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Meet SAM, the Sample Analysis at Mars suite of instruments in the Mars Science Laboratory aboard the Curiosity Rover. Curiosity is on the way to the first investigational site of the mission, a spot with an intriguing mix of geologies called Glenelg. Nasa seems real excited about what SAM can do and I am too. Check this out:

Previous diaries in this series have highlighted MSL's unique ChemCam and ChemMin instruments. Follow me out into the tall grass to meet SAM and find out how he plans to settle a controversy about life on Mars that dates back to the Viking Lander mission.

In 1976, I was a law student and Gilbert Levin was the scientist whose instrument found strong evidence microbial life on Mars. The "labelled release" experiment on the Viking lander used radioactive tagging to trace bacterial CO2 excretion. The story is covered here.

Dr. Levin designed an experiment which mixed Martian soil with a nutrient containing radioactive carbon.

His hypothesis was that if bacteria were present in the soil, they would metabolise the nutrient and release some of the digested molecules as carbon dioxide.

The result was positive, but NASA rejected the findings because a gas chromatograph instrument on the Viking Lander found no organic molecules. Only recently, it has been confirmed that the Viking's gas chromatograph was not sensitive enough to identify organic molecules as previously believed.

SAM is going to address this in fine detail. This time, according to NASA, SAM combines

a gas chromatograph, a mass spectrometer and a tunable laser spectrometer with combined capabilities to identify a wide range of organic (carbon containing) compounds and determine the ratios of different isotopes of key elements. Isotope ratios are clues to understanding the history of Mars’ atmosphere and water
As I understand the mission profile, the MSL will arrive at Glenelg and conduct its survey in October. Exciting results in planetary exploration may be anticipated just before the election. If the news captivates the public interest, it will most likely sustain our side, the "WE built this" side, of the election meme that is helping Democrats frame the GOP's extreme and dangerous cult of "rampant hyper-individualism" that makes David Brooks so sad about his beloved Republican Party.

Whether or not news from Mars influences the election, the Mars Science Laboratory is still giving me my biggest space thrill, with every geek bone in my body vibrating, since Neil Armstrong set foot on Tranquility Base.

Originally posted to LeftOfYou on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 11:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by SciTech, Astro Kos, Kossacks on Mars, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Sadly, I predict the answer will be (10+ / 0-)

    that Curiosity has not found any conclusive evidence that there has ever been life on Mars.

    Which means in turn that we'll undoubtedly have some knucklehead on DK saying that the mission was a waste of money.

    •  Point taken, but it's unlikely to disprove all (5+ / 0-)

      possibility that Mars was capable of sustaining life in the past...or at least the results won't be conclusive in just a few months.

      If there are positive results, this would be much more promising, though detecting organics would still not immediately prove there was life on Mars, since asteroids have organics too.

      Proving the negative, though, is much harder. In philosophical terms, some might even say it's impossible, since a few negative results would not prove that there are no positive results out there that we failed to find. However, in practical terms, by the time the mission is officially over in the next two years, I think we will have a much more sophisticated understanding of how probable it is that life has ever existed on Mars. This will be a great leap forward.

      Just doing my part to piss off right wing nuts, one smart ass comment at a time.

      by tekno2600 on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 12:46:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  One picture of banded iron formation rock (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tekno2600, DBoon

        on Mars would set astrobiologists on fire - but I wouldn't bet money on finding any.

      •  About that two years (9+ / 0-)

        with an RTG on board, its likely that the power supply will outlast some critical moving part, but if Spirit and opportunity are any guide, not to mention Voyager, the 'extended' portion of the mission could go on for many more years.

        Moreover regrading the no evidence for life ever hypothesis, if planetary exploration has shown us anything, its shown that the more we look the stranger the Universe is. I would be amazed if there are no more surprises on Mars and will make the opposite assertion; we WILL find unequivocal evidence of previous life, probably in the form of micro-fossils. Time will tell and elections aside I expect marvels galore in addition to the now mundane one of having half a dozen active spacecraft orbiting about and crawling upon another planet.

