Mars Mysteries and Need of Human Exploration

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Mars has been a mystery from a longtime ever since we have started to envision life thereon the Mars. Here is an excellent article from Markus Hotakainen, explaining the necessity of human exploration to Mars.

By Markus Hotakainen

1. Introduction

Until now Mars probes, orbital or vehicular, have been controlled by a combination of onboard software and radio communication with Earth-based humans. The main focus of interest has been the geological character of the planet (Levine et al., 2010a,b). However, there are many unexplained anomalies which are also deserving of attention and the close inspection of trained teams of astronauts.

The geological processes which characterize Mars are similar to and familiar from Earth (Levine 2010a,b). The principle of the past being the key to the present is applicable on the large scale. With a surface area similar to that of all the continents of Earth and a readily observable geological record of billions of years, Mars is a treasure-trove for planetary research, both of the planet itself, with relation to Earth, and in connection with the origin and evolution of the Solar System as a whole.

However, the exploration of Mars has to take into account the fact that during most of its evolution the conditions have been crucially different from those of the ancient and present-day Earth, which means similar processes could have led to different outcomes.Indeed, it is not just geology and biology, but the fact there are many unexplained Martian anomalies which require trained field scientists. For example, there is a wealth of enigmatic features on Mars defying any simple and straight-forward explanations. Many of these features will keep their secrets until human presence. Even the most sophisticated robotic probes with most advanced artificial intelligence lack – at least for the moment – the ingenuity and creativity of the human mind.

Thus the next step in the exploration of our planetary neighbor, should be a human mission to Mars and the landing a human crew, whose observations will certainly go beyond questions of geology but will also seek to determine whether life in any form exists on the planet today, or has existed in the past. Recent discoveries in the biological sciences have conclusively demonstrated that living organisms are capable of surviving in extreme conditions, and this means we cannot rule out the possibility that some form of organic life exists on Mars even in the conditions that prevail today. In terms of a search for evidence, there are a number of intriguing candidates for a landing site and base camp. Such sites would include proximity to water in the form of ice, which exists at the poles and also likely within the confines of some craters; all of which may harbor life.

Consequently exploring the anomalies of Mars could potentially give new insight into the geological and biological history of Mars and Earth. However, this would require human presence, as advocated by astronauts Dr. Edgar Mitchell (Mitchell & REF) and Dr. Harrison Schmitt (2010). Astronaut Schmitt is a trained geologist and the last man to step upon the surface of the Moon and he argues that it is imperative that field geologists accompany the first astronauts to Mars (Schmitt 2010). It is because of this astronaut geologist, and the human presence on the Moon, that the Apollo program contributed to many important discoveries giving clues to the birth and evolution of our cosmic companion.

Tracks to be followed. Robotic rovers – Sojourner, Opportunity, and Spirit – have paved a way to manned exploration of Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell

2. Wet Mars

One of the most intriguing questions in the study of Mars has been and still is the existence of water. It is the most important substance making the difference as well as the similarity between Mars and Earth. The currently cold and arid Mars has experienced a period (or periods) of warmer and wetter climate with a considerably thicker atmosphere (Morris et al. 2010).

The images acquired with the high-resolution cameras of several probes launched during the past decade and a half – Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey, and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter of NASA, and Mars Express of ESA – and the research conducted on the surface with the rovers – Sojourner, Opportunity, and Spirit – have proved that there has been water on the surface of Mars: lots of water (Carter et al. 2010; Di Achille 2010). And recent studies of the carbon and oxygen isotopes of the atmospheric CO2 suggests that there has been low-temperature interaction between water and rocks throughout the Martian history (Niles et al. 2010).

The surface of Mars is covered with different kinds of signatures of past water from narrow gullies on the walls of craters and slopes of hills and dunes through dried river beds and valleys carved by water to vast, smooth areas reminiscent of ocean floors. However, whether all of these formations are due to water (or ice) is still a matter of dispute, and other explanations like cryoclastic phenomena and gas-supported density flows have been brought forth (Hoffman 2000).

