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The NASA Curiosity Rover on Mars
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The NASA Curiosity Rover on Mars:

 251 Ira The Squire, Thu, 27th Sep '12 9:50:18 PM from No idea. Measuring speed
Phyrexian Dalek
That's only because Earth is the only place to harbour life as far as we know, and so our perspective might be a bit limited since we have no way of knowing whether another form of naturally occurring molecules that can store complex information and replicate itself can exist (which is essentially what DNA, RNA, and protein are, pretty much).

edited 27th Sep '12 9:51:02 PM by IraTheSquire

Is that cake frosting?
So if we do find life on Mars, it won't be as exciting as a wholly new kind of life would be, as there would be a relatively high chance that they're "just" our very distant cousins, which would rob us of a chance to observe a type of life that doesn't follow the rules and patterns of life on Earth.
That would still be extremely cool. I mean, what you are suggesting is that life as we know it might have originated on Mars — that we, as a matter of fact, might be Martians. How is that not awesome?

edited 27th Sep '12 11:31:06 PM by Carciofus

But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.

 253 Tam H 70, Fri, 28th Sep '12 1:55:20 AM from 合計虐殺 Relationship Status: [TOP SECRET]
War ALWAYS changes. Man does not.
Would put a whole new spin on "Mars Attacks!" for sure.grin
 254 Best Of, Fri, 28th Sep '12 2:53:14 AM from Finland Relationship Status: Falling within your bell curve
FABRICATI DIEM, PVNC!
Yes, when I say that finding our relatives on Mars is not exciting because it's not a new type of life, I'm kind of joking. I would be more impressed by a different kind of life, but obviously any kind of life on Mars would be wonderful. I wouldn't really be depressed by such a "banal" discovery.

(If you compare finding our cousins on Mars to winning €1 million in a lottery, finding a different type of life would be €5 million. Obviously, anyone would still celebrate winning a million.)
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest to children ardent for desperate glory that old lie: dulce et decorum est pro patria mori
Is that cake frosting?
Fair enough, I agree with this assessment.

Is Curiosity actually equipped to be able to distinguish between these two possibilities, however?

EDIT: However, I remember that I've read somewhere (I don't remember precisely where) an interesting argument for hoping that life won't be found on Mars.

The Fermi paradox suggests that there probably is something that makes durable space-faring civilizations very uncommon in the universe. It could be something that we already surpassed (for example, biological life is a very rare phenomenon), or something that we still have to face.

If life is common, the second possibility becomes more likely — and it is a worrying one for us, obviously.

edited 28th Sep '12 3:13:19 AM by Carciofus

But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.

 256 Best Of, Fri, 28th Sep '12 3:17:24 AM from Finland Relationship Status: Falling within your bell curve
FABRICATI DIEM, PVNC!
Is Curiosity actually equipped to be able to distinguish between these two possibilities, however?

No. As I said, no one expects Curiosity to find life. Instead, it's looking for signs that there was a time when Mars could have supported life. That's as far as it can reach. I mean, if it finds a fossil it can obviously send us pictures of it, but that would be a lot luckier than just winning the lottery.

Even if we were to find fossils on Mars, that wouldn't allow us to take DNA samples, as fossils are not actually the same stuff as the creature that "became" the fossil. (A fossil is basically rock that forms in the shape of the bones that it sort of replaces, so what you see in the museum isn't actual dinosaur bone.)

I have no idea if fossilisation on Mars would work similarly to how it does on Earth. Maybe Mars could sustain the remains of ancient organisms well enough to enable us to take DNA samples, but for some reason I find that unlikely.

If we find extant life, however, there's no question that we can examine its genome. But first we'd have to get the right sort of lab on Mars - or get the samples from there to somewhere where we can study them (so either the Earth or the ISS.)

If its genome is very different from ours, I imagine it'd take a while and a couple of mistakes to find a way to examine and understand it. But if it's the same sort of stuff that we have here, examining the genome is not a huge challenge. (Don't get me wrong - DNA isn't actually one of the easier subjects to experiment on, but it's not among the hardest, either.)

edited 28th Sep '12 3:17:42 AM by BestOf

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest to children ardent for desperate glory that old lie: dulce et decorum est pro patria mori
Is that cake frosting?
That's what I was thinking, thanks.
But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.

 258 Nohbody, Fri, 28th Sep '12 3:54:28 AM from Somewhere in Dixie Relationship Status: Mu
Just zis guy
Too bad there's no chance of finding Dejah Thoris there...

(I don't care if someone's made that joke earlier in this thread. tongue )
 259 De Marquis, Fri, 28th Sep '12 6:05:11 AM from Hell, USA Relationship Status: Buried in snow, waiting for spring
Who Am I?
Although Curiosity is not configured to search for life, it does possess sensors that can detect organic molecules.

Gilbert Levin, the biologist who claims that the Viking landers did detect the presence of organic growth on Mars, discusses the "organic analyzers" on Curiosity.

Details, and a picture, of the Sample Analysis at Mars (the MAS) instrument package.

