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Mars-Like Conditions Sufficient to Sustain Earth-Bound Microbes

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the little-chilly-though dept.

Mars 78

skade88 writes "Does life exist on Mars? We might assume if there ever was life on Mars then it most likely came about when Mars was a wetter and warmer place than it is now. So the question is, if life did exist on Mars in the past, does it still exist? Ars takes a look at how microbes have survived on Earth in environmental conditions much like we currently see on Mars."

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78 comments

Hmmm (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42404223)

So was it the microbes that were wearing the Mardi Gras beads [slashdot.org] ?

They're Earth-bound? (5, Funny)

plate_o_shrimp (948271) | about a year and a half ago | (#42404235)

When are they expect to arrive here?

Re:They're Earth-bound? (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about a year and a half ago | (#42404261)

Just watch for zombie mutants. It will have been slightly earlier than that.

Re:They're Earth-bound? (2)

Dunega (901960) | about a year and a half ago | (#42404577)

Wouldn't they be little green zombie mutants?

Re:They're Earth-bound? (2)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year and a half ago | (#42404661)

Well, woosh me bald...

Earth-bound as in "microbes that are on Earth and can't leave". In short, microbes from earth could live on Mars. Not bound FOR earth, bound TO earth.

Hope you get that +5 funny you're going for, but I didn't think the joke was that good.

Re:They're Earth-bound? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42405565)

It's all bullshit anyhow, because God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Microbe Steve.

Re:They're Earth-bound? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42407083)

My bet is they will find microbes on mars and when they analyze their DNA they'll find they're your basic archaea that hitched a hella a ride on earth rocks hurled into space by an asteroid collision.

Good and bad (4, Insightful)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year and a half ago | (#42404255)

On one hand, we have to be even more careful not to contaminate Mars. On the other hand, finding (or creating) bacteria that can survive there could be the first step of terraforming the planet.

Re:Good and bad (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42404653)

On one hand, we have to be even more careful not to contaminate Mars. On the other hand, finding (or creating) bacteria that can survive there could be the first step of terraforming the planet.

The first problem is that we don't want to contaminate Mars until we have found out if there is life there or not. The second problem is that it is impossible to prove that something doesn't exist. If one could conclusively prove that we wouldn't have that much problem with religion.

I say let's contaminate the shit out of that bitch, if there was life on it that is anywhere near what we have on Earth then it would have spread enough for us to notice by now.

Re:Good and bad (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42404805)

Why do we have to be careful of contaminating a barren wasteland that only the most ignorant could possibly believe ever contained life. I can understand lying about the possibility of life to get funding and continuing to do so until it is practical to actually terraform it.

The idea of preventing life from spreading from Earth is the most immoral thing I can imagine.

Re:Good and bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42404893)

a barren wasteland that only the most ignorant could possibly believe ever contained life.

That does not describe Mars, as people far more knowledgeable than you believe that it may well have contained life in the past.

Re:Good and bad (1)

Sperbels (1008585) | about a year and a half ago | (#42408327)

Then it will have plenty of fossils...and we won't have to worry about contaminating the planet.

Re:Good and bad (4, Insightful)

N0Man74 (1620447) | about a year and a half ago | (#42405421)

Why do we have to be careful of contaminating a barren wasteland that only the most ignorant could possibly believe ever contained life.

Exactly! It's kind of like the Sahara or Antarctica. One look is enough to know that plant life could not flourish in these areas. Only an ignorant person could think that these places could have ever supported abundant flora, because it's not possible that time could have changed the environment.

Re:Good and bad (2)

skade88 (1750548) | about a year and a half ago | (#42405583)

Exactly! Looking a the Sahara today and saying it was always like that in the past would be at best an error. At one point, what we now call the Sahara Desert was covered with abundant life, both plant and animal. Continental drift and climate change has ensured that the surface of Earth is always changing. The same applies to Mars, saying that the surface of Mars has always been as it is today is very not correct.

Re:Good and bad (2)

flayzernax (1060680) | about a year and a half ago | (#42407533)

Not to mention, that for a long time, there was abundant life on earth, and no, um plants, or animals.

There is plenty doubt as to whether or not there's life on mars, theres a good chance. And if someone knows about it, its not us. Though many great scholarly people conclude that life is far more pervasive then we are taught in highschool biology.

Deep in the mantle, and in space dust itself.

