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Life Possible On 'Large Regions' of Mars

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the quato-approved dept.

Mars 154

astroengine writes "Australian scientists who modeled conditions on Mars to examine how much of the Red Planet was habitable have said that 'large regions' could sustain life. Using decades of global data, the researchers have evaluated the entire planet, and found that 3 percent of the Martian volume could sustain Earth-like microbial life. As a comparison, only one percent of the volume of Earth contains life. However, the only habitable regions are below the Martian surface where the temperature and pressure could sustain liquid water."

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first post (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38342134)

trollaxor!

So it's time to drill? (4, Insightful)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342170)

I'd be interested to know how deep they think you'd have to drill to find water beneath the surface of mars. If it's actually a reasonable depth, it seems like it could be a good source of propellant for a return trip, were a manned mission ever to take place.

Re:So it's time to drill? (5, Insightful)

FTWinston (1332785) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342186)

It could also be a good source of propellant for an unmanned sample return mission. If the drilling/refining component of this mission proved to be reliable enough for the unmanned return trip, and was able to continue producing fuel after the return capsule had left, it could conceivably then be used to provide fuel for a manned return trip. (At least for the return-to-martian-orbit part).

But unless it had a track record, I'd be wary of risking my life on the assumption that fuel could be extracted.

Re:So it's time to drill? (4, Insightful)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342246)

But unless it had a track record, I'd be wary of risking my life on the assumption that fuel could be extracted.

Which is just one of the reasons that you're not an astronaut. They risk their lives just to get out into space in the first place.

Re:So it's time to drill? (4, Insightful)

FTWinston (1332785) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342310)

Which is just one of the reasons that you're not an astronaut.

The main reasons being my nationality, my height, my short-sightedness, and my wife.

They risk their lives just to get out into space in the first place.

You do realise that manned spacecraft tend to be rigorously tested first? The first moon landing was done by the 11th Apollo craft for a reason, you know.

Re:So it's time to drill? (3, Insightful)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342424)

They risk their lives just to get out into space in the first place.

You do realise that manned spacecraft tend to be rigorously tested first? The first moon landing was done by the 11th Apollo craft for a reason, you know.

They do lots of testing. However, "astronaut" is still a very dangerous profession.

Re:So it's time to drill? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342690)

They do lots of testing. However, "astronaut" is still a very dangerous profession.

Oh please. Your odds of a nice long healthy gray hair retirement are orders of magnitude better for an astronaut than for a logger or a farm hand.

Re:So it's time to drill? (1, Informative)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342804)

They do lots of testing. However, "astronaut" is still a very dangerous profession.

Oh please. Your odds of a nice long healthy gray hair retirement are orders of magnitude better for an astronaut than for a logger or a farm hand.

31% of all astronauts have died in the process (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astronaut#Deaths [wikipedia.org] ). I haven't looked up statistics for logging and farming, but I'd be really surprised to find it was so high.

Re:So it's time to drill? (5, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38343040)

Check your math. Your own link lists 18 dead, and 529 people "in space", for some strange value of "in space". Plenty of "astronaut" job title holders don't technically get in space, or don't get a mission assigned at all.

That's not even a tenth as dangerous as being a German U boat sailor in WWII.

Loggers "score" 55 deaths per 100K workers per year on the job, as of 2009. However that's a pretty broad category, including picker crane operators whos main danger is hypothermia from sitting around all day, the truck loader guys who mainly have to worry about getting run over; for the guys actually waving chainsaws in the air on a regular basis, the number is about 10 times higher.

I'd say that further research indicates I was wrong, overall an astronaut is "about" as likely to die on the job as a logger. However, note there are a couple orders of magnitude more wounds and permanent non-fatal maiming accidents that deaths in logging, and astronauts pretty much either don't get a scratch or they die, so assuming the only danger is death, and only death, skews the results quite a bit. If your criteria for dangerous is "any permanent severe career limiting damage" then I believe I was originally correct, logging is way more dangerous.

About a third of Mt Everest climbers die enroute. Now that, is dangerous.

Re:So it's time to drill? (3, Insightful)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | more than 2 years ago | (#38343124)

Check your math. Your own link lists 18 dead, and 529 people "in space", for some strange value of "in space". Plenty of "astronaut" job title holders don't technically get in space, or don't get a mission assigned at all.

That's not even a tenth as dangerous as being a German U boat sailor in WWII.

Loggers "score" 55 deaths per 100K workers per year on the job, as of 2009. However that's a pretty broad category, including picker crane operators whos main danger is hypothermia from sitting around all day, the truck loader guys who mainly have to worry about getting run over; for the guys actually waving chainsaws in the air on a regular basis, the number is about 10 times higher.

