NASA Rover Samples Active Linear Dune on Mars

Alexa

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#1
Mars News from NASA:

This 360-degree panorama was acquired by the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA's Curiosity rover looking out over part of an area called Bagnold Dunes, which stretch for miles on Mars. This location, called "Ogunquit Beach," is on the northwestern flank of lower Mount Sharp. Points of interest include the dune’s ripples, and bedrock made from sediments deposited in lakes billions of years ago.



NASA Rover Samples Active Linear Dune on Mars
 

Vertigo

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Sadly one of the things that worries me about many of the recent discoveries on Mars is exactly what so many people are getting excited about. They are finding more and more evidence that Mars did at one time have an environment that could have comfortably supported life with evidence of significant water in the past and a number of organic molecules found.

This is all great exciting stuff but the really worrying thing for me is that so far, despite lots of evidence of a life friendly environment in the past, no evidence has been found for any actual life, fossilised or otherwise. If we end up with a second planet in our solar system which we can be certain could have supported life but fail to find evidence of any actual life, past or present, then that make for a serious blow to the idea that the universe should be full of it.

Note that I do still live in hope that they will find some sort of fossil evidence but that hope is slowly dwindling.
 

Alexa

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Those ready to pay for a human expedition are only interested in possible mineral ressources. It will be like a new El Dorado race: who gets there first and who gets more.
 

Vertigo

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I'm not sure how you'd go about making a profit. The costs of transporting any such resources back to Earth would, I think, always be prohibitive, especially when compared with, say, mining the asteroids which also have huge mineral resources but aren't at the bottom of a large gravity well. I suspect we'll see commercial operations on asteroids long before we'll see them on Mars. But, sadly, I don't expect to see either in my lifetime (I am 60 afterall ;))
 

Alexa

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If they can get gold, gems and rare minerals, why not ?

They could always use robots to do the heavy work. Humans could go for periods of 3-6 months and then replaced by others like for International Space Station.

Nowadays 60 is adult age. Let's talk again when you'll be at least 95. ;)
 

Parson

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if they can get gold, gems and rare minerals, why not ?
I suspect gold would still be a losing proposition. We'd have to experience some serious upgrades in Rocket technology to make even a couple thousand dollars an once turn into a profit. Gems are only valuable as long as they are rare. If they were abundant on Mars as soon as the novelty of a Mars Ruby wore off it would not pay off. Now rare minerals, perhaps could be profitable, if they are rare enough here and easily found there, and with a significantly important usage.

On the whole I'm with Vertigo, if there's going to be a profitable mining endeavor its orders of magnitude more likely in the asteroid belt.
 
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Stephen Palmer

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Note that I do still live in hope that they will find some sort of fossil evidence but that hope is slowly dwindling.
Do you really think that? Interesting! My feeling is that we're still on our first step, and there's thousands of steps to go. Fossils are common on Earth, but you have to look hard to find them, unless you happen to be in the right place. My best bet is for the Europa mission, which I hope I live long enough to see...
 

Nick B

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#10
I agree with @Stephen Palmer we are taking baby steps on the surface of a long barren planet, it could be we need to dig deep to find fossils. I am ever hopeful.
 

Vertigo

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Well I hope you're right, but Curiosity is currently studying sedimentary geology* that on Earth would undoubtedly be fossil rich and so far not a hint. But you are right, after all it has only travelled around eleven or twelve kilometres so far. I'm not sure we should need to dig deep though. If life did exist there then I'd have expected it to be around so long as there was water and therefore it should appear in the top layers of the sedimentary rocks as much as any other layers.

*I notice NASA are still referring to geology rather than a Martian equivalent word.
 

Nick B

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Is geology from a root meaning Earth? I am no language expert, so didn't know if it is.
 

mosaix

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Nowadays 60 is adult age. Let's talk again when you'll be at least 95. ;)
But what about me? I'm 71!

Surely, the evidence for life on Mars wil extremely difficult to find. Supposing bacterial-like life is the furthest it got, wouldn't the fossil evidence for that be extremely difficult to detect?

I've got a gut feeling that this may only be resolved once we get there and do some serious lab-based research.
 

Vertigo

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It is true that bacteria fossils are less easy to find, but the oldest known fossils found on Earth are cyanobacteria fossils 3.5 billion years old. So pretty much back to the dawn of life on Earth.

But the whole point I'm making is that the longer we go with out finding anything the less likely it becomes. I'm not saying we won't but let's just say our initial findings from Curiosity at least suggest life wasn't either abundant or complex. Now I'm only saying the probability is decreasing not that we will definitely find nothing. For example Curiosity's main mission was not the search for life, whilst the ExoMars rover (launching, I think in 2020) is going to be specifically looking for evidence of life "past and present."

So that will definitely be one to watch, assuming they can land it safely; their recent trial landing crashed :(
 

Alexa

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But what about me? I'm 71!

Surely, the evidence for life on Mars wil extremely difficult to find. Supposing bacterial-like life is the furthest it got, wouldn't the fossil evidence for that be extremely difficult to detect?

I've got a gut feeling that this may only be resolved once we get there and do some serious lab-based research.
They did find something on the Red Planet as NASA plans to send human expeditions in early 2030. In 13 years you'll be only 84, so you still have plenty of time to watch it live. ;)

Journey to Mars Overview

And that serious lab-based research is in process right now to develop technology to remove martian dust.

Dr. Carlos Calle, lead scientist in the center's Electrostatics and Surface Physics Laboratory, and Jay Phillips, a research physicist working there, are developing an electrostatic precipitator to help solve the dust problem.

"Commodities such as oxygen water and methane can be obtained from the carbon dioxide-rich Martian atmosphere," Calle said. "Astronauts will need these essentials as they practice in-situ resource utilization."

In-situ resource utilization, or ISRU, is harvesting and relying on available raw materials as astronauts visit deep-space destinations. Like early European settlers coming to America, planetary pioneers will not be able to take everything they need, so many supplies will need to be gathered and made on site.
Scientists Developing Technology to Remove Martian Dust

 

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