Re:Good and bad (4, Interesting)

Baron von Daren (1253850) | about a year and a half ago | (#42405419)

One of the problems with terraforming Mars (and potentially lots of other rocky, goldilocks zone planets) is the lack of a substantial magnetosphere. Earth’s magnetosphere greatly mitigates solar wind and radiation. Solar wind can strip a planet of its atmosphere and solar radiation isn’t good news for ‘earth like’ life.

The conditions for life might be quite common in the universe, but the conditions for complex Earth like life are much, much more rare (but perhaps still substantial given the numbers). We have a lot going for us here. We are part of a solar system in a ‘quiet’ part of the galaxy. The vast majority of stars in our galaxy, and most others, are in areas of great cosmic violence. They are too close to the galactic core, or too close to a star that goes supernova or hypernova during the evolutionary process. There are planets that don’t have a moon or nearby supergiant plants (like Jupiter, Saturn, etc.) to protect them from comets and asteroids, and they don’t have strong magnetospheres. Of course a planet like Mars does have a lot of these things going for it, it doesn’t have a strong magnetosphere which is a sizable technological hurtle to terraforming (assuming we are terraforming for us).

Most likely humans will become largely virtual data based organisms long before we develop the technology or focused the resources on things like terraforming planets. If this happens, the need to do things like terraforming other planets kind of goes away.

Re:Good and bad (2)

Fluffeh (1273756) | about a year and a half ago | (#42406277)

One of the problems with terraforming Mars (and potentially lots of other rocky, goldilocks zone planets) is the lack of a substantial magnetosphere.

It's okay, I have seen the movie, all we need to do is to get these drill like vehicles, form them up into a train like system, pop a bunch of nukes on board, drill carefully into the core avoiding the city size diamonds, then set of a chain reaction that will resonate through the inside of the planet causing the molten iron to start rotating again and BAM! magnetosphere! Seriously guys, it's not that hard!

*sips coffee*

Re:Good and bad (1)

Jeng (926980) | about a year and a half ago | (#42406347)

Googled "power requirements for an artificial magnetosphere for mars" and came up with nothing useful.

Most of the threads that I found of people talking about an artificial magnetosphere were talking about making it cover the entire planet, but wouldn't on only have to put basically a large magnetic shield between the Sun and Mars?

Re:Good and bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42408549)

Googled "power requirements for an artificial magnetosphere for mars" and came up with nothing useful.

Most of the threads that I found of people talking about an artificial magnetosphere were talking about making it cover the entire planet, but wouldn't on only have to put basically a large magnetic shield between the Sun and Mars?

Did some rough calculations on that some while back. Figured that it would be possible but not very practical.
It would pretty much have to be a power grid the size we have on Earth.
Perhaps we don't need a shield as strong as the one Earth has. Perhaps one can scale it down a bit by complementing it with some bio-dome structure or whatever.

Anything placed between Sun and Mars would have to be the size of Mars, just less practical than one placed on the ground.

Re:Good and bad (2)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#42409137)

One of the problems with terraforming Mars (and potentially lots of other rocky, goldilocks zone planets) is the lack of a substantial magnetosphere.

If you're trying to make a nice environment for people to go from Earth, it's a problem. If you're merely trying to get life to thrive on Mars, then it's not a serious issue.The moderately high radioactive environment of Mars just isn't that big an issue (especially compared to the UV enivornment!). The low gravity of Mars does more to strip Mars of atmosphere than the lack of a magnetosphere.

Most likely humans will become largely virtual data based organisms long before we develop the technology or focused the resources on things like terraforming planets.

We already terraformed Earth. Agriculture and urbanization both make huge swathes of Earth more habitable for humans (which really should be the definition of terraforming not making something more like arbitrary Earth environments which in themselves need not be particularly nice environments. Nor is there a reason to expect that that the process can't be largely automated (to avoid the need for billions of human laborers making things happen).

Re:Good and bad (1)

Baron von Daren (1253850) | about a year and a half ago | (#42411195)

If you're trying to make a nice environment for people to go from Earth, it's a problem. If you're merely trying to get life to thrive on Mars, then it's not a serious issue.The moderately high radioactive environment of Mars just isn't that big an issue (especially compared to the UV enivornment!). The low gravity of Mars does more to strip Mars of atmosphere than the lack of a magnetosphere.

I alluded to this point when I said “assuming we are terraforming for us.”

