Steve G.

NASA might have accidentally killed tiny Martians.

In Politics, Science on January 8, 2007 at 8:30 pm

You can’t make this shit up.

Two NASA space probes that visited Mars 30 years ago may have found alien microbes on the Red Planet and inadvertently killed them, a scientist is theorizing.

The Viking space probes of 1976-77 were looking for the wrong kind of life, so they didn’t recognize it, a geology professor at Washington State University said.

In the 1970s, the Viking mission found no signs of life.

But it was looking for Earth-like life, in which salt water is the internal liquid of living cells.

Given the cold dry conditions of Mars, life could have evolved on Mars with the key internal fluid consisting of a mix of water and hydrogen peroxide, said Schulze-Makuch.

That’s because a water-hydrogen peroxide mix stays liquid at very low temperatures, or -68 degrees Fahrenheit, and doesn’t destroy cells when it freezes. It can suck water vapor out of the air.

The Viking experiments of the 1970s wouldn’t have noticed hydrogen peroxide-based life and, in fact, would have killed it by drowning and overheating the microbes, said Schulze-Makuch.

You know, that’s an awful lot of taxpayer money thrown at Mars to find things like this out, but if we’re going to have a space program I’d at least want to make sure it was returning useful data that could contribute to our understanding of the universe. Missions like the Viking probes and other probes generally do that much better and much more cheaply than manned flights. Granted, there are a few things that you can find out only by putting warm bodies in space, but by and large I’d say that 95% of what NASA has taught us, it has taught us with unmanned probes.

Bush has his space priorities wrong. So long as we’re not axing NASA outright, we’d be better off emphasizing probes and interplanetary unmanned expeditions than cutting funding to those things in order to send humans back to the Moon or on to Mars. Next time we go to the Moon, it had better be to stay… and it had better have some serious private-sector backing, because some sort of market force supporting a human presence on the Moon is the only thing that’ll keep us there.

UPDATE: Or they could invest their cash in something like this. Shit, that’s cool. Send supplies into orbit for a fraction of the cost… assuming one of those little magnetic “bullets” could carry a 100-pound payload, you could shoot something off for about $500 a pound. That’s preposterously cheap as far as getting stuff into space goes.

  1. I’m a little confused why anybody gives a shit about Martian life in the first place, anyways.

  2. This guy did it.

    Was this what he was doing while he was AWOL? Oh, no, wait that would have been a few years earlier.

  3. Nigel: you’ve never wondered what’s out there? Never had an urge to explore the universe, to know more about existence?

    I wish the government wasn’t in charge of it, and it was all done privately, but I definitely support humanity’s exploration (and eventual settlement) of space.

  4. It might just save humanity one day. You never know.

  5. I want to explore the universe, yes, but I want to use the planets for human purposes, not make them an invisible-hydrogen-peroxide-bacteria park.

  6. Basic research leads to applied technologies. In his PhD dissertation, DeBroglie assumed that matter was actually quantized and has a wave-like nature. Outside of nerdy physicists, who would have cared? As it turned out, all of modern technological society can be linked back to that (correct) assumption.

  7. I’m with Chris. Saying “oh, who cares, we just killed the only alien life we ever can prove we found” sounds monumentally….unimaginative, I guess you can say.

  8. life is where is and idea life is a thought but its reference transcends ………………….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: