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The latest research indicates Mars was habitable because of a new mineral found on the planet

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has found an important mineral on the Martian surface that leads researchers to believe the planet once was hospitable to life.

The MRO found carbonates, which is formed in alkaline water when water and carbon dioxide mix with calcium, magnesium or iron.  Carbonates can be found on Earth in locations where life survives, which makes it a significant find on the Red Planet.

"It would have been a pretty clement, benign environment for early Martian life," Brown University graduate student Bethany Ehlmann said.  "It preserved a record of a particular type of habitat, a neutral to alkaline water environment."

Because carbonates dissolve quickly in low pH solutions, it could have taken longer than expected to find carbonates on the Red Planet.  MRO's findings are about the size of a football field and deposits are limited.

Ehlmann and fellow researchers made the presentation during the American Geophysical Union's Fall Meeting 2008 in San Francisco, with research being published in Science.

Researchers believe the carbonate is 3.6 billion years old, and it was found at the edge of a 930-mile-wide basis located in a mid-latitude region of the planet called Nili Fossae.  Oddly enough, Nili Fossae will not be one of the locations researched by the Mars Science Laboratory NASA rover in 2011.

Primitive life would have liked living in the regions with carbonates.

Researchers have collected even more data on the possible existence of water on the Red Planet:  gullies created by flowing water, minerals that can only be created with water, and several ancient lakes on the surface.  Scientists continue to research how and what kind of living things could have lived on Mars.

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We need humans on Mars
By Bateluer on 12/19/2008 9:38:32 AM , Rating: 3
Honestly we should never have stopped the space boom in the late 60s and 70s. Our lunar facilities should be nearly fully functional by now, humans should have walked on Mars in the 80s, and we should be looking at establishing human bases on Mars.

Human explorers are so much effective than machines.

Also, Mars would make a great recipient for Earth's excess human C02.

RE: We need humans on Mars
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 12/19/2008 9:58:04 AM , Rating: 2
No excess CO2 on Earth.... We need everything we have. Mess with chemical balance of Earth and you will see real problems - not these minor changes that this planet goes through from time to time.

Money is what slowed the program down. We needed more money to fight the cold war and start up star wars protection plans. There was no direct easy to see benefit to space exploring - Moon missions did not bring back gold or oil, that would have made a difference.

RE: We need humans on Mars
By Marduke on 12/19/2008 10:39:16 AM , Rating: 4
No benefit? The moon is rich in Helium 3, which is worth more than it's weight in platinum, gold, and diamonds combined. It will make an excellent source of fuel for future fusion reactors here on Earth, creating virtually limitless, cheap, clean energy.

There are asteroids out there 20 miles across which are composed of almost solid precious metals of platinum, nickle, iron, etc. It rains methane on some moons. Once we reach out into the rest of our solar system, we have virtually unlimited resources.

As to the direct benefit, NASA is the only program that pays for itself in the tax revenue it creates, and we get tons of information and technology out of it.

RE: We need humans on Mars
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 12/19/2008 11:11:12 AM , Rating: 5
Need to remember the time frame he was talking about... No visible benefit. Do you think the average citizen knows what helium 3 is now or back in the 80's knew what it was? Also, how easy/difficult would it be to collect and safely transport back to Earth?

We are a long, long away from being able to collect anything from an Asteroid. Even if we did keep up with the rate of progress, I bet we'd still be far from that goal.... So, not to worry about collect anything from an asteroid at this point, underline my point of No visible benefit. If the people (general public) can not see it, it will not happen. We landed on the Moon, because JFK planted that image in the peoples mind and it happened. The people heard about the gold and richest to be found in California and other western states, within a short amount of time the wild, wild west was tamed.

The post office pays for itself by selling stamps... Really the old programs that pays for itself. NASA still receives funds from the government... Therefore no it does not pay for itself. It may cost less, it may bring in great advances in information and technology, but unless they sell that information and technology to others and use that money to 100% fund itself, no they are not paying for themselves. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for giving NASA more money to create/find more information and advancements. However, to say NASA pays for itself, well it's just is not correct.... It would be like saying the Army pays for itself because it buys bullets and the tax money generated to create those bullets pays for the army. Well, if you took away the army those companies that build the bullets would have built something else that would have generated the same tax dollars.

RE: We need humans on Mars
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 12/19/2008 11:13:43 AM , Rating: 2
Really the only program... not - the old programs. Not sure how I missed that typo, my bad.

