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NASA Rover May Contaminate Its Samples of Mars

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the no-problem-just-launch-another-one dept.

Mars 147

sciencehabit writes "The Curiosity rover will definitely find evidence of an advanced civilization if it lands safely on Mars. That's because rock samples the rover drills are likely to be contaminated with bits of Teflon from the rover's machinery, NASA announced during a press teleconference. The bits of Teflon can then mix with the sample, which will be vaporized for analysis. The problem for the scientists is that Teflon is two-thirds carbon — the same element they are looking for on Mars." Fortunately, this problem isn't a showstopper: "...there are still mitigation steps to take if SAM's analysis is potentially compromised. Contaminant production appears to be stronger in the drill's percussion mode, when it pounds powerfully and rapidly on Martian rock. So ratcheting the percussion down, or switching over to the more gentle rotary mode, may make the issue more manageable. If that doesn't work, the MSL team could just take the drill out of commission, solely scooping soil instead of also boring into rock. Curiosity could still access the interior of some Martian rocks by rolling over them with its wheels, Grotzinger said. But all in all, he's confident that the team will figure things out in the next month or two."

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yeah (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40299445)

And then lead to global warming.

Two-thirds carbon? (5, Informative)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | more than 2 years ago | (#40299451)

I think somebody had another English-metric goof when they were doing their stoichiometry.

(CF2)n -> 24% carbon, 76% fluorine by mass, at least by my calculations.

Re:Two-thirds carbon? (3, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40299637)

Actually its even worse. I'm assuming they're using a mass spectrometer and you get one C ion for every two F ions. So they got the concept of the ratio correct, but backwards. Well, its just journalism and PR, can't expect much from those folks.

Re:Two-thirds carbon? (3, Informative)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300073)

Nobody even tried this to test it out? They didn't learn from previous missions?

I recall Voyager gathering samples, dumping it into a container, and pouring chemicals on it. Whoa! Carbon, life.

Then someone said, well, no, probably not, there were other explanations.

Why didn't someone say, "Presume the test is positive -- let's shoot holes in it." them iterate proving the test until there are no more holes they can think of.

Is that so hard before you spend billions?

Re:Two-thirds carbon? (4, Informative)

Urban Garlic (447282) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300247)

> I recall Voyager...

Viking, and it wasn't looking for carbon, specifically, it was looking for long-chain hydrocarbons. Good link here [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Two-thirds carbon? (4, Insightful)

Solandri (704621) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302629)

Why didn't someone say, "Presume the test is positive -- let's shoot holes in it." them iterate proving the test until there are no more holes they can think of.

Is that so hard before you spend billions?

The flip side is spending tens of millions thinking of all the possible ways the test could provide a false positive, designing them out of the test, then sending Viking to Mars and having the test come out negative. Then you get criticized or wasting all that money coming up with a test which would generate a foolproof positive result, forgetting that the result could be negative.

Science is like filling an empty map. If you blindly concentrate all your resources in one area of the map, you could end up knowing a lot about an uninteresting place (like say, the middle of the ocean). But if you use a shotgun strategy and first spend minimal resources in lots of locations, you can see where the interesting parts of the map are and concentrate your resources on exploring those in the future.

Viking was the first Mars lander. By no means was it planned to be the last. They put a simple experiment (along with several others) on board which would provide a quick answer to a "gee I wonder what happens if..." question. If it came back negative, oh well. Since it came back positive, then they could spend millions scrutinizing the result and planning a better test for future landers.

Re:Two-thirds carbon? (1)

Dthief (1700318) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300337)

mass spec doesnt obliterate molecules into atomic constituents, it breaks it up into fragments....so you arent looking at individual C's and F's

Re:Two-thirds carbon? (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302531)

Yes, but with MS they will get the Mw of the various components. It shouldn't be too hard to correct for - if it's MS.

really? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40299459)

That much money and still no attention to detail?

Re:really? (5, Informative)

SomePgmr (2021234) | more than 2 years ago | (#40299553)

It sounds like the teflon is from rings higher up in the assembly. It's not like they covered the bit in teflon and later did a full-on Picard facepalm.

They seem optimistic that they'll be able to work around it. I guess these lessons come with the territory when operating hugely complex projects to other friggin planets.