Indeed, Mars’ lower mass/gravitational field strength is a major factor in atmospheric degradation, but Mars has enough mass that it could hold onto an atmosphere should it have a stronger magnetosphere. Of course it could hold on to a more substantial atmosphere with more mass, but the radiation would still be a factor if you wanted Mars to be Earth like. Neither is likely to happen, but I suppose it would be easier to generate a surrogate magnetosphere than increase the mass of the planet. Moreover, creating a magnetosphere or similar shield would kill two birds with one stone. Again, I'm not suggesting this will happen any time soon or at all for that matter.

We already terraformed Earth. Agriculture and urbanization both make huge swathes of Earth more habitable for humans (which really should be the definition of terraforming not making something more like arbitrary Earth environments which in themselves need not be particularly nice environments. Nor is there a reason to expect that that the process can't be largely automated (to avoid the need for billions of human laborers making things happen).

That’s a matter of semantics I suppose. We have certainly altered the biosphere of Earth, intentionally and unintentionally, but I personally wouldn’t count that as terraforming in the most colloquial connotation. I get your point, but it’s really usurping my comment to make a separate point. My point is that it is more likely that technology will go in the direction of virtualization of mind than immense scale engineering projects like making a planet like Mars, which cannot support an Earth like biosphere, into a planet that can.

Re:Good and bad (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#42414029)

We have certainly altered the biosphere of Earth, intentionally and unintentionally, but I personally wouldnâ(TM)t count that as terraforming in the most colloquial connotation. I get your point, but itâ(TM)s really usurping my comment to make a separate point.

An assertion that something is unlikely to happen is weakened significantly, if it has been done successfully and to considerable advantage elsewhere.

Re:Good and bad (1)

Baron von Daren (1253850) | about a year and a half ago | (#42414751)

I’m not sure what your point is exactly.

I am not denying that the term ‘terraforming’ can have various, graduated connotations. If you wish to argue that farming is a form of terraforming or that human driven climate change is a form of terraforming, I can see the point. That is not the connotation of terraforming I am using though, and that should be clear.

I think that you may also be arguing that because we have altered Earth’s biosphere it strengthens the case that we can do so elsewhere through a mix of technology and biological processes. I don’t believe I argued otherwise. There is, however, a very large difference between altering a biosphere already capable of supporting intricately complex biomes and ecologies and transforming a planet like Mars into a planet that into one that can support similar biodiversity and complexity.

Would it be impossible to terraform Mars in this grand sense? I’m certainly not qualified to say, but my guess would be that it is possible. My point, to state it again, is that I don’t think that’s the direction humanity will go in. I think that the path of least resistance, so to speak, is the virtualization of human society and mind in general. That path is woven of many unrelated trajectories that are all being followed of their own accord. Just to give a few examples I would offer the building more realistic games and VR media, medical treatments (amputees, neurology, etc.), social networking, AI research, and so on. There is a confluence of myriad smaller paths that are leading toward the virtualization of human society; it will develop organically and without any single entity (i.e. a government or corporation) having to engage in a focused and extensive engineering project. It is simply a direction that humanity is already going in. I think that once we begin to expand into virtual space in earnest, the impetus for things like terraforming will lessen. I’m not implying that it will dissipate entirely, but it will cease to be a necessity for the long term (and we are talking crazy long term here) survival of mind. It will become a luxury that may or may not be realized. You simply don’t need to create planetary biospheres to maintain virtual environments.

I hate to sound like some supplicant to the cult of transhumanism, because I’m not. I’m very far from that, but I can’t see any empirical reason why it won’t happen eventually. It is simply my guess that it will happen before we start terraforming planets or building Dyson Spheres.”

No, the question is: what happened (4, Insightful)

Rob Kaper (5960) | about a year and a half ago | (#42404283)

The real question is: if Mars once had Earth-like conditions, is there a risk Earth will end up with Mars-like conditions in the foreseeable future?

Re:No, the question is: what happened (2)

flyingfsck (986395) | about a year and a half ago | (#42404347)

Yes, eventually the earth will cool down and the seas will sink into the crust and the surface will be dry just like the moon, Mars, Pluto, Mercury and other cold planetoids.

Re:No, the question is: what happened (4, Informative)

Thiez (1281866) | about a year and a half ago | (#42404479)

Nope, we're going to burn instead: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun#Earth.27s_fate [wikipedia.org]

Re:No, the question is: what happened (1, Funny)

jhoegl (638955) | about a year and a half ago | (#42404571)

Anything to save us from the "looming fiscal cliff" eh?

Re:No, the question is: what happened (2)

skade88 (1750548) | about a year and a half ago | (#42405599)

Mercury is a cold planet?!