RE: We need humans on Mars
By Marduke on 12/19/2008 11:16:41 AM , Rating: 3
Well, considering NASA creates approximately 6 times as much revenue as it spends for the contractors it deals with through research and spinoffs, yes, it does pay for itself. The taxes alone from the revenue it creates pays for what originally went into NASA.

You can't forget that NASA is forbidden from selling any knowledge or technology that results from it's research, so the companies it works with is where the money is made, and the taxes paid back in.

RE: We need humans on Mars
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 12/19/2008 11:50:11 AM , Rating: 2
It's basic economics.... If you do not build it then sell it or re-sell it, offer a service or collect a royalty you are not creating money/revenue. Period.

So, what does NASA build to sell or re-sell? Or what service - even Russia sells seats to Civilians to go into space, that is real money they are making for the Russian space program. Other money options: Did they create velcro then sell this - with some sort of royalty kick back for everything that sells with velcro on it? If they sold anything like that and do generate royalty or direct sales then there is a possible they could cover their own cost. However, again they are getting check from Government, so no do not cover 100% of their expenses. If they did cover their own expenses they would not need to receive their budget limits from the Government....

The argument you are using would be what the people at NASA would say, in order to justify the program being around. Which is fine they have to cover their butts in order to keep the program going. The real side of things is no, NASA does not sell anything, enough things or royalties to pay for 100% of their annually cost - again if they did they would not need money from the government - plain and simple. Again think of the Post office they pay 100% for themselves. They do not receive a check from the government to run the business.

Taxes generated by side businesses do not count... The people who created those companies would have created some other company that would generate those taxes. You have to sell it yourself or collect royalties.

RE: We need humans on Mars
By Marduke on 12/19/2008 12:27:51 PM , Rating: 2
No, they do not directly make a penny. But this is how it works in practice:

NASA gets 1 million to research something called a "dohicky". They need it to conduct a mission to the ISS for some experiment. NASA goes and conducts the research and science behind the dohicky, and eventually they get what they are looking for. As long as this dohicky doesn't fall under ITAR or SBU information, it must be public knowledge. NASA cannot sell or profit from this information in any way. Some company reads up on this dohicky, and decides to commercialize it. They end up marketing, and selling say, $20 million on the idea. As they sell this dohicky to the public, taxes are payed at various stages. Let's conservatively say that all in all, about 30% of that revenue is taxed. That's $4 million in taxes the government collects on an item which originally cost the government $1 million to fund.

So no, on paper NASA doesn't make a penny. But in reality, they have the highest return investment of any government project or organization.

RE: We need humans on Mars
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 12/19/2008 3:21:34 PM , Rating: 2
I understand how and what you are saying.... However, by this standard you would have to say the public library is the most profitable government office by far - nothing would even come close. Since it covers many more areas of science then NASA, it helps educate all citizens, shares a wealth of information that any one can use to make any new "dohicky" or start a "dohicky" company, there is also fantastic information on how to run a business more efficiently..... Plus, think of all the Doctors it helps create/educate and the medicines they develop, the engineers that help developed that created the first skyscrapers, on and on and on and on I could go, Including most if not all NASA employees education was improved by the public library which means all the money you are claiming that came from the benefit of NASA really has to give create to the public library first...... Now do you understand why you can not count side companies and taxes generated by them, They will always be there for one reason or another - does not matter what they build they will build something that will create taxes.

Society benefits from advance from NASA - as a byproduct from their research and what great byproducts we do get from them - thank you NASA. However if one day we woke up and their was no NASA - like the world never had NASA (no country had any space program), the average person would see no to little difference in their life (more zippers no valcro type of things)... However, take away the public library and there would be major difference in the average persons life style....

So, are you going to give the public library the proper respect by saying, "they have the highest return investment of any government project or organization." or are you going to agree with economics statements of: if you do not build it and sell it, re-sell it, offer a service, or collect a royalty.... then you are not making money....(neither is really wrong, just different ways of looking at things)

Of course as always: I think both NASA and the public library are fantastic programs and we should give more funds to both of these programs.

RE: We need humans on Mars
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 12/19/2008 3:24:36 PM , Rating: 2
P.S. marduke. Thanks for the conversation. Everything is frozen up and buried in snow around here. So, been a boring a slow day....

RE: We need humans on Mars
By foolsgambit11 on 12/20/2008 8:10:57 PM , Rating: 2
There is a substantial difference, though, between NASA's 'profitability' and public libraries. It is obvious causation that leads from NASA research to corporate revenue. The libraries' influence is much more distant. NASA produces essentially ready-made products, as well as ready-made production methods. Libraries plant the seed of an idea which may germinate for years, get mixed with several other ideas, and come out as a brilliant product.

