars". More people are more likely to know the name Mars as opposed to some moons orbiting Saturn ( and yes, I'll admit I had to look in the article to double check that they are in fact moons of Saturn). If you are trying to get funding for something, you go for something people will recognize, because they will be more likely to support it. Ask for something they've never heard of, and they might start wondering if it's really all that necessary. It's sad, but it's true.

Also, people might confuse Europa with a continent, and Enceladus with a Mexican dish. :)

Re:Because it's closer. (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | about 3 years ago | (#37726184)

More people are more likely to know the name Mars as opposed to some moons orbiting Saturn ( and yes, I'll admit I had to look in the article to double check that they are in fact moons of Saturn).

Should have looked more closely, Europa orbits Jupiter [wikipedia.org] .

Arthur C. Clark would be rolling in his grave...

Re:Because it's closer. (2)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 3 years ago | (#37726196)

More people are more likely to know the name Mars as opposed to some moons orbiting Saturn ( and yes, I'll admit I had to look in the article to double check that they are in fact moons of Saturn).

Should have looked more closely, Europa orbits Jupiter [wikipedia.org] .

Arthur C. Clark would be rolling in his grave...

See what I mean? Unless it's something you are actively interested in, it's easy to get them wrong. If you are trying to change peoples' priorities, you have to start with something they know. Then you can move on to things they might be unfamiliar with.

Re:Because it's closer. (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | about 3 years ago | (#37726290)

I get what you are saying, but when it comes to matters of science, I don't think we should demean it by marketing it like a soft drink or brand of clothing.

I think we should instead focus our energies on educating people as to why these places make good choices, instead of trying to cash in on pop culture tropes that have no scientific basis.

I admit, though, that the latter method is usually more effective, at least here in the U.S., anyway...

Re:Because it's closer. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37726506)

That's all well and good, but this isn't the National Science Foundation, it's NASA. NASA science is much MUCH more political than NSF science. It maybe not be the best way to do it, but it's the only way it's going to happen.

Re:Because it's closer. (5, Funny)

Jimbookis (517778) | about 3 years ago | (#37726232)

Mars is closer to us than Europa, Titan, and Enceladus. Not just physically, but culturally. Literature, film, etc,

Yes, that I have never quite gotten into or understood that Europan tentacle porn as much as I have the Martian three fingered face hugger porn. Titanian porn makes me feel inadequate.

Re:Because it's closer. (2)

AchilleTalon (540925) | about 3 years ago | (#37726258)

Bingo! This is all about public relations and nothing about the scientific justification. Taxpayers want to dream they will a day send someone (even just to die) on Mars, they feel it is a great way to spend money, while sending a probe on Saturnian moons seeking for life indications there isn't that great for them. In fact, people don't care that much about extraterresterial life, they care much more about going somewhere else to prove they are a so marvelous creature capable of spending ressources on useless things.

So, money wise, it is better to put efforts on Mars rather than on Saturnian moons from the taxpayer's point of view

Re:Because it's closer. (2)

JustOK (667959) | about 3 years ago | (#37726598)

Mars has a better PR team.

Because Mars is the best chance for the price (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37726088)

While missions to Europa and Enceladus may be cheaper they won't actually search for life. Instead they will stick a spacecraft in orbit around the moon and map the surface. At best, they may send a small probe to the surface that will survive a few hours in one location. On the other hand, a sample-return mission to Mars will generate knowledge and experience with a quicker turnaround and lower price than a similar mission to the moons of Jupiter or Saturn.

Re:Because Mars is the best chance for the price (1)

jaroslav (467876) | about 3 years ago | (#37726550)

Dead on. It's not like you can just look at a pile of dirt (or ice) and tell whether there's something living in it. And you certainly can't do life detection from orbit unless you have a serious biosphere going, which obviously none of these outer solar system moons have. And the Europa drilling ideas that people like to throw around aren't going to be technically feasible in the time frame of the missions to Mars -- if ever.

Becuase... (1)

Mister Transistor (259842) | about 3 years ago | (#37726090)

Mars is where the little green men are from! The other planets and moons are obviously uninhabited.