I'd say that further research indicates I was wrong, overall an astronaut is "about" as likely to die on the job as a logger. However, note there are a couple orders of magnitude more wounds and permanent non-fatal maiming accidents that deaths in logging, and astronauts pretty much either don't get a scratch or they die, so assuming the only danger is death, and only death, skews the results quite a bit. If your criteria for dangerous is "any permanent severe career limiting damage" then I believe I was originally correct, logging is way more dangerous.

About a third of Mt Everest climbers die enroute. Now that, is dangerous.

Pardon my error, you are correct. It's only 3.4%

Re:So it's time to drill? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38343114)

31% of all astronauts have died in the process (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astronaut#Deaths [wikipedia.org] ). I haven't looked up statistics for logging and farming, but I'd be really surprised to find it was so high.

Please show your math. According to your own citation, there have been around 520 astronauts (depending on your definition of astronaut) and 29 deaths during spaceflight or training. My math says about 5.6%. I'll bet that's pretty comparable to a fishing or logging job, while being a log more rewarding.

Also, please note that the above definition of astronaut does not include the hundreds of astronauts in perpetual training who have not yet flown (and now probably never will fly) a space mission.

Re:So it's time to drill? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38343206)

What?!
From your quoted article:
"As of June 20, 2011, a total of 523 people ... reached 100 km" and "Eighteen astronauts (fourteen men and four women) have lost their lives during four space flights."

That is about 3.4 %, if you count the training accidents you get to about 5,5%, how the ... did you manage to wiggle that up to 31?

Re:So it's time to drill? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342824)

However, "astronaut" is still a very dangerous profession.

It isn't in the top ten (although "pilot" is). [cnn.com]

How many astronauts have died on the job? Apollo7, Challenger, Columbia, and a couple of Russian crashes in fifty years of spaceflight! I'd say their safety record is pretty darned good.

Re:So it's time to drill? (1)

cavreader (1903280) | more than 2 years ago | (#38345234)

Especially when compared to the number deaths caused by mining and oil dilling.

Re:So it's time to drill? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38344214)

yeah, things didn't go so well a few Apollo's later :D

Re:So it's time to drill? (3, Insightful)

CPTreese (2114124) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342482)

You do realise that manned spacecraft tend to be rigorously tested first? The first moon landing was done by the 11th Apollo craft for a reason, you know.

Do you realize that everyone came within a hairs breadth of dying on the 13th Apollo mission? Oh yeah, everyone DID die on the space shuttle challenger AND Columbia. Also, don't forget the entire Apollo 1 crew died in a fire on the ground. Sure it's tested, but that doesn't mean it's safe.

There are too many people on Slashdot that disagree just to be contrary

Re:So it's time to drill? (2)

FTWinston (1332785) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342610)

I absolutely realise those things. And all those incidents occurred with extremely rigorous testing. I doubt that there's the political will to send astronauts on an extremely expensive trip, that would be a suicide mission unless a drilling machine works first time on a planet its never been tested on. There'd be enough potential disasters on a manned mars mission without that!

Re:So it's time to drill? (5, Insightful)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 2 years ago | (#38343400)

Also, remember, the first Apollo missions were unmanned. They sent an unmanned probe further than they sent their first manned mission. Add onto that the fact that when they DID send people up, they didn't send idiots up.
On the topic of Mars, we've already landed there, but there's generally been no reason to return those probes so it's not been planned for.

We KNOW we can get there, the next stage towards a manned mission will be figuring a way of getting them off the surface and back again. If that means drilling then that adds a whole mess of untested unknowns to work through

Drilling on Mars is going to be atleast as complex as drilling on Earth and will require more than just the pilot/scientist crew dynamic we're used to in space. For the first time you'd need someone who knows how to handle heavy machinery, since, even when Mars is closest, signals will take 3 minutes to reach them, so you need a specialist on hand in case the shit hits the fan. You'll also need to lug the machinery up there too, and land it. The biggest single piece of machinery we've landed so far has been the LEM + Moon Buggy. A Drill would be ALOT bigger. It would take ALOT Longer to set up too, and would require a degree of self-sufficiency and a factor of safety in their provisions incase of an accident that may prolong their stay.

And I'm not even an expert. There's bound to be loads of things I've not thought of that needs to be tried and tested before we even think of sending someone to Mars.

The Astronauts took a risk going to the moon. Hell, it's a risk every time they strap themselves to the gigantic firework built by the lowest bidder. I know I couldn't do it.