Re:No, the question is: what happened (2)

Fluffeh (1273756) | about a year and a half ago | (#42406319)

Mercury is a cold planet?!

It sort of is actually, at least on the shady side [wikipedia.org] .

Mercury's surface experiences the steepest temperature gradient of all the planets, ranging from a very cold 100 K at night to a very hot 700 K during the day.

Surface temp.
Min : Poles 100 K - Equator 80 K
mean : Poles 340 K - Equator 200 K
max : Poles 700 K - Equator 380 K

Re:No, the question is: what happened (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42404349)

I don't think anyone is suggesting that because these microbes can suvive in Mars-analogue conditions that Mars is or was "Earth like". Like the authors and some other commenters have pointed out, these experiments covered low temperature, low pressure and low oxygen/high carbon dioxide, but didn't account for things like solar radiation or the chemical makeup of the soil. I'm not saying they're crap, but everyone agrees that they're partial and preliminary.

Besides, from what little I know of planet formation, Mars lost its atmosphere because its core cooled faster and when the magnetosphere was lost so was the atmosphere, which led to the cold and barren surface forming. I guess the same will theoretically happen to the earth one day but I'd guess that's on a similar timescale to "eath gets devoured by an expanding sun".

Re:No, the question is: what happened (-1, Troll)

flyingfsck (986395) | about a year and a half ago | (#42405637)

The expanding sun idea presupposes that the sun is gaseous. The sun has actually been found to be rocky. surfaceofthesun.com Therefore the sun may actually run out of gas fuel much much much sooner than previously thought and will not expand and will likely not explode either, but will more likely just fizzle out and die. It appears that the sun is not a second generation star but more likely a third or fourth gen. Most people just blissfully ignore this research.

Re:No, the question is: what happened (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42404463)

Nope, it will be much hotter on earth. As stars age, they become increasingly bright. Eventually Earth's seas will be boiled dry by the Sun, before she becomes a red giant. There won't be any ice left, like there is on Mars.

Re:No, the question is: what happened (2)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | about a year and a half ago | (#42404489)

Earth is much more likely to end up something like Venus than Mars. The Sun is slowly getting hotter, and by about 750 million years from now (give or take a few hundred million years) the temperature on the surface of the Earth will be hot enough that the oceans will be lost into space, and subducted into the Earth's mantle. With no oceans plate tectonics will grind to a halt, which will stop the recycling of carbon dioxide. The combination of large amounts of water vapour and CO2 in the atmosphere will lead to a runaway greenhouse that will cause temperatures on the Earth's surface to reach perhaps several hundred degrees. Mars, however, could end up warm enough to be habitable for a while.

Re:No, the question is: what happened (2, Interesting)

Smidge204 (605297) | about a year and a half ago | (#42404675)

The sun isn't getting hotter [skepticalscience.com] . Water vapor isn't light enough to escape Earth's gravity well in any appreciable quantity [sbc.edu] . Plate tectonics are driven by convection currents in the Earth's mantel [wikipedia.org] , not the oceans, and if anything the (extremely unlikely) ceasing of tectonic activity would decrease CO2 emissions [columbia.edu] .
=Smidge=

Re:No, the question is: what happened (4, Interesting)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | about a year and a half ago | (#42404855)

Yes, the Sun is getting hotter as it evolves across the main sequence of the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram. However, this is happening on a time scale of hundreds of millions of years. You are right that it has absolutely no effect on our climate today, but it will over the next 200 million years or so. Water vapour does not escape into space, but it will become a larger part of the atmosphere as the Earth heats up, and water vapour is a very potent greenhouse gas. Eventually the water vapour will be lost. First, as the atmosphere heats up the random motion of water vapour molecules will increase, so more of them will end up in the high-velocity tail of the Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution, and thus have enough speed to escape. Second the changes in the chemistry of the atmosphere will make it easier for water molecules to chemically dissociate (and cosmic rays will contribute too). The net effect is that water vapour will be lost, but on time scales of hundreds of millions of years. Plate tectonics are driven by convection currents in the mantle, but they are lubricated by water. If there are no oceans it is much harder for plates to subduct. Once the oceans are gone plate tectonics become much more difficult. This is thought to be the reason that Venus, a planet with essentially the same mass and internal composition as the Earth) shows no evidence for having plate tectonics. My understanding is that this is still somewhat hypothetical, but that there is an emerging consensus in the the geological community that oceans play a major rôle. Finally, plate tectonics do not drive geological CO2 emission, vulcanism does. While it is true that plate tectonics does cause vulcanism volcanos can happen without it, as we see on Venus, and in Hawaii. So, when plate tectonics stop there will still be CO2 emission from vulcanism. However, the carbonate-sillicate weathering cycle will have stopped, and this is the primary geological way of removing CO2 from the atmosphere. The net effect will be CO2 being added by volcanos, but with nothing to remove it the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere will increase. Unless if we buy some Puppeteer world-moving technology Earth is in for a hot time around its 5,500,000,000th birthday.

