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Life on Mars

12/29/2008 6:36 PM

We are spending more and more time on our exploration efforts on the Red Planet and I have thought a curious thought.

Is it possible or even probable that we will detect life on Mars that we ourselves are responsible for putting there?

What is the likelihood that some microbial terrestrial organism should survive the trip through space and find an abundance of whatever it needs to survive - even thrive in the Martian environment?

A few bacterial generations later a mutation here or there (or not) and voila - Headlines abound of "Newly Discovered Life on Mars!" And, "We Are Not Alone!"

(We will discuss the converse at another time)

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#1

Re: Life on Mars

12/29/2008 7:30 PM

NASA is concerned about that possibility and great pains are taken to keep things as sterile as possible.

It seems pretty remote that a bacterium could survive the trip without denaturing, but not remote for a virus to make the trip. However, a virus requires a living host cell to replicate, so there probably will be scant picking when it arrives.

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#4
In reply to #1

Re: Life on Mars

12/29/2008 9:25 PM

....and great pains are taken to keep things as sterile as possible.

But we know that there is microbial life in cloud formations. So there is an opportunity for contamination there albeit very thin, it is possible.

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#2

Re: Life on Mars

12/29/2008 7:40 PM

Knowing almost nothing about everything, I can truly say that I don't see how anything

born and raised on earth could survive unaided on the surface of Mars.

That's assuming it could survive the ride up.

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: Life on Mars

12/29/2008 9:19 PM

Google "indestructible bacterium" "virulent bacterium" and similar......such as this here.

There are many instances of radiation resistant, high temp/low temp survivors. Remember how shocked scientists were to find all the life at geothermal subsea spouts? Or all the microbial life in glacier ice?

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#5
In reply to #3

Re: Life on Mars

12/29/2008 10:08 PM

Not the same thing.

We're talking Mars.

There ain't no ocean.

Ice is where you find it.

But how does Mars ice compare to Earth ice?

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#15
In reply to #5

Re: Life on Mars

12/31/2008 8:25 AM

Also, don't forget the absence of an ozone layer on Mars. The surface is likely pretty sterile from UV radiation over millions of years.

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#17
In reply to #15

Re: Life on Mars

12/31/2008 8:34 AM

And also, Mars lost it's magnetosphere about 4 billion years ago, giving it no protection from the solar wind.

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#6

Re: Life on Mars

12/29/2008 10:51 PM

I think it is not inconceivable that some microbial life could survive the trip through space, although I admit no clue about details like surface temperatures of space craft when accelerating and leaving the atmosphere. Extremophiles tend to be one extreme or the other.. I don't know of any that endure both heat and cold. Dormancy features, spore forms etc allow for persistence under extreme conditions and for a long time: until the conditions are right.

There was a story not so long ago, although I have lost the reference, about how the basic building blocks of life (amino & nucleic acids) as we know it apparently got their chirality because of passing through certain radiation that wiped out the 'other handed' configuration while hurtling past on meteorites or the like. The notion is that these space travelling rocks seeded the earth with the 'life coctail' and so life on earth is left-handed.

It would be an extravagant joke for us to seed life in the place we're looking for it

But even more likely that microbial life is somewhere on mars anyway. What are the chances that life passed it by? Over the history that we still know little about..

The sterilization thing with spaceships is a little funny as well. Are they making streak plates off the hull of the ship when it returns? Or spraying to kill-all just-to-be-SURE. LOL.

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#7

Re: Life on Mars

12/30/2008 8:12 AM

NASA is concerned about that possibility and great pains are taken to keep things as sterile as possible.

This reminds me of a time that I was working in a nuke plant a lot of years back, Storage space during an overhaul is at a premium, especially lay down space for "hot" components. If the equipment is fairly low level in radiation it can be stored in the open plant with barricades and signage and such to keep folks away.

I was observing one of these areas from an elevation and saw a mouse with it's furry little body scurrying in, out, over and around the equipment. So much for the great pains to limit access.

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#8

Re: Life on Mars

12/30/2008 10:58 PM

Hi all... you all are really a bunch of great tech-buddies...

Can anyone help me understand `What is LIFE'...

Regards

Sanjeev

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Guru
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#9
In reply to #8

Re: Life on Mars

12/30/2008 11:43 PM

the only free gift that anything living will ever get

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#35
In reply to #9

Re: Life on Mars

12/31/2008 11:16 PM

Happy New Year...