Re:Becuase... (1)

Windwraith (932426) | about 3 years ago | (#37726420)

You are joking, but I fear this is the actual reason. People are somehow enchanted with Mars and will never let go until they find something.

Invaders come from Mars (1)

Cassini2 (956052) | about 3 years ago | (#37726094)

The invaders came from Mars in "War of the Worlds", written in 1898, and people have been fixated on it ever since.

Don't expect either the U.S. military or NASA to update their plans for invasion based on almost 115 years of scientific research.

Seriously, the plan was to go to Mars since JFK's time, because he thought the Russians might beat us to the moon. NASA never updated the roadmap.

Re:Invaders come from Mars (3, Insightful)

JazzHarper (745403) | about 3 years ago | (#37726202)

I blame Percival Lowell more than H. G. Wells. Wells just took Lowell's ideas and made a novel out of them. Lowell, being a respected astronomer, caused people to think that it could be true.

most animals are hard-wired (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37726096)

to want to investigate their neighborhood, and in our case that would be earth's moon, Mars, and Venus. Let's check it out.

The cruise trips to the faraway locales can wait.

Wasted effort? (1)

zixxt (1547061) | about 3 years ago | (#37726106)

The fact that Mars as no global magnetic field, and any carbon based life would in theory die within a short period of time because of the solar radiation. I do think we are gasping for straws thinking of having a colony on the planet.

Re:Wasted effort? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37726152)

Don't be silly. That just makes it a CHALLENGE! It's not like civilization has to be on the surface either.

Failing all other things, we can just send Chuck Norris. That'll colonize it pretty damned easily.

Re:Wasted effort? (1)

Grekan (2349348) | about 3 years ago | (#37726154)

If we can get people to Mars without frying them in solar radiation I suspect we could probably set up bases on Mars without frying them.

Re:Wasted effort? (1)

fotoguzzi (230256) | about 3 years ago | (#37726212)

I sometimes wonder if the low gravity would make Mars a good retirement planet for arthritics. Not so little that your bones decay, but not so much that your joints ache all 25-hour day?

Re:Wasted effort? (1)

Targon (17348) | about 3 years ago | (#37726236)

Why is everyone so fixated on the idea that every form of life should be based on Carbon? In the same way that people in general can't seem to understand that other forms of life may use senses other than the five or six humans have, people should not be hung up on Carbon and other life that is similar in form to what we currently have on Earth.

Re:Wasted effort? (1)

Kozz (7764) | about 3 years ago | (#37726284)

Why is everyone so fixated on the idea that every form of life should be based on Carbon?

Because we have a nearly infinite multitude of carbon-based life forms here on earth, and we know a lot about their chemistry, metabolic byproducts, behaviors, patterns, etc. We can put together a list of known items that could indicate carbon-based life, and create experiments or procedures that help us locate them. If you choose silicon (presumably), where do you start? What kind of things indicate products of silicon-based life? That's a pretty short list, I think.

Re:Wasted effort? (1)

jaroslav (467876) | about 3 years ago | (#37726568)

Also because what we know about thermodynamics tells us that analogous non-carbon (e.g. silicon) "organic"-molecules are less stable and thus less likely to be the basis for life.

duh (1)

alienzed (732782) | about 3 years ago | (#37726142)

Mars needs women.

If we visit mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37726158)

... then there will be life on it. Problem solved.

Honesty? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37726176)

Is someone over at NASA finally being honest? Let's face it the odds on other life being discovered in our solarsystem is virtually zero. It is extremely extremely extremely unlikely.

But NASA is always wetting our appetites with the "possibility" of life. Why?

Funding.

Would US taxpayers be happy about funding extraterrestrial geologists to study rocks for the sake of studying rocks?

Face it, the most boring person at a party is a geologist. Most people don't care about rocks.

Mars is easier... (1)

atari2600a (1892574) | about 3 years ago | (#37726198)

...to terraform, to transport human payloads to AND to live on. Worst case scenario it makes a good outpost / transfer terminal to the life-bearing moons further out.

