Lookin' For Life In All The Martian Places

ESA to put a bio-dectection lab the size of cell phone on next lander.

It’s supposed to work akin to a pregnancy test. I like how they say “might not be a definitive proof,” so no matter what happens, we can expect scientists to argue about the results for ages.

I just think they’re going about this all wrong.

Just have it put out some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and videotape whatever comes up to snaffle it.

When do we get a sample return from Mars? I think the only real answer will come when a lab on earth gets some Martian soil samples to test. Incidentally, the Mars Rovers are still working-I saw a recent photo, and the wire mesh wheels of the rover looked like they were caked with dirt-why does dirt stick to things on Mars, if there is no appreciable moisture?

static electricity IIRC


The dust grains are super, super tiny. Technically, it’s not actually “dust;” the proper geological term is “fines.” Think talcum powder, but actually finer than that. Even though Mars’s atmosphere is much thinner than Earth, the grains are lifted easily by the wind.

The main limitation on the lifetime of the MER’s was actually that they expected the solar panels to get so coated with dust that the power stored in the batteries over the course of a day wouldn’t be enough to keep the electronics warm at night. Once the conductors on the circuit boards start cooling off at night, heating up in the day, cooling down at night, etc., they break and components start to fail. They toyed with various schemes for clearing the solar panels but couldn’t come up with anything they thought would be reliable. Part of the reason that the rovers have so exceeded their design lifetime is that dust devils seem to have passed over them, blowing off the dust.

At one time, it was claimed that the air on Mars wasn’t thick enough to create the dust storms seen on the planet and that it was theorized that there was some kind of eletrostatic phenomenon involved in the process. I don’t know if the discover that the soil is made up of fines has made that theory obsolete or not.

Yes, it’s obsolete. The global duststorms are caused by winds coming off the south pole in springtime, when the frozen carbon dioxide (dry ice) of the polar ice cap sublimes back into the atmosphere, creating a region of high pressure over the pole. The dust gets kicked up into the air, where it gets heated by the Sun, which pumps more energy into the storm, and if conditions are right, the storm expands until it’s a global.