The Free Gift need not be in physical matter or biological form.... free gift could be anything... anything & everything on this universe is LIVE & has LIFE.... Radiations are LIFE, Light is LIFE, Matter is LIFE.... LIFE IS EVERYWHERE... LIFE is just what constitute everything that exists...

Rgds

Sanjeev

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#36
In reply to #35

Re: Life on Mars

01/01/2009 7:34 AM

That is an interesting, oriental belief. Is it part of Gaia?

Bob G

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#14
In reply to #8

Re: Life on Mars

12/31/2008 8:11 AM

Better than the alternative!

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Guru

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#19
In reply to #14

Re: Life on Mars

12/31/2008 8:59 AM

Oh, you get that too.

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#16
In reply to #8

Re: Life on Mars

12/31/2008 8:33 AM

A magazine

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#21
In reply to #16

Re: Life on Mars

12/31/2008 9:26 AM

That deserves a GA!!!

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#30
In reply to #8

Re: Life on Mars

12/31/2008 12:48 PM

Sanjeev, just remove n from your name... thats the life

(Sorry, this is in indian language)

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#10

Re: Life on Mars

12/31/2008 12:53 AM

Why destroy another planet, lets save this one. or is it too late?

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#11

Re: Life on Mars

12/31/2008 3:58 AM

Interesting possibility you have raised. If contamination of Mars did occur, huge amounts of scientific literature would be written about the extraordinary parallel evolution which had occurred on Mars and the implications of this - all based on the incorrect premise that the life found was actually native to Mars!

I believe the satellites are assembled in a clean room, which would rule out contamination there, but contamination from the atmosphere during transport to the launch site and at the site may well be possible.

Some bacteria, or at least their spores, are incredibly tough. It is quite likely, that if contamination occurred, some spores would survive the trip and find something on Mrs to live on.

On earth, anaerobic bacteria have been found living on the oxygen extracted from the Cr2O3 coating which protects stainless steel, despite the known toxicity of Cr compounds to bacteria.

If bacteria are found on Mars, how can we be sure we didn't take them there? I'm afraid I don't know the answer.

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#12

Re: Life on Mars

12/31/2008 6:02 AM

I say, just try to find intelligent life on this planet

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#13

Re: Life on Mars

12/31/2008 7:40 AM

Is there life on Mars? I think there is a high possibility, but it is likely dormant. Much like the microbial life that is found deep underground or in salt mines. In rock salt there are small inclusions in the crystals where ancient water was trapped as the crystal bed formed. Scientists have found bactiera within these in sport form. When placed into pitri dishes with water and nutrients present, they come back to life and begin to grow. I would think we would find something similar on Mars. There is clear evidance of salt formations from when the water slowly evaporated from Mars eons ago. I would think we would find life, albeit dromant, there.

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#18

Re: Life on Mars

12/31/2008 8:48 AM

If there is anything tough enough to survive the rigors of space, then you would have to consider that an equally tough organism could easily survive on Mars. Then as we are in the same solar system there could be some similarities between the organisms.

But until they find something we will never know, and if we do and there are similarities to something existing on Earth that will really give food for thought.

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#20

Re: Life on Mars

12/31/2008 9:15 AM

we wont find life on mars. they only want us to think that we are not alone.

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#22

Re: Life on Mars

12/31/2008 9:34 AM

Why we are making such a big fuss about some fancy bacteria on another planet when we are killing zillion of them everyday here on earth. When explorers were walking on america, they were not concerned about bacteria but they were concerned about self preservation and how to make life easier for tomorrow.

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#33
In reply to #22

Re: Life on Mars

12/31/2008 3:53 PM

Yea, and if anything is ever found on Mars it will take about 2 microseconds before someone makes a motion to declare it endangered.... then think of the billions of dollars we will spend protecting it....

Don't laugh, now and then some here to fore unknown species of fish, frog or other creature is found - living happy as a clam and the first thing is to declare it endangered. This implies that anything we do will kill it off, when in fact until it was found it was not effected by us at all.... we just hadn't looked for it in the right place.

Travis

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#23

Re: Life on Mars

12/31/2008 9:34 AM

Please define life. Are we talking thermodynamically "open systems", etc. or what?

After the economic situation here in the USA, I'm not sure there is "life" on earth.

Happy New Year Guys and Gals.