Re:So it's time to drill? (3, Funny)

FTWinston (1332785) | more than 2 years ago | (#38343452)

So what you're saying is, we need to send Bruce Willis and a bunch of morons?

Re:So it's time to drill? (1)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 2 years ago | (#38343784)

I was hoping it wouldn't be THAT obvious.

Re:So it's time to drill? (3, Informative)

loufoque (1400831) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342724)

That's nothing compared to the amount of russian cosmonauts who died, or probably also the unknown amount of chinese ones.

Re:So it's time to drill? (5, Funny)

RivenAleem (1590553) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342834)

There are too many people on Slashdot that disagree just to be contrary

Oh no there isn't.

Re:So it's time to drill? (1)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 2 years ago | (#38343068)

Yes there are!

Re:So it's time to drill? (1)

edxwelch (600979) | more than 2 years ago | (#38343640)

Hurry - Slashdot pantomime audience

Re:So it's time to drill? (2)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 2 years ago | (#38343898)

They're behind you!

AREN"T (1)

chemindefer (707238) | more than 2 years ago | (#38343602)

it's aren't....

Re:AREN"T (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38344260)

No, it is not.

Re:AREN"T (1)

arkane1234 (457605) | more than 2 years ago | (#38344626)

six of one, half dozen of another.
"oh no there are not"
"oh no there is not"

Re:So it's time to drill? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38342906)

There are too many people on Slashdot that disagree just to be contrary

Oh, come on. That's bollocks.

Cleese: Look, if I *argue* with you, I must take up a contrary position!

Palin: Yes but it isn't just saying 'no it isn't'.

Cleese: Yes it is!

Re:So it's time to drill? (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342994)

There are too many people on Slashdot that disagree just to be contrary

That's not true. Everybody I know doesn't do that.

Re:So it's time to drill? (2)

kubernet3s (1954672) | more than 2 years ago | (#38343092)

He wasn't being contrary. He was originally making a point about how it would be risky to send a manned mission to mars banking on the presence of liquid water as a source of jet propellant. Somersault saw the words "risk my life" and thought "HA! You're not risking YOUR life, you pansy, chunkity assed nerd! The astronauts are, and they'll bet their life on any long shot, no matter how suicidal it might be: they strap rockets directly to their asses and say to hell with procedure, let's do this! Those boys are heroes! Semper fi! Aughghhhhh!" or something else similarly ripe for parody, and FTWinston responded with a fairly calm, if slightly broad and a little hot, rebuttal, reinforcing his initial point that, basic risk aside, we must take every precaution with the lives of astronauts before we send them on any mission, particularly one as ambitious as a manned Mars mission. Somersaults comment may have been idle, but was flippant in a way which degrades the dialogue.

What has actually happened, is that someone suggested the possibility of maybe having astronauts wear seatbelts, then everyone started acting like he punched a veteran.

Re:So it's time to drill? (1)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 2 years ago | (#38344004)

Also the fact that he's a physical coward. He had to be slowly coaxed into attacking fleeing civilians in our last D&D Game.

Re:So it's time to drill? (1)

Nyder (754090) | more than 2 years ago | (#38345736)

You do realise that manned spacecraft tend to be rigorously tested first? The first moon landing was done by the 11th Apollo craft for a reason, you know.

Do you realize that everyone came within a hairs breadth of dying on the 13th Apollo mission? Oh yeah, everyone DID die on the space shuttle challenger AND Columbia. Also, don't forget the entire Apollo 1 crew died in a fire on the ground. Sure it's tested, but that doesn't mean it's safe.

There are too many people on Slashdot that disagree just to be contrary

Point? Airplanes are tested, and yet they crash. Cars are tested and yet they crash. And yes, they kill people also.

Lots of close calls also.

Maybe I'm just being contrary...

Re:So it's time to drill? (2)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342540)

You do realise that manned spacecraft tend to be rigorously tested first?

Yes I do. I also realise that people make mistakes, and that even the tiniest mistake becomes a very big deal when you're surrounded by vacuum, with no AAA to dial for help.

Re:So it's time to drill? (1)

FTWinston (1332785) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342626)

We're kinda arguing the same thing here. I'm only really trying to say that its risky enough even with extensive testing, to the extent that I wouldn't additionally add in a massive untested risk.

Re:So it's time to drill? (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#38343164)

Yep I was just being kind of snarky. I thought it was funny that you would talk of not risking your life when you've already risked it by travelling to Mars.

I suspect there are a few people out there who would gladly take the risk just to visit Mars. I'm not one of them though - I don't really find the idea of space travel that interesting compared to life on Earth. Zero G would be a lot of fun for a while, but that's about it for the up sides.

It would make sense to run tests first of course.

