Life on Mars? (new evidence!)

CNN article about…

The article talks about how other scientists are still skeptical about it, but these JSC folks seem convinced.

Whaddya think?

We’ve heard the same thing before, but the evidence has not been clear. I share your hope that this is real proof, but skepticism has to be strong.

They may be right, they may be wrong. Only onw way to find out for sure - send a couple of guys up there to check out the source.

Er, I don’t understand why this is in the news again. From last December,

I suspect Thomas-Keprta’s up for a grant review or something, since the new press release doesn’t mention anybody who was in the first press release.

Or is it just that CNN is just now finding out about it? Somehow I doubt that.

I’m such a cynic.

I think it is that until now that had not had good proof of the magnetite crystals being arranged into chains on the meteorite?

I support manned space flight as much as anyone, but it should be possible to send an unmanned probe with a much better automated and/or remotely-controlled science lab aboard, better than the ones we’ve already sent, I mean (Viking, Pathfinder, etc.).

And let’s hope they don’t commit another english/metric screw-up.

“There’s life on Mars!”

“Oh, wait, no there isn’t.”

“Yes there is!”

“No there isn’t…”



“Wait… Mars itself is just a hoax, created by the ancient Greeks!”

You misunderstand me - I don’t see this “discovery” as a reason to put a man or woman on Mars, but as an excuse. Perhaps in can be used to convince those misguided fools in Washington to pump more money into the Space Program, as well as give those lazy bums at NASA a much-needed shot in the arm. As far as I see it, we’re about 25 years behind schedule.

[sub]Note - in no way do I intend any disparegement of the U.S. Congress, NASA or the scientists researching the rock in question. It’s just that it’s 2001, damn it, and we haven’t even reached Mars yet! What the hell have we been doing with our time?[/sub]

I hear that.

As far as “What the hell have we been doing” goes, not much. NASA spending is a pittance compared to the total budget. Because it does not deliver “direct results,” however, those kind of things get canned.

Unfortunately, private industry cannot keep up the space end of it either, specifically because they operate for a profit. The only institutions which could currently spend that kind of dough would be the government and the universities. And only the government actually has the funds.

Check out the Planetary Society. They publish, IIRC, every other month and keep us schleps not in the field up-to-date on programs and such. And they are a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering space exploration. Plus, I think they’ve got t-shirts :wink:

Great reads, anyway, if you can tolerate the mails soliciting extra funds and donations. :smiley: Public television taught them well.

Alessan- See, first someone thought up the idea for a space shuttle, which is limited to only orbital trips, and then some other folks forgot that Space is a frontier, and folks die in frontiers.

So now we’re to afraid to step to the plate and do what we need to do to get there, and we’re hampered by a restrictive gov’t.

When the space industry is privatized, then we will see some real progress… but not until then.

Sad, but true.

Read the December 2000 article again. It said that magnetotactic bacteria arrange those crystals into chains. It also said that only those bacteria are responsible for the crystals, altho magnetite can be found on Earth non-crystalized.

…then we will see people being even more unwilling to risk lives and, more importantly to business, money on exploration UNLESS it means they get exclusive rights to exploit anything they find. If it’s not an “investment”, they don’t want anything to do with it, and frankly, I’m not at all keen on the idea of signing over space to big business, lock, stock and barrel.

We’ve done too much of that with Earth already.

Please explain how you are ‘signing over space’ to big business. It’s not like it’s a finite resource. What, are you worried that the moon will be all developed by the time the government gets there?

NASA has been one of the biggest limiters of space development in the last 20 years. When NASA was a research and exploration agency, it did a world of good. Unfortunately, with the Space Shuttle it transformed a good chunk of itself into a commercial transport agency. As such, it has actively worked to prevent commercial interests from getting into the heavy lift business, and of course the presence of a government-subsidized shuttle has made it very hard for other companies to compete, especially when the market for heavy-lift cargo is small.

NASA should limit itself to solar system exploration, near-earth space science, deep-space research, and basic science and engineering work in aviation. It should turn all research results over to the public, for anyone to use as they see fit.

The military needs heavy lift capability. Let it contract that out to companies who can go into competition to win it. NASA needs heavy lift too. So there is already a market for such vehicles.

And if you feel the government should subsidize space, let them do it with a space prize. If NASA feels it will cost 1 trillion to get to Mars, then let them offer a prize of 500 billion to the first private company to make it to Mars, carry out a pre-set list of required experiments, and return with X amount of Martian soil and rocks.

The notion that businesses will not undertake long-term projects, or very large projects, has been shown to be wrong time and time again. Especially in aerospace. Boeing bet the entire company on the 747, an airplane that had no established market, took billions to develop, and wasn’t expected to reach market for ten years and not turn a profit for perhaps ten years after that.

Airbus Industrie is doing the same thing with the new giant Airbus, which will be the largest airplane in the world. And companies can also form consortiums to spread the risk and cost. We have examples of that already with ArianeSpace (admittedly, with government involvement), etc. There are already a number of private companies in the satellite launch business, who have been gaining all kinds of experience operating in space.

