Life possible on 'large parts' of Mars: study

Dec 12, 2011 by Amy Coopes
This NASA computer-generated image depicts part of Mars at the boundary between darkness and daylight, with an area including Gale Crater, beginning to catch morning light. Australian scientists who modelled conditions on Mars to examine how much of the red planet was habitable said that "large regions" could sustain life.

Australian scientists who modelled conditions on Mars to examine how much of the red planet was habitable said that "large regions" could sustain life.

Charley Lineweaver's team, from the Australian National University, compared models of temperature and pressure conditions on Earth with those on to estimate how much of the was liveable for Earth-like organisms.

While just one percent of Earth's volume -- from core to -- was occupied by life, Lineweaver said their world-first modelling showed three percent of Mars was habitable, though most of it was underground.

"What we tried to do, simply, was take almost all of the information we could and put it together and say 'is the big picture consistent with there being life on Mars?'," the told AFP on Monday.

"And the simple answer is yes... There are large regions of Mars that are compatible with ."

This NASA image, taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2010, shows the west-facing side of an impact crater in the mid-latitudes of Mars' northern hemisphere. Australian scientists who modelled conditions on Mars to examine how much of the red planet was habitable said that "large regions" could sustain life.

Where previous studies had taken a "piecemeal" approach by examining particular sites on Mars for , Lineweaver said his research was a "comprehensive compilation" of the entire planet using decades of data.

Frozen water has been found at the poles on Mars and the ANU study examined how much of the planet could sustain water "that could be habitable by Earth-like standards by Earth-like ".

The low-pressure environment of Mars means water cannot exist as a liquid and will vaporise on the surface, but Lineweaver said the conditions are right underground, where the weight of the soil gives the added pressure required.

It would also be warm enough, at certain depths, for bacteria and other micro-organisms to thrive due to heat from the planet's core.

The average surface temperature on Mars, Earth's nearest neighbour, is minus 63 degrees Celsius (minus 81 Fahrenheit).

Lineweaver said his study was "the best estimate yet published of how habitable Mars is to terrestrial microbes" and a significant finding given mankind had evolved from microbial life.

This artist concept shows NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, a mobile robot for investigating Mars' past or present ability to sustain microbial life.

"It's not important if you want to figure out what the laws of physics are and you want to talk to some intelligent aliens who could build spaceships," he said.

"If you're interested in the origin of life and how likely life is to get started on other planets, that's what relevant here."

NASA's Curiosity Rover, the largest, most sophisticated robotic explorer ever built, is en route to Mars and due to land in August 2012.

It has a laser beam for zapping rocks and a tool kit to analyse their contents as well as a robotic arm, drill, cameras and sensors to enable it to report back on the Martian weather and atmospheric radiation.

Curiosity is scheduled to land at the Gale Crater, near Mars' equator, chosen for its five kilometre (three mile) high sediment mountain which will hopefully reveal clues about the planet's wetter past

Lineweaver said the NASA mission "sadly" did not have the capability to dig deep enough to find the life his study had modelled but Curiosity would be able to examine "at least the edges" of what was once the Martian depths at the crater.

"But these have been exposed for a long time and therefore are probably devoid of volatiles and they are not warm like they used to be," he said.

Lineweaver's paper was published Monday in the scientific journal Astrobiology.

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kevinrtrs
1.2 / 5 (43) Dec 12, 2011
and a significant finding given mankind had evolved from microbial life.

Having therefore made the mistake here, the philosophers are now extending the same faulty thought pattern to other planets. If one firmly believes that we "evolved" from one simple organism, then one will find all the evidence in support of such an idea - quite contrary to every piece of commonsense [ and plain high school science ] will tell you. The philosophers are blithely ignoring the fact that everything tends to go from organized state to disorganization. Not the other way around as required by "evolution". But if you're committed to there being no creator, then that's all you're left with - everything needs to have made itself.
So billions of dollars are going to be spend on that premise. Not that it won't deliver some useful and educational information - it will always expand our knowledge of other planets. Maybe just not the way the researchers would have expected.
Richardmcsquared
4.9 / 5 (26) Dec 12, 2011
The mistake is yours Kevinrtrs the entropy you describe is in a closed system , the sun powers evolution , natural selection moulds the phenotype , the areas of Mars capable of supporting life are also not a closed system they too are powered by the Sun. All areas of intelligent design are beaten continually.
foofighter
4.8 / 5 (22) Dec 12, 2011
Kevin, perhaps if Matthew and Luke could agree on who Joseph's father was, then people wouldn't laugh at your assertions. Oh wait, no they still would.
Isaacsname
4.7 / 5 (13) Dec 12, 2011
I think we should just send a package with every known bacterium, virus, bacteriophage, etc, and let nature take it's course.

