Nasa Mars rover finds organic matter in ancient lake bed

EJDeBrun

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#21
It's about -153C at the poles of Mars. Now granted, things work in space just fine, but I think that the temperature and conditions at the poles, plus the dangers of ice slippages etc etc when landing a rover on the poles has played a large part as to why they're putting off that kind of research. The first goal, right now anyways, is to try to find a way to get humans to the planet.

Considering all other insane factors like fluctuating atmospheric pressures and the sheer fineness of the dust, I do think it'll be quite a while before we get people to the surface.
 

Onyx

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#22
So an examination of a cup of water from our polar I've caps would likely yield nothing in the way of life?
Unless it is a frozen lake, it is unlikely to have much of anything in it - just like our polar and glacier ice.
 

Venusian Broon

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#23
So an examination of a cup of water from our polar I've caps would likely yield nothing in the way of life?
I have heard of examples of extremophiles here on Earth that can tolerate living amongst/in ice, but the Martian poles are a very harsh environment compared to anything Earth has. The temperatures are very low and that would make any extremophiles that can survive it, well, pretty darn extreme.

Remember, carbon dioxide from the atmosphere freezes out and blankets the water ice on both poles when they have their winters. So that's a whole season that probably averages about -125 degrees C.

But they are complex systems, these poles. Maybe at there bases of these ice caps (they are about 2-3km thick) something interesting is happening? Mind you, how to get there would be a very big technical problem.
 

BAYLOR

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#24
I very much doubt they will find actual liquid water on the surface of Mars. You'd probably have to dig pretty deep, something a rover is not going to be able to do.

That it had water on the surface at some point in the past is, I believe, very likely given the evidence of water erosion and the some of rocks that they've found.
Perhaps there might be underground caverns with bodies of water, maybe even underground ecosystems with some form of life. It's just a thought.
 

Onyx

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#25
Perhaps there might be underground caverns with bodies of water, maybe even underground ecosystems with some form of life. It's just a thought.
On a planet with no tectonics, magnetism or daily temperature anywhere close to the melting point of water, what would be keeping this water liquid? Europa, for instance, is heated in part by tidal forces. What mechanism are you proposing to heat Mars' water?
 

BAYLOR

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#26
On a planet with no tectonics, magnetism or daily temperature anywhere close to the melting point of water, what would be keeping this water liquid? Europa, for instance, is heated in part by tidal forces. What mechanism are you proposing to heat Mars' water?
Some have suggested that Mars core has not completely cooled off, What if there are places where there might be just enough heat to sustain life ? This is not an a complete impossibility . Have you ever heard organisms called Tardigrades ( Waterbeare)? that can exist in the vacuum of space? Thye can sit in very hostile conditions. Why couldn't Mars have give his to something similar?
 
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Venusian Broon

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#27
On a planet with no tectonics, magnetism or daily temperature anywhere close to the melting point of water, what would be keeping this water liquid? Europa, for instance, is heated in part by tidal forces. What mechanism are you proposing to heat Mars' water?
It is theorised from the evidence gathered that the temperature of the core of Mars is up to ~1500 Kelvin. See: Lab study indicates Mars has a molten core

Thus there will be a gradient of temperature between the core and the surface and I suppose a band that will easily allow liquid water. It may be, however, be very deep beneath the surface. But then again we've found extremophiles quite deep in the Earth's crust utilising radioactivity as a 'power source' so Baylor's speculation isn't totally out of the park.
 

Onyx

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#28
Some have suggested that Mars core has not completely cooled off, What if there are places where there might be just enough heat to sustain life ? This is not an a complete impossibility . Have you ever heard organisms called Tardigrades ( Waterbeare)? that can exist in the vacuum of space? Thye can sit in very hostile conditions. Why couldn't Mars have give his to something similar?
Tardigrades can survive exposure to vacuum, they can't carry out life processes in vacuum or ice.

If there is liquid water on Mars, it could have life. The first part is the problem. If the water is so deep that it liquid, it is under so much pressure we likely couldn't even get to it.
 

Venusian Broon

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#30
It's just a video of Scott Manley driving...but he discusses the news from Mars.

He's a youtuber that does a bit of gaming (like Kerbal Space Program) but he's enthusiastic about astronomy and space as well and dips into real life about those topics regularly.

Goes into a bit more depth than the news articles.

 

Onyx

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#31
So they've found a molecule with roughly half the complexity of sucrose but with twice the carbon of an amino acid, putting it in a more complex category than the aminos they've found in comets.
 
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Vertigo

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#33
Speaking of Curiosity, it is not responding at the moment due to a dust storm on mars. Dust Storm. Looks like it is so thick that it is unable to charge its batteries, even to send a signal back home.

