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Water on Mars

Discussion in 'Science & Technology' started by daft, Mar 7, 2015.

  1. daft

    daft The fargone

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    Moderator Action: Moved from this thread.

    Right, thanks, makes good sense. Nothing to do with the Scottish Picts being real tough warriors?
    Another question:
    Recently NASA has confirmed that there's evidence that a large body of water, an ocean, once existed on Mars.
    Any further information or hypothesis on this subject? Since there was an ocean there, as well as rivers and lakes, then there must have been life, or not?
    When did they bodies of water disappear(evaporate?), any approximate dating of that happening? Was it quite sudden, or a gradual process?
    I guess I will have to wait until the Europeans come up with new findings, can't really count on NASA to do much, by now they should have landed on the red planet, visited the most interesting sites, dug and drilled in it's soil for answers. If NASA could land their astronauts on the Moon decades ago, why didn't they make a more determined effort to land on Mars after that accomplishment?
    I bet Mars still holds secrets that might further alter what our brilliant scientists demand are the only possible explanation of what happened in the past, both there on Mars and here on Earth.
    A few years ago they maintained that Mars never had such large (Atlantic Ocean comparable in size) bodies of water, ever, in it's history.
    For centuries people/"scientists"-or wise men (clergy) believed and told all others to believe that the Earth was flat as well.
     
  2. hobbsyoyo

    hobbsyoyo https://thespacecadetblog.com/

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    This really belongs in the science section but I'll be happy to take a swing at it.

    There are a ton of sources of information on this hypothesis. Good place to start is Wikipedia and track down links to their sources. This is an intensely studied area and it's rapidly moved from 'thought' to 'hypothesis' to 'theory that's proven' given the wealth of data that's been generated in the last two decades.

    So yes, there was absolutely water and there was a lot of it; seas, oceans, lakes, rivers and all that were there. However, while water is a prerequisite for life as we know it, the presence of it does not prove there must have been life. The answer to that question is - we don't know yet but are actively trying to find out. Certainly though, Mars at one point had all of the necessary conditions for life and IMO there is a very high probability that there was at least pond scum on Mars for a long, long time.

    1-2 billion years ago the water began evaporating and then was largely lost. It was a very slow, slow process.

    Mars lacks (and probably almost always has) a global magnetic field. This means that charged particles from the sun directly blast the atmosphere of Mars as opposed to Earth, where most of those charged particles are deflected away. When this flood of non-stop particles hits the Martian atmosphere, they excite the molecules and this extra energy, coupled with the low gravity of Mars, allows them to 'jump' out into space - to be lost forever.

    Now Venus also lacks a global magnetic field, however, it has high enough gravity to hold onto it's atmosphere.

    Mars lacks this and while it did have a some volcanism in the past, it wasn't enough to replenish the atmosphere as it was lost to space.

    So the atmosphere of Mars drifted off into space and additionally a lot of water molecules in the air of Mars were also lost this way. Eventually the vapor pressure of the atmosphere fell so low that the remaining water on Mars could exist only in two states, frozen or boiled into gas. It could not stay a liquid. That water which boiled into gas was lost through the above mechanic to space and the fraction that froze is locked up in the regolith of the planet and at the ice caps.


    This is way off the mark for a lot of reasons. First of all, getting to Mars is extraordinarily hard and most nations fail at it multiple times. NASA has provided more direct information from a combinations of successful landers and orbiters than all other space agencies on Earth combined. They've proven to be extraordinarily good at it despite past failures.

    The last half of your sentence belies the fact that we're talking about an entire planet, so there is an infinite number of interesting sites. As for landing and drilling - no other space agency has been able to do it on Mars. NASA has.

    The ESA does have plans to put a lander on Mars, but they are doing it in conjunction with other space agencies. Meanwhile, NASA currently has 2 active rovers on the surface doing great science in addition to a small constellation of orbiting satellites - plus firm plans for more rovers, sample return missions and additional satellites. Europe has embarrassingly few plans with regards to Mars in comparison, as does everyone else.

    But this also doesn't acknowledge that it's extremely hard (and almost always ungodly expensive) to get anything to Mars, much less make it all the way there and complete a successful science mission.


    This isn't a rah rah rah NASA ROX post, by the way. I just think that basic facts need to be made painfully clear.