Re:really? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40299857)

did you even read TFA ?

Lab testing of a backup version of the drill uncovered the contamination problem shortly before launch of the rover and its drill last November, according to Paul Mahaffy of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland

They launched anyway knowing the drill bit was contaminated. if thats not a facepalm i dont know what is.

Re:really? (3, Informative)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#40299919)

They launched anyway knowing the drill bit was contaminated. if thats not a facepalm i dont know what is.

The alternative would probably have been a multi-year delay for the next launch window.

Re:really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40300367)

So, kind of like Apple iPhone - launch first, figure out basic functionality later?

Re:really? (4, Informative)

Solandri (704621) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302887)

The multi-year delay for Galileo [wikipedia.org] following the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion is what's believed to have caused its high gain antenna to get stuck in the closed position. When you have a million parts designed to start being used in 9 months, a 2 year delay introduces all sorts of unforeseen possible modes of failure. The drill is not the only experiment aboard Curiosity. At some point, a risk assessment was made which concluded that launching it with the faulty drill was a better option than delaying the whole mission by 26 months until the next launch window and potentially jeopardizing all the other equipment aboard.

Re:really? (1)

SomePgmr (2021234) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300001)

Yes. I read the article. It says it's from seals in the assembly and they seem confident they can work around it.

I think they're probably the best qualified people to decide if they should halt a gajillion dollar project or if they think they can work around the problem.

Re:really? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40300877)

the whole POINT of large scale disasters like the shuttle or mars lander metric failure is that THEY ARENT the best qualified people to look at it. maybe disinterested third parties can figure these things out BETTER than the idiots with heads in the sand mentality of a typical billion dollar boondoggle.

Re:really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40302395)

NASA has a pretty good record of fixing problems remotely. They have (or at least used to have) some very talented hackers working for them.

Re:really? (-1, Flamebait)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300143)

They launched knowing it was contaminated?

The only facepalm I wanna see is the facepalm of a guy at the defendant's table as he is sentenced to 5 years in jail.

Re:really? (4, Informative)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302673)

The MSL uses an RTG power source. The problem with RTGs is that you can't turn them off, they start to run down as soon as they are built. MSL already missed a launch window due to delays and so was 2.5 years behind. Another delay would use up 5 years of the expected 10 years of RTG life.

Sometimes external factors force your hand.

How?? (0, Flamebait)

MetalliQaZ (539913) | more than 2 years ago | (#40299475)

Amazing that they built and shipped this thing before realizing that the coating on their drill/pulverizer would chip off. You can't use metal utensils on Teflon cookware, but we should go ahead and put it on a Mars-bound drill bit meant for rocks. Riiiiiight.

Re:How?? (4, Funny)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#40299583)

Can't they find a nice abrasive rock to grind on till the Teflon wears off?

Re:How?? (1)

bongey (974911) | more than 2 years ago | (#40299591)

Are there any drill bits or saw blades that are Teflon coated. Diamond coated yes , but Teflon. Maybe they where thinking to reduce heat when drilling because you cannot really bring liquid to cool it. But then again Mars is pretty cold at night.
Maybe they never cooked anything in Teflon pan.

Re:How?? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40299633)

The Teflon is not on the drill bit; it rubs off of sealing rings in the main drill assembly. I know it's tough for you to believe, but the people who send robotic probes to other planets are, by and large, not idiots.

Re:How?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40299881)

oh yeah ? then why did they launch without fixing the problem ?
Lab testing of a backup version of the drill uncovered the contamination problem shortly before launch of the rover and its drill last November, according to Paul Mahaffy of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland
if that does NOT make them idiots i dont know what does.

Re:How?? (2)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#40299937)

if that does NOT make them idiots i dont know what does.

Would you want to be the manager who had to tell everyone that the mission will be delayed three years because of possible contamination in one experiment?

Or do you launch anyway and live with 95% of the science returns while looking for a workaround for this problem?

Re:How?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40300965)

no i want to be the manager who bought new uncontaminated seals, dressed in a bunny suit, went into the chamber and swapped the stupid rings from the stupid drill bit. which would take all of 5 minutes.
and then said -- fuck you idiots, you call yourselves rocket scientists ?