It's not like we're going to blow up Mars.

..right ?

......why are looking at me like that ?
roboferret
4.8 / 5 (21) Dec 12, 2011
Kevin,
Having therefore made the mistake here, the philosophers are now extending the same faulty thought pattern to other planets.

They are scientists, not philosophers.
f one firmly believes that we "evolved" from one simple organism, then one will find all the evidence in support of such an idea

A projection common among creationists. They can't get their head around a system of knowledge that isn't based on dogma and supreme authority. Because they start with their conclusions and warp the facts to fit they pretend everyone else does too.

quite contrary to every piece of commonsense


Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen - Albert Einstein.
[ and plain high school science ] will tell you. The philosophers are blithely ignoring the fact that everything tends to go from organized state to disorganization
Somebody missed the high school class on entropy.
roboferret
5 / 5 (11) Dec 12, 2011
Order (the availability of energy to do work) can - and does - increase in local systems at the expense of order outside the system (consider a snowflake). In the case of biological systems, this is an energy source, primarily the sun.
LivaN
5 / 5 (12) Dec 12, 2011
everything tends to go from organized state to disorganization. Not the other way around as required by "evolution".

Kev resorts to lies in order to spread his message. No one likes a liar kev, especially not your God.
Sinister1811
3.6 / 5 (15) Dec 12, 2011
If life doesn't exist on Mars, I think we should seed the red planet with life. Starting with hardy microbes, and then we can gradually terraform the planet. Now that would be awesome.

That's if there aren't any life forms already indigenous to Mars.
Paljor
5 / 5 (11) Dec 12, 2011
I can garuntee you that they DON'T teach kevinrt's dogma at high school seeing as I AM in high school.

shut up and keep your criticisms to yourself kevin.
HydraulicsNath
4.3 / 5 (6) Dec 12, 2011
How exciting to know that there really are 'habitable' areas on the nicknamed death planet!
Curious to see what Curiosity picks up!
Mayday
5 / 5 (3) Dec 12, 2011
"...most of it... underground." I find this to be the key idea in this piece. Scrounging around on the cold surface is delaying what needs to be done, IMO. We need to get below the surface of Mars. Our Earth-centric perceptions are limiting us and our exploration. Mars in geologically quiet, so with long flowing water, there are certainly great complexes of caverns beneath the surface. Our primary approach should be planet-wide search for a way in. And before somebody else (like China?) finds it.
askantik
4.5 / 5 (2) Dec 12, 2011
The article mentions "soil," but pedogenesis requires biota, right?
sethxdeath
4.5 / 5 (8) Dec 12, 2011
Richardmcsquared, Kevinrtrs is the most disingenuous person you will ever come across. He knows damn well his understanding of entropy and the laws of thermodynamics are limited to what he's had regurgitated to him by Youtube-scientists and evangelical DVDs he purchases from sister-sites of Alex Jones. He contributes nothing to science, philosophy, or religion. Please stop replying to him. He either gets paid to write this tripe or he's practicing to win over the stupid, yet doubtful followers of his Christian congregation (I'm willing to bet Seventh-day Adventist).
Isaacsname
5 / 5 (2) Dec 12, 2011
The article mentions "soil," but pedogenesis requires biota, right?


I think genetically engineered lichens would be a good start :)
Nanobanano
2 / 5 (8) Dec 12, 2011
If life doesn't exist on Mars, I think we should seed the red planet with life. Starting with hardy microbes, and then we can gradually terraform the planet. Now that would be awesome.

That's if there aren't any life forms already indigenous to Mars.


Mars cannot be "Terraformed" in the classic science fiction sense, at least not with any existing technology, because there simply isn't enough energy available.

Mars is experiencing a run-away greenhouse effect. There is something like 30 times more CO2 in mars' atmosphere than there is in Earth's atmosphere. Not even counting the CO2 ice everywhere.

Even still it's average temperature is similar to Antarctica's record low temperature, even in the middle of a runaway greenhouse effect.

...Now giant biodomes and stuff like that, yeah, it's doable.

