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Scientists fear Curiosity rover drill bits could contaminate Mars
Christian Science Monitor ^ | 9-10-2012 | Louis Sahagun

Posted on 09/10/2012 8:07:04 AM PDT by servo1969

For all the hopes NASA has pinned on the rover it deposited on Mars last month, one wish has gone unspoken: Please don’t find water.

Scientists don’t believe they will. They chose the cold, dry equatorial landing site in Mars’ Gale Crater for its geology, not its prospects for harboring water or ice, which exist elsewhere on the planet.

But if by chance the rover Curiosity does find water, a controversy that has simmered at NASA for nearly a year will burst into the open. Curiosity’s drill bits may be contaminated with Earth microbes. If they are, and if those bits touch water, the organisms could survive.

The possible contamination of the drill bits occurred six months before the rover’s launch last Nov. 26. The bits had been sterilized inside a box to be opened only after Curiosity landed on Mars.

But that changed after engineers grew concerned that a rough landing could damage the rover and the drill mechanism. They decided to open the box and mount one bit in the drill as a hedge to ensure success of one of the most promising scientific tools aboard Curiosity. The drill is to bore into rocks looking for clues that life could have existed on the planet. Even if a damaged mechanism couldn’t load a drill bit, at least the rover would have one ready to go.

-snip-

Conley’s predecessor at NASA, John D. Rummel, a professor of biology at East Carolina University, said, partly in jest: “It will be a sad day for NASA if they do detect ice or water. That’s because the Curiosity project will most likely be told, ‘Gee, that’s nice. Now turn around.’ “

(Excerpt) Read more at csmonitor.com ...


TOPICS: Astronomy; Miscellaneous; Science; Weird Stuff
KEYWORDS: contaminate; curiosity; mars; water
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1 posted on 09/10/2012 8:07:10 AM PDT by servo1969
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To: servo1969; KevinDavis

Earth organisms that can survive space?

Do you really think those organisms can survive on Mars?


2 posted on 09/10/2012 8:11:19 AM PDT by GeronL (The Right to Life came before the Right to Pursue Happiness)
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To: servo1969

So no worries about the Ruskies’ drill bit in Lake Vostok, but major concerns about the US drill bit on Mars?

Whatsamatter — Anti-Americans and moslims didn’t build the Mars drill bit?


3 posted on 09/10/2012 8:11:46 AM PDT by treetopsandroofs (Had FDR been GOP, there would have been no World Wars, just "The Great War" and "Roosevelt's Wars".)
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To: servo1969

Since we know that material from Mars has reached earth in the form of meteorites, it is indeed possible (if not probable) that earth materials have been blasted out and have landed on Mars.

We should obviously always be careful, but methinks this may be much ado about something that’s already happened - through natural forces.


4 posted on 09/10/2012 8:12:10 AM PDT by Da Coyote
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To: servo1969

Drill mars like a drunken prom date.


5 posted on 09/10/2012 8:12:48 AM PDT by cripplecreek (What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?)
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To: servo1969
"Curiosity’s drill bits may be contaminated with Earth microbes. If they are, and if those bits touch water, the organisms could survive."

So what?

6 posted on 09/10/2012 8:14:46 AM PDT by circlecity
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To: servo1969

Curiosity is now to be renamed the JackWagon.


7 posted on 09/10/2012 8:15:08 AM PDT by GeronL (The Right to Life came before the Right to Pursue Happiness)
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To: circlecity

bump


8 posted on 09/10/2012 8:16:56 AM PDT by GeronL (The Right to Life came before the Right to Pursue Happiness)
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To: circlecity

We’ll spread plague and disease to a new world and kill off all the native people, that’s what.


9 posted on 09/10/2012 8:18:21 AM PDT by Optimus Prime (Do liberals even qualify as sentient beings?)
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To: servo1969

Well, Obama was claiming credit for Curiosity just yesterday so I guess he gets the blame as well.


10 posted on 09/10/2012 8:18:31 AM PDT by NonValueAdded (Taranto: "The whole point of the metaphor is that if you can hear the whistle, you're the dog.")
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To: Optimus Prime
Maybe the Martians will get mad and come over here and blow up Congress, if we're lucky.


11 posted on 09/10/2012 8:20:13 AM PDT by dfwgator (I'm voting for Ryan and that other guy.)
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To: servo1969

12 posted on 09/10/2012 8:20:44 AM PDT by JoeProBono (A closed mouth gathers no feet - Mater tua caligas exercitus gerit ;-{)
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To: circlecity

The problem is that it could compromise the research; if Mars is contaminated with microbes from Curiosity then it could cast doubt on any detection of life signs.