Re:How?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40299983)

You don't know what does:

Once in SAM, Teflon causes limited problems, says Mahaffy. When the heating that drives gaseous compounds into the analytical instrumentation reaches about 600C on its way to 1000C, most of the Teflon decomposes. It produces mostly small, easily identified compounds of carbon and fluorine, he says. And they contaminate only a small fraction of the range of compounds expected from biologically produced carbon compounds, at least the sort remaining from earthly life.

If you're going to quote from the article, it helps to read the whole thing. Or would you have preferred they scrap a multi-billion-dollar launch, to embark on a months-long clean-room retrofit of the rover, certainly missing their Mars launch window, delaying the project for at least several years, at a total cost to taxpayers of billions more dollars? It's a minor problem, which they've chosen to deal with. Ergo, not idiots.

Re:How?? (-1, Troll)

wiedzmin (1269816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300399)

oh yeah ? then why did they launch without fixing the problem ?

Probably due to some stupid bureaucratic reason like, if they didn't use up all the money in this year's budget - they would get less money in the next year's budget... Now they get to build a new and improved version!

Scheduling (1)

mschaffer (97223) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301495)

Think of how much you can shrink the schedule by testing the equipment and analyzing the test results while the device is on its way.

Re:How?? (1)

RogueLeaderX (845092) | more than 2 years ago | (#40299705)

From TFA:

"Teflon is rubbed off those seals into the material," said Pete Theisinger, MSL project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. "It then becomes part of the sample."

I don't see any mention of the bits, but I suppose "seals" could be code for "bits."

Re:How?? (1)

Squidlips (1206004) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300455)

Read the article. The teflon is on the seals not the drill

Re:How?? (2)

emho24 (2531820) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301673)

What is the purpose of teflon coated seals? Are they to battle Martian magma goblins? How do the seals survive exposure to the Martian atmosphere? My God man, it's inhumane!

How'd they catch it? (0)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 2 years ago | (#40299481)

Right now, the rover is in *space*. I can definitely understand catching this problem in simulations or in on-Earth tests, or catching it belatedly when they finally get to Mars and wonder why all the rocks contain fluorine, but in space? Only thing I can think of is "someone re-ran some simulations and noticed they messed up", which doesn't seem very probable (unless the engineers had been suspecting this since before launch, and only now have sufficient "proof").

Then again, I'm not a rocket scientist, so I probably missed something.

Re:How'd they catch it? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40299547)

You'd be surprised what gets missed when you've got shitty gov't employees on the job

Re:How'd they catch it? (1)

Squidlips (1206004) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300537)

That is comment is ignorant and ill-informed. The employees are working for CALTECH / JPL, the among the best engineers in the world. It is really easy to criticize after the fact, but the MSL is very complex machine and there are bound to be glitches. So far everything has gone pretty much as planned; compare that to the Russian Mars mission which ended up at the bottom of the Pacific while MSL was flying to Mars before you make bonehead comments.

Re:How'd they catch it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40302133)

Also, I work for the government and we don't specifically hire morons, but being held accountable to "mad at the world" tax payers has a tendency to make our rationale a little awkward.

Re:How'd they catch it? (5, Insightful)

BradleyUffner (103496) | more than 2 years ago | (#40299567)

Right now, the rover is in *space*. I can definitely understand catching this problem in simulations or in on-Earth tests, or catching it belatedly when they finally get to Mars and wonder why all the rocks contain fluorine, but in space? Only thing I can think of is "someone re-ran some simulations and noticed they messed up", which doesn't seem very probable (unless the engineers had been suspecting this since before launch, and only now have sufficient "proof").

Then again, I'm not a rocket scientist, so I probably missed something.

They probably have an identical unit to mess with locally in case of electrics problems. If something goes wrong in space it is extremely helpful to have a physical replica you can actually put your hands on and experiment with to find the best fix.

Re:How'd they catch it? (3, Informative)

afidel (530433) | more than 2 years ago | (#40299571)

I'm sure they caught it with the duplicate here on earth. For just about every NASA mission they make at least one duplicate to be used for troubleshooting and mission prep here on terra firma.