        Just getting a handle on the knobs and dials.... Hey, don't touch that!

        by Old Lefty on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 05:48:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm with ya. I kept hoping spirit or opportunity (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Old Lefty, Stude Dude, FarWestGirl

          would trip over a macro fossil, though I knew micro fossils were much more likely...and that they didn't have the equipment to detect those sorts of things. But, one can always hope, and I continue to think that we could be quite close to this type of world changing discovery.

          Just doing my part to piss off right wing nuts, one smart ass comment at a time.

          by tekno2600 on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 05:58:05 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  But think of how many TEACHERS we could hire! (0+ / 0-)

      If we don't keep doing science, we won't need to hire teachers, because there will be nothing to teach.

      •  The entire budget for Curiosity (6+ / 0-)

        is about a month in Afghanistan. It's time we had a national conversation with real numbers. Of course, we've only explored about two percent of our own ocean yet--and the majority of Earth's biomass is in our deep sea trenches. We can't even begin to talk about what life is until we've really studied those ecosystems.

        American research nurtures American jobs and America's future. What does a drone do?

        •  The drones are made by General Atomics (0+ / 0-)

          a privately held San Diego based company owned by Neal Blue and Linden Blue. General Atomics also builds nuclear reactors.

          So the answer to your question "what do drones do?" is that they make Neil Blue and Linden Blue richer, and they also terrify and kill people who might consider opposing the interests of the US 1%.

          That is much more important than wasting money learning about other planets. Only nerds care about stuff like that; Real Americans care about weapons and killing.

  •  Anybody Suggest A Book On Space (9+ / 0-)

    for a three year old girl that now has a love of rockets and anything space. He would seem to be a good idea for her "cool" uncle to promote her interest :).

    When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

    by webranding on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 11:14:41 AM PDT

    •  Look for Some Big NASA Picture Books. (9+ / 0-)

      The Pictorial History of NASA 1989 or so, I found ours at a garage sale but maybe an online vendor would have a used copy. It's maybe 3/4" thick and about 18" x 12" seems like. It's almost all huge color pictures of rockets, space craft, views of craft and earth and moon from space.

      There may be some on the planets; there's a book on galaxies etc. called Hubble Vision.

      I think for age 3 you want mostly pictures.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 11:24:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Go to Amazon, search for 'Space books (4+ / 0-)

      For Children', and quite a lot will come up. Look them over and see what looks good - I would say one of the Encyclopedias, they have lots of colorful photos and a wide range of topics; stars, planets, comets, asteroids, moon, spacecraft, astronauts, etc. You might also want to give her a cheap 'monocular' as a telescope precursor, to get her interested in looking at the Moon and other cool stuff.

      (romney)/RYAN 2012 - REPEAL OBAMACHAIR!!!

      by Fordmandalay on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 11:38:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Dont forget astronomy pic of the day. (6+ / 0-)

      she should be able to browse that on a tablet or something....

      The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.

      by xxdr zombiexx on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 11:58:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You might even want to consider (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bnasley, catwho, Odysseus, evilpenguin

      some classic science fiction.

      In my case, I came across R. Heinlein's Red Planet about the time I entered high school and couldn't put it down.

      Think about taking your niece to her local library where I'm sure you will find a number of Heinlein's "juvenile fiction" along with lots of other books for young children.

      Actually, Heinlein would probably be more appropriate three or more years down the road, but do keep it in mind. Meanwhile, consider one of the picture books similar to these on amazon.

      Honesty pays, but it doesn't seem to pay enough to suit some people. Kin Hubbard

      by Mr Robert on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 02:26:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I would suggest (0+ / 0-)

      Astonomy: 365 Days
      http://www.betterworldbooks.com/...

      Lots of stunning pictures, and your niece can show everybody the picture that falls on their birthday, something which my daughter would have loved to do when she was in pre-school.

      If you do buy it online, I would recommend BetterWorldBooks.com. Not only do they not charge shipping charges (if you are not  in a hurry), but all of their profits go towards literacy programs.

