NASA to Announce Mars Mystery Solved: Liquid water today!

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That's the title of the NASA press release (I added the date).
**Nature Geoscience has Embargoed Details until 8 a.m. PDT/11 a.m. EDT Sept. 28)**

NASA will detail a major science finding from the agency's ongoing exploration of Mars during a news briefing at 8:30 a.m. PDT (11:30 a.m. EDT) on Monday, Sept. 28. The event will be broadcast live on NASA Television and the agency's website.
8 a.m. PDT = 3 p.m. UCT = 5 p.m. CEST (Central European Summer Time)

The panel includes an expert for the HiRISE experiment, a high-resolution telescope in Mars orbit. Whatever they have, apparently images of some area are highly relevant.

One of the panel members is Lujendra Ojha, a PhD candidate. If they include him, it is very likely the discovery is directly connected to his work. According to his website:
One of my interest is understanding the formation mechanism of Recurring Slope Lineae (RSL). RSL are active features on Mars that might require flowing water. On Mars, they form and grow during warm seasons and disappear during cold seasons. They recur over multiple years in generally the same location. I use remote sensing instruments on board various Mars orbiting space crafts to understand their geological/hydrological nature. Additionally, I use data from CRISM onboard MRO to understand its formation mechanism.
Those structures are visible to HiRISE. Variations from year to year are not new. Did they see something in action?

Mary Beth Wilhelm is an organic biogeochemist (research interests).

How to combine organic biogeochemistry with Recurring Slope Lineae?


Update: Very strong indications of liquid water on Mars - today. Spectroscopy of the RSL shows chemical compounds called perchlorates, and it is expected that they cannot form without liquid water.
This liquid water is probably very salty, which lowers its freezing point. It is unclear if life can survive the high expected salt contents.
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
Borg
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How to combine organic biogeochemistry with Recurring Slope Lineae?
Hmmm. Suspicion of some non-geologic processes? :nb)

Monday's announcement should be interesting.
 
  • #3
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Those structures are visible to HiRISE. Variations from year to year are not new. Did they see something in action?
Exciting! I'll try to tune in on the broadcast on Monday. :woot:
 
  • #4
RooksAndBooks
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Expect conspiracy theorists to say that the Mars landing was fake as early as a year after it will happen.
 
  • #5
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I am adding a link to the upcoming live stream here, in case there are others who'd like to watch it on Sep 28, 8:30 a.m. PT :
Quote: "The event will also be carried live on: http://www.ustream.tv/NASAJPL"
Expect conspiracy theorists to say that the Mars landing was fake as early as a year after it will happen.
Well, now you made it impossible for me to resist posting a link to this sketch. :smile:
 
  • #6
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Looking forward to whatever this is about.
After all, the presence of liquid water on the surface of Mars in the past is something which now seems indisputable.
Have they found something indicating possible life in the past?

As for conspiracy nuts, well somebody I was chatting with on another site a while ago thinks that the curiosity lander (and the previous ones) are 'government propaganda', and even the government itself is propaganda.
(They were not clear about which government they were referring to, apparently the government is the same guys everywhere on Earth.)
Everything is really being made up by a very small group of 'elites', whatever that is, who control every aspect of every kind of media which is just 'slush' planned to keep to the wider population dumbed down.

Mmm Hmm.
 
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  • #7
DaveC426913
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http://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-to-announce-mars-mystery-solved

Any speculations? I'm not seeing a lot of chatter about it, but it seems they've assembled a lot of top scientists for the announcement.

I'm positing something between
"We've discovered flowing water on Mars", and
"There's no way Mark Watney could survive on potatoes alone."
 
  • #9
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I merged the threads.
 
  • #11
DaveC426913
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"The Saline Slopes of Mars".
 
  • #12
DaveC426913
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Bah! Video feed is utterly kerplotz.
 
  • #14
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Hmm, well interesting news OK, but is really a confirmation of what was first suspected a couple of years ago.
Confirmation is undoubtedly a good thing though.
 
  • #15
DaveC426913
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Not merely confirmation. Some very interesting implications:
1] We can finally begin to construct a possible mechanism for Martian life.
2] We finally know where to look for Martian Life.
3] The briny areas are on the sides of slopes - terrain that is very challenging for rovers to reach, but trivial for a spacesuited human.
4] We can send people to Mars and they will have resources to live.
 
  • #16
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Even though R.S.L.s appear to be some of the most intriguing features on Mars, no one is likely to get a close-up look any time soon.