This is the image of the sun from its view as the storm came in:
I think you'll find this is Opportunity rather than Curiosity, a rover landed in 2004 (I think) and expected to operate for "a few weeks" but is (hopefully not was) still going strong (one or two issues; can only drive in reverse and it's manipulator arm is getting "arthritic"). Curiosity does not run on rechargeable batteries or solar power it uses a nuclear battery which would be unaffected by the dust storm (though it might hunker down as comms with Earth might be blocked). Opportunity on the other hand relies on solar power to maintain its battery charge. With the storm blocking the light it goes into a sleep mode waking up periodically to see if the situation has improved.
 

night_wrtr

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#34
You're 100% right, @Vertigo. It is indeed Opportunity. Apparently it has gone through a dust storm before that lasted two weeks, so here's to hoping that it survives.
 

Vertigo

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#35
I guess the biggest risk is that the solar cells get too covered in dust to function. I seem to remember this being a fear in the last dust storm Opportunity survived.

I still find it extraordinary that a rover designed to last 90 days (I checked this time) has lasted 15 years. That's a real testament to the people who built it!
 

night_wrtr

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#36
I guess the biggest risk is that the solar cells get too covered in dust to function. I seem to remember this being a fear in the last dust storm Opportunity survived.

I still find it extraordinary that a rover designed to last 90 days (I checked this time) has lasted 15 years. That's a real testament to the people who built it!
Pretty remarkable. The article mentioned that if it has a loss of power for an extended period it would prevent the heaters from protecting the electronics from the cold, as they think that's what killed the Spirit rover(doubled checked to make sure I got that name right!).
 

2DaveWixon

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#37
They've found amino acids in comets. What's "complex organic matter"?
Well, probably something less appetizing than a ham and cheese sandwich -- unless someone's been picnicking on Mars.
But I wonder if we're not overfocusing on that word "organic"? When we use that term, don't we evoke connotations of connections to life? Whereas in fact with billions of years for elements to interact with each other, "organic"-like chemicals might be created randomly...
These findings may prove that chemistry, out of simple randomness, sometimes advances in the direction of life. But the finding of the "organic" chemicals does not mean that life was there to create those "organic" substances.
I do believe this news, however, greatly strengthens the case for life developing in many places across the universe; apparently all it takes is elements and energy and time...
 

Vertigo

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#38
Well, probably something less appetizing than a ham and cheese sandwich -- unless someone's been picnicking on Mars.
But I wonder if we're not overfocusing on that word "organic"? When we use that term, don't we evoke connotations of connections to life? Whereas in fact with billions of years for elements to interact with each other, "organic"-like chemicals might be created randomly...
These findings may prove that chemistry, out of simple randomness, sometimes advances in the direction of life. But the finding of the "organic" chemicals does not mean that life was there to create those "organic" substances.
I do believe this news, however, greatly strengthens the case for life developing in many places across the universe; apparently all it takes is elements and energy and time...
Yes I believe in scientific terms organic compounds are pretty much any compound that contains carbon, more commonly though I believe it generally refers to any compound that contains carbon-hydrogen bonds, which covers an awful lot of stuff that is not necessarily derived from any kind of life. There's a tendency to assume that once organic chemicals are mentioned we are getting close to life, but, sadly, I'm afraid that's not necessarily the case.
 
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Venusian Broon

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#39
But I wonder if we're not overfocusing on that word "organic"? When we use that term, don't we evoke connotations of connections to life? Whereas in fact with billions of years for elements to interact with each other, "organic"-like chemicals might be created randomly...
Basically wot Vertigo said. It's just a word to describe a large number of carbon-based compounds; many of which are made by organic 'life' processes, but also many which aren't.

These findings may prove that chemistry, out of simple randomness, sometimes advances in the direction of life. But the finding of the "organic" chemicals does not mean that life was there to create those "organic" substances.
Indeed, given the right conditions and whether by life or otherwise, I believe carbon loves to hold hands with all sorts of other atoms to form quite complex molecules.

Indeed one account of abiogenesis would require the first oceans and seas of the planet being a 'soup' of large amounts of organic material, largely created by non-organic processes, and this being the first food/source of energy for the first true life.

So it's a tantalising clue that perhaps, when Mars was young, with a thick atmosphere and a sizeable water ocean, could have had the conditions that may have allowed carbon based life to develop. :)

But I highlight all the ifs, buts, perhaps, maybes and speculates. There's still potentially many other explanations that just don't involve any life at all. It's just a tiny piece in the vast overall jigsaw.

I do believe this news, however, greatly strengthens the case for life developing in many places across the universe; apparently all it takes is elements and energy and time...
The way I'd think about it, is that most science advances usually by small steps. If Curiosity had drilled down and not found any organic matter then our view of the chances of Mars ever having life as we know it, would clearly have dropped.

(I hope they haven't, like the Russian Venera 14*, had a piece of Curiosity somehow get contaminated into the sample, like a bit of plastic, and they've analysed that ;))


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* They designed a lens cap system that was ejected as soon as the craft had landed on the Venusian surface. Unfortunately it ended up underneath the Surface Compressibility Tester Arm and when they ran that experiment they got the compressibility result for a lens cap.
 

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