Re:How'd they catch it? (2)

cdrudge (68377) | more than 2 years ago | (#40299733)

"First rule in government spending: why build one when you can have two at twice the price?" - S.R. Hadden in Contact

Re:How'd they catch it? (1)

Cazekiel (1417893) | more than 2 years ago | (#40299867)

Oooh, I loved that man... and that moment.

Re:How'd they catch it? (2)

afidel (530433) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300495)

Meh, obviously someone doesn't understand basic economics (big shock it's Hollywood). Almost all of the cost is in R&D, physical production is probably a rounding error on a typical NASA project. Plus there have been instances where the mission primary has been damaged and the trainer ended up flying, in those cases the ROI for the backup is almost infinite when you compare the cost of fabrication to the cost of the mission as a whole.

Re:How'd they catch it? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40299683)

For this kind of thing, you typically deliver three pieces of hardware at the very least: The flight model (FM), flight spare (FS) and engineering model (EM). The FM goes on the rocket, the FS sits around in case you damage the FM before launch, and you run tests on the EM. You can keep running tests on the EM during cruise and surface operations. You might learn new things then. You certainly don't want the EM to teach you alarming new things after the FM has already launched, but it's better than having the FM surprise you later.

Re:How'd they catch it? (1)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300223)

So what's the purpose of the FS after launch?

Re:How'd they catch it? (1)

EliSowash (2532508) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300319)

It gets donated to the Smithsonian

Re:How'd they catch it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40300331)

retaining fiber-based recording media via the natural function of gravity.

Re:How'd they catch it? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40300857)

Nothing. The FS is just a full set of spare parts. They may not even have been assembled. Maybe you assemble them as a second quasi-EM and run more tests, maybe you assemble them and write a proposal to do science in an analog environment on earth. Reviewers get excited if you tell them you're going to do science using flight hardware. Phoenix was supposedly built from the flight spares of MPL, so you can always hope that your hardware will see a second mission.

Curiousity has a true color camera... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40299507)

It's going to beam back photos, and even 720p video, of Mars that show Mars as it would look from human eyes.

I know its other mission is far grander, far more important, but I just find the concept of that camera to be enough.

Re:Curiousity has a true color camera... (2)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 2 years ago | (#40299871)

I'm a tetrachromat you insensitive clod!

Never mind the 720p part. phah!

Re:Curiousity has a true color camera... (1, Interesting)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300013)

>>>720p video

That's it? 1080i doesn't require any extra bandwidth but gives 2.2 times the resolution. (Or they could do 1080p at half the framerate.) TRIVIA: The scientists at NASA were able to rewrite Voyager's software, and use digital compression, to increase its photo resolution 3x more than originally designed.

Re:Curiousity has a true color camera... (2)

kimvette (919543) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300249)

What I would like to know is: what does it sound like on the surface of Mars?

Re:Curiousity has a true color camera... (1)

Squidlips (1206004) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300615)

The Mars microphone (courtesy of the Planetary Society) crashed along with the Mars Polar lander, alas. Too bad...

I have nothing to contribute to this discussion (0, Offtopic)

Cazekiel (1417893) | more than 2 years ago | (#40299549)

...mainly because every time I hear the word 'teflon', it reminds me that I really, really gotta throw that pan out before I get poisoned by the stuff. Seriously, why am I still using the thing? Everything sticks to it, and I'm actually eating teflon flakes.

But yea, Mars and stuff.

Re:I have nothing to contribute to this discussion (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40299659)

There's nothing poisonous about eating Teflon, only when you breathe in the fumes. (Just like the diacetyl used in popcorn.)

Re:I have nothing to contribute to this discussion (1)

Cazekiel (1417893) | more than 2 years ago | (#40299727)

Perhaps not poisonous, per se, but to hell with my eggs looking like I sprinkled bits of burned tinfoil all over them. I'm so over that.

I remember the guy who died because of his addiction to smelling microwaved popcorn at a constant.

Re:I have nothing to contribute to this discussion (2)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40299895)

Well he didn't die..... they diacetyl just damaged his lungs so he had trouble breathing. Same thing happened to several Orville Redenbacher employees.

Re:I have nothing to contribute to this discussion (0)

Cazekiel (1417893) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300029)

I'm pretty sure there was a report of SOME guy dying. Let me look it up.

*intermission*

Oops, you were right [nytimes.com] , if this was the case I was recalling.