13 posted on 09/10/2012 8:23:21 AM PDT by Squawk 8888 (Tories in- now the REAL work begins!)
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To: servo1969

If we ever establish a manned colony on Mars won’t that also contaminate the planet? Or are we going to export some Sierra Club ninnies to make sure we don’t pollute the place?


14 posted on 09/10/2012 8:24:01 AM PDT by Malone LaVeigh
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To: Squawk 8888

According to the article they aren’t looking for life signs this go around.


15 posted on 09/10/2012 8:25:39 AM PDT by circlecity
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To: dfwgator

“Ack! Ack ack!”


16 posted on 09/10/2012 8:26:36 AM PDT by Dr. Bogus Pachysandra ( Ya can't pick up a turd by the clean end!)
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To: circlecity

Because when “o”care is finished that will be the only place acceptable to live.


17 posted on 09/10/2012 8:29:19 AM PDT by Portcall24
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To: circlecity

In future, they will be.


18 posted on 09/10/2012 8:30:03 AM PDT by floralamiss
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To: servo1969

We’re going to have to eventually terraform the place before we can live there. Might as well get started.


19 posted on 09/10/2012 8:30:30 AM PDT by Malone LaVeigh
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To: GeronL

And it’s entirely possible Mars is already contaminated with microbes from the previous probes.


20 posted on 09/10/2012 8:32:28 AM PDT by DannyTN
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To: DannyTN

Yep. I bet the Russians never cared about that stuff.


21 posted on 09/10/2012 8:33:20 AM PDT by GeronL (The Right to Life came before the Right to Pursue Happiness)
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To: cripplecreek

I had a Martian prom date.....she had three of them......eyes I mean....


22 posted on 09/10/2012 8:33:55 AM PDT by blueunicorn6 ("A crack shot and a good dancer")
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To: floralamiss
"In future, they will be."

Mars is a big planet. There will plenty of places left for that future research.

23 posted on 09/10/2012 8:34:11 AM PDT by circlecity
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To: servo1969

The Invasive Species regulations and a “swarm of AgencyPersons” will soon “eat out the substance” of those critters.


24 posted on 09/10/2012 8:39:54 AM PDT by GladesGuru (In a society predicated upon freedom, it is necessary to examine principles."...the public interest)
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To: servo1969

ATTENTION ALL EARTHLINGS! KNEEL TO RECEIVE A MESSAGE FROM MARTIAN COMMANDER GELSNOT - You have invaded our planet and shot lasers at our rocks and now you plan to use a sharp instrument upon us. Cease immediately! As terms of your surrender, you will send us Hostess Ding-Dongs and salsa! Oh, and DVDs of your ruler Barney the purple dinosaur. You may now return to your banal existence.


25 posted on 09/10/2012 8:41:27 AM PDT by blueunicorn6 ("A crack shot and a good dancer")
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To: circlecity

I’m sorry, but do you ever think past the end of your nose? Are you in uncharted territory out there?


26 posted on 09/10/2012 8:46:09 AM PDT by floralamiss
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To: GeronL
Earth organisms that can survive space?

Some bacteria are really tough. I the bacteria is embedded in a rock or chunk of ice I believe they can survive. However, I tend to doubt they could survive direct exposure to cosmic radiation.

Do you really think those organisms can survive on Mars?

My understanding is that on the surface of mars, it would be unlikely that bacteria could survive due to being bombarded by cosmic radiation. Below the surface, they could survive.

27 posted on 09/10/2012 8:53:43 AM PDT by fso301
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To: floralamiss

I’m in the territory where when someone responds with an insult I assume they couldn’t articulate a coherent response to point made.


28 posted on 09/10/2012 8:53:50 AM PDT by circlecity
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To: servo1969

Who’d a thunk it - the Martians have a EPA equipped with a bunch of job-killing regulations.


29 posted on 09/10/2012 8:55:20 AM PDT by OrioleFan (Republicans believe every day is July 4th, Democrats believe every day is April 15th.)
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To: fso301

Thanks.


30 posted on 09/10/2012 8:58:32 AM PDT by GeronL (The Right to Life came before the Right to Pursue Happiness)
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To: GeronL; All
Earth organisms that can survive space?

Do you really think those organisms can survive on Mars?


Yes, an yes, actually. Recent experiments have shown that some microbial communities adapted to low temperatures, high altitude, and living inside rocks can survive space exposure long enough to reach Mars- they were stuck outside the International Space Station for 1.5 years.