Re:No, the question is: what happened (1)

cytye (318777) | about a year and a half ago | (#42410583)

Sound like what happened to Venus, and maybe how Earth got its water?

Re:No, the question is: what happened (2)

Thiez (1281866) | about a year and a half ago | (#42404873)

Your "The sun isn't getting hotter"-article is looking at decades, not millions of years. What the sun has been doing since the 1980s is quite irrelevant to its evolution on larger time-scales. Even your water-vapor article concludes that the oceans could be boiled away if the earth were hotter, in the second to last paragraph.

Do you even read your own references?

Re:No, the question is: what happened (1)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | about a year and a half ago | (#42406401)

Let's give smidge204 the benefit of the doubt here. His first sentence, and first link, suggests that he thought that he was dealing with some nut-job who thinks that global warming is a hoax perpetuated by evil scientists and the organic farming lobby.

Re:No, the question is: what happened (1)

Smidge204 (605297) | about a year and a half ago | (#42412347)

And also in my defense, the original post was asking "in the foreseeable future" ... 200+ million years is not what any normal person would consider "the foreseeable future." :P

=Smidge=

Re:No, the question is: what happened (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42407585)

Not until the Moon goes away taking it's tidal effects with it, and whatever stores of fissile elements burn out in Earth's core. Although the Sun keeps us plenty warm and plays a major role, it's likely not all of it.

Earth's magnetosphere and atmosphere should easily outlast humanity, unless we somehow figure out a way to seriously fark it up ourselves.

Re:No, the question is: what happened (1)

Sperbels (1008585) | about a year and a half ago | (#42408345)

The real question is: if Mars once had Earth-like conditions, is there a risk Earth will end up with Mars-like conditions in the foreseeable future?

No. In hundreds of millions of years, yes, it could happen. Now? No, it could not without violating the known laws of physics.

Not even close to as harsh as Mars (1)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | about a year and a half ago | (#42404285)

[quote]
Does this mean these organisms can survive on Mars? The authors are appropriately cautious, noting these conditions, while harsh, don't fully capture just how tough the conditions are there. "[These] conditions are only a subset of the total potentially biotoxic physical factors constraining the survival or growth of terrestrial microbes on Mars, such as solar UV, extreme desiccation, solar particle events, and galactic cosmic rays," they write. "In addition, the Martian regolith itself contains numerous potentially biotoxic factors, such as salinity, pH, and Eh of available liquid water; oxidizing soils created by UV-induced processes and soil chemical reactions; or the presence of heavy metals"
[/quote]

Just because some bacteria can survive in a deep freeze doesn't mean they could live on Mars, not even close. Its possible of course that Mars has some areas where conditions are appropriate for Earth-like life, but if we have not yet seen them.

Re:Not even close to as harsh as Mars (1)

Delarth799 (1839672) | about a year and a half ago | (#42405179)

So far all we have really done is examine the martian surface for signs of life either via satellite or rover. We have yet to try exploring underground in caverns which is probably a ways off. Scientists estimate there is more life beneath the surface of earth living in caves and whatnot than there is on the surface. If life still exists on Mars then its probably not going to be found above ground but somewhere deep underground living in caves and deep beneath the soil.

Re:Not even close to as harsh as Mars (1)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | about a year and a half ago | (#42410703)

Well, we don't know how harsh the conditions are underground on Mars. We aren't even close to understanding how the life on Earth's surface relates to what is underground. I've never seen any estimates that the biomass of 'deep life' is all that large, but even if it is we can be certain that the energy cycling through that part of the ecosystem is MUCH MUCH smaller than what is available on the surface. Can this deep life survive on its own over geological time? This is certainly an open question. What about the lack of geochemical cycles on Mars? Its crust doesn't recycle, thus there are no carbon or other geochemical cycles beyond some very slow one-way changes on the surface due to weathering. Can life exist at all without these cycles to replenish the supplies of biologically necessary chemical species? There MAY be areas of Mars that could be said to be habitable in terms of immediate conditions, but that doesn't answer the question of whether Mars is truly suitable for life in a larger sense.