Re:So it's time to drill? (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342748)

my short-sightedness

You may mean nearsightedness, unless you really meant being shortsighted = not good at planning.

Re:So it's time to drill? (2)

FTWinston (1332785) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342770)

Actually, not being american, I do mean shortsightedness. But I'll say Myopia [wikipedia.org] if that helps.

Re:So it's time to drill? (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342984)

Checking some dictionaries you're right, shortsighedness can mean the eye disorder. The dictionaries didn't say anything about UK vs US English either, so I guess it's just in my head. In a listing like that it's certainly ambiguous...

Re:So it's time to drill? (1)

FTWinston (1332785) | more than 2 years ago | (#38343034)

Wikipedia page I links says near-sightedness (AmE) and short-sightedness (BrE) which I assume mean American and British English, respectively. Do you guys use "far-sightedness" where we'd use "long-sightedness" then?

Re:So it's time to drill? (1)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 2 years ago | (#38344022)

"far-sightedness" - Only if you're a shaman.

Re:So it's time to drill? (1)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 2 years ago | (#38344096)

Yes we do, but it doesn't lead to ambiguities.

Do you use short-sighted to additionally describe someone that cannot plan/see long-term consequences?

Re:So it's time to drill? (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 2 years ago | (#38345172)

Yeah. In American English, "near-sighted" is the ophthalmological condition of lacking visual acuity viewing mid- and far-distance objects, while "short-sighted" is the intellectual condition of not forseeing or planning beyond a short time span into the future.

In contrast, "far-sighted" is the contrary ophthalmological condition of lacking visual acuity viewing near-distance objects. There is no confusion with the ability to plan and anticipate the more distant future (i.e., antonym of "short-sighted") because that doesn't happen. Ever. If something doesn't happen this quarter, it doesn't exist.

Re:So it's time to drill? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38344138)

Yes.

Bloody Brit.

Re:So it's time to drill? (1)

masternerdguy (2468142) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342356)

Pffft, I'd sign up for a one way trip to Mars any day to get off this piece of crap planet.

Re:So it's time to drill? (1)

RMingin (985478) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342508)

Please, take me with you! I want to ESCAPE!

Re:So it's time to drill? (1)

Mister Whirly (964219) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342868)

You don't even really have to go to Mars. They can just implant the memories in your head. What could go wrong?

Re:So it's time to drill? (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342554)

It probably wouldn't be worthwhile to build all this just for a sample-return mission, because of the small amount of mass you'd need to return. But you certainly would want a working system in place before you attempted a manned mission.

Re:So it's time to drill? (1)

FTWinston (1332785) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342644)

You're right, in that the additional launch mass required for the drilling mechanism would seem likely to outweigh that needed for sufficient fuel to return the payload to orbit. But as a precursor to manned return ... I'd want the drilling mechanism in place and demonstrated to be working before I set off. Ideally I'd want a nice habitat too, with a warm shower, robot butler and nice 1/3 g beds!

Re:So it's time to drill? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38342646)

Depends on how much samples you're returning -- between something on the scale of the new rocket-crane-landing-rover (its actual name eludes me, sorry) and the extracted material from drilling for water, it's certainly possible to end up with 100s of kilograms of diverse material, then use the same ascent stage as a manned mission, providing valuable testing for the entire system.

Re:So it's time to drill? (1)

Baron_Yam (643147) | more than 2 years ago | (#38344632)

There's already a method for generating fuel from Martian atmosphere that's been tested with a practical model here on Earth. You have to carry a bit of catalyst with you, I believe, and a source of energy if you're not patient enough to wait for the weak solar available on Mars.

It's still likely easier than remote drilling, recovery, and refining.

Carefull (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 2 years ago | (#38345424)

That's how Alien started.

Re:So it's time to drill? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38342216)

I'd be interested to know why you think this is important, or even feasible. You're going to fully automate something that requires massive infrastructure on Earth, so you can play Boy Adventurer?

Re:So it's time to drill? (2)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342446)

Drilling can be accomplished by a small, direct push [wikipedia.org] rigs, which are usually hauled around in the back of pick-up trucks. But those are only good down to a hundred feet or so. It's hardly what I would call massive infrastructure. Hydraulic_rotary_drilling [wikipedia.org] can also be done by a mobile rig, albeit a much larger one, and can get you down to several thousand feet.

Nevertheless, if they want to look for life on mars, and mars might have groundwater, they are going to have to drill down to it and collect samples. If they are going to do all that anyway, they might as well be looking into using it for fuel.

