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Secrets of Mars' Suitability for Life May Be Down in the Dirt(Phoenix)



 
 
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  #1  
Old May 26th 08, 03:03 AM posted to sci.space.policy
chatnoir
external usenet poster
 
Posts: 80
Default Secrets of Mars' Suitability for Life May Be Down in the Dirt(Phoenix)

On May 23, 3:06*pm, wrote:
For Immediate Release

Contact:
Dr. John Marshall
1-650-810-0216


Dr. Richard Quinn

1-415-577-0749

At SETI Institute:
Dr. Seth Shostak
1-650-960-4530


SECRETS OF MARS' SUITABILITY FOR LIFE MAY BE DOWN IN THE DIRT

Shortly after NASA's Phoenixlandersettles onto Mars' frigid,
northern plains on May 25, it will undertake what is literally a
microscopic examination of the red sand beneath its feet. *By doing
so, it may find evidence that liquid water - generally agreed to be a
prerequisite of life - once pooled here.

Examination of theMartiansoil is part of the task of a sophisticated
on-board instrument package known as MECA, for Microscopy,
Electrochemistry, and Conductivity Analyzer (MECA). *Two microscopes
are part of this package, and it is their close-up views that might
supply conclusive evidence for a watery past. *According to John
Marshall, a planetary geologist with the Carl Sagan Center at the SETI
Institute, "this very detailed examination of the sand grains could
supply a vital clue as to whether Mars was ever conducive to life - or
if microscopic life might still have a foothold there."

Imaging is a big part of the Phoenix mission. *On the main deck of thelanderis a stereo camera that will provide landscape views. *The
camera on the robotic arm can see sand and pebbles. *But the MECA has
both a low-power optical microscope for scrutinizing a field-of-view
only millimeters in size, and an atomic force microscope able to make
a "topographic map" of soil particles with detail a thousand times
finer than its optical counterpart. *The atomic force microscope works
by means of a tiny stylus that "feels" its way over the sample.

Marshall's job is to interpret close-ups from the optical microscope
from a geologic perspective. *The size of the soil particles, as well
as their shape and surface texture, are all indicators of whether or
not liquid water was present.

"If you see little clay particles," Marshall notes, "you say ah, hah!
There's been aqueous weathering here - chemical alteration of the
grains. *It would be just like the clay you find in your back yard."

While that would be exciting, it's also possible that the soil
particles have simply been processed by the stirring up of ground ice
over thousands and millions of years. *"That would be interesting, but
not revolutionary," says Marshall.

Richard Quinn, also at the SETI Institute's Carl Sagan Center, is
using MECA instruments to do a different kind of soil analysis: using
the type of wet chemistry you may remember from high school. *Within
the MECA package are four box-like receptacles, or reaction chambers,
each the size of a demitasse cup. *Their inside walls are covered,
polka-dot like, with 24 sensors. As Phoenix's robotic arm pulls soil
off the landscape, it deposits some *samples into these water-filled
chambers..

"Adding these soil samples to water allows us to look for is soluble
salts," says Quinn. *Finding these would help establish what the prior
water history was at the landing site, and might give an indication if
this area of Mars was habitable."

In his lab at NASA's Ames Research Center, Quinn has set up equipment
that duplicates the reaction chambers aboard Phoenix. *He's also
collected samples of "Mars analog" soil samples from places on Earth
where conditions mimic those on the Red Planet. *On the basis of data
coming back from Phoenix, Quinn's assistants at Ames will choose a
soil sample and see if they can duplicate the results coming from tens
of millions of miles away. *It's a way of doing analysis by "remote
control."

"If MECA finds a sample with a significant salt content, and if that
same sample - when run through Phoenix's Thermal and Evolved-Gas
Analyzer instrument - also turns out to contain organics - Well, that
would be the best I could hope for." says Quinn.

Marshall is philosophical about doing laboratory science from a
distance to learn if Mars was ever a kinder, gentler world. *"In a
hundred years, our view of the Red Planet has gone from a small, ruddy
dot imperfectly seen in an Earth-bound telescope to a detailed
scrutiny of the tiniest irregularities on a grain ofmartiansand," he
notes. "It's more than remarkable."