    Short answer: Nixon.

    Once NASA landed on the Moon, the space race was basically over in the minds of the American public. There wasn't a huge push to do much more. Nixon wanted to gut NASA's budget (which was IIRC 5% of GDP at the time - higher than it would be ever again by orders of magnitude) to fund Vietnam and other things. So he killed plans NASA had to do a Mars landing as well as the last 3 Apollo landings and a spate of other awesome projects they were working on.

    So long story short, in the US, politicians set the goals of NASA, not the other way around. NASA cannot dictate public policy and unfortunately, even when the have been mandated to do something, the politicians very frequently underfund NASA making achieving their mandated goals impossible.


    Oh absolutely!

    You may be happy to know that NASA does finally seem to be getting serious about getting to Mars thanks to some directives from the Obama administration, though admittedly the plans are drawn out over a long time and thus are easy targets for later administrations to kill. SpaceX, however, was founded for the sole purpose of putting people on Mars and they seem to be making a good go at it.
     
  3. daft

    daft The fargone

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    Very insightful, thank you.

    Perhaps Obama could stay on as President, make him a dictator(joking), he's doing a great job, I think, for sure way better than Nixon. I still await all the UFO documents Obama promised he'd reveal to the general public before he won the first election. At least I think he was the one who'd made that promise, but I guess that won't happen.

    Good to know NASA is doing all they can afford to do to speed up the Mars exploration process. Going to wait for fresh news on the subject, more fascinating discoveries are hopefully to follow.
    Think this question might belong here, on this forum, it's about a World's History, just not Earth's.
     
  4. hobbsyoyo

    hobbsyoyo https://thespacecadetblog.com/

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    Obama has been, all things considered, been very good to the space program. One of the key things he's done while in office is that he's pushed NASA to open up their programs to private companies. As a result, we have two new rocket systems that regularly deliver cargo to the ISS much cheaper than NASA could do itself. Additionally, those same companies can market the rockets they've made as part of the cargo-run contract for other services.

    In particular, SpaceX, as I've said, is pushing a long term goal of putting people on Mars. To fund it, they launch commercial satellites using the rocket they developed using funds from the ISS cargo contract.

    Next on NASA's plate is that they have contracted with 2 companies to build systems capable of delivering astronauts to the station - a task they have had to depended on the Russians for for some years.

    Beyond that, they are going to capture an asteroid, drag it to lunar orbit and send astronauts out to take samples in the early 2020's. Longer term, they are going to use the rocket they are using for asteroid-capture (the Space Launch System [SLS] - bigger than even the Saturn V of the Apollo heydey) to put astronauts on Mars in the 2030's. Again, assuming the presidents the US will have between now and then don't kill it.

    Which is typically what happens. :(
     
  5. Knight-Dragon

    Knight-Dragon Unhidden Dragon Retired Moderator

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    What you need is a serious competitor. Then national pride will ensure that the funds will be made available. Like with the Soviet launch of the Sputnik.

    Unfortunately there isn't anyone atm.
     
  6. Louis XXIV

    Louis XXIV Le Roi Soleil

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    I never get the idea that other agencies who have done fewer things overall (not a knock on them, NASA has just had a head start and more overall resources) are somehow seen as more likely to succeed just because NASA has scaled back their operations. While NASA is not well-equipped to land humans on Mars any time soon, neither is anyone else. And the number of landers NASA has had suggests their better equipped than the others. I've seen this same argument that China is more likely to get a man on the moon than NASA is because China landed an unmanned rover there (not withstanding that NASA has the capacity to do that even if they don't have the capacity to land a person).

    I don't want to drag this off topic, but real quick since it came up. Are there any other planetary bodies (planets, dwarf planets, or moons) that have a global magnetic field?
     
  7. hobbsyoyo

    hobbsyoyo https://thespacecadetblog.com/

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    China is certainly shaping up to be one. They have the resources, the technology, the funding and most importantly, the political will to do great things. They have been working slowly, but steadily, toward their goals for decades now and their pace is accelerating. They have a space station (though to be honest it only just barely qualifies as such), plans for bigger space stations and a lunar landing program.