Re:So it's time to drill? (1)

Tharsman (1364603) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342494)

If we hit oil, does that means:

A) We can quit looking for life and start sending our real drillers?
B) We can complain that fosil fuel burning is warming up Mars?
C) We can bomb Mars?

Re:So it's time to drill? (4, Interesting)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342604)

I know you were not being serious, but if they found oil it wouldn't be of any practical value since mars lacks an oxygen atmosphere. On the other hand, it would have a lot of scientific importance because it would mean either that mars had significant quantities of life in the past, or that oil can formed through processes that do not require life.

Re:So it's time to drill? (5, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342798)

I know you were not being serious, but if they found oil it wouldn't be of any practical value since mars lacks an oxygen atmosphere.

It would be of immense practical value as a reservoir of organic chems.

Heres a weird example to think about. If we colonize mars, nothing will be painted. All plain bare metal. Why? No organic compounds and solvents to spare to make paint, and filtering paint solvents out in the air handlers is a PITA anyway. No problemo you say, we'll just power coat everything, powder coat is made out of plastic which is made out of ... Err, we'll make everything interior out of aluminum and anodize it, you just anodize aluminum and dip it in hyperconcentrated organic dyes, and those dyes are made out of ... Hmm. All those sci-fi sets with great paint jobs are just not gonna happen, are they?

The best artsy craftsy idea I can come up with is ceramic enamel jobs done with solar powered rock grinders and solar powered kilns. But again, put up a solar powered artsy kiln and someone is gonna whine that it should be PV cells instead of a kiln at the focus...

Technically you could turn your olive oil into paint given a huge energy intensive chemical plant, but wouldn't you rather ... eat? I'd rather spend the kilowatt hours and Kg of carbon on a nice beef steak than a nice paint job. Hmm.

Re:So it's time to drill? (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342874)

You could use it to produce plastic products, but crude oil does need a lot of refining before it can even be used as a feedstock. You'd probably need to have a pretty large colony in place already before you could justify such an endeavor. The oil wouldn't be useful as either an energy source or a source of rocket fuel, so it wouldn't be useable early on.

Also, you wouldn't need paint on mars, because the atmosphere there is not as corrosive as the atmosphere on earth (it doesn't have any oxygen to speak of).

Re:So it's time to drill? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38343156)

You could use it to produce plastic products, but crude oil does need a lot of refining before it can even be used as a feedstock.

Lots of refining and processing, but less than, say, vegetable refuse. Thermal depolymerization is a good although energy intensive start. Of course vegetable refuse would be under intense demand for compost... that the problem, eat, or paint.

Also, you wouldn't need paint on mars, because the atmosphere there is not as corrosive as the atmosphere on earth (it doesn't have any oxygen to speak of).

Nope you'd need paint or some kind of surface finish indoors just as much as you "need" it on earth. According to shows I've seen on HGTV (no I'm not in the closet, I just watch TV sometimes, you know?) buying a couple cans of paint raises the value of your trendy hip martian space station bachelor pad by at least 25000 pieces of gold pressed latinum. You'd have to pretty much live inside a bare metal tin can, or maybe more like bare concrete. Paint would actually become kind of an important "strategic asset" as a coat of paint indoors helps prevent valuable atmosphere from escaping thru almost microscopic cracks and such. I donno if you can even manufacture "air tight" concrete under ideal conditions on earth, much less in an early colony on mars. Maybe sinter in place an enameled ceramic coating for air tightness?

Re:So it's time to drill? (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38343242)

I figured you'd just build everything out of welded aluminum and then bury it. Aluminum's light, and it's easy to weld oxygen free environment.

Re:So it's time to drill? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38343396)

Yeah but then you're back to the old psychological problem of literally living inside a tin can. You're not going to convince the hot green skinned Orion girl from the bar to visit your tin can bachelor pad, your best bet is drink a few more synthahol beers until the Wookie starts looking good. Or something like that.

Also aluminum corrodes like heck if unpainted or not anodized. It can survive awhile, but... For a good laugh, ask a machinist to flycut some aluminum and run your hand along the smooth fresh surface, your skin will be pitch black from the aluminum itself. Filthy stuff. Which explains why all consumer aluminum is either painted or anodized. The only thing filthier than a bare unfinished aluminum surface is a freshly cut cast iron surface. But I digress. Maybe a simple wax finish could be diverted from the agricultural dome? At least you could touch the shiny tin foil walls without discoloring your hands.

One "bright" idea I just came up with is electrochemically plating everything. You're still stuck living inside a shiny tin can, but at least you can select a tarnished silver tin can, or a bright gold tin can, or a tarnished red/brown/green copper tin can, or for the extremist i-device fans, a shiny chrome plate tin can...