“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”
 260 De Marquis, Fri, 28th Sep '12 6:18:19 AM from Hell, USA Relationship Status: Buried in snow, waiting for spring
Who Am I?
Double Post

edited 28th Sep '12 6:18:49 AM by DeMarquis

“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”
 261 Fighteer, Fri, 28th Sep '12 7:16:16 AM from the Time Vortex Relationship Status: Dancing with Captain Jack Harkness
I imagine that if Curiosity's cameras were to record video of some slimy tentacled creature crawling up to it, that would be fairly compelling, but I'm not betting my retirement fund on it.
Neoclassicism, AKA the Tinkerbell school of economics.
 262 pagad, Fri, 28th Sep '12 7:25:07 AM from perfidious Albion Relationship Status: Having tea with Cthulhu
Sneering Imperialist
However, I remember that I've read somewhere (I don't remember precisely where) an interesting argument for hoping that life won't be found on Mars.

Was it this one?
Is that cake frosting?
Yeah, that was the one, thanks!
But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.

 264 De Marquis, Fri, 28th Sep '12 8:00:39 AM from Hell, USA Relationship Status: Buried in snow, waiting for spring
Who Am I?
Depends on how old the traces of Maritan life are. The "Great Filters" are very likely simply distance and time. Nothing lasts forever. If life arose on Mars at the same time as Earth, and lasted a billion years, it would still have gone extinct 2.5 billion years ago.

By the way, I thought I would mention that we know DNA evolved here on earth, but we don't know for sure where RNA came from. There are some plausible models of how RNA could have evolved from non-living organic processes here on earth, but nothing has ever been confirmed. So there is still some slim possibility of an extraterrestrial origin for RNA. We have already found simple amino acids in meteorites (chains of amino acids make up proteins, which are the building blocks of life on earth). These amino acids are not uncommon in the universe, and it wouldn't be all that surprising to find some on Mars. I think what we really need to find are some sequenced amino acid chains- that would be placing Mars on the very threshold of life. The problem is that there are so many possibilities that without having a way to narrow the search, a miniturized lab like the one on Curiosity doesn't have the capacity to detect them.

So instead they are looking for water. Robert Shapiro, the biologist, thinks that's a mistake, because he doesnt believe that there is anything particulary unique about water as an organic solvent. Time will tell, I guess.

edited 28th Sep '12 8:01:36 AM by DeMarquis

“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”
 265 Gaunt 88, Tue, 9th Oct '12 4:09:53 PM from Australia
Excelsior, bookahs
Oh dear. Curiosity just scooped up its first piece of martian soil, but in the process cameras picked up a small shiny object on the ground that might be a bit of the rover.

 266 Ira The Squire, Tue, 9th Oct '12 6:33:34 PM from No idea. Measuring speed
Phyrexian Dalek
Ack ack ack ack... ack-ack? tongue

edited 9th Oct '12 10:55:10 PM by IraTheSquire

 267 Question Marc, Tue, 9th Oct '12 10:36:11 PM from Down-town Canada Relationship Status: Having tea with Cthulhu
Screw the King.
I'm putting my insane scenario hat on here.

- insane scenario hat -

What if there was something alive on Mars, and that, for some reasons, it took out the Rover. Would we have any way of knowing what hit the Rover? I mean, other than hoping that the stars align and a camera catch a glimpse of the assailant.

- insane scenario hat off -

If something happen to the Rover, it'll probably be something more boring like a malfunction or a rock that fall on it or something. Or maybe it would slide off a cliff.

edited 9th Oct '12 10:36:35 PM by QuestionMarc

ARYA! I'm telling you, I've looked that King right in his eye socket, and I've said- I've said it, I've said... yaaaaarp
 268 De Marquis, Wed, 10th Oct '12 7:57:19 AM from Hell, USA Relationship Status: Buried in snow, waiting for spring
Who Am I?
Apparently, it's a piece of plastic. Which rules out a Martian origin, I think.
“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”
Euo will do!
Something that is decidedly Martian... and was discounted at first. Some interesting "just testing", there guys. smile

More confirmation: to get that, you need a certain depth of water and things going rather tectonic and rifty.
"When all else failed, she tried being reasonable." ~ Pratchett, Johnny and the Bomb
 270 The Bat Pencil, Fri, 12th Oct '12 6:22:26 AM from Glasgow, Scotland Relationship Status: I'm just a hunk-a, hunk-a burnin' love
Surely the big story is in that somebody has clearly painted little markings on it? wink
I couldn't possibly comment.
 271 Nohbody, Fri, 12th Oct '12 6:26:14 AM from Somewhere in Dixie Relationship Status: Mu
Just zis guy
Earth First! screaming "Terran vandals on Mars!" in 3... 2...

tongue
 272 Knightof Lsama, Wed, 17th Oct '12 1:03:13 AM from The Sea of Chaos
Slightly off topic, but space exploration related.

A planet has been found in the Alpha Centauri System

What more can I say but, holy crap that is awesome. The planet isn't even remotely close to habitable, in fact it would make Mercury's day side look like a ski resort, but it's Alpha Freakin' Centauri. It's right next door, the closest stellar system to ours. How awesome is that!
Welcome to the Sea of Chaos
Is that cake frosting?
Just beware the Mind Worms, I suppose tongue
But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.

 274 Joesolo, Wed, 17th Oct '12 9:17:42 AM Relationship Status: watch?v=dQw4w9WgXcQ
Indiana Solo
AVATAR?[lol]
I am going to shove the sunshine so far up where the sun don't shine that you will vomit nothing but warm summer days -Belkar
 275 tricksterson, Fri, 23rd Nov '12 12:23:28 PM from Behind you with an icepick Relationship Status: I made a point to burn all of the photographs
Never Trust
Soooo, life?.

edited 23rd Nov '12 12:30:01 PM by tricksterson

If it's an authority figure and it's breathing it's guilty
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