While your argument, on face, is logical, (and indeed has been the justification for funding public education and programs of a socially uplifting sort) it falls short of the 'reasonable person test'. I don't think a jury would say that libraries are directly responsible for much tax revenue. But I could definitely see a jury thinking NASA is responsible for quite a bit of tax revenue.

Besides, the whole argument is moot, really. The IRS is the most profitable government office.

RE: We need humans on Mars
By Marduke on 12/19/2008 11:19:55 AM , Rating: 5
We are not close to mining asteroids or moons yet, but if we don't start somewhere, we will never will be able to.

RE: We need humans on Mars
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 12/19/2008 12:02:19 PM , Rating: 2
yes, but he asked why we stopped with the rate of progress that was done in the 60's and 70's and I gave him the correct answer. No visible benefits. Another words there was no current financial benefits to keep up that rate of progress. Then you came along talking about future benefits saying there are things that could be done in the future.... true, but those things could not be done during the late 70's and 80's, so funding was cut.

Again, I agree with you these things should be done and more money should be budgeted towards NASA. I'm just explaining why they made the cuts. I'm not saying it was the correct thing to do, it's just what happened.

RE: We need humans on Mars
By Lugaidster on 12/19/2008 5:52:13 PM , Rating: 2
I just feel that today technology is going backwards (an entirely subjective POV). In a few years we will no longer have a Shuttle, there are no supersonic commercial flights unlike the 3 last decades of the twentieth century, there is no competition globally. All this crap about getting toghether doesn't help anything. I think we need some competition.

RE: We need humans on Mars
By Tsuwamono on 12/19/2008 6:10:51 PM , Rating: 2
why do we need to compete to be better? Why can't the space agencies from the various countries work together on a ship design that we could product half a dozen of and share the fleet to carry goods and resources into space to create maybe some kind of space dock with the purpose of building mining ships or transport ships whose purpose is to mine those minerals we discussed above back to earth. I dont see whats wrong with that other then the fact that everyone is so xenophobic and they just dont say anything.

RE: We need humans on Mars
By luseferous on 12/20/2008 2:58:02 PM , Rating: 2
I was about to chime in with Teflon but it turns out that it was DuPont.

Anyway here are a few that NASA lays claim to:

RE: We need humans on Mars
By Marduke on 12/20/2008 3:03:01 PM , Rating: 2
Keep in mind that many of the spinoffs the anti-NASA people dismiss were created with NASA dollars and direction, even if they were technically done by a private corporation. Black & Decker and cordless tools are an excellent example.

RE: We need humans on Mars
By ThePooBurner on 12/19/2008 12:20:35 PM , Rating: 2
There are asteroids out there 20 miles across which are composed of almost solid precious metals of platinum, nickle, iron, etc. It rains methane on some moons. Once we reach out into the rest of our solar system, we have virtually unlimited resources.

Yeah, but the space based platform maps are always the most difficult to expand on. Transports always screw up my build tree pattern. Though what i want to know is how a vespian geyser formed on a random piece of space debris...

RE: We need humans on Mars
By sld on 12/20/2008 2:16:16 PM , Rating: 2
Ditto. I always was amused by minerals and geysers on abandoned space platforms.

+1 for Starcraft reference =D

RE: We need humans on Mars
By ShaolinSoccer on 12/19/2008 11:58:45 PM , Rating: 2
Do we really want to change the mass of the moon by mining? It could turn out to be disastrous for Earth. I say leave the moon alone...

RE: We need humans on Mars
By MAIA on 12/20/2008 12:03:01 AM , Rating: 2
I completely agree. If NASA didn't make a space program we probably wouldn't been having this conversation. Remember micro-computers and how they were created ?

Some people are just too short sighted to understand what space exploration really means in everyday life and what it has brung to us.

RE: We need humans on Mars
By spread on 12/20/2008 11:31:57 PM , Rating: 2
In the future. In the meantime a fusion reactor has yet to reach the break-even point.

RE: We need humans on Mars
By masher2 on 12/19/2008 10:40:35 AM , Rating: 3
> "Also, Mars would make a great recipient for Earth's excess human C02. "

As thin as the martian atmosphere is, it still has nine times the CO2 as does our terrestrial atmosphere.

RE: We need humans on Mars
By MrPoletski on 12/19/2008 11:07:38 AM , Rating: 2
Well we'll have to send a few babes over to heat it up instead.

RE: We need humans on Mars
By wordsworm on 12/19/2008 3:15:11 PM , Rating: 2
Well that explains why global warming killed the Martians. They should've listened to the hippies.

