Big Water On Mars!

thaddeus6th

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#6
Hmm. Will we be destroyed by vengeful Martian otters, or simply the brute extermination of the Great Filter, I wonder...

Sorry, I meant, "Gosh, how exciting!" :p
 

mosaix

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#10
Mars: huge underground lake raises prospects of life on planet, astronomers say

Astronomers have found compelling evidence that there is a huge reservoir of liquid water buried a mile under the ice near the south pole on Mars.

Radar measurements taken from the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter spotted the 12 mile-wide stretch of water at the base of a thick slab of polar ice in a region known as Planum Australe.

It is the first time that researchers have identified a stable body of liquid water on the red planet. The finding raises the likelihood that any microbial life that arose on Mars may continue to eke out a rather bleak existence deep beneath the surface.
 

Venusian Broon

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#12
I've tried to find out how salty they think it is, but I can't find what sort of levels they are talking about - possibly way above 30% salinity, which is perhaps why they are somewhat negative on life's chances there!

However, one must also factor in the pressure of the ice sheet on top of these pools of water, which complicates things. Plus, just because it is minus 68 deg C on the surface, does not mean that it is minus 68 deg C down there.

And it may not be a pocket of water like a lake, so perhaps the saltiness would not matter???

From Underground Lake Found on Mars? Get the Facts.

"But not everyone is convinced that the “lake” is actually a lake. Even according to the team, it could instead be a deposit of dampened sludge, more like muddy sediments than a pocket filled with liquid. Determining the exact nature of the structure will require a different instrument, Pettinelli says.
“We can’t choose between one or the other. We don’t have enough information to say this is a lake or saturated sediment like an aquifer,” Pettinelli says. “The lake will be more interesting.”


Still, I think damp sludge could be interesting too.
 
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#13
Conditions that are necessary to create life from scratch could be incredibly different from conditions that life might adapt itself to. So if Mars had a warm and wet period to create life, some of it could have survived if the changes in temperature and salinity were gradual enough for evolution to keep pace. With the right evolutionary pressures you could end up with life that "flourishes" in salty permafrost.
 

Vertigo

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#14
I've tried to find out how salty they think it is, but I can't find what sort of levels they are talking about - possibly way above 30% salinity, which is perhaps why they are somewhat negative on life's chances there!

However, one must also factor in the pressure of the ice sheet on top of these pools of water, which complicates things. Plus, just because it is minus 68 deg C on the surface, does not mean that it is minus 68 deg C down there.

And it may not be a pocket of water like a lake, so perhaps the saltiness would not matter???

From Underground Lake Found on Mars? Get the Facts.

"But not everyone is convinced that the “lake” is actually a lake. Even according to the team, it could instead be a deposit of dampened sludge, more like muddy sediments than a pocket filled with liquid. Determining the exact nature of the structure will require a different instrument, Pettinelli says.
“We can’t choose between one or the other. We don’t have enough information to say this is a lake or saturated sediment like an aquifer,” Pettinelli says. “The lake will be more interesting.”


Still, I think damp sludge could be interesting too.
Sadly it's a log colder at the surface I think. "At the bottom of the ice at the Martian south pole, the temperature is estimated to be about -68C. "

On balance I think it's possible but unlikely. I still think somewhere like Enceladus is a more likely prospect.
 

Brian G Turner

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I take a positive view on (eventually!) finding life throughout the universe - but I struggle to be optimistic about Mars. The only reason we seem to focus on it is because it's the nearest body, rather than because it suits any conditions conducive to life as we know it. Europa and Enceladus seem to be far, far better prospects.
 

Venusian Broon

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#16
I take a positive view on (eventually!) finding life throughout the universe - but I struggle to be optimistic about Mars. The only reason we seem to focus on it is because it's the nearest body, rather than because it suits any conditions conducive to life as we know it. Europa and Enceladus seem to be far, far better prospects.

The reason we focus on it, is that of all the celestial bodies that we have hard data on, it is the most suitable for us as a species to attempt to live on and terraform.

The other bodies are, I agree, are fascinating as they seem much more favourable for native species to still be around today, but would make awful colonies for us humans.
 
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#17
The reason we focus on it, is that of all the celestial bodies that we have hard data on, it is the most suitable for us as a species to attempt to live on and terraform.

The other bodies are, I agree, are fascinating as they seem much more favourable for native species to still be around today, but would make awful colonies for us humans.
I really don't understand that notion. Mars is a terrible place to live. It has no magnetic protection against cosmic rays and the atmosphere is too thin to make good use of aerodynamic lift devices while being just thick enough to make ballistic space launches impractical and sandstorms a reality. The gravity is too low to effectively trap an atmosphere.

As off world bases go, the moon or other airless bodies would be better choices due to the relative ease of travel to and from and the lack of weather. If you have to live under heavy shielding anyway, why choose such a difficult place like Mars?

I think Mars is just low hanging fruit - Venus is too problematic to explore, Europa and Ganymede are in Jupiter's radiation belt, but Mars is close and presents few hazards. And we can't quite shake the feeling that it had canals and Martians - the only specific alien life word that has ever stuck. I really think the Mars thing is romantic tomfoolery. Ceres would be a much more interesting place to put people if you feel the need to get out of town.

I'd like to see more robotic exploration of Mars while we build some actual infrastructure someplace useful.
 

mosaix

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#18
The reason we focus on it, is that of all the celestial bodies that we have hard data on, it is the most suitable for us as a species to attempt to live on and terraform.