R.S.L.s are treated as special regions that NASA’s current robotic explorers are barred from because the rovers were not thoroughly sterilized, and NASA worries that they might be carrying microbial hitchhikers from Earth that could contaminate Mars.
The conditions there are considered to be too good for life to explore them with the current or upcoming rovers. Oh, the irony!
Humans would make the problem even worse, as we cannot sterilize humans or even humans in a spacesuit.
 
  • #17
russ_watters
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The conditions there are considered to be too good for life to explore them with the current or upcoming rovers. Oh, the irony!
Humans would make the problem even worse, as we cannot sterilize humans or even humans in a spacesuit.
Who is protecting who from what, here? Is this some sort of NASA "Prime Directive"?
 
  • #18
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Who is protecting who from what, here? Is this some sort of NASA "Prime Directive"?
I have often heard NASA top people referring to the high importance of sterilising exploration craft to the greatest possible extent, so there is at least an implicit sort of 'prime directive' of non-interferance.
I believe the Cassini mission currently exploring the Saturn system will be intentionally crashed on to the planet when it's fuel is exhausted so that there is no risk of contaminating one of the moons.

The motivation for this however is very different to that of the star trek federation of planets directive, which was based in a moral-philosophical reasoning.
In the case of NASA and other missions the reason is more likely to do with not polluting so that future missions won't be producing false positive results.
 
  • #19
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Who is protecting who from what, here? Is this some sort of NASA "Prime Directive"?
http://www.nature.com/news/microbial-stowaways-to-mars-identified-1.15249
I think NASA is worried about spreading earth bacteria/microbes into the Martian liquid water reservoirs, if that happens and then if we find any recognizable microbes on mars ,we can't be sure whether they are martians or earthlings.

Although spacecraft go through multiple cleaning steps to ensure that they bear no biological contaminants, previous reports suggest that Curiosity project developers did not follow these planetary protection protocols to the letter.
 
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  • #21
DaveC426913
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Who is protecting who from what, here? Is this some sort of NASA "Prime Directive"?
Whether or not there is some larger philosophical issue, they did specifically say they want to be sure that - upon detecting life - it doesn't turn out to be merely Earth contamination from the probe itself.
 
  • #22
D H
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Who is protecting who from what, here? Is this some sort of NASA "Prime Directive"?
Yes. It's NASA Policy Directive 8020 and the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.

There are factions, both within NASA and outside of NASA, who say that Mars is off-limits to humans if we find life on Mars. Some of the proponents of this POV are rather influential. This finding will give those factions an even larger voice. That voice will become very large if incontrovertible evidence of life on Mars is found, even if its only extremely primitive life.
 
  • #23
DaveC426913
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... with the presence of a wide variety of perchlorates, it raises the possibility of making solid rocket fuel
Yep. They mentioned that.
 
  • #24
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Whether or not there is some larger philosophical issue, they did specifically say they want to be sure that - upon detecting life - it doesn't turn out to be merely Earth contamination from the probe itself.
It seems to be that it would not be difficult to distinguish between an indigenous life form on Mars and recent Earth contamination from rovers and/or astronauts. A genuine indigenous Mars-based life form not due to recent human-created contamination would likely take one of two forms: 1) A truly unique architecture that might not be based on our DNA-based structure, in which case it will be obvious that it is not due to contamination, or 2) a community of extremophile organisms that were seeded on Mars from some "panspermia" event such as an asteroid hitting the Eath eons ago. In the latter case, which I think I much more likely, we would likely see a progress of genetic and phenotypic evolution that would be clearly distinguishable from the comparative phylogeny of microbes on Earth. To put it simply, if we find microbes on Mars and they look exactly like those microbes I find under under my fingernails, then they are probably the result of recent human contamination o0).
 
  • #25
DaveC426913
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It seems to be that it would not be difficult to distinguish between an indigenous life form on Mars and recent Earth contamination from rovers and/or astronauts. A genuine indigenous Mars-based life form not due to recent human-created contamination would likely take one of two forms: 1) A truly unique architecture that might not be based on our DNA-based structure, in which case it will be obvious that it is not due to contamination, or 2) a community of extremophile organisms that were seeded on Mars from some "panspermia" event such as an asteroid hitting the Eath eons ago. In the latter case, which I think I much more likely, we would likely see a progress of genetic and phenotypic evolution that would be clearly distinguishable from the comparative phylogeny of microbes on Earth. To put it simply, if we find microbes on Mars and they look exactly like those microbes I find under under my fingernails, then they are probably the result of recent human contamination o0).
But rovers aren't able to do the tests needed to discriminate. You'd need another three hundred million dollar mission and another ten years to make a rover with that sophisticated a lab.
 

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