But the top result for my search (keywords "guy dies from popcorn") was a man being shot for eating popcorn too loudly [telegraph.co.uk] in the theater during a screening of 'Black Swan', while the third result was a man dying on Popcorn Road [heraldtimesonline.com] . I'm an evil person, because I've got 'Thunder Road' by Springsteen in my head, only it's Popcorn Road.

Frankly, I think it's awesome that we've gone from talking about scientific exploration on Mars to an in-depth discussion about microwaved popcorn. Oh, internet, I love thee.

Re:I have nothing to contribute to this discussion (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#40299689)

Yes, get rid of your teflon cookware because people are just dying left and right from this product that everyone has been using for the last 50 years.~

While you are at it you may want to move to soaps that don't use sodium lauryl sulfate since that kills even more people than teflon does. ~

Re:I have nothing to contribute to this discussion (1)

Cazekiel (1417893) | more than 2 years ago | (#40299775)

Whoa, Mr. Serious McSnarky! Calm yourself, I was just enjoying going on an OT rant.

Re:I have nothing to contribute to this discussion (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#40299945)

Sorry, I have ran into too many people who believe those things without knowing the science behind it.

http://lisa.drbronner.com/?p=197 [drbronner.com]

Re:I have nothing to contribute to this discussion (1)

Cazekiel (1417893) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300057)

I've always thought it wasn't good for you either way, but thanks to you and others on slashdot, maybe I'll save some money and grow accustomed to the teflon flavor.

Re:I have nothing to contribute to this discussion (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300151)

Just buy good quality cookware, and if you are actually worried then get some with the new titanium ceramic coatings, they work better and aren't as fragile.

Re:I have nothing to contribute to this discussion (1)

andydread (758754) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301769)

I got rid of my teflon cookware after my mom killed her two completely different birds in the space of 10 minutes with teflon fumes at her house. I know the fumes kills birds I don't know what they do to my lungs or body long term and don't want to find out.

Re:I have nothing to contribute to this discussion (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#40299719)

Teflon is not poisoning you.

You are eating the flakes and they are going out with the rest of the solid waste. Teflon is not digestible.

Re:I have nothing to contribute to this discussion (1)

Cazekiel (1417893) | more than 2 years ago | (#40299799)

Cant be necessarily GOOD for me, though. Serious, it looks like I cracked a shitton of fresh pepper on my eggs every time I use the thing. Pretty soon, I will be unstickable.

Re:I have nothing to contribute to this discussion (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40299939)

You might then be suitable for politics.

Re:I have nothing to contribute to this discussion (1)

Cazekiel (1417893) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300051)

I'm lending Obama my pan. I liked the guy, but he needs all the help he can get at this point.

Re:I have nothing to contribute to this discussion (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40299967)

Cant be necessarily GOOD for me, though. Serious, it looks like I cracked a shitton of fresh pepper on my eggs every time I use the thing. Pretty soon, I will be unstickable.

Depends on your definition of good. The lack of friction is unchanged. Its not staying in your body unless you have something really weird going on. I've occasionally wondered if gelatin capsules of powdered teflon would make a good medical stool softener. My guess is yes, but the conventional treatment material is much cheaper. Some idiot would probably find a way to contaminate the powder by embedding anaerobic bacteria in it, or it would psuedo-creep-sinter in the capsules making a little pellet instead of a dispersed powder (so you could encapsulate each grain in something digestible, but this is getting ridiculously expensive).

Seriously at sane temperatures its probably one of the least biologically active materials in your house. Think of non-biodegradable plastic. This stuff is ultra-uber-leet-non-bio-degradable plastic.

Re:I have nothing to contribute to this discussion (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300047)

It is not good nor bad, it is just is non-nutritive. It can indeed look terrible, but it is not harming you.

Re:I have nothing to contribute to this discussion (1)

avandesande (143899) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300205)

They have found the the flourocarbons in people blood and fat. Regardless of whether this is good or bad I would rather use stainless and a little butter.

Re:I have nothing to contribute to this discussion (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300479)

You can find all kinds of stuff at levels that don't matter.

I would suggest cast iron before stainless for eggs. I like stainless for general fry purposes though. I just like stuff that lasts, which teflon pans never do.