Re:So it's time to drill? (1)

Tharsman (1364603) | more than 2 years ago | (#38345028)

In Mars most living spaces are likely going to be underground, and glass can be easily produced by melting the ground. You can make some gorgeous and fashionable living spaces just with tick glass over rock walls. Metal can be used to spice up the design here and there. Rock itself can be used to design too, who knows how many colors of soil we can find to add to glass structures creating amazing looks.

Glass will likely become way more predominant in every day's life. I just worry about things like cabling isolation coating.

Re:So it's time to drill? (1)

Artraze (600366) | more than 2 years ago | (#38343686)

While it's true that one couldn't burn the oil for power, the carbon itself would be incredibly valuable. Nearly all of the chemical and plastics we make today use oil/natgas/coal as feedstock. Without plants and oil, any Mars base would either have to import chemicals and plastics from Earth or convert CO2 into hydrocarbons, consuming a great deal of water and energy (15kWh and 2.25kg water per kg methane produced) in the process. Even refining the iron available on Mars would be very costly without cheap carbon (the lack of oxygen in the atmosphere is bad enough).

Simply put, cheap oil on Mars would significantly lower the cost of living on Mars, even if it couldn't be used directly as a fuel. For the immediate future, though, it would really only be a scientific curiosity.

Re:So it's time to drill? (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 2 years ago | (#38344640)

It has been known for a long time that the formation of hydrocarbons does not require life: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cassini/multimedia/pia11001.html [nasa.gov] The red spots on Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus is Methane. The gas giant planets are giant Esso stations in the sky.

A few kilometers. (2)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342982)

According to NASA, liquid groundwater would probably be a few kilometers [nasa.gov] beneath the surface of mars. The deepest oil wells are around 9 kilometers deep, so drilling down to it would be possible, as long as you knew where to drill for it.

Re:A few kilometers. (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38343262)

Chicken and the egg situation, hard to bootstrap on Mars. According to my oil relatives in Louisiana, it takes a good barge full of oil or water based drilling mud to fill a hole that deep, and all our current drilling technology on earth relies on that drilling mud to cool and clean the cutting bit which would otherwise approximately instantly jam, overheat, lose its temper/hardness and thereafter fail to cut. Not saying its impossible to make that hole by an entirely new technology, just saying the entire technological infrastructure for doing it on earth relies on an "infinite" supply of oil or water, to make the hole, to get the oil/water outta the hold, to use the new oil/water to make more holes to ... repeat chicken and the egg style.

I guess you could revisit 1840 or whatever and use old fashioned "spuds" and men in spacesuits wielding shovels, but at a foot or so per day thats gonna take awhile to get the goods.

Re:A few kilometers. (4, Informative)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38343450)

There are several types of drill rigs that do not require a working fluid. Probably the best one for this application is a cable tool rig [wikipedia.org] which drops a bit suspend by a cable to break up the rock, and then a bailer to remove the broken rock. This is a very slow process, but depths of 3.7 km have been achieved with it and it doesn't require a drilling fluid so I think it could get the job done.

Re:So it's time to drill? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38343394)

wait... you find life in another planet and the first thing you want to do with it is turn it into fuel ? wtf ?

Well duh (4, Insightful)

CyberK (1191465) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342184)

Since Earth is a lot larger than Mars, and the habitable regions typically lie somewhere near the surface, it's no surprise that a larger proportion of Mars's volume is habitable. (The outer layer of an onion is larger in comparison to the onion when the onion is smaller.) The real question is that of absolute size: How many cubic metres of life-bearing volume is there on Mars in comparison to Earth?

Re:Well duh (2)

FTWinston (1332785) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342210)

"Life-bearing" is presumably a relative term - Mars doesn't have plate tectonics, so there's not gonna be enough energy to stand-in for sunlight, like hydrothermal vents might do on Europa. I'd imagine that the only viable life would be rock-eating microbes.

Re:Well duh (2)

tgd (2822) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342278)

I didn't read the article, but it stands to reason that there may be upsides to that, as well. Presumably the core is still hot, even if there isn't active volcanism and plate tectonics, and it would seem reasonable that there could be a wider swath of the crust that may have habitable conditions, because on Earth you'll eventually get too hot and hit the mantle.

Re:Well duh (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342894)

Presumably the core is still hot, even if there isn't active volcanism and plate tectonics

The core being hot is one of the causes, not an effect, of plate tectonics.

Planets such as Mars and Earth have hot cores because of the decomposition of radioactive isotopes. That's also what causes helium to appear in underground deposits of gas and oil.