But "Doom" style terraforming the entire planet probably would be very, very hard or impossible, even to a Type 2 civilization.
Nanobanano
2.6 / 5 (5) Dec 12, 2011
But I mean, if you were talking about a Type 2 civilization, and maybe they've tapped Zero point energy or some other exotic shit we don't know about, then I guess they could move planetary scale objects around with a large enough engine.

So assuming you could do that, then "yeah" you could Terraform Mars with the elements available in the Solar System:

Water from the icy moons.

Nitrogen from Earth or somewhere, we got more than we need I'm sure.

Titan has more than enough hydro-carbons to provide carbon for life, if Mars is low on budget, but I'm pretty sure Mars has similar carbon ratios to Earth anyway.

If you had inexhaustible energy figured out, yeah, no reason you couldn't do that on a planetary scale:

Zero point Modulus (LOL?)

Move mars 10% closer to the Sun.
Give it an artificial magnetic field.
Add enough O2 and N2 from Europa's Water and elsewhere to Increase it's atmospheric pressure by a factor of 95.

Could even live outside on the surface then..
Richardmcsquared
5 / 5 (3) Dec 12, 2011
Have I inadvertently fed a troll? I might have known . In my defence this is my first post . I do see a lot of misdirection and misuse of thermodynamics on the internet , and sadly even in printed media. I shall be more careful in future .
roboferret
5 / 5 (9) Dec 12, 2011
Please stop replying to him. He either gets paid to write this tripe or he's practicing to win over the stupid, yet doubtful followers of his Christian congregation (I'm willing to bet Seventh-day Adventist).


You're probably right on his motivations, and I generally agree that debating loons gives them a credibility they don't deserve. In my experience though, in blog comments, these same loons take silence as submission, and will declare their victory to those same doubtful followers and proudly direct them to the page where the heathen were unable to challenge them. Its worth the 5 minutes it takes to expose the rubbish they write just to prevent this, for the sake of those gullible doubters. I don't think for a minute that Kevin will learn anything from replies, but it prevents him from using it as propaganda to the weak minded.
Martian
4.1 / 5 (9) Dec 12, 2011
News Flash: Intelligent life might exist on large parts of Earth.
Eoprime
4.4 / 5 (8) Dec 12, 2011
News Flash: Intelligent life might exist on _large parts_ of Earth.


I doubt it. :)
Callippo
1.4 / 5 (9) Dec 12, 2011
"Life possible on 'large parts' of Mars" = "we actually have no idea, but we need another money for research".
Sinister1811
1 / 5 (5) Dec 12, 2011
Mars cannot be "Terraformed" in the classic science fiction sense, at least not with any existing technology, because there simply isn't enough energy available.


What about if we take what we're currently doing on Earth, and do exactly the same thing on Mars by releasing CO2 into the atmosphere?

Mars is experiencing a run-away greenhouse effect. There is something like 30 times more CO2 in mars' atmosphere than there is in Earth's atmosphere. Not even counting the CO2 ice everywhere.


I guess you're right. But Mars still has a very thin, tenuous atmosphere compared to Earth. I guess if you could thicken the atmosphere somehow..

Even still it's average temperature is similar to Antarctica's record low temperature, even in the middle of a runaway greenhouse effect.


Yeah, you're probably right about that. Even with our current technology colonizing Antarctica proves to be tough, in itself. And the conditions of current day Mars are much more extreme.
Sinister1811
2.6 / 5 (10) Dec 12, 2011
...Now giant biodomes and stuff like that, yeah, it's doable.


That's not a bad idea. Probably the more efficient thing to do. Especially considering that terraforming could take more than a lifetime to achieve.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Dec 12, 2011
Having therefore made the mistake here, the philosophers are now extending the same faulty thought pattern to other planets. If one firmly believes that we "evolved" from one simple organism, then one will find all the evidence in support of such an idea - quite contrary to every piece of commonsense [ and plain high school science ] will tell you. The philosophers are blithely ignoring the fact that everything tends to go from organized state to disorganization. Not the other way around as required by "evolution". But if you're committed to there being no creator, then that's all you're left with - everything needs to have made itself.
So billions of dollars are going to be spend on that premise. Not that it won't deliver some useful and educational information - it will always expand our knowledge of other planets. Maybe just not the way the researchers would have expected.
-The preceding was a paid sociopolitical announcement. Be honest kev - dont forget the disclaimer.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (5) Dec 12, 2011
If there is life on mars, the hard fact of the matter is that if it is not compatible with terrestrial life then it will eventually, unavoidably, be replaced. In the wild that is.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (9) Dec 12, 2011
Mars cannot be "Terraformed" in the classic science fiction sense, at least not with any existing technology, because there simply isn't enough energy available.
-says the learned planetary scientist and astrophysmatist. Like I always say nano/QC theres no substitute for a little research, unless of course you think you already know everything there is to know, in which case it would only be annoying I suppose.