    The pieces for a heated competition are all there but until the Chinese start making more big, splashy achievements, the US public just doesn't seem to notice. The 2020's will be an extremely exciting decade because a lot of plans that national space agencies have will either come to fruition then or die out. The US, Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Iranians and South Koreans all have plans for big, ambitious manned space programs that should come together in the 2020's, for example.

    The Russians too are in a big position to do a lot of interesting things but in their case, their politicians hold them back and underfund them. They've been using the same 2 basic rockets since the 60's and while their track record is impressive, their infrastructure is beginning to crumble (which has lead to high-profile rocket crashes recently). They have plans for a new series of rockets that will enable them to do many other things in space but again, they are decades behind schedule and underfunded.

    They recently announced they are going to detach their modules from the ISS in 2024 and form another space station on their own. This is good because they had been saber-rattling and saying they were going to pull out much sooner - this gives the project a longer life because at least in my estimation, the Russians won't be in a better position to build a new station in 2024 than they are now - which is to say they can't do it.


    On a more historical note - I'm not sure the whole 'space race' path to space achievements is the way to go. For the US, at least, it lead to massive burnout when the race was won. Sure, a ton of stuff was accomplished and in a lot of ways Apollo paved the way for NASA to do other things by putting the infrastructure in place. But public opinion and political will are fickle things and I just don't think 'space race' scenarios are viable in the long run as a path to increased access to space.

    This is why I think it's so important that NASA really push the private sector to get involved. There is a huge potential to make money in space and once companies overcome the massive barrier to entry with help from NASA, they are free to go and pursue economic incentives.


    China's rover actually broke down pretty quickly after landing on the moon. Additionally, the lander they used kicked up a lot of dust and disturbed the lunar environment. This was important because NASA actually had a satellite in orbit to study the tenuous, miniscule lunar atmosphere at the time and they begged the Chinese to hold off on the landing and they didn't. That doesn't bode well for space cooperation and neither does the near-total prohibition that Congress has put on NASA from working with the Chinese in space activities.

    There is a lot of political animosity from US politicians toward the Chinese given some high-profile instances of Chinese corporate espionage in this field. But at some point, we'll have to realize that China is in space to stay and we need to be building bridges, not burning them down.

    Back to the lander/rover - certainly having accomplished that does make China more likely to succeed in a manned lunar landing if for no other reason than the lessons learned. However, in and of itself it really doesn't China more likely to put Taikonauts on the moon than NASA or anyone else for that matter. Not to downplay the achievement, but landing on the moon with a rover is sort of easy. (Nothing in space is easy and again, i don't won't to downplay their achievement)

    Compare what China did with their lunar lander/rover with NASA's Curiosity rover that landed around the same time and you'll see that NASA is far and away ahead of the Chinese on this sort of thing. There is even a Google Lunar X prize for small teams to land rovers on the moon and by all indications, it's going that well. So while it is a big achievement, it doesn't show that China is in a better position to do a manned lunar landing than NASA and the comparison between China's lander and Curiosity shows quite the opposite.


    Global magnetic fields - all of the gas giants have them (and Jupiter's is enormous). The only terrestrial planet to have one is the Earth, which was vital for the sustaining of life here.
     
  8. hobbsyoyo

    hobbsyoyo https://thespacecadetblog.com/

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    Way off topic but I'd just like to say how happy I am that there are still places like this where decent discussion can be had.

    I read a wall of facebook comments about the recent findings vis a vis an ancient martian ocean. I just cried. That's all I can say about them. I just cried.
     
  9. Knight-Dragon

    Knight-Dragon Unhidden Dragon Retired Moderator

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    There there. :)

    (A mod shld probably cut out all the off-topic posts and add it as a new thread in the S/T forum.)

    Regarding China and space exploration, I think they have way more on their plate for them to really pursue it seriously (like pollution and economic growth). It's always more of a national prestige project (also to bulk up the CCP's prestige amongst the Chinese populace) and also a placeholder so that they don't fall too far behind all the other researching nations.
     
  10. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Yes, if Jupiter's magnetic field were visible, it would look to us four times the size of the Moon.
     
  11. Louis XXIV

    Louis XXIV Le Roi Soleil

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    I guess I should clarify that I'm talking about solid planets since the implication is it's important for life and I would assume there's no life on Jupiter. Are there any moons with a magnetic field?
     