Even more impressive was an experiment earlier this year where a group took some high altitude lichens and exposed them to the surface conditions of Mars (atmospheric composition, atmospheric pressure, temperature, and radiation) for 34 days. The lichena survived in cracks and crevices and actually carried on photosynthesis just fine.

The research is done by Jean-Pierre Paul de Vera at the German Aerospace Center for Experimental Planetary physics.

Tardigrades (small animals) have been stuck out in space in experiments and survived too. Some organisms are incredibly tough.
31 posted on 09/10/2012 9:00:16 AM PDT by verum ago (Be a bastard, and Karma'll be a bitch.)
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To: fso301

see post 31 :)


32 posted on 09/10/2012 9:01:36 AM PDT by verum ago (Be a bastard, and Karma'll be a bitch.)
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To: verum ago

interesting

so they are probably ALREADY on Mars then


33 posted on 09/10/2012 9:02:50 AM PDT by GeronL (The Right to Life came before the Right to Pursue Happiness)
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To: verum ago; GeronL

Thanks. So, they can survive direct exposure to cosmic radiation?


34 posted on 09/10/2012 9:07:20 AM PDT by fso301
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To: fso301

Sure apparently some microbes, I’m not which ones or if those would be important, seem to have been proven to survive in space. If that is true then Mars has very likely already been exposed to these microbes from Earth.

So drill, baby, drill

heh


35 posted on 09/10/2012 9:17:26 AM PDT by GeronL (The Right to Life came before the Right to Pursue Happiness)
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To: circlecity

I can’t imagine why I should care. Is Mars going to sue us? Sic it’s MEPA on us (Mars Environmental Protection Agency)


36 posted on 09/10/2012 9:23:48 AM PDT by Babashane
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To: fso301; GeronL
Thanks. So, they can survive direct exposure to cosmic radiation?

Maybe. How they'd do in direct exposure outside Earth's magnetosphere is unknown, but they're fine after 18 months of full exposure on the outside of the ISS. But give them any shielding at all (like being inside the drill bit box on a rover...) and they ought to survive a journey of years with little loss in viability.

I think the prevailing wisdom for so many years that nothing can survive in space is interesting. It was basically just an assumption. And when tested, it turned out to be unsupported. Endolithipilic lichens require next to nothing in the way of oxygen, water, and CO2 to survive, and as it turns out, are radiation resistant (thus their being able to survive and stay metabolically active in Mars conditions). Then we have extremophilic bacteria like Deinoccocus radians. D. radians can survive radiation damage that chops its DNA into hundreds of pieces with almost no loss in viability, as well as vacuum, desiccation, and extremely high acidity. I wouldn't be surprised if it handled direct exposure to cosmic radiation fairly well.
37 posted on 09/10/2012 9:26:49 AM PDT by verum ago (Be a bastard, and Karma'll be a bitch.)
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To: circlecity

You’re right, I couldn’t “articulate” any point made, because we’re not speaking. I expressed an intelligent response, which you attempted to counter illogically. Another Freeper and I were trying to answer your question. At the time, we didn’t realize you were being rhetorical. Thanks for wasting our time.


38 posted on 09/10/2012 9:30:29 AM PDT by floralamiss
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To: floralamiss
"Thanks for wasting our time."

After reading your posts I can assure you that was no great loss.

39 posted on 09/10/2012 9:32:31 AM PDT by circlecity
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To: verum ago

bump

very interesting

if we can train lichen as astronauts...


40 posted on 09/10/2012 9:33:23 AM PDT by GeronL (The Right to Life came before the Right to Pursue Happiness)
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To: circlecity

Your own words used against you:

“I’m in the territory where when someone responds with an insult I assume they couldn’t articulate a coherent response to point made.”

You’re in above your head. Thanks for playing.


41 posted on 09/10/2012 9:37:14 AM PDT by floralamiss
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To: Da Coyote

Here we go.

“We found life on Mars but we might have been the ones that sent it there...”

I am 100% convinced they absolutely already know there is life there, and NOT life we sent, but are afraid of announcing it, and will make up whatever it takes to avoid it!

I actually have a Mars meteorite, it’s a piece of a rock discovered, I believe, in Antarctica.

It’s very, very possible, even extremely likely, that some of the meteor/asteroid impacts on Earth in the past have sent material far enough up and away to eventually get to Mars.


42 posted on 09/10/2012 9:37:50 AM PDT by djf (The barbarian hordes will ALWAYS outnumber the clean-shaven. And they vote.)
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To: floralamiss
"You’re in above your head."