Re:Mars is easier... (1)

Pence128 (1389345) | about 3 years ago | (#37726570)

No on all three counts. Space habitats have much less surface area to cover with biosphere, their escape velocity is zero, and are literally designed with all the creature comforts. The only catch is you live in them, not on them.

One thing at a time (1)

js3 (319268) | about 3 years ago | (#37726204)

We could learn a lot from exploring the planet closest to us, before venturing out to other places.

A desert (1)

Corson (746347) | about 3 years ago | (#37726246)

Mars is a desert where humans cannot live. Even if NASA found dinosaur bones in the dirt on Mars, or whatever other proof that there has been life on Mars millions of years ago, who will benefit from that other than a few scientists who will publish the discovery in Science? Mars is inhospitable for vertebrates, and even for plants. Maybe they hope to find oil there, but Earth has not run out of oil yet. Europa, Enceladus, and Titan, on the other hand, might harbor different very life forms, perhaps even some that Man could communicate with.

Re:A desert (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37726316)

Human beings have a great reluctance towards listening to each other, why would they want to communicate with life that isn't even recognizable to human eyes, except, perhaps, to find some means of exploiting it?

Re:A desert (2)

Salvo (8037) | about 3 years ago | (#37726358)

Humans have lived in deserts before. Common Theory is that Homo Sapiens evolved in the grasslands of Africa and thrived in the deserts. Bedouin Arabs still roam the deserts of the Middle East.

Of all the planets in our solar system, Mars is (theoretically) the easiest to Terraform. It has lots of carbon dioxide and Water Ice, which (with the right bacteria) could be used to establish a carbon-based ecosystem. It's Day is only a half-hour or so longer than 24 hours so it wouldn't be too much of a cultural shock for our frail human bodies to adapt to.

Lot's of Science Fiction discuss the colonisation and terraforming of Mars. Some Future Fantasy, some Hard S.F. I recommend reading Red Mars, Blue Mars and Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. The Trilogy discusses the Political, Geological, Biological and Physical Sciences of Intra-Solar-system, Extra-Terrestrial Colonisation.

Re:A desert (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37726496)

Man the AAA, folks! We have ourselves a space nutter!

Re:A desert (1)

Pence128 (1389345) | about 3 years ago | (#37726600)

Titan is already known to have lakes of methane, which in the far off future will probably be an important resource in the form of propellant. If mars did have oil, you'd need to construct launch vehicles on mars, or you would burn more fuel getting there than you would bring back. I would hope that by the time we get to that point, we will have moved long past oil.

The Sun (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37726250)

Yes. We should look around on the sun instead.

Europa (4, Insightful)

MrVictor (872700) | about 3 years ago | (#37726256)

Yes, Europa has a probably has a better chance of having life in its subsurface oceans but there is that wee problem of penetrating through its icy crust. How the hell are you going to penetrate through 20 kilometers of ice (minimum estimate) without using a massive thermonuclear bomb? And then if you did, any life in the vicinity of the blast would be annihilated and then the thawed hole would freeze over before a probe could find anything. Yea, forget about Europa.

This seems unfair (4, Interesting)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | about 3 years ago | (#37726266)

This seems unfair at multiple levels. First, we understand the basic Martian environment a lot better than other environments so sending things there are easier. Second we know from the Viking probes that Mars has weird chemistry going on in its surface. We still don't know what exactly happened there. The basic results of the Viking experiments seemed to be consistent with life but no complex carbon compounds were found. We now know that this may have been due to the presence of perchlorates in the surface material which could have destroyed the organic compounds when the samples were heated. Mars is still one of the most promising locations for life.

That said, there are less good reasons why Mars is a frequent target. Sending things to Mars takes a lot less time than sending things to the outer systems. That means if one is a scientist one would rather work on a project that sends something to Mars than something that goes far away. Second, Mars has a place in the popular mind that these various moons do not.