There are many possibilities for creating more congenial conditions on the planet:

http://en.wikiped..._of_Mars

-And if hydrocarbons are as plentiful on mars as they are elsewhere in the system, they may not have to be imported.
Pirouette
1.8 / 5 (10) Dec 12, 2011
Callippo says:
"Life possible on 'large parts' of Mars" = "we actually have no idea, but we need another money for research".

@Callippo. . .There will be a continuation of improved robotics sent to Mars, as the technology for sending humans there and back safely doesn't exist yet. As for terraforming the planet, all nations will have to agree on the best possible way to go about doing that, since Mars may already be populated underground and a prime directive has to be decided on and signed by all countries as to the nature of a protocol in the event that large life forms are encountered by humans in the future on Mars. The fact that Methane has been detected by spectroscopy would indicate that, if not from volcanism, then from high amounts of life forms, microbes or some other type. It's an exciting time for me and my group and other Mars researchers who are familiar with our work. NASA is getting closer and closer to a full revelation. :)
Pirouette
1.5 / 5 (8) Dec 12, 2011
I like the false colored yardangs in the second picture in the article. """Pictures from Mars show that the yardang ridges occur on a massive scale there; some individual ridges are tens of kilometers long with intervening valleys nearly 1 km wide. Yardangs on Mars are typically found in the Amazonis region but the best ones are found in the equatorial region. Yardangs on Mars demonstrate that much of the eolian erosion is recent since they are sculpted in young geologic units."""

Nanobanano
1.9 / 5 (9) Dec 12, 2011
Ghosttard:

There ISN'T enough energy available.

to move the amount of material that is needed you need fusion rocketry at the least. FUSION rocketry OR BETTER.

It actually takes MUCH of the mass of a Comet being fused and/or used as propellant in order to push it into an orbit to collide with Mars.

Think about how much energy it would take to move lots of Nitrogen and Ammonia from Earth, or somewhere, to Mars, or how much it'd take to get out to Europa or Titan, mine a big MONSTER sized payload of water or Methane, and bring it back to Mars.

You'd need billions of ships in constant circuit for many, many years.

Anyone capable of doing it would have no practical reason to do so, because they'd have energy and resources figured out anyway, obviously...if they can live in space and move that much mass around enough to do it...
StarGazer2011
1.3 / 5 (12) Dec 13, 2011
It actually takes MUCH of the mass of a Comet being fused and/or used as propellant in order to push it into an orbit to collide with Mars.

umm no, a well placed nudge would divert a comet nicely, no requirement for fusion or using any of the comets mass, just a small nuke well timed would do the trick.
Mars is experiencing a run-away greenhouse effect. There is something like 30 times more CO2 in mars' atmosphere than there is in Earth's atmosphere. Not even counting the CO2 ice everywhere.

This is just hilarious, if it werent so sad. How on Mars did it ever get so cold with soooo much CO2? But whatever 'Greenhouse theory effect' there is on Mars, it isnt 'runaway' because if it were it would be warmer there because those CO2 caps you mention would have melted. Right?
This is just your adherence to the dogma of Climate stupidity making you look like a moron again.
StarGazer2011
1.8 / 5 (10) Dec 13, 2011
Oh and to comment on the actual research, really interesting, i think its likely we will find some microbes at depth on mars, although lack of sunlight for energy (being underground) might cause problems. Hopefully one day someone will actually send a probe capable of providing evidence of current life, rather than past life (as Curiosity is designed to do), at depth.
MarkyMark
3 / 5 (2) Dec 13, 2011
It actually takes MUCH of the mass of a Comet being fused and/or used as propellant in order to push it into an orbit to collide with Mars.

umm no, a well placed nudge would divert a comet nicely, no requirement for fusion or using any of the comets mass, just a small nuke well timed would do the trick.
Mars is experiencing a run-away greenhouse effect. There is something like 30 times more CO2 in mars' atmosphere than there is in Earth's atmosphere. Not even counting the CO2 ice everywhere.

