When Earth Attacks Mars

NASA research suggests that there may be life on Mars after all — but that, up ’til now, we’ve been destroying it when we visit. (Does this hurt the case for space exploration?) As New Scientist tells the tale, The Phoenix Mars lander, which NASA uses to search for organic compounds on the red planet, may have been mistakenly burning up those very compounds. [%comments]


tudza

A couple problems here. Our missions on Mars have so far been robotic, but the link about space exploration seems to be covering mainly the question of human exploration of space, way more involved than sending machines to do the work. ( The various authors all seem a little woolly in their calculations of economic benefits of the space program. I am pleased someone quoted Carl Sagan "You don't need to go to Mars to cure cancer."

Another problem is that all the articles I've seen about this issue, at least in their headlines, make it sound like we've landed the robot equivalent of the killing of the passenger pigeon or American bison. The real problem, as I see it, is that the experiment and associated equipment we've sent to Mars is not suited to the task. The analysis on a small bit of sample destroys what it hopes to find, but that's about it. Articles like this one would have us believe killing a worm with a shovel in one corner of my yard endangers all worms everywhere.

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Eric M. Jones

They screwed up the imperial to metric conversion again. What they thought was 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit was actually 98.6 degrees Celsius. Too bad.

But on a serious note, I suspect we will find that all Earth life is based on Earth-DNA, and that it will be incompatible with any non-Earth DNA. This will make landing on an alien life-bearing planet totally impossible, unless we want to live in a complete sterile bubble there forever, and that will be much too dangerous. It would be like going someplace impossibly distant and not be able to get out of the vehicle.

ethicalBob

This seems quite similar to a joke my uncle used to tease me with when I was very young. He'd tell me of the alien that was trapped in the empty matchbox, that would evaporate instantly if the box was opened... Of course I always wanted to see the alien, and to an 8 yr old, its a helluva dilemma...

econobiker

And so back to the definition of "life". For all we know real life is the planets and we(humans and all other creatures) are just parasites on one trying to get to another. Much like viruses moving from one person to another....

Re: the Fibonacci sequence or golden spiral anyone?

Karen

Eric @ 2... I don't follow. What would be so dangerous about a biosphere with incompatible DNA-like systems? Sure, it'd make interspecies procreation a feat of *something*, but being incompatible with the native pathogens - and thus nothing they're programed to deal with - has to be a plus.