Procariotes (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | about a year and a half ago | (#42404331)

There is as much life in the earths crust as there is on the surface. It is therefore quite possible that there is a lot of life in the crust of Mars.

Re:Procariotes (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about a year and a half ago | (#42405411)

There is as much life in the earths crust as there is on the surface. It is therefore quite possible that there is a lot of life in the crust of Mars.

How does that logic work, exactly? Assuming that the Earth and Mars are similar enough to compare and that life on the surface is A and in the crust is B. You are saying that on Earth A = B but on Mars that A B, or specifically, since on Mars, to date, A=0, that 0=1. Again, how do you get to that point?

Re:Procariotes (3, Insightful)

flyingfsck (986395) | about a year and a half ago | (#42405545)

When the aerobic life on the surface of Mars died, the underground life would have been unaffected. So if there was life on Mars, the place to look today, would be underground, since anaerobic life should still be there.

Re:Procariotes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42407787)

When the aerobic life on the surface of Mars died, the underground life would have been unaffected.

That is an unfounded assumption as there is no data to suggest a correlation.

So if there was life on Mars, the place to look today, would be underground, since anaerobic life should still be there.

Whether there was ever life on the surface of Mars or not, since it isn't there now, then in the crust would be the only other place to look. Problem is that on the Earth 98% of the life below the surface occurs within the top six inches of the surface and the rovers have already examined that depth. That does not mean there can't be subsurface life on Mars, but if it does exist, it isn't going to be a) bountiful and b) easy to find.

Did anyone else hear david bowie in their head? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42404333)

"Is there life on maaaaaaaaaars".

At some point (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42404335)

you have to ask yourself, "Who gives a shit about Mars unless there *is* life there?" If it's the lives of other humans that go there or not, doesn't matter. If there's life there, then let's talk. Otherwise (and I know that there are many other scientific studies that are, and can take place with the current technology that's curently on Mars) who cares about the discoveries (Ooo we found ice!) on Mars?

Seriously, I don't mean to troll this article, but I'm tired of hearing about Mars this and Mars that. We all know that we want to find other life out there. All science isn't about inventing the next cool device to keep parents from looking after their kids. Some of us want the next big step for mankind.

Re:At some point (2)

Jeng (926980) | about a year and a half ago | (#42405613)

The next big step for mankind will be getting off this rock.

What will motivate us to get off this rock is a lack of terrestrial resources.

So once society gets to the point that it isn't economical to just rape our own planet then we will leave it, but not before that point.

Re:At some point (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | about a year and a half ago | (#42408197)

That's assuming we haven't raped it to the point where we no longer have the resources to leave the planet.

So when we do discover life on Mars... (1)

Beorytis (1014777) | about a year and a half ago | (#42404355)

It might just be the descendents of a Russian Sneeze: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1109488/ [imdb.com]

Forget accidental contamination. (3, Insightful)

runeghost (2509522) | about a year and a half ago | (#42404361)

How long before some nation or well-funded group decides that the time to start terraforming Mars is 'right now', and without bothering about world opinion, puts together a tailored package of microbes at just lobs them to Mars?

Re:Forget accidental contamination. (4, Funny)

NEDHead (1651195) | about a year and a half ago | (#42404423)

I smell a Kickstarter campaign!

Re: Blattaria Planet (4, Funny)

retroworks (652802) | about a year and a half ago | (#42404597)

More specifically, let's start a Kickstarter campaign to put cockroaches on Mars. Lots of them, enough for them to eat each other and evolve quickly into a apecies that human religions, races and nations can rally against in a uniform cause. I think we could convince enough people it's a really really good idea.

Re: Blattaria Planet (3, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year and a half ago | (#42404679)

Isn't there a limit on Kickstarter funding? Some of those politicians are pretty husky - it's going to take a bit of cash to get them to Mars.

But I heartily support your idea and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

Re:Forget accidental contamination. (1)

na1led (1030470) | about a year and a half ago | (#42404643)

Life on Mars would mutate very rapidly due to higher radiations. Be interesting to see little alien monsters running around.

Re:Forget accidental contamination. (1)

arthurpaliden (939626) | about a year and a half ago | (#42406003)

Venus is abetter candidate for that.