In a physics lab course I took in college we measured the amount of radioactive gases emitted by the walls in a basement. We put a fan blowing air through a filter paper for two weeks in a sealed basement room, then measured the amount of radioactive substances in that paper. Another piece of paper from the same batch that had been kept in an envelope was used as control.

Re:Well duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38343296)

Your control is flawed.
How do you know that the radioactive gases were emitted by the walls and not by radioactive decay of the fan itself?

Re:Well duh (1)

tgd (2822) | more than 2 years ago | (#38343312)

The core being hot is one of the causes, not an effect, of plate tectonics.

No shit, sherlock.

The point was, I have no idea how much Mars' core has cooled. I've seen the math before, but don't actually recall it. My point was the GP was talking about plate tectonics being absent, and my point was the core is likely still hot, even without any outward signs, and that heat is a good thing, because you likely have a broader amount of the crust with habitable temperatures than Earth, with a very thin crust that heats up very quickly.

Re:Well duh (1)

Gotung (571984) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342942)

There is methane in Mars' atmosphere. Methane breaks down pretty quickly, so it had to come from somewhere recently. "No Plate Tectonics" means there are no continents still moving around, but it doesn't mean the core is cold, or that it isn't still venting interesting chemicals (like methane) to the upper crust and atmosphere. You could easily have large pools of liquid water deep underground that have methane bubbling through them. That is a fine recipe for life.

Re:Well duh (2)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 2 years ago | (#38343378)

How many cubic metres of life-bearing volume is there on Mars in comparison to Earth?

Seriously? On this site someone has to ask this? We already have the information we need.

Volume of Earth: 1083210000000 km^3 (Google it). TFS states 1% is habitable / life bearing.
Volume of Mars: 163115609799 km^3 (Google it). TFS states 3% is potentially habitable / life bearing

Divide both by 100 for 1% of each volume, multiply Mars result by 3 for 3% = Earth 10832100000km^3, Mars 4893468294km^3.

Earth / Mars = 2.2. Earth has 2.2x the habitable volume of Mars.

Re:Well duh (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | more than 2 years ago | (#38344828)

Since they are talking about habitable / life bearing areas under ground, wouldn't you need to also subtract the volume of water from the total volume of the earth to get an accurate comparison? There is about 1,386,000,000km^3 water on earth, so the Earth /Mars ratio would be 1.93.

Enough of the speculation (5, Insightful)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342258)

Let's bring back some martian soil, put it in a chamber emulating its atmosphere and climate, mix in some extremophiles and see what happens!

Re:Enough of the speculation (4, Insightful)

FTWinston (1332785) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342266)

Let's bring back some martian soil and ... contaminate it??? Urgh!

Re:Enough of the speculation (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38345508)

We don't need to contaminate it all, you damned hippy.

Re:Enough of the speculation (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38342290)

Let's put some extremophiles in your mum's basement, with it's unique atmosphere and climate, and see what happens!

Re:Enough of the speculation (1, Funny)

vikingpower (768921) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342306)

If you live in your mum's basement, you ARE an extremophile !

Re:Enough of the speculation (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342426)

Only if we can put Pauly Shore and Steven Baldwin in the chamber with them...and never, ever open it again.

Re:Enough of the speculation (1)

madhatter256 (443326) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342518)

Biker Mice from Mars is what we'll get from that...

Re:Enough of the speculation (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342876)

You know, I actually find this highly amusing. Something so common - soil - would be extremely valuable to us just because it's from another planet. Can you imagine negotiating with extraterrestrials?

"20 tons of dirt for the cow, 30 for the goat."

Re:Enough of the speculation (4, Insightful)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342946)

It's not the soil that's expensive, but the delivery.

Original article (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38342484)

The paper can be found here [anu.edu.au] .

The slant they're putting on it is slightly different. They've noted that in a large proportion of areas on Earth where there is liquid water there isn't necessarily life, so simply searching for liquid water in space isn't necessarily the best way to go about looking for other life or places which would be habitable: you need to bear in mind other factors as well if you want to narrow it down.

Terrestrial life is known to require liquid water, but not all terrestrial water is inhabited. Thus, liquid water is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for life...If the known limits of terrestrial life do not change significantly, these limits represent important constraints on our biosphere and, potentially, on others, since ~4 billion years of evolution have not allowed life to adapt to a large fraction of the volume of Earth where liquid water exists

Re:Original article (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342860)

They've noted that in a large proportion of areas on Earth where there is liquid water there isn't necessarily life,

Where are you finding this biologically empty, spectrographically pure water on earth? Supposedly a billion humans don't have access to safe drinking water, so there appears to be a demand for some of this stuff... I'm guessing they're talking about fossil aquifers miles below the surface?