  12. Valka D'Ur

    Valka D'Ur Hosting Iron Pen in A&E Retired Moderator

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    Apparently Ganymede has one.

    Why would you assume Jupiter doesn't have any life?
     
  13. hobbsyoyo

    hobbsyoyo https://thespacecadetblog.com/

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    To be fair though, this accusation could be leveled at any space fairing nation. Sure, there is a degree of difference in that some of the problems that China faces are certainly more acute than they are for others but the other side of the coin is that other nations have acute problems of their own that China doesn't have.

    But I don't think countries shouldn't try. The upside of space development is huge - look at the economic bounty brought in by global communications satellites and GPS.

    I wouldn't disagree with the notion of the Chinese space program being a prestige project - it clearly is. But that doesn't mean it can't lead to a tangible improvement in the lives of people in China, just as the American space program has touched the lives of nearly everyone posting on this forum either directly or indirectly.

    As for a place holder - well, the fact is that every nation that does wish to have a presence in space does have to keep up. GPS has been such a dominant player in the geolocation market precisely because the Russians and Europeans did fail to keep up, to use one example. Now, the Russians, ESA and even the Chinese are rushing to establish their own GPS-type of systems and are having to resort to things such as government mandates on the use of their native systems instead of GPS to even be relevant. And with all but the strictest of government protections (such as outright banning the use of GPS in their respective territories), the Russian, European and Chinese systems will do little more than provide a marginal improvement over GPS. None are in a position to overtake it in any appreciable way.

    It didn't have to be this way, mind you. The US simply decided to pursue this objective and stuck with it with steady progress while the other space powers didn't get serious about it until recently. There are a lot of other examples we could talk about with respect to the importance of 'keeping up' but I think GPS illustrates the case pretty well.

    For those that are interested - the only reason why the US managed to make the establishment of GPS such a priority and then stick with it is because it was a national security priority first and foremost long before the network was even opened up to commercial use.

    Yeah and given how many, many times further away Jupiter is from the Earth than the moon and you get a sense of what an enormous structure it is.

    Thanks for the link - I hadn't realized that Ganymede had a global magnetic field.

    I should point out that there is actually a significant drawback for many of the moons of the outer solar systems when it concerns the magnetic fields of their parent planets. While a global magnetic field does protect the planet itself from solar radiation, it does this as I said by redirecting the charged particles from the sun. It also tends to concentrate these particles in Van Allen belts around the planets and these regions can be extremely dangerous.

    Around the Earth, they cause problems for satellites and are a hazard for manned missions that leave low earth orbit like the Apollo missions. Around Jupiter, they bathe the inner moons in deadly doses of radiation, sterilizing their surface. So while of course the surface of such moons were already hazardous in many cases (lack of an atmosphere, etc) they also have the additional challenge of intense radiation from these Van Allen belts. This doesn't preclude life from existing say, deep beneath the ice of Europa, but it's still worth pointing out as a hazard - and one that greatly complicates any satellite/lander/rover designs sent out to investigate these moons.

    As for life on Jupiter - yeah it definitely is a possibility. It's too bad that no one currently has the resources or will to do any sort of investigation. Ben Bova (as I'm sure Valka is very well aware) has written some very interesting books on this very proposition.
     
  14. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    A big problem with Jupiter and its moons is that Jupiter's own magnetosphere is so powerful it creates its own radiation belt that would kill anything coming near it. Its moons are all within this zone, so anything living on their surface would be killed by the Jovian radiation. So for there to be life on the surface there, it would presumably need to be of a kind (unlike our own) that wouldn't be killed by that sort of thing.

    This probably wouldn't apply to anything living in the hypothesised liquid water ocean under the ice, which would be protected from the radiation by that ice.

    [EDIT] Crossposted with hobbsyoyo...
     
  15. Valka D'Ur

    Valka D'Ur Hosting Iron Pen in A&E Retired Moderator

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    I hadn't either, until I looked it up. :)

    Ben Bova's books are the most plausible I've ever read, whether he's talking about the social, political, and economic reasons people find to explore the Solar System, or the actual science involved in going to the other planets and what gets found when the astronauts and/or the probes reach their destinations. In his Grand Tour series he even throws in catastrophic global climate change (dramatic rise in sea levels) and a rise in religious fundamentalism influencing laws such as those governing the research and use of nanotechnology.