The concept of using prizes to foster innovation has a long and successful history. Modern aviation advanced rapidly in a race to win the various prizes offered for aviation ‘firsts’, and more recently the ‘X’ prize may lead to the first private rocket that can lift a man into space, bring him back safely, then turn around and do it again within a week. People like Burt Rutan are building entries for this, and it WILL happen in the next few years.

Once the X prize is won, the government (or a wealthy individual or a foundation set up by a group of them) should offer a larger prize for the first practical SSTO rocket, then the first commercial moon landing. Then, off to Mars!

Space, and the rest of the stuff therein, by existing world government agreements, cannot be claimed by any country, mainly to help foster peace.

Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” detailed this, if you have it handy.

Also, nuclear devices are prohibited from detonation in space (how this doesn’t outlaw the sun, I’ll never know ;)). Unfortunately, this is one of the best existing methods for propulsion that we as a species have access to. For details, check out, erm, another Carl Sagan book, probably Pale Blue Dot again but it may have been Cosmos.

Shit. Maybe it was that Kip Thorne book where he outlined time travel.

Those wacky astrophysicists.

But anyway, I don’t know that anyone would be allowed to claim anything as property in space, and so would not have any rights to the fruit of their labor in space. Hence, no possibility, until some backyard astrophysicists make their own spaceship, travel to Mars, build their own colony, and claim it as their own planet.


Oh, and the notion that corporations won’t engage in basic research is also flatly wrong. Go look at the Nobel prize list, and see how many of those recipients were employed by private companies.

Bell Labs, for instance, used to spend more money on research than did the entire National Science Foundation. And we’re not talking about commercial research into profit-making products, but astronomy, quantum mechanics, etc. Bell labs scientists discovered the 3 degree background radiation from the big bang. They invented the transistor. In fact, scientists at Bell Labs alone have won six Nobel Prizes in physics. They were won for things like demonstrating the wave nature of matter, Radio Astronomy (Penzias and Wilson for discovering 3K background radiation), understanding the fractional Quantum Hall effect, and trapping atoms with laser light.

Overall, the money spent on basic research by private institutions (and with grant money provided by private institutions to universities) dwarfs government spending.

Is this a debate about life on Mars or government/private exploration and colonization of space?

Re: the findings in the Martian asteroid, I haven’t been following this as much as I should be; back in 1996, I remember some objections to the Martian life hypothesis were based on the size of the alleged fossils, that they weren’t large enough to have sustained metabolism in any form we’re familiar with…

Is this still an objection, or has it been addressed in some form?

Dang, I didn’t mean to kill the thread. Does this mean there are no responses to the above objection? Or that no one has heard of it? Or that the incredibly clever AI that posts as everyone on this board except me has broken down? :wink:


It has been addressed. The structures seen on the Allen Hills meteorite were 800 nanometers long, much smaller than any other biotic structure yet seen (as of 1996).

But that got researchers wondering if they just hadn’t found any cells that small because they’d assumed there couldn’t be. So they went looking, and sure enough, they found some. Do a google search on “nanobacteria” and you’ll find a bevy of info about them.

I don’t know why this story is back in the news. I heard a talk by Everett Gibson at the 1999 Mars Society convention, and he talked about the magnetites and everything. It’s exciting, but it’s not news.

I just wanted to pop in to say how happy I am that Phobos was the one to start this thread. Spot on, Phobos–very appropriate!

As for life on Mars–how could there not be? The very earliest questionable signs of life showed up here on Earth at 3.8 billion years ago, according to my Evolution and Extinction professor. At the very least, signs of life that seem more solid and unquestioned by most of the scientific community exist as far back as 3.5 to 3.2 bya. Remember, this is when the Earth was an incredibly inhospitable place. Liveable, apparently, but barely.

Two–the components of amino acids (what we consider the basic building blocks of life) are widely available in the universe. Scientists have routinely created amino acids using these elements and some electricity. Granted–this may not be “Life,” but most scientists agree that the elements necessary for life to assemble are widely available. It’s the conditions that matter. Recent pictures returned from Mars by the orbiter indicate that the planet was indeed once warm and wet. Water may still flow there, under special circumstances.

It’s my opinion that life on Mars is a given. It’s just a matter of us finding it.



I suspect that Mars was subject to some of the same problems as Earth during that timeframe…heavy bombardment from comets/asteroids, lots of volcanic activity, etc,

It would certainly be interesting if Martian life, should it exist, still had a foothold in subsurface aquifers.

That would certainly be amazing. My opinion is that, of the other possible places for life to form in this solar system, Mars (along with 3 of Jupiter’s moons) presents the most likely possibility. I certainly advocate the idea of further robotic & human missions to Mars to find out! I think it would be good if NASA spent a little less on the ISS and a little more on actual space exploration…especially since the ISS does not have a clearly defined goal. But I do agree that the ISS will provide valuable experience & info about the affects & problems of long-term space travel.