Says the poster who didn't know the word "articulate" could apply to a written response. Duhhhhh.

43 posted on 09/10/2012 9:47:57 AM PDT by circlecity
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To: circlecity

It doesn’t. Properly used, it refers to speech. C/c your definition/source. This is fun. Oh, and one more thing... your assumption is wrong. The trite and unoriginal idea that “when someone responds with an insult ... they couldn’t articulate a coherent response to point made,” has no basis in fact. Rethink it. I’m trying to be kind.


44 posted on 09/10/2012 10:26:05 AM PDT by floralamiss
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To: djf
It’s very, very possible, even extremely likely, that some of the meteor/asteroid impacts on Earth in the past have sent material far enough up and away to eventually get to Mars.

Mars is much lighter than Earth, and it has very little atmosphere. A rock can be struck from the surface of Mars by another meteorite, it can attain escape velocity (5.0 km/s) without burning up in the atmosphere, and it can reach the next planet.

The same process on Earth would require a massive meteor strike. They are very rare. But let's assume one happened and some rocks were ejected from the Earth's surface. To escape the Earth's gravity they need to be accelerated up to 11.2 km/s (more than double that of Mars.) Rocks don't have a rocket engine in them, so they have to start at even higher speed at the surface to compensate for losses in atmosphere. Atmospheric losses at those speeds will be exactly what a Shuttle experienced during landing - it will be a wall of super hot plasma. It will have a good chance of killing all life forms on the surface. If the rock is small then it will be hot inside too; if the rock is large then it may remain cold - but it really takes a lot of energy to throw it up into the sky.

Another problem is that the levels of energy needed to launch a rock to Mars are likely to vaporize the rock on the spot. Nuclear bombs kicked up mushroom clouds, but those clouds were nothing but fine dust because few, if any, rocks are strong enough to survive the initial shockwave. You need a lot of initial energy to lift the rock all the way to orbit so that it leaves the atmosphere with escape velocity for that altitude. Even if you can come up with such energy, it will crumple the rock into dust. That's why we use powered spaceflight; rockets deliver acceleration not for milliseconds but for five to ten minutes, subjecting occupants and equipment to manageable G levels.

Here is yet another reason. You want a meteor to come down to the surface at a good speed - one that is enough to strike stones back into space. The Martian atmosphere is thin, so this is possible - incoming meteors are not losing much energy, and they are not burning up in the process. On Earth most meteors don't even make it to the surface - and those that do simply arrive at their terminal velocities which are pretty low. They don't carry enough leftover energy to shoot debris back into space.

Earth had experienced some serious asteroid impacts in the past; it is remotely possible that a few rocks escaped Earth. But Earth and Mars are far apart, and space is big. You want a steady source of meteorites from the source planet if you want at least a few to reach the other planet.

45 posted on 09/10/2012 10:44:04 AM PDT by Greysard
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To: blueunicorn6

I like your warped sense of humor :-)


46 posted on 09/10/2012 10:59:10 AM PDT by Fast Moving Angel (A moral wrong is not a civil right: No religious sanction of an irreligious act.)
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To: Greysard

Here is a website that makes good, solid arguments that the Carolina Bays were formed by ejecta from a meteor/asteroid impact in Michigan.

Note that it would mean some of the material was launched over a thousand miles.

http://cintos.org/SaginawManifold/introduction/index.html

And there have been events that were bigger - much, much bigger. The Sudbury event (1.2 billion yrs), scientists estimate the size of the object to come in was over 5 miles in diameter, as big as Mt. Everest!


47 posted on 09/10/2012 11:05:55 AM PDT by djf (The barbarian hordes will ALWAYS outnumber the clean-shaven. And they vote.)
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To: servo1969
I don't think I'll worry too much about bugs on Mars. In fact, send some really tough lichens from the arctic areas and start seeding the place. Dig into the ice and bury something that can break down the Mars soil.

Have at it, turn the red planet a little green.

48 posted on 09/10/2012 12:01:19 PM PDT by count-your-change (You don't have to be brilliant, not being stupid is enough.)
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To: GeronL

Apollo 12 brought back microbes from a moon probe that had not only survived in space, but also on the lunar service.


49 posted on 09/10/2012 12:04:13 PM PDT by Colonel_Flagg (Conservatism is not a matter of convenience.)
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To: Colonel_Flagg

Surface.

Stupid spell-correct. :)


50 posted on 09/10/2012 12:04:52 PM PDT by Colonel_Flagg (Conservatism is not a matter of convenience.)
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