      These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert, to fleece the people... -Abraham Lincoln

      by HugoDog on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 07:05:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thinking some more about, if you really want to be (0+ / 0-)

        cool,  learn a little astronomy, such as about half a dozen constellations,  learn to find jupiter, mars, venus, and maybe saturn,  and a few specific star names. Little kids love the name Betelgeuse for example, old folks like me will remember the name Rigel from the old star trek. Teach these things to your nieces parent(s), and then encourage them to take the little girl out to gaze at the stars, or maybe take her camping. Trust me, you'll become known as the great brother, and your uncle coolness quotient will go up because of that.

        These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert, to fleece the people... -Abraham Lincoln

        by HugoDog on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 07:20:59 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Along the same line (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Odysseus, HugoDog

          Learning to determine north and tell the time would be cool too, although perhaps 3 is a bit young.

          Learning to associate Orion with winter and watching the ISS pass overhead and watching for meteors during showers.

          I wish we'd have a decent comet...

    •  Here's one (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FarWestGirl

      That I loved dearly as an elementary school kid.  Space Cat, by Ruthven Todd.  There are a couple of books in the series.

      Even though the science is outdated (I know at one point Space Cat goes to Venus and finds a jungle) it set my imagination on fire.

    •  Look for papercraft from NASA too (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FarWestGirl

      I had a model Hubble Telescope hanging from my wall as a kid.  It wasn't hard to assemble, just apply some aluminum foil to represent the mirror and color the solar panels blue.

      http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/...

      Tradition says that God gave us choice. Some of His disciples act like it is up to them to remove it. ~ kjoftherock

      by catwho on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 11:00:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I don't think you need to focus (0+ / 0-)

      specifically on "children's" books. If she likes it, it won't matter. Pictures are a must, though.

      "A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself." - Joseph Pulitzer

      by CFAmick on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 08:30:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm Voting No But It Will Be Fascinating to See th (10+ / 0-)

    results of the experiments.

    One thing I don't get is the leap to the notion I keep coming across that if life ever existed there, it probably seeded earth. There's no question that earth has had the materials and time to have started its own life.

    BTW Science Channel's saluting Neil Armstrong tonight, from 8-10 with a Project Apollo history and then a formal tribute at 10.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 11:20:45 AM PDT

  •  when are those tests/experiments scheduled? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LeftOfYou, FarWestGirl

    and i apologize if it is in the link and i'm just not seeing it.  i also lose my car keys when they're in the ignition.

  •  There is no life on Mars. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bob Guyer

    But we have to look for it anyway.  Still, I wonder if we don't misinform people with all the suspense-building promoting we do to keep it interesting.  It's good to pique people's interest in the possibilities, but, really, it's such a terribly, terribly remote possibility.

    More useful than that, though, is to search for life and find out how close to the conditions for early life Mars came to in its many billion years history.  Even though we won't find life, we'll still get a better picture of how UNIQUE the circumstances were on earth that gave birth to life here.  What was missing on Mars?  What was the same, what was different, what was critically different?  

    •  One hint is that on Earth iron was biomineralized (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Old Lefty

      into veins, but on Mars it is all over the surface, suggesting that there has never been any biomineralization.

    •  A. Has there ever been? B. (0+ / 0-)

      Do you deduce this from first principles or from some other source?

      Just getting a handle on the knobs and dials.... Hey, don't touch that!

      by Old Lefty on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 01:06:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think we can deduce it from the fact that it (0+ / 0-)

        hasn't had running water for about 4 billion years.  And the development of RNA ribosomes to replicate DNA seem to be so large and complicated that they won't spontaneously generate without a lot of time for natural random events and recombinations in a nurturing environment.  Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot.

        •  Umm (4+ / 0-)
          NASA photographs have revealed bright new deposits seen in two gullies on Mars that suggest water carried sediment through them sometime during the past seven years.
          "These observations give the strongest evidence to date that water still flows occasionally on the surface of Mars," said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program, Washington.
          NASA
          Just sayin'.

          Just getting a handle on the knobs and dials.... Hey, don't touch that!

          by Old Lefty on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 02:08:54 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I hope so. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Old Lefty, atana

            On the other hand we have a terrain that stands frozen in time at a state 4 billion old that hasn't seen almost no erosion.  