RE: We need humans on Mars
By marsbound2024 on 12/19/2008 5:34:40 PM , Rating: 2
Mars' carbon dioxide content is probably what allows Mars to reach upwards of 68 degrees Fahrenheit at max. The atmosphere is incredibly thin and so it is only in the summer seasons when solar radiation is at its most direct angle can the heat be trapped by the atmosphere to reach such an incredibly high temperature for Mars. Of course, in the winter season the Sun's radiation comes in at a sharp angle (Mars has a very similar axial tilt to Earth's) and is quickly bounced back into space (not to mention its aphelion is something like 40 million kilometers further away). This is what allows Mars to sink to temperatures under -200 Fahrenheit.

Remember, Mars atmospheric pressure is less than 1kPa on average compared to Earth's at 101 kPa. Here on Earth we get maybe up to 135 Fahrenheit but we still sink to below -120 Fahrenheit in places such as Antarctica. The fact that Mars is able to reach up to 68 Fahrenheit is certainly attributed to its CO2 concentrations.

But really when I think about it, I am not so sure exactly how we are affecting the global climate with such small increases in carbon dioxide when compared to the overall atmospheric composition. I suppose I have yet to be convinced that small changes in a percentage point of a certain gas can causes so much turmoil that some claim. But then again, I am not a scientist.

RE: We need humans on Mars
By wordsworm on 12/20/2008 1:41:04 AM , Rating: 2
I know that it's a cold planet. It was just an attempt at humor. I believe its temperature at the equator makes it to 20C, while the poles can go down as low as -140.

Mars has negligible amounts of water vapor in its atmosphere, which is a pretty important component to the green house effect. Of course, earth needs a balance.

I suspect that mankind doesn't have the ability to destroy all life on earth. We'll destroy ourselves before cockroaches are extinct.

Mars Life Forms
By Mayosoft on 12/19/2008 11:08:51 AM , Rating: 5
What amazes me most of the so-called 'scientists' is that life they consider is based solely upon man's physiology. Even looking on Earth, everytime they find a new species here, they are amazed.

"How could it survive is such frigid/dark/barren/waterless habatat"? When they remove what they 'think' from the equation, and start looking with an open mind, they will discover life can exist in more places than they look.

It is truly befuddling to understand how they got where they are today, with such closed minds, and total lack of analytical logic.

I don't think Earthmen will find life, but ET life may find us. I just beg them not to start immediately wanting to do an autopsy/biopsy.

RE: Mars Life Forms
By badmoodguy on 12/19/2008 11:53:25 AM , Rating: 5
The scientists find these new species exactly because they have an open mind. It is the non-scientists that don't have the open mind and are surprised by the finds, not the people that are doing the looking in the first place. Don't confuse reports of science with the scientific reports themselves.

The more you know, the more you know how little you know and in general the scientists know the most (and hence know they know the least) and are hardly surprised when they find out something they didn't know about. Especially since that is their general goal.

RE: Mars Life Forms
By wordsworm on 12/19/08, Rating: 0
RE: Mars Life Forms
By sld on 12/20/2008 2:17:42 PM , Rating: 2
You apparently don't know 1) he was just quoting the great scientists, and that 2) what applies to humans doesn't apply to God.

RE: Mars Life Forms
By foolsgambit11 on 12/20/2008 8:37:39 PM , Rating: 2
But still, despite you're wide-eyed gullibility, there are certain precursors you have to look for. You need an environment that allows for chemical reactions to take place with some ease. This requires a relatively high density of matter that is also relatively free to move. So solids are a poor place for life to start, because there isn't enough interaction. Gasses (especially at low pressures like Mars' atmosphere now) are also a poor place for life to start. So we want to see evidence of liquid, or of a much more dense atmosphere. We found evidence of liquid water. What is more, we found evidence of liquid water that would have been acceptable for life similar to life on Earth. That raises the chance that there was life there exponentially.

None of this is to say that life absolutely can't spring up outside these parameters, only that it is much less likely. Additionally, the chance that life could exist based on a totally different model than carbon is less than 100%, if only because we haven't seen it. But the chance of carbon-based life existing is 100%. So of course finding that there was a climate that could support carbon-based life is exciting, because it increases the chance that there was life there.

It's not closed-mindedness, per se. It is choosing our exploration and research into Mars based on what has the best chance for success. Of course we could try to devise a mission that would prove that Germanium-based life existed on Mars, but when research into Carbon-based life on Mars also gives us information about potential human habitability, and when Carbon-based life is known to exist, while Germanium-based life is not, it makes sense to do research in the direction we are pursuing.