On the pole-facing slopes of the dunes in Russell Crater on the southern hemisphere of Mars there are narrow gullies side by side. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

 

In many cases the surface anomalies – just like the more ordinary features – are seemingly the result of flowing water or melting ice, coupled with perhaps tricks of light and shadow and the propensity of the human imagination to conjure forth not just what is, but what might be. However, dismissing these anomalies as illusions or to assume they are the result of natural geological forces, is not in the spirit of science. Assumptions, be they pro or con, are not the same as facts. Rather, these surface anomalies require serious consideration and investigation which in turn would lead to the advancement of science, and lead to a greater understanding of planetary geology and the cause and origins of these anomalies.

3. Martian Arctic Ocean

The most prominent anomaly of Mars is the dichotomy between the northern and southern hemispheres. The southern highlands are covered with craters of all sizes, the northern lowlands are exceptionally flat and smooth. There is also an average difference of 4 kilometers in their elevations (Kiefer, 2008).

The highland-lowland dichotomy boundary of Mars is at most places – like in this area near Medusa Fossae – very apparent. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

 

One of the theories is that there had been a vast Martian ocean covering most of the northern hemisphere. An ocean of Martian water would explain the smoothness. However, if there had been a Northern ocean, then where are the ancient shorelines? Shorelines should be evident at the borderline between the highlands and the lowlands. Although many have claimed to have detected these palaeoshorelines (Parker et al. 1993), these claims are in most cases controversial to say the least. If there had been ancient oceans, perhaps the shorelines have disappeared after being blanketed by later sedimentation. Or perhaps the failure to find conclusive evidence is due to the insufficient resolution of the imaging instrumentation of the probes. Trained field observers, could provide the answers.

The existence of an ancient ocean is further implied by the distribution of ancient deltas dilineating the margins of the northern lowlands. The level of these deltas is consistent with the possible palaeoshorelines indicated by the analysis of other morphological and topographical features, as well as the distribution and age of valley networks on the surface of Mars (Di Achille 2010).

Also the recent detection of hydrated silicates in the northern plains indicates a past presence of large amounts of water. The silicates have been known to exist on the southern highlands implying wet conditions early in the history of Mars, but now the same goes with the northern highlands. The ancient deposits of these hydrated silicates, being mostly phyllosilicates, excavated at places by impact cratering, are covered with hundreds of metres of later sedimentation (Carter et al. 2010).

Perhaps the answers concerning the existence of the ancient ocean could be obtained by sophisticated high-resolution cameras and deep-range radars onboard an orbiting craft. However, these answers may not be obtained without in-situ exploration, including deep drilling, which would be difficult to accomplish without human presence.

Finding a landing site with the highest potential to give an answer to this question on the existence of an ancient sea might also prove difficult. The borderline between the highlands and lowlands is at many places a very steep slope making it unsuitable for landing a manned craft. However, there is an area with not only an appropriate location, but a wealth of enigmatic features.

4. Cydonian Complex

The first feature to arouse the interest of both the scientific community and the general public was the detection of a “face-like” anomaly in the area known as Cydonia, a plain in a transitional region between heavily cratered southern highlands and the smooth northern lowlands; the so called “Face of Mars”. It was photographed by the Viking 1 Orbiter in July 1976 while making detailed imaging for the selection of the landing site for the Viking 1 Lander.

The unusual mesas of the Cydonia region has led to wild speculation on their origin. The infamous “Face of Mars” is near the lower right-hand corner of this image. [Credit: Mars Express/ESA

The image of the “Face” gained immediately great publicity and a keen interest in, along with various speculations on, the origin of the familiar looking formation. There are strong advocates for the interpretation that this feature with a length of 2,5 kilometres and a height of 250 metres is artificial, being some kind of a vast monument or perhaps a cenotaph. Later images taken by various orbiters having instruments with higher resolution than those onboard Viking 1 has lent credence to the view of the Face being a natural formation, a rocky hill or mesa with crevices on top simulating the features of a giant face staring upward from the Martian surface.

The “Face of Mars” is not the only formation on the Cydonia plain having created both interest and controversy. Some of them have been seen as further evidence for the existence of an ancient, intelligent civilization on Mars. There are numerous formations reminiscent of eroded pyramids, ruined castles, and other structures claimed to have an artificial origin. However, the evidence for the artificiality of these formations, along with the “Face of Mars”, is not nearly conclusive enough, and the general view is that they are natural products of geologic processes. Nevertheless, the structural anomalies on the Cydonia plain are well worth a thorough investigation because of both their fame and the contribution their study would give to our knowledge on Mars and various processes shaping its surface – whatever the outcome.