            I don't want to argue with you too hard on this because this is something none of us can know.  However, I am saying that a lot of the junk on TV about "the search for life on Mars" really is overblown promotional material.  Nobody really thinks they're going to find any.  Still, it makes for a better and smaller soundbite.  IT's important research, and it could lead eventually to our knowing how hostile to life Mars is so that we can establish a base.

            •  And I'll add that the pictures (0+ / 0-)

              look a lot less like the US southwest when they are not "white balanced". The place is dingy, dusty, dry, friggingly cold, and appears to have oxidizing chemicals all over the surface (not to mention the intense UV). Antarctica would pleasant by comparison.

        •  Early life on Earth was probably not based on DNA (0+ / 0-)

          but on RNAs playing both the roles of catalyst and replicator.
          (And it might possibly have had a different sugar than ribose in the original backbone chain.)

    •  A mighty firm conclusion... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FarWestGirl, LeftOfYou

      ...with precious little evidence.  The 1976 Viking results are perhaps best described as "equivocal" and the more recent landers have clearly shown that Mars once possessed running water on its surface.  I doubt that it was all gone 4 billion years ago - I believe the evidence is that it existed much more recently than that.
           Not to mention the evidence of active water "seeps" where liquid subsurface water may still flow onto the surface from time to time.  I believe it's WAY too premature to make such a firm conclusion.  Really, not even a few clusters of hardy extremophile-type microbes hanging out in some subsurface equatorial water?

  •  Put me down as a yes. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Old Lefty

    It's the most logical source of the methane that has already been detected.  Everyone is just pulling stuff out of their asses at this point.  But I think the traditional bias towards covering one's ass kicks into high gear with this subject.  Let's look at the data and consider all the possible explanations.  We didn't do that in 1976.

    •  It's been suggested that the methane (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Old Lefty

      is an artifact of data analysis. One of the reasons for choosing the Gale crater landing site is that it should be an ideal place for measuring seasonal variations in methane levels if they are real.

  •  Minor quibble with a minor detail. (5+ / 0-)

    Rmoney and Lyin' Ryan are not individualists. They are deviant members of a group. A sociopath requires a society to victimize. A predator is not an individualist. It is totally dependent on its prey.

    "They smash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn)

    by sagesource on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 06:18:31 PM PDT

    •  Never thought of it this way but I if I think (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FarWestGirl

      about someone who is the extreme individualist they do not seek to capitalize on the assets or labor of others.  They just seek to see how much they can do for themselves.  I imagine them in a remote situation trying to get by on as little as possible.

      •  Yup, parasitic pirates and raiders, vs farmers and (0+ / 0-)

        craftspeople. The latter sow and reap and create, the former just loot the finished product. They are obligate parasites, they have no way to survive independently.

        Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

        by FarWestGirl on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 05:39:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I think An abiologic mechanism was found (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LeftOfYou, FG, Old Lefty

    Inorganic soil chemistry may have caused reactions that could release the CO2, if I remember right.

    Inorganic soil chemistry can be pretty complicated.

    look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

    by FishOutofWater on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 06:30:58 PM PDT

  •  SAM can't prove life (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eyesoars, Old Lefty

    SAM is simply not designed to prove life.  So there really is not any anticipated results that Curiosity could return short of a picture of a clear macroscopic fossil that would prove life.    Now SAM could definitely create some buzz that prompt a followup mission to actually look for life assuming the tea baggers don't block it.  

    I will let NASA explain:

    The mission will assess whether the area Curiosity explores
    has ever been a potential habitat for Martian life.

    Whether life has existed on Mars is an open question
    that this mission, by itself, is not designed to answer.
    Curiosity does not carry experiments to detect active
    processes that would signify present-day biological
    metabolism, nor does it have the ability to image microorganisms or their fossil equivalents. However, if this mission finds that the field site in Gale Crater has had conditions favorable for habitability and for preserving
    evidence about life, those findings can shape future
    missions that would bring samples back to Earth for
    life-detection tests or for missions that carry advanced
    life-detection experiments to Mars. In this sense, the
    Mars Science Laboratory is the prospecting stage in a
    step-by-step program of exploration, reconnaissance,
    prospecting and mining evidence for a definitive answer
    about whether life has existed on Mars. NASA’s
    Astrobiology Program has aided in development of the
    Mars Science Laboratory science payload and in studies
    of extreme habitats on Earth that can help in understanding possible habitats on Mars.