    The books to which hobbsyoyo is referring regarding Jupiter and its moons are the novels Jupiter and Leviathan. In Jupiter, a group of scientists explore Jupiter's liquid ocean, and discover lifeforms there. I haven't finished reading Leviathan yet, but I expect the major focus of that book to be on the issue of whether or not the life discovered in the previous book is intelligent, and if so, if humans can figure out how to communicate with it (no spoilers, please :D).
     
  16. hobbsyoyo

    hobbsyoyo https://thespacecadetblog.com/

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    No spoilers but both those books - and everything in the 'Grand Tour' series are absolutely worth a read!

    I do find that some of Bova's earlier works, while certainly scientifically plausible, wildly miss the mark on the social side. The treatment of race relations in the book "Colony" is laughably bad, for example. I do make wide exceptions given the time period in which the book was written, where it was at least plausible to believe that crime would continue growing until the US essentially broke down. But there's just no excuse for the cartoonish people of multiple ethnicity he created in the book.


    Having said all that, he did much, much, much better in the Grand Tour series.

    Edit: I edited out the words 'people of color' because I'm not sure if it is a racially offensive term. I certainly didn't mean it as such - I was trying to state that Bova gave non-white characters a borderline racist treatment in Colony, though I don't think he intended to. If anything, he was guilty of clumsiness, not intentional racism. I'd even argue that his treatment of white people in the book was also racist for the same reason. They were in many ways presented as simply 'anti non-white'.
     
  17. Valka D'Ur

    Valka D'Ur Hosting Iron Pen in A&E Retired Moderator

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    Colony is badly outdated for a lot of reasons, as are the rest of the Chet Kinsman novels. Those books haven't aged well, unfortunately. But for some reason I still remember the scene where Evelyn is in her flat and puts the teakettle on; when the water has boiled, she tells it, "You can jolly well whistle" and informs the teakettle that there's no tea to put in it. :lol:

    The novel Mars just blew me away. I've re-read it several times, and even though Bova is dismal at writing romances between his characters, I do like his Mars trilogy.

    But regarding his Moon books... you could make a drinking game out of all the times that he writes "Joanna heard herself say..." :crazyeye:

    We seriously need a Ben Bova thread over in A&E. :)
     
  18. hobbsyoyo

    hobbsyoyo https://thespacecadetblog.com/

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    He is terrible at romances and he does best when he only hints at them without getting deep into awkward sex scenes. The Jupiter/Leviathan books handle this about as well as he can muster in my opinion.

    I honestly haven't read his Mars books; didn't even know there was a trilogy.

    I did read Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy though. I liked it and he touched on all the themes Bova did though his writing could get really bogged down with itself and tedious. Quite honestly, there were some points where I thought, this guy had to have been high when he wrote this 15-page ramble.
     
  19. hobbsyoyo

    hobbsyoyo https://thespacecadetblog.com/

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    Back to water on Mars -

    I think one of the biggest arguments that we will have about Mars in the near future will revolve around past/present life on Mars.

    If present life on Mars is found, there is going to be a huge outcry of people who think it needs to be preserved at all costs and this would entail curtailing exploration and definitely colonization.

    Even if past life is found, people are going to raise the same objections based on the possibility that life may still be there, just very well hidden.


    My personal take is that if there is life on Mars we should still explore the planet and colonize. For one thing, life on Mars would essentially prove that life can be found on many planets, even planets where it shouldn't be (like Mars by many indications). While we should make an effort to preserve this life, I simply don't think it should stop exploration, colonization and eventually terraforming.

    Maybe I'm callous, but I view Earth life and in particular human life, as worth spreading around. So if there is life on Mars, we have to face the question of whether essentially we can go anywhere as a space fairing civilization as stopping future efforts at colonization on Mars due to concerns over the native life effectively means stopping the spread of Earth life and human civilization altogether. Because if there is life on Mars, there is going to be life on every decent sized rock.
     
  20. thesplashbros

    thesplashbros Chieftain

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    I heard an interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson, and he thinks a mission to Mars should happen in the next 30 years, otherwise it will never happen...
     

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