Re:Forget accidental contamination. (1)

runeghost (2509522) | about a year and a half ago | (#42417891)

Why? I am not a planetary scientist nor a microbiologist, but my understanding is that Venus is basically a toxic pressure-cooker, while Mars is more of a frozen desert. The latter certainly sounds like a less hostile environment, even if it is far from being a friendly one.

Re:Forget accidental contamination. (1)

arthurpaliden (939626) | about a year and a half ago | (#42419613)

The beauty of Venus is that when you finish you have an atmosphere, decent gravity and it will be warm. Well not freezing cold.

It is unlikely that Carnobacterium (1)

Stirling Newberry (848268) | about a year and a half ago | (#42404399)

evolved on what we know about mars, since it is largely found on meat. What would be looking for is something that could have evolved on a warm wet mars.

we should start terraforming Mars immediately (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42404417)

1) research which earth microbes and lichens would grow best on Mars
2) send wind/solar powered stations to Mars that would help incubate
3) Wait a few decades
4) ???
5) Profit

Re:we should start terraforming Mars immediately (1)

mister_playboy (1474163) | about a year and a half ago | (#42404655)

You'll be waiting longer than "a few decades".

Much, much longer.

Re:we should start terraforming Mars immediately (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#42405197)

If we sent some Earth-based microbes that need help incubating on Mars, then definitely. On the other hand if we specifically designed a fast-multiplying terraforming cocktail that could thrive in Martian conditions (probably well beyond our abilities for at least the next few decades) then the transformation could be almost overnight thanks to exponential growth. A single bacteria given unlimited food and a danger-free environment could grow to a colony out-massing the Earth in under a week. Sounds implausible I know, but at 1 division per hour you get 2^(24*7) = 4*10^50 individuals in a week. Multiply by an average bacteria mass of ~1x10^-12g and you get 4x10^35kg, over 60 billion times the mass of Earth.

And once you cover Mars with a living skin pumping oxygen and water into the atmosphere the transformation could be quite rapid.

Re:we should start terraforming Mars immediately (2)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about a year and a half ago | (#42405459)

If we sent some Earth-based microbes that need help incubating on Mars, then definitely. On the other hand if we specifically designed a fast-multiplying terraforming cocktail that could thrive in Martian conditions (probably well beyond our abilities for at least the next few decades) then the transformation could be almost overnight thanks to exponential growth. A single bacteria given unlimited food and a danger-free environment could grow to a colony out-massing the Earth in under a week. Sounds implausible I know, but at 1 division per hour you get 2^(24*7) = 4*10^50 individuals in a week. Multiply by an average bacteria mass of ~1x10^-12g and you get 4x10^35kg, over 60 billion times the mass of Earth.

And once you cover Mars with a living skin pumping oxygen and water into the atmosphere the transformation could be quite rapid.

Okay, I'll bite. Question 1 - Why would we do such a thing in the first place? Question 2 - exactly where is this man made bacteria going to get the nutrients on Mars, particulalry in quantity enough that it would be able to pump out oxygen and water? Or are we going to have to transport the oxygen and hydrogen to Mars to make that work and if so, why don't we just pump out the water (of course it doesn't solve the question of where are we going to get enough oxygen and hydrogen to supply an entire second planet without depleting this one).

Science fiction is nice, but unless you are talking about engineering a bacteria that can somehow transform atoms of one element, say silicon, into atoms of another, you don't have the raw materials on Mars, at least in sufficient quantity to produce the effect you are wanting.

Re:we should start terraforming Mars immediately (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#42407365)

1) Terraforming of course. You want to try to do it by hand? Seems a waste to leave a perfectly good planet lying around as a frozen desert if we can figure out how to cheaply make it more Earth-like.

2) Make 'em chemovores - lots of microbes on Earth survive primarily on inorganic compounds, no complex organics or light needed. As for raw materials - there's LOTS of oxygen on Mars, it's just bound up as iron oxide - hence the "red planet". We could also get it from the carbon dioxide which makes up over 95% of the Martian atmosphere, but since CO2 is a greenhouse gas and warming the planet will be one of the major challenges that might be counter-productive. Hydrogen might be a little less convenient, but it is the most common element in the universe, and the presence of methane (CH4) plumes in the atmosphere is clear evidence that it's present on Mars.