The real question that should be being asked is not why there's so much funding for Mars compared to other locations but why there's so little funding in general. The repeatedly canceled Europa missions would be in the cost range of a few hundred million dollars. This is a tiny amount when one compares it for example to how much money the US spends on Afghanistan monthly. The US has messed up priorities. That's why even as we speak, the Russians are doing a sample return mission to Phobos which will launch in a few weeks http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fobos-Grunt [wikipedia.org] . If the Russians were still dirty commies the US would be in an absolute panic and we'd have congressional hearings asking why the US isn't doing something similar. I hope that as China becomes more of a boogeyman the US will start taking space seriously again, if not for the good of humanity, at least for old-fashioned xenophobia. And I suppose that in the long-run I really would prefer that functioning democracies explore and colonize space than other countries, but that's so far in the future at the current rate of exploration that it doesn't seem to be immediately relevant. Right now, we need to just get some people substantially interested in exploring beyond our little rock.

Re:This seems unfair (5, Informative)

Pence128 (1389345) | about 3 years ago | (#37726626)

$100 million is about what the US spends on Afghanistan in 36 hours. It would last 6 in Iraq.

Europa is off-limits. We can't land there. (1, Funny)

Cow Jones (615566) | about 3 years ago | (#37726332)

All these worlds are yours, except Europa.
Attempt no landing there
Use them together
Use them in peace

Cause SYFY told us to (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 3 years ago | (#37726370)

Now get off my lawn

My question (1)

Maljin Jolt (746064) | about 3 years ago | (#37726416)

is, why Venus seems like a tabu for exploration and research?

Re:My question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37726504)

Because anything that enters the atmosphere is horribly destroyed? We do have a lot of probes that have seen it from orbit, though.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus#Exploration

Re:My question (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 years ago | (#37726618)

is, why Venus seems like a tabu for exploration and research?

872 degree F surface temperature, 93 bar surface pressure, a bunch of hydrochloric acid that, along with the temperature and pressure melts everything in a few minutes.

What's not to like?

There are many research goals (2)

Hentes (2461350) | about 3 years ago | (#37726422)

other than just looking for life. Also, Mars probes can operate for years not just for hours like the one on Titan.

"ALL THESE WORLDS..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37726448)

All these worlds are yours now except Europa. Make no attempt to land there.

That's why.

It's about fulfilling people's expectations (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 3 years ago | (#37726520)

NASA isn't there to find extraterrestrial life, it's there to get funds to do exploration. On that basis, do you think it will be easier for them to finance a mission to Mars or one to some distant rock that nobody outside the scientific community has heard about, cares about or could find on a map?

If they fail to find life on Mars (despite the David Bowie song), they can recover by saying "we haven't failed, we just haven't succeeded YET". However if they "waste" billions on a mission to one of the more likely, but unpronounceable candidates, then "the public" will start asking questions about why they were looking there, when everybody knows Mars is a better bet.

NASA's main goal is to secure its own future. It won't achieve that by trying to spend money on unpopular things that taxpayers aren't prepared to fund.

Re:It's about fulfilling people's expectations (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | about 3 years ago | (#37726636)

That's part of it, but looking for life on Europa is a mission FAR beyond our current state of the art. It's not going to be on the surface, far too much radiation and no atmosphere. It's postulated to be in a postulated water ocean postulated to be buried under a tens or hundreds of miles thick ice sheet. We have no direct evidence that the ocean is there, we have no direct evidence of how thick the ice might be, and to some degree, what it's made of.

    Even taking all the presuppositions as accurate, we have NO IDEA how to build something that will reliably bore through the ice, cruise around doing science experiments, and then somehow relaying the data back to Earth. Or to make a completely autonomous submarine (autonomous since there's almost certainly no way to control it live or via relay) that will take hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of atmospheres of pressure.

      And of course all the presuppositions may well be wrong.

          Hey, I want to see what's under the ice, too. But I work in this business, on state-of-the-art spacecraft, and I this is decades to hundreds of years beyond our capabilities.

    They explore Mars because they know how to do that, it's much easier and doesn't stress the limits of known technology to an absurd degree.

      Brett

Who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37726530)

We'll just end up spraying Roundup(TM) on it,shooting, weed-wacking or declaring war on it. YES WE CAN!

Weel if Arnold want to be president (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | about 3 years ago | (#37726544)

He can be president of Mars. I'm sure it would be perfectly constitutional

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