    The sad thing is that it was not for some short-sighted budget cuts, the Viking probes could have given a much better answer then they did.  The man who designed the experiment wanted to add a left-handed version of the proposed nutrient to one sample and a right-handed version to another sample.    Life on Earth could only "eat" one version.   A positive result for one sample and a negative result for the other sample would have been a MUCH stronger result than what we got and would have been very hard to dismiss.  (Of course if both had given the same result it would have strengthened NASA's conclusion that the results were not a result of life.)  But alas, the budget cuts resulted in a racemic mixture (50% right handed, 50% left handed) being added to a sample.
    •  SAM is simply not designed to prove life (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LeftOfYou

      Key distinction between "not designed to" and "cannot". Depends on the evidence. Not finding any evidence of life at Gale, should that be the outcome, disproves nothing. OTOH a single stromatolite or diatom or clam shell or their equivalent would rock the world. Either way we win.

      Whatever the outcome, this is something that we may now be able to know. That in itself is a marvel.

      Just getting a handle on the knobs and dials.... Hey, don't touch that!

      by Old Lefty on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 01:19:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I will make my claim stronger (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Old Lefty

        Not only is SAM not designed to find life, there really are no results that it could return to Earth that convince the scientific community that there is life.    Sure there are a lot of potential results that would really get really scream "we really need to check this out properly" but none that will convince the scientific community that the case for life is "proved."   Even if SAM unexpectedly finds a bunch of organic compounds, that will not prove life.  There will be need of followup observations/experiments that will require additional missions.

        The only thing Curiosity could find that would convince the vast majority of the scientific community would be to photograph a clear fossil which is an unlikely.  

        (Of course if Curiosity did photograph a fossil "animal" it would be serious win.  It would certainly do wonders to getting though to people that a biosphere can be harmed.  Many fundamentalists would have egg on their face.  And most important of all, NASA would get a serious mandate to study Mars that is really does lack today.)

        •  Curiosity could find minerals and chemistry (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Old Lefty, FarWestGirl, LeftOfYou

          that on Earth requires life to produce. E.g. amino acids that are not in a racemic mixture, or rock formations (such as banded iron formations) that on earth are usually a result of oxygen photosynthesis, or other chemical evidence such as seasonal methane variation or funny isotope ratios that seem to require enzyme chemistry. That would not be "proof" but it would be strong evidence.

          Pictures of (fossil) stromatalites from ancient lake beds, with supporting SAM chemistry, would be about the strongest evidence Curiosity could produce -- and that would be awfully strong evidence.

          But what if Curiosity finds nothing remotely biological or biochemical? Does that disprove life? Technically not, because you haven't looked everywhere. Life on Mars proponents could still hope for bacteria hiding deeper down underground, for example. But it would "lower expectations" about life on Mars.

  •  i was curious about why (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LeftOfYou, Old Lefty, FarWestGirl

    Glenelg was a target
    According to NASA

    That area marks the intersection of three kinds of terrain. Starting clockwise from the top of this image, scientists are interested in this brighter terrain because it may represent a kind of bedrock suitable for eventual drilling by Curiosity. The next terrain shows the marks of many small craters and intrigues scientists because it might represent an older or harder surface. The third, which is the kind of terrain Curiosity landed in, is interesting because scientists can try to determine if the same kind of rock texture at Goulburn, an area where blasts from the descent stage rocket engines scoured away some of the surface, also occurs at Glenelg.

    American Television is a vast sea of stupid. -xxdr zombiexx

    by glitterscale on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 07:02:23 PM PDT

  •  If life is confirmed on Mars (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Old Lefty, LeftOfYou

    I would hope the world wouldn't react by making it off-limits to human exploration and settlement.  That would be tragically stupid.