Considering how potent a greenhouse gas methane is I would suspect that one potential terraforming route would be to boost atmospheric methane until the temperature rose to the point where water vapor could exist is large quantities, then release new microbes that would create free water which would then help stabilize the system (assuming methane is as short-lived on mars as it is here, offhand I can't remember why it has such a short atmospheric life)

So no SF elemental transmutation is necessary - the building blocks of life, C,H,O,N, are among the most common elements in the universe - it's unlikely they'd be in short supply anywhere in a young star system, and certainly not in ours.

growing on refrigerated, vacuum packed meat. (1)

mapkinase (958129) | about a year and a half ago | (#42404733)

>A bit of study showed that they were all relatives of a strain first found growing on refrigerated, vacuum packed meat.

BLurgh.

Forget Mars --- Waste of Effort, Money and Time (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42405043)

Go the Titan !

Why ? Free liquid hydrocarbon compounds. Use a space-ferring Zeppelin and siphon-hose pumps to load the liquid (propane, ethylene or gasoline), then send back to Earth and sell to Exon-Mobil.

Go to Europa !

Just more interesting for sciences and astrobiology in particular.

Wasting so much effort, money and time as ESA and NASA is futile -- a failure pre-made and pre-packaged.

We don't need meat-eating microbes on Mars... (1)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | about a year and a half ago | (#42405057)

We need oxygen-producing bacteria, like cyanobacteria.

We don't need meat-eating microbes on Mars. Good to see they found out this before-hand. Hmmm... Or did they? How do we know the little rover bugger wasn't filled with them?! Maybe it is already too late!

Re:We don't need meat-eating microbes on Mars... (1)

petsounds (593538) | about a year and a half ago | (#42407511)

How do we know the little rover bugger wasn't filled with them?! Maybe it is already too late!

Curiosity's SAM instrument inadvertently contained Florida air in its Tunable Laser Spectrometer, which you might remember caused an early false positive of methane [arstechnica.com] when NASA first tried to sample the Martian air. This Florida air was subsequently evacuated into Mars' atmosphere. But I'm not sure anyone knows what was in that air, and no reporters queried NASA about this contamination.

Re:We don't need meat-eating microbes on Mars... (1)

Crypto Gnome (651401) | about a year and a half ago | (#42408761)

We need oxygen-producing bacteria, like cyanobacteria.

We don't need meat-eating microbes on Mars. Good to see they found out this before-hand. Hmmm... Or did they? How do we know the little rover bugger wasn't filled with them?! Maybe it is already too late!

And remember, folks, You Are Made of Meat!

Martian life, but not as we know it, found in 1976 (1)

0111 1110 (518466) | about a year and a half ago | (#42405357)

Incredibly harsh environment for earth-like life and seemingly nothing to eat, but those are a priori arguments. Not science.

The Viking labeled release experiment [wikipedia.org]

may have already found life life on Mars back in 1976. [earthsky.org]
Maybe.

Consensus science (taking a vote of scientist opinions) says no, but scientific method says quite possibly yes. I'm usually on the side of the skeptics, but in this case I certainly wouldn't rule out microbial life. It might help if we actually went looking for it again directly as we did with Viking. Maybe send a microscope robot and some more yummy broth for those hungry little Martians.

liquid H20 few hundred feet below ground (1)

peter303 (12292) | about a year and a half ago | (#42405921)

Satellites have photographed several fluid bursts from martian cliff walls over the past decades. It is unclear whether the fluid is water or CO2, but H20 is a good candidate. Microbes may have lived below the surface for eons.

There have been microbes in everywhere they've been looked for in Earth rocks where the temperature is below 120C. Some scientists suggest this may be the largest biomass on Earth due to the huge volume.

Water (1)

HHealthy (2803519) | about a year and a half ago | (#42407891)

If we consider life as a tight defined set of molecules interacting in some medium and enclosed in a space we start to realize that life in a water-poor enviorement may not be very easy. Can a different liquid medium be used. Gas? Completly solid? I guess an enclosed space is certainly neccesary and a medium that allows interactions too. There may be life but probably very constrained due to enviromental constraints. For funding, research and peer finding please refer to the non-profit Aging Portfolio.

http://www.actrerssone.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42409101)

Blogging in itself is not passive. It takes a lot of constant work, writing and relationship building in order to create a successful blog.

http://www.actressone.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42409111)

The year is coming to an end, and I figured it would be useful to write a post with the most important and relevant things I learned over that period. Useful both for me, as writing things down is a very efficient way to absorb them and to structure the ideas on your mind, and for the readers as well, as they might pick up an insight or two. So here go.

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