Re:I have nothing to contribute to this discussion (1)

avandesande (143899) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300873)

Eggs can be a little tricky in stainless, generally I use medium heat and let the butter melt, drive off the water and turn brown before I put the eggs in.

Re:I have nothing to contribute to this discussion (2)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300049)

For non stick I recommend a properly seasoned cast iron fry pan. For things where you want a bit of stick (pan fried chicken) or tasks like making gravy a nice stainless steel one.

Re:I have nothing to contribute to this discussion (1)

Cazekiel (1417893) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300099)

My mom got me a good pan, but it's too small to make a substantial omelet. I can't remember the material used in it.

Can you believe my original comment got up to a score of 4, Informative? It got downgraded to 3, and I'm kinda glad for that. I'm not being informative in the slightest.

Re:I have nothing to contribute to this discussion (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300427)

As far a comments being modded in strange ways I have had some very snaky comments get modded insightful even though I was going for funny so it doesn't surprise me much at all. The material in the good pan might be hard anodized aluminum which provides a decent non stick surface. I still prefer the cast iron and stainless steel ones that are nice and thick. My cast iron fry pans are easy to clean and can be rinsed clean of anything left in them and then I coat lightly with oil and heat until it start to smoke. This keeps the pan nice and non stick. The stainless steel ones are a bit more difficult but then using a Brillo pad works wonders for cleaning them.

Re:I have nothing to contribute to this discussion (2)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300543)

Invest in a good cast iron skillet, at least 12", and take good care of it. It will take good care of you for the rest of your life. If you're lucky, you can find a cheap one at a garage sale. Otherwise one from Lodge will do just fine. Some things just haven't been improved on.

Re:I have nothing to contribute to this discussion (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300511)

Just put a steel brush attachment on your electric drill, the teflon will come off eaily. As will burned-on food.

Re:I have nothing to contribute to this discussion (1)

Teun (17872) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302145)

What's wrong with an angle grinder?

Or just heat it to red-hot and wait till it stops smoking.

Something is slippery here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40299565)

I would just like to say here and now, that I for one support our new teflon overlords.

Teflon (5, Funny)

ravenspear (756059) | more than 2 years ago | (#40299577)

Well, at least the samples won't get stuck.

Re:Teflon (1)

Cazekiel (1417893) | more than 2 years ago | (#40299677)

Well, at least the samples won't get stuck.

It's flaking off, so yuh-huh.

Shouldn't be a huge issue (3, Insightful)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40299595)

I don't know how sensitive the detector they are using is, but they should also be able to detect the fluorine molecules (which outnumber the carbon 2 to 1, unlike what TFA claims). I don't imagine they expect to find a lot of fluorine in the rocks on Mars, so the presence of fluorine indicates the sample is contaminated and they should ignore the carbon. If the analysis is really sensitive, they could even correlate the amount of fluorine with the expected amount of carbon (since it should be exactly 2 to 1), allowing the contaminating carbon to be eliminate from the analysis.

This assumes the fluorine can be accurately analyzed, which may be a major issue since it is extremely reactive. I'm not a chemist, though, so I don't know how big an issue that could be.

Re:Shouldn't be a huge issue (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300043)

correlate the amount of fluorine with the expected amount of carbon (since it should be exactly 2 to 1)

The best news is that commercial teflon is pretty pure stuff inherently. There is some odd acid manufacturing byproduct but I remember it was measured in PPB so there's not much. Probably baked aerospace grade stuff is pretty ridiculously pure so that 2 to 1 ratio will hold quite well.

This assumes the fluorine can be accurately analyzed, which may be a major issue since it is extremely reactive.

Extremely reactive means easily ionizable means its really easy to detect in a mass spectrometer. So thats good news, assuming thats what they're doing.

If they can heat the samples they can play games with the pyrolosis temperature, above 500 degrees or so it turns to nasty toxic gas and blows away, so measure the C and F content at 450 degrees, then roast it to 550 for awhile and measure again, delta is roughly the amount of PTFE contamination.

Finding errors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40299667)

Scientists continue to refine software even after the launch date. Also, if they're anything like me (a recent aerospace B.S. grad), they'll tend to obsess about their solutions, verifying all data or improving models until go-time. Now how the planetary protection protocol team even let this pass an initial design review is hard to say, perhaps the coating was not documented at all.