And scientists usually are amazed when a new species turns up. It's more like they're pleasantly surprised - it wasn't guaranteed until it was seen.

Life on Mars!
By bribud on 12/19/2008 8:47:51 AM , Rating: 2
Yea!!! Life on Mars!!! Next topic please...

RE: Life on Mars!
By MrHanson on 12/19/2008 8:57:02 AM , Rating: 2
But we need the hype to keep the NASA funds flowing.

RE: Life on Mars!
By therealnickdanger on 12/19/2008 9:54:47 AM , Rating: 3
"Benny! Screwwwwwww youuuuuuuuuu!"

By sh3rules on 12/19/2008 8:55:08 AM , Rating: 3
Oddly enough, Nili Fossae will not be one of the locations researched by the Mars Science Laboratory NASA rover in 2011.

Why not? There could be additional interesting things there.

RE: Huh?
By foolsgambit11 on 12/20/2008 8:41:54 PM , Rating: 3
[puts on tin foil cap] Oh, they already know what's there, they're staying away on purpose! So they don't have to reveal the alien civilization they've been talking with for decades! [takes off tin foil cap] Sorry, I lost my mind there, just for a minute.

While an important discovery......
By theapparition on 12/19/2008 10:30:46 AM , Rating: 2
I feel that sometimes these scientists over-hype thier own findings.
The existance of carbonates on Mars proves only one thing, there are carbonates on Mars! It is entirely possible that those carbonates (especially since they seem concentrated) are the result of a collision with a comet or such. While some evidence has potentially shown that liquids existed on the surface, the jump to conclusion that ancient conditions were habitable just because of a single carbonate find is a little incredulous.

By bfonnes on 12/19/2008 8:29:36 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think this is necessarily the opinion of a scientist or even the scientific community at large, per se. It's the opinion of a blogger. There's a HUGE difference. There is also a HUGE difference between blogging the latest Apple updates and blogging the latest science updates. If you notice in the article a "graduate" student is quoted. I am this is a HUGE difference between quoting a tenured research professor or engineer or someone with a lot more experience in the field. As I'm sure many people have stated as well, there is a HUGE difference between robotic and human exploration. Robots can't smell very well at this time. Why don't they send a probe that uses some of latest digital scent detectors? I think that would potentially be a lot more useful than chemical analysis, although, we bump into the whole human vs robot thing there again. Plus, the whole non-breathable atmosphere thing. Oh well.

By gonks on 12/19/2008 3:15:16 PM , Rating: 2
All we have to do is find a GECK and all of our problems of living on mars are solved

RE: geck
By notolerance on 12/21/2008 6:33:38 PM , Rating: 2
Create me a VATS and I'll do some problem solving!!

By MrPoletski on 12/19/2008 11:06:28 AM , Rating: 2
This missing link we talk of in evolution is actually explained by us, with technology of the 1960's, millions of years ago desperately escaping the dying mars, crash landing here, the few survivors only a handful of unskilled civilians...

Hmm, or not.

Waste of money
By Ccraja on 12/19/08, Rating: -1
RE: Waste of money
By Phenick on 12/19/2008 10:23:20 AM , Rating: 3
So you call it nonsense and so it must be true? This is why the masses stay ignorant.

RE: Waste of money
By rcc on 12/19/2008 6:07:44 PM , Rating: 2
Ok, you spend your tax money on welfare, I'll spend mine on space exploration. It'll all work out in the end.

RE: Waste of money
By sld on 12/20/2008 2:20:50 PM , Rating: 1
Terra forming will not work as we can't reclaim our dessert areas here on earth.

This actually makes sense... too bad some people refuse to believe in reality and thus slip out of scientific thinking.

RE: Waste of money
By Helbore on 12/21/2008 11:50:29 AM , Rating: 2
No,it doesn't make sense. Altering an entire planet's ecosystem is NOT the same as arbitrarily altering localised parts of an existing ecosystem.

Or do you think making alterations over a desert on Earth would have no consequences to other areas of the planet?

Now we may not be anywhere near having the ability to terraform another planet, but I think it should be blindingly obvious that if we attempted it, we wouldn't be trying to turn the entire planet into one big temperate zone, ideal for human life in all parts. If we terraformed Mars, it would end up much like Earth, with regions hospitable to human life and areas very much the opposite.

Ultimately, it should be far easier to have far-reaching effects on a global scale, than to make localised and controlled ecological changes without risk of upsetting other neighbouring ecosystems.

"If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." -- Scientology founder L. Ron. Hubbard

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