Has the Mars PHOENIX Probe Found Life?

I keep checking the NASA website; I haven’t seen anything new. Has the probe found anything interesting (outside of ice?)

Do you think that if it had, the denizens of a message board would be the first to know?

Do you think before hitting the “New Thread” button, like, ever?

friedo I feel you pain. But, you know the drill. This is not an appropriate comment for GQ.

samclem Moderator, GQ.

Gut instinct tells me that the chance of the probe finding life is pretty good all things considered. Some promising but vague signs have already been revealed like prevalent ice under the Martian surface.

However, if life is going to be found, it will be one of the most important scientific discoveries ever. Scientists aren’t just going to blurt it out as a press release snippet as soon as they feel like the odds are good enough for government work. Chances are, it would take scientists years to collect enough data just to start the real peer review process. It most likely will be something very different than life on earth so claiming if “life” is really there is no small challenge. The results will have some very serious real-world implications ranging from the religious to the scientific worlds and it will take great care to make sure the reports are as accurate as possible.

You’re right; my bad.

Would finding life on Mars mean that it’s off limits for colonization?

Slightly on topic, but…

I had this weird dream last night, the strangely vivid kind that comes just as you’re falling asleep, when you’re still kind of awake. A friend of mine was showing me a newspaper/news-broadcast reporting they had found direct evidence of life on mars. I looked at the image they were showing, and it was of a kind of dinosaur-ish skeleton partly covered by rock.

Upon seeing the image, I fell to the ground, overcome by what I can only describe as religiously ecstatic feelings, and then began crying–not the sad kind but the incredible emotional release kind. In my dream everyone was looking at me funny.

And I woke up with tears in my eyes, and was very disappointed to discover it wasn’t real.

Then woke up completely and realized I was acting very strange.


So far, the Phoenix has discovered water vapor in its soil samples, and found that the soil at the lander site is alkaline, which is the opposite of what they expected to find. It’s also fairly rich in elements like potassium, magnesium, and sodium. Appparently, the soil chemistry is quite benign, and Phoenix scientists say you could grow Asparagus in it (or other plants that like alkaline soils - assuming you could protect them from the cold and put them in an atmosphere).

So far, no organic compounds have been found. The lander has 8 little ovens which samples can be dumped into and heated so that the spectra of the emitted gases can be measured. Six of them have been used up (they’re a one-shot deal, which is why there are 8), and one of them may not work because a short circuit was detected in it. So there’s only one more chance to get a thermal emission spectrograph of the ice.

The Phoenix was never intended to detect life directly, and probably won’t. It was designed to look for conditions and precursors for life, and it’s pretty much found all that - water, useful minerals, an hospitable soil. I hope they find organics in that last sample, but I’m not holding my breath.

The Big Enchilada of Mars rovers will be really interesting. Next September, the [Mars Science Laboratory lifts off for Mars, arriving in early 2010. That thing is the size of a small car (9 ft long), can travel 20 km, has a nuclear power source (RTG), and will look for direct signs of life.