The other bodies are, I agree, are fascinating as they seem much more favourable for native species to still be around today, but would make awful colonies for us humans.
I agree. Also some of the pictures sent back by the rovers look like they could have been taken here on Earth. It’s probably the most ‘non-alien’ looking planet in the solar system. It’s the place we could come closest to feeling ‘at home’.
 

Robert Zwilling

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#19
Until I hear a good explanation of where the life came from that inhabits deep sea hydrothermal vents I am inclined to believe there is some kind of life under the surface of Mars, the Moon and a few other locations around the gas giants.

The life systems at hydrothermal vents make the life living in the hot springs in Yellowstone National Park look like child's play. Extremophile just means living in a place we can't live in. It's ordinary life in extreme conditions for us, not for them. The narrow range we live in could be the exception, perhaps a place where all the rules get broken.

The hydrothermal life either adapted to the situation, which seems likely, for how could similar looking life pop up like that. Or they started from scratch and developed without ever having seen a molecule of free oxygen, right from the get go they were using chemosynthesis to get what was available. Either way it shows a versatility we're having a hard time imagining. That's the problem, it's there whether we can prove it or not. If you want cold with some pressure there's always the life carving out an existence in the undersea methane hydrate deposits.

Once life gets started it might be very hard to kill it at the single cell level. Macro stuff like us are probably just flowers off a budding blob that's been in existence for 4 billion years. The smaller stuff might have builtin genetic libraries that can function and adapt to changes most anywhere in the solar system where there is water in some form, even thick perchlorate sludges that were once salty waters.

The flip side is that this particular underground sea will turn out to be like a coal or oil deposit containing once living matter. If so, I will just continue figuring you just got to go deeper below the surface to find something living. Maybe the deeper you go the more water you find. If nothing else, they should have no problem constructing fuel cells the size of small skyscrapers on Mars. Then the contamination will follow in our footsteps the same way it ended up inside nuclear facilities and loving it.
 

Venusian Broon

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#20
I really don't understand that notion. Mars is a terrible place to live. It has no magnetic protection against cosmic rays and the atmosphere is too thin to make good use of aerodynamic lift devices while being just thick enough to make ballistic space launches impractical and sandstorms a reality. The gravity is too low to effectively trap an atmosphere.

As off world bases go, the moon or other airless bodies would be better choices due to the relative ease of travel to and from and the lack of weather. If you have to live under heavy shielding anyway, why choose such a difficult place like Mars?

I think Mars is just low hanging fruit - Venus is too problematic to explore, Europa and Ganymede are in Jupiter's radiation belt, but Mars is close and presents few hazards. And we can't quite shake the feeling that it had canals and Martians - the only specific alien life word that has ever stuck. I really think the Mars thing is romantic tomfoolery. Ceres would be a much more interesting place to put people if you feel the need to get out of town.

I'd like to see more robotic exploration of Mars while we build some actual infrastructure someplace useful.
I don't why having a place that can ballistically launch space craft easily makes it easier to live on. The Earth is pretty shockingly bad in this regard.

However, just off the top of my head:

Mar's soil contains water to extract, it's not too cold or too hot, we can use solar panels there because there's enough sunlight and it has a day/night cycle that is very similar to ours.

On top of this, although the atmosphere is thin, that still offers a modicum of protection from cosmic rays and sunlight compared to somewhere as barren as the moon/Ceres.

The gravity, again quite low, is still sufficiently large so that humans may actually be able to adapt to. Again a place like the moon may just be far too low for us to ever be healthy on - therefore a place like Cere's would be a permanent hospital for us.

From 'aesthetic' reasons Mars also wins, in my book, because of some of the factors above, it is the closest cousin to Earth - true it looks mostly like a desert - but I think a degree of familiarity would help tremendously. Again compare to the much more desolate places you've mentioned - although in those cases people would likely have to buried to protect themselves from solar radiation and other factors - so you'd just be living in boxes. (Which

While trying to make a breathable atmosphere for Mars is still SF, it doesn't require much and we wouldn't need pressure suits on the surface. Again good luck even trying to get close to that on Moon/Ceres.

If you have to live under heavy shielding anyway, why choose such a difficult place like Mars?
Yeah there's lots of tech you'd need to live there, but you'd need even more shielding and tech everywhere else. It's by far the easiest place we know to live on. I agree it's tough but that just goes to show how hostile the universe is to human life outside the Earth.

The moon itself has far fewer vital resources, problems with it's gravity as I've stated, can't be terraformed - at least with tech that we can probably come up with, and the various other points I've already brought up.

The only benefit I can really think for the moon is it's extreme closeness. However at least Mars is probably next on the list as regards contact from Earth.

If all your doing is just making an outpost that spits out spacecraft to go further into the solar system or to act as refuelling dumps for spacecraft - why have humans living there long term at all? You probably want autonomous robotic manufacturing that can be adapted to living to the much harsher conditions.

Now, you could probably make the same argument for Mars, but if humanities long term future is to get out and live on other planets (if you don't believe this, then fair enough, it's a waste of time even looking into this), Mars is a good 'practice' in how we would need to adapt and terraform.

Personally, I'd like to see us able to handle our own ecosystem first on planet Earth and learn to actually live on that without causing ecological catastrophe - the jury is still out on that. The cost of actually having to terraform an 'easy' target such as Mars and having significant numbers of humans on it is, as Neil Degrasse Tyson points out, is so huge, that it should be much easier to fix any problem we have on Earth first.

But as a SF reader/writer and a trained scientist I can dream a little beyond this, past out troubles and imagine humans as explorers. Mars would be a good first step.
 

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