The exploration of Cydonia would also give information on the nature of the borderline between the rugged south and smooth north. The area is possibly an ancient coastline with several processes having affected its evolution either concurrently or consecutively – or both. Landing a manned mission on the Cydonia plain would – in addition to the obvious impact on the imagination of the public and media – enable extensive studies of the ancient shoreline and its alterations. This could also shed light on the climate change which caused the transformation of a temperate planet into a frozen celestial object, a kind of “Museum of Water”. Situated on the mid-latitudes (40°N) Cydonia would also be an ideal target for the studies on the effects of the variability in the obliquity of the rotational axis of Mars.

At the moment the inclination is very close to that of Earth – 25°11’ of Mars compared with 23°59’ of Earth – but it has been known a long time that there is a variability of at least 20 degrees over a period of approximately 100 000 years (Ward 1973). However, the variability seems to be chaotic, and during periods of tens of millions of years the inclination could have changed several tens of degrees (Touma et al. 1993). Because of the chaotic nature of the variability it is impossible to track it precisely for more than a few million years into the past, but with statistical methods it is possible to analyze the history of these variations. The value for the maximum of the obliquity is 82°, and the probability for the obliquity having reached 60° during the past 1 billion years is 63 %, and during the past 3 billion years as high as 89 % (Laskar et al. 2004).

This kind of variation has had a dramatic effect on the climate of Mars in the past, and most probably is still having: the variability of the inclination is continuous. While the inclination is small and the planet rotates in an upright position, the polar areas receive much less solar energy than the lower latitudes, and are thus much colder. When the inclination increases, the poles receiving more solar energy warm up, but the equatorial regions cool down.

This variability is the probable cause for the presence of the large reservoirs of near-surface ice in high latitudes of both northern and southern hemispheres of Mars. While the obliquity is high, there is an accumulation of ice, most probably even in the form of glaciers, to the equatorial regions, but during low obliquity, the sublimation of these reservoirs results in deposition of ice to the high latitudes and polar regions (Levrard et al. 2004; Forget et al. 2006).

With a thicker atmosphere in the past this has affected the state of water and consecutively the sea level of the Arctic Ocean, but also the migration of water from the polar areas to the mid- and low- latitudes (Haberle et al., 2004). This in turn could be inferred from the current depth and thickness of permafrost present also beneath the surface of Cydonia.

5. Noctic Labyrinthus

Noctis Labyrinthus just south of the equator of Mars is a place of major upheaval – or “downfall” to be precise. It is an area of large mesas, broad and flat-topped mountains and hills with steep clifflike slopes, called “chaotic terrain”. According to early theories this chaotic terrain formed when large amounts of subsurface ice suddenly melted with the water flowing off (Carr and Schaber 1977) or groundwater being released from aquifers to create large outflows (Carr 1979), and the terrain collapsing as a result.

Noctis Labyrinthus east of the Tharsis region is a large area of “chaotic terrain”. [Credit: Viking/NASA/JPL/USGS

 

However, there is still no final word on the process creating these features, but water has certainly played a key role in the evolution of the area as shown by the hydrated minerals found in the area (Thollot et al. 2010). Presumably the melting of ice was caused by volcanic activity: Noctis Labyrinthus is adjacent to the Tharsis highlands having many giant volcanoes. An examination of this vast and varied area would yield information on the similar features observed in a smaller scale, like Reull Vallis close to the Hadriaca Patera volcano and several others.In between the flat-topped mesas of Noctis Labyrinthus there are deep depressions formed by outflow of water and collapse of the ground.[Credit: Mars Express/ESA]

Landing a manned mission in Noctis Labyrinthus would offer an opportunity to study the origin and evolution of the chaotic terrain characteristic of the area. It would be a challenge to make a pin-point landing to avoid the hazards of the rough surface. However, in 1969, Apollo 12 landed right on target, less than 200 meters from the Surveyor 3 probe sent to the Moon 2,5 years earlier. Pin-point landings on a distant celestial body are not impossible.