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#24

Re: Life on Mars

12/31/2008 9:39 AM

Living stuff, Charley, is very robust and adaptive and poorly defined. Some of the responders would have you believe that life is defined by what we have found on earth - today. Geologists and climatologists tell us our earth has been very different in the past. And here we are talking about the possibility and impossibility of life on Mars.

Bobguz

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#25

Re: Life on Mars

12/31/2008 10:04 AM

Seems more people here wish to make tangential comments than staying on the topic.

Of course NASA and presumably other countries (lets not be too US-centric here) will stride to not contaminate another planet. If not for the philosophical purity of the planet but for the pupose of assuring proper functions of the probe. But LIFE happens.

If it is possible for life to exist on Mars, once we detect it exobiologists will now have to start examing how this life transforms Mars itself. The type and amount of tell tale markings that this life form leaves on Mars will be the critical indicator if the life form pre-existed our explorations.

But let's not put humanity too high in the list of possible Earth contamination of Mars. What about the highly unlikely but not impossible natural drift of material between planets. If any of the great extinctions the earth has endured were caused by celestial impacts, some amount of flotsam certainly was ejected out into space. Again unlikely but not impossible combinations of trajectory and celestial positioning would be required for debris to land on Mars.

But if we do find life on Mars, and it has similarities to terrestrial life, maybe Mars seeded Earth originally. Now that would be a difficult idea to prove or disprove.

Would you look at that, two more angels just started to dance on the head of that pin. I wonder why nobody fell off?

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#29
In reply to #25

Re: Life on Mars

12/31/2008 12:11 PM

You're previous statement is right in line with my line of thought.

Completely on an aside I will blushingly share the following college years experience:

Once, years ago, as a former practitioner of Leary and Hopper-esque notions, I postulated that perhaps Earth life had originated on the outer planets and is migrating inward or vice versa. If we were to have arrived here from say Venus, even as a highly evolved species, natural disaster could have erased our social history. Perhaps we scratched our way back up to today from humble re-beginnings.

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#26

Re: Life on Mars

12/31/2008 10:05 AM

If I recall correctly, one of the Apollo missions to the moon landed near an old Surveyor Lander. The discovered some viable earth source bacteria on it.

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#27

Re: Life on Mars

12/31/2008 10:16 AM

I did some searching. It was Apollo 12 landing near Surveyor 3 in Nov. 1969. The Surveyor had not been sterilized before launch. The Apollo mission returned some parts of the Surveyor to Earth. There was some living bacteria found but it may have came from secondary contamination while the samples were being returned to Earth.

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#28

Re: Life on Mars

12/31/2008 11:31 AM

Dear sir,

Yes,we should explore not only red plnet but every planet of our univers.And if posibble beyond that too. But not forgating our lovely mother earth and its wellfare of its humanbings. No doubt exploring other plante is grate scinific achiv ment and proud to human kind.

Happy new year,

Thank you

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#31
In reply to #28

Re: Life on Mars

12/31/2008 1:00 PM

So you mean distroy not only red planet but every planet. Already we are distroying our pwn planet and now, Indian Chandrayan has explored iron on Moon, and looking for Uraneum. Certainly one day we will start digging the Moon.

Besides, it is said that there will be some astroids made up of Diamonds, so we will start exploring astroids too.

Unfortunately one indian is suggesting purely Man Centred use of universe!

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#32
In reply to #31

Re: Life on Mars

12/31/2008 1:11 PM

I have aways thought a platypus centered use of the universe is best.

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#34

Re: Life on Mars

12/31/2008 7:03 PM

hi guys up there on mars are a few areas of concentrated methane especially in the nili fossae region they think it is coming from some of the thermal vents in a continued production possibly meaning organic decomposition. i think with lots of water on mars and just enough warmth life still exists even though the planet got the stuffing knocked out of it a while ago when a huge meteorite struck it . bacteria are highly resilient . if they can ride metiorites then why not a little rover (i'm just guessing )

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#37

Re: Life on Mars

01/06/2009 11:12 AM

<What is the likelihood that some microbial terrestrial organism should survive the trip through space and find an abundance of whatever it needs to survive - even thrive in the Martian environment?>

In the absence of the controls put in place by Colin Pillinger and his team in preparation for what turned out to be the ill-fated Beagle 2 mission, the chances are quite high, one suspects.

Just hope those pesky Martians don't send something back as a 'thank-you'....

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