Re:Original article (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38342914)

The paper can be found here [anu.edu.au] .

The slant they're putting on it is slightly different. They've noted that in a large proportion of areas on Earth where there is liquid water there isn't necessarily life, so simply searching for liquid water in space isn't necessarily the best way to go about looking for other life or places which would be habitable: you need to bear in mind other factors as well if you want to narrow it down.

Terrestrial life is known to require liquid water, but not all terrestrial water is inhabited. Thus, liquid water is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for life...If the known limits of terrestrial life do not change significantly, these limits represent important constraints on our biosphere and, potentially, on others, since ~4 billion years of evolution have not allowed life to adapt to a large fraction of the volume of Earth where liquid water exists

That's an old 2010 paper.

This paper is called An Extensive Phase Space for the Potential Martian Biosphere [liebertonline.com] (Paywalled, can't find an open copy. It still seems to be in press rather than completely published).

Abstract: We present a comprehensive model of martian pressure-temperature (P-T) phase space and compare it with that of Earth. Martian P-T conditions compatible with liquid water extend to a depth of 310km. We use our phase space model of Mars and of terrestrial life to estimate the depths and extent of the water on Mars that is habitable for terrestrial life. We find an extensive overlap between inhabited terrestrial phase space and martian phase space. The lower martian surface temperatures and shallower martian geotherm suggest that, if there is a hot deep biosphere on Mars, it could extend 7 times deeper than the 5km depth of the hot deep terrestrial biosphere in the crust inhabited by hyperthermophilic chemolithotrophs. This corresponds to 3.2% of the volume of present-day Mars being potentially habitable for terrestrial-like life. Key Words: Biosphere—Mars—Limits of life—Extremophiles—Water. Astrobiology 11, xxx–xxx.,

Viking said that it did (2)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342572)

We need to send a dragon on a mission their to get the facts. I think that one with a couple of nukes inside would be interesting. Even better would be if it had the ability to hop a few places. Perhaps modify it use methane/LOX and then at each landing sites, while science is being done, generate the fuel.

What I find interesting is that so many ppl want to send ppl on a 2--way mission. Instead, it should be thought of as a 1-way mission and have them go there and stay at least a decade. One of the most important reasons is that Mars DOES have the likelihood of having life. If so, the last thing that we want to do, is bring it back here.

Basically, the group of ppl would focus on survival, building out a base, and of course science. But much of the work there could be carried out by robotics, with the ppl their to control and fix them. In addition, it would actually be cheaper and safer to do the 1-way.

Re:Viking said that it did (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | more than 2 years ago | (#38344706)

In addition, it would actually be cheaper and safer to do the 1-way.

True, but it would be cheapest and safest not to send people at all and just send machines.

Apples to apples (3, Insightful)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 2 years ago | (#38342988)

3 percent of the Martian volume could sustain Earth-like microbial life. As a comparison, only one percent of the volume of Earth contains life.

That's no comparison. Compare % volumes that could sustain life. Or compare volumes that actually do contain life. But comparing one to the other reveals nothing.

Re:Apples to apples (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38343670)

I agree, sir, up to 100%.

A reason (2)

Synerg1y (2169962) | more than 2 years ago | (#38343510)

As great as it sounds to start populating Mars, I haven't heard a whole lot on the economics of it, why would anybody want to?

Re:A reason (3, Insightful)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 2 years ago | (#38344678)

That's why it's silly for people like Neil Armstrong to posit that private industry will do it first with government "assistance." It'll only happen as a scientific endeavor until the technology is developed enough for someone to monetize trips to Mars (how that would ever happen in the remotely near future is beyond me).

Re:A reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38345184)

Neil Armstrong is the most famous passenger in history, and is now demonstrably senile. The world has passed him and the Space Age by. Time to move on, Neil. No one cares about test pilots sitting on top of re-purposed ICBMs, to go float in a deadly vacuum to accomplish nothing.

Shouldn't that title be.... (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | more than 2 years ago | (#38344614)

Shouldn't that title be "Life Possible Under Large Regions of Mars", not "On Large Regions of Mars?"

Good news for microbes (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | more than 2 years ago | (#38344674)

That's good news for microbes! Now, when the earth is about to be destroyed by a rogue comet, they can all jump on a ship, head towards Mars, borrow down a few kilometers and survive. For the rest of us, though, it doesn't look too promising.

Percentage of volume? (2)

mattcoz (856085) | more than 2 years ago | (#38344738)

Why did they use this measure? With Mars being so much smaller, of course a higher percentage of the volume would be hospitable. Mars has 15% of the volume of Earth but 28% of the surface area. Just seems like bad comparison.
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