Could Have Been Worse (1)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | more than 2 years ago | (#40299669)

They could have used a diamond-tipped drill.

Re:Could Have Been Worse (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302507)

Diamond = Carbon, same problem.

More Martian FUD (1)

Leptok (1096623) | more than 2 years ago | (#40299709)

MIB did it.

recall it and fix it! (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 2 years ago | (#40299735)

Should be enough fuel for a turn around. :-)

ITS NOT TEFLON! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40299829)

DuPont will be very quick to remind you that if the provider didn't pay the DuPont-tax, they cannot call PolyTetraFluoroEthylene (PTFE) by the trademark Teflon!

Of course, this is great news for nasa, as it means the mission couldn't possibly have been compromised by Teflon, so long as they didn't pay DuPont money!

(bonus: captcha is 'screwed')

Re:ITS NOT TEFLON! (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300097)

Since the journalists Fd up everything else in the story, next we'll probably hear its actually kapton tape not teflon. That would really suck because kapton is made out of C N and O just like life and has no handy marker like being 2/3 F. Now that would be a real whoops.

The thing I don't get about the whole story is anyone doing anything with teflon knows it slowly deteriorates. So the first sample has 1 ppb carbon, the second 1.0001, the third 1.0002, fourth 1.0003 you know something is steadily falling apart. Just test each sample a whole bunch of times and look for a trend.

Teflon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40299911)

Teflon Slashdot strays next to a dripping pencil. The aged basis fiddles within an unfounded mechanism. A tooth beams with PolyTetraFlouroEthylene compound sensationalist media. How can PolyTetraFlouroEthylene compound sensationalist media pray Teflon Slashdot ?

In a nutshell... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40300165)

No amount of ass-covering bureaucrats can compensate for the lack of a single competent engineer.

Given that NASA is such a bloated bureaucracy, why wasn't there a guy (or girl, but let's be realistic here...) whose sole job was to review every design decision and consider it against the stated mission of the rover: to search for carbonaceous life on Mars? Isn't that an obvious thing to do? In fact, I don't think that's my idea. I think Apollo-era NASA did things like that. For that matter, from a purely scientific perspective, don't geologists looking for trace minerals normally consider the composition of their own sampling gear? You're almost guaranteed to get tiny bits of the metal your drill is made of in your sample when you're using it to drill into rock. Or maybe they got obsessed with that problem and neglected the rest of the machinery?

In any case, it's sad how far NASA has fallen.

Teflon is a plague (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40300333)

These coatings and foils that 'are not designed to come off' inevitably DO come off.

We need to stop designing things with unrealistic expectations.

Preferably before the nanotech age takes off.

Re:Teflon is a plague (1)

andydread (758754) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301813)

^^THIS^^

Bring Life (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40300833)

Why don't we bring some life there and start bio transforming it? There's gotta be a few things that could live there.

Should have used olive oil instead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40301143)

Someone had to say it.

One of the strengths of robotics (2, Interesting)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302321)

We see here one of the primary strengths of robotics over human missions, namely, the speed with which one can correct errors . It'll be no more than 10 years, er, 20, no make that 30 or even... 40 years before they can get another mission up there with a drill that isn't contaminated, maybe. With a manned mission, they'd be able to troubleshoot the drill on the spot, which is clearly an inferior process.

Re:One of the strengths of robotics (1)

Solandri (704621) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302805)

These landers and any probes which might impact a planet/moon are sterilized before being sent to minimize the risk of biological contamination. So yeah, having a man there to troubleshoot the drill on the spot would clearly be an inferior process.

Re:One of the strengths of robotics (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303483)

to minimize the risk of biological contamination

I think we're a bit at cross-purposes. I would much rather maximize the risk of biological contamination. I figure a well developed high tech society on Mars gives us the best chance of doing that.

Re:One of the strengths of robotics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40303573)

"Well, that last repair seems to have fixed the teflon contamination, but not five minutes after I get back in and take my suit off but the thing is makin' a ruckus about finding some Martian escherichia coli..."

Re:One of the strengths of robotics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40302827)

I guess that means you've already volunteered for the first manned one-way trip to Mars. It doesn't seem like it'll be a big loss to the /. community.

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