First Photos back from Mars lander, shows a big no no from under the
lander's legs!:

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/105/3...f31f14.jpg?v=0
Ads
  #2  
Old May 29th 08, 02:22 PM posted to sci.space.policy
BradGuth
external usenet poster
 
Posts: 21,544
Default Secrets of Mars' Suitability for Life May Be Down in the Dirt(Phoenix)

On May 25, 7:03 pm, chatnoir wrote:
On May 23, 3:06 pm, wrote:



For Immediate Release


Contact:
Dr. John Marshall
1-650-810-0216


Dr. Richard Quinn

1-415-577-0749


At SETI Institute:
Dr. Seth Shostak
1-650-960-4530


SECRETS OF MARS' SUITABILITY FOR LIFE MAY BE DOWN IN THE DIRT


Shortly after NASA's Phoenixlandersettles onto Mars' frigid,
northern plains on May 25, it will undertake what is literally a
microscopic examination of the red sand beneath its feet. By doing
so, it may find evidence that liquid water - generally agreed to be a
prerequisite of life - once pooled here.


Examination of theMartiansoil is part of the task of a sophisticated
on-board instrument package known as MECA, for Microscopy,
Electrochemistry, and Conductivity Analyzer (MECA). Two microscopes
are part of this package, and it is their close-up views that might
supply conclusive evidence for a watery past. According to John
Marshall, a planetary geologist with the Carl Sagan Center at the SETI
Institute, "this very detailed examination of the sand grains could
supply a vital clue as to whether Mars was ever conducive to life - or
if microscopic life might still have a foothold there."


Imaging is a big part of the Phoenix mission. On the main deck of thelanderis a stereo camera that will provide landscape views. The
camera on the robotic arm can see sand and pebbles. But the MECA has
both a low-power optical microscope for scrutinizing a field-of-view
only millimeters in size, and an atomic force microscope able to make
a "topographic map" of soil particles with detail a thousand times
finer than its optical counterpart. The atomic force microscope works
by means of a tiny stylus that "feels" its way over the sample.


Marshall's job is to interpret close-ups from the optical microscope
from a geologic perspective. The size of the soil particles, as well
as their shape and surface texture, are all indicators of whether or
not liquid water was present.


"If you see little clay particles," Marshall notes, "you say ah, hah!
There's been aqueous weathering here - chemical alteration of the
grains. It would be just like the clay you find in your back yard."


While that would be exciting, it's also possible that the soil
particles have simply been processed by the stirring up of ground ice
over thousands and millions of years. "That would be interesting, but
not revolutionary," says Marshall.


Richard Quinn, also at the SETI Institute's Carl Sagan Center, is
using MECA instruments to do a different kind of soil analysis: using
the type of wet chemistry you may remember from high school. Within
the MECA package are four box-like receptacles, or reaction chambers,
each the size of a demitasse cup. Their inside walls are covered,
polka-dot like, with 24 sensors. As Phoenix's robotic arm pulls soil
off the landscape, it deposits some samples into these water-filled
chambers..


"Adding these soil samples to water allows us to look for is soluble
salts," says Quinn. Finding these would help establish what the prior
water history was at the landing site, and might give an indication if
this area of Mars was habitable."


In his lab at NASA's Ames Research Center, Quinn has set up equipment
that duplicates the reaction chambers aboard Phoenix. He's also
collected samples of "Mars analog" soil samples from places on Earth
where conditions mimic those on the Red Planet. On the basis of data
coming back from Phoenix, Quinn's assistants at Ames will choose a
soil sample and see if they can duplicate the results coming from tens
of millions of miles away. It's a way of doing analysis by "remote
control."


"If MECA finds a sample with a significant salt content, and if that
same sample - when run through Phoenix's Thermal and Evolved-Gas
Analyzer instrument - also turns out to contain organics - Well, that
would be the best I could hope for." says Quinn.


Marshall is philosophical about doing laboratory science from a
distance to learn if Mars was ever a kinder, gentler world. "In a
hundred years, our view of the Red Planet has gone from a small, ruddy
dot imperfectly seen in an Earth-bound telescope to a detailed
scrutiny of the tiniest irregularities on a grain ofmartiansand," he
notes. "It's more than remarkable."


First Photos back from Mars lander, shows a big no no from under the
lander's legs!:

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/105/3...f31f14.jpg?v=0


As possibly situated well below the frozen tundra there are Mars
spores and a few weird bug or worm like forms of robust life, that
would like nothing better than to migrate to Earth.

One self-replicating Mars spore could conceivably eat Earth alive,
especially pesky if they can't be frozen or irradiated to death.

Perhaps you should get yourself past the 5th grade, and then you might
also try being sane, or at least less manic bipolar.
.. - Brad Guth
 




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