This is just hilarious, if it werent so sad. How on Mars did it ever get so cold with soooo much CO2? But whatever 'Greenhouse theory effect' there is on Mars, it isnt 'runaway' because if it were it would be warmer there because those CO2 caps you mention would have melted. Right?
This is just your adherence to the dogma of Climate stupidity making you look like a moron again.

This post clearly reveils his poor understanding of climate change !
Vendicar_Decarian
4 / 5 (4) Dec 13, 2011
Mars will make a fine home for our machine replacements.
MPJ
5 / 5 (1) Dec 13, 2011
Oh and to comment on the actual research, really interesting, i think its likely we will find some microbes at depth on mars, although lack of sunlight for energy (being underground) might cause problems. Hopefully one day someone will actually send a probe capable of providing evidence of current life, rather than past life (as Curiosity is designed to do), at depth.

This has been done by the Viking mission to Mars and its biological experiments. The Viking LR detected strong signs of metabolism (microbes) in Martian soil at both Viking landing sites (see the website of the Viking LR PI http://gillevin.com/mars.htm).

TheGhostofOtto1923
1.9 / 5 (9) Dec 13, 2011
There ISN'T enough energy available.

to move the amount of material that is needed you need fusion rocketry at the least. FUSION rocketry OR BETTER.

It actually takes MUCH of the mass of a Comet being fused and/or used as propellant in order to push it into an orbit to collide with Mars.

Think about how much energy it would take to move lots of Nitrogen and Ammonia from Earth, or somewhere, to Mars, or how much it'd take to get out to Europa or Titan, mine a big MONSTER sized payload of water or Methane, and bring it back to Mars.
I know you THINK you understand these things, but this is only one more manifestation of your delusions of grandeur. Unlike you, most people have some patience; moving large objects only takes time, and there is plenty of energy to be had in the solar system.
http://en.wikiped...voidance

-You keep blathering and I'll keep referencing experts who will always prove you wrong.
Pirouette
1.9 / 5 (9) Dec 13, 2011
http://gillevin.com/mars.htm

It seems that Dr. Gil Levin's research has been vindicated more recently with NASA's detection of Methane in several regions of Mars.
Pirouette
1.7 / 5 (6) Dec 13, 2011
@MPJ. . .the link you provided, for some reason is not working. Error message.
Osiris1
1 / 5 (4) Dec 14, 2011
Technology DOES exist to go there. It just needs the motivation and money and some testing. Chang-Dias's VASIMR done on a large scale would provide us a virtual hotel to go there in style and quickly. Build it in space hauling up the parts with big dumb boosters like Buzz Aldrin's 'Starlifters' Exploration ship can stay in space. Use large nuke power station like on aircraft carriers. Last for many years with Bussard collector to gather interplanetary hydrogen for fuel for the VASIMR. Strong enough VASIMR may even be able to land and take off from Mars. Then there is the hydrino rocket from Dr Randall Mills "Blacklight" tech. At many times the specific impulse from chemical rockets and unlimited thrust it would be the perfect shuttle fuel..and it is here now. Check the net! You can see for yourself! Real challenge is living in space. Need large enough ship for hydroponics bays, living quarters in revolving ring big enough to not make folks dizzy; shielding; etc.
Pirouette
1.6 / 5 (7) Dec 14, 2011
You're right. . .and the main challenge is to prevent radiation from entering into the living quarters and zapping astronauts All the sites I've visited regarding meteorites say that meteorites are not radioactive unless they already contain radioactive materials within them. But ordinary meteorites and asteroids are not radioactive and are mainly made of metals and minerals. My question is: WHY aren't they radioactive? They travel millions of miles getting hit with solar and outer space radiation. I mean the ones that have come to Earth pretty recently and are big enough to survive burning in the atmosphere.
roboferret
5 / 5 (4) Dec 14, 2011
Pirouette,
You're confusing electromagnetic radiation with ionising radiation, a common misconception. Harmless sunlight is solar electromagnetic radiation, in the visible frequencies. You can get a pretty serious dose of x-rays just by flying frequently, but it won't make you radioactive. The major risk to astronauts is high energy cosmic rays, which can cause physical damage to DNA at the cellular level, but won't make them actually radioactive.
To make something radioactive you have to contaminate it with a radioactive isotope or bombard it with enough neutrons to create unstable isotopes in the material, its pretty hard to do.
Pirouette
1.8 / 5 (5) Dec 23, 2011
Thanks roboferret. . . .I stand corrected.