    Everything there is to know about the GOP: They're the Bad Guys.

    by Troubadour on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 10:03:47 PM PDT

    •  Prediction: If life is found to exist/or have (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LeftOfYou

      existed on Mars Creationists will go to Defcon 2 and insist it must have been contamination from Earth (either long ago [as much as 6,000 years ago!] ) or NASA vehicles, even though there is no theological reason to deny life (even intelligent life) existing on other planets/galaxies, etc. Assuming humans are a result of a God's plan (via an evolutionary mechanism) there is nothing to theologically oppose other forms of intelligent life being started by said God. In this respect, mainstream Catholic thought, as in social welfare ministry such as that espoused by American nuns, is more in line with scientific thought then some cariants of fundamentalist Protestanism (and of course Opus Dei type Catholics).

      "A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere ". C. S. Lewis

      by TofG on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 05:36:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  That's premature (0+ / 0-)

      If life is confirmed on Mars you would first want to know a lot about it before you expose people to it or it to people. Life on Mars would be a good reason to continue robotic exploration.

      My own guess is that the place is as dead as it looks, at least today, and that there is not enough economic payback to support settlement. The Chinese or some future international consortium might send humans there as as a showpiece, the way the US sent people to the moon, but it wouldn't ever amount to "settlement".

      The only really good real estate for humans in this system is the planet with the water oceans on its surface and the O2 rich atmosphere. But there are lots of interesting places in this neighborhood to send robots.

  •  Gas chromatographs in 1976, especially (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Old Lefty, FarWestGirl

    portable ones, weren't particularly sensitive. However, the assumption of the experiment (if CO2 is produced it must be microbes) doesn't really hold up as other sources of CO2 are possible. We'll see what is found but I'm not optimistic.

  •  Must be life--but expect backlash (0+ / 0-)

    Our current definition of "life" broadens each year, from prions and other RNA and even protein-based self-sustaining, energy using systems. Given that definition I'd be amazed if there were not life below the surface where some water still exists.

    But I think your expectation that positive results would increase support may be wonky. When (about 5 years ago) Hubble discovered tons of evidence for the history of the universe, Fundamentalists were so threatened there was a very serious effort to shut it down. How could the young Earth creationists and the "The Apocolypse is on its way" crowds handle that? My guess is that the first response would be to try to decimate NASA's budget entirely.

    •  Oh come on, do you think, say, a GOP presidential (0+ / 0-)

      candidate would pander to fundamentalists by doing something like, oh, deriding attempts to protect the oceans and prevent global warming from putting the Jersey shore and Florida under water?

      "A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere ". C. S. Lewis

      by TofG on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 07:59:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  [Citation needed] (0+ / 0-)

      Your claims need to be more specific.  What incidences are you referring to?

      The simple fact is that Hubble has found tons of evidence on the structure and evolution of the universe each and every year it has existed.  So have loads of earth-based telescopes and various other space telescopes.

      The fundies have always been ranting in the background that NASA is against them.  But they been completely ineffective if they want to shut down NASA.  The real threat to NASA comes from those looking for places to cut the budget.    The closest thing that I can think of was some young-earth creationist was appointed to NASA during the George W. Bush administration who tried to cut references to an old universe, evidence for climate change, etc.  But he was forced out after the scientific community made a stink about it and it turned out that he had lied on his résumé.

  •  The question is (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, LeftOfYou

    when do the martians invade?

      I've seen enough movies to know that their superior technology won't help them win.

    ¡Cállate o despertarás la izquierda! - protest sign in Spain

    by gjohnsit on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 06:36:21 AM PDT

  •  The space program is my soundtrack (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Amber6541, LeftOfYou, FarWestGirl

    I was born in 1967. My very earliest memory is huddling on the stairs with my older brother, sneaking a listen as my parents listened to every moon landing.

    I remember being scared during Apollo 13. I remember the results from Pioneer, Voyager, and Viking.

    My high school physics teacher was a semi-finalist for the teacher in space program and I remember him sobbing when the Challenger exploded.

    I will admit that I am pleased and excited at the new commercial entities going into the space business, in part because some of the founders of these companies do indeed have grander visions than mere LEO and satellite insertion and repair/retrieval, but we all should be proud of and thrilled by NASA and JPL and for taking those first steps.

    "We came in peace for all mankind" is not a bad marker for the first human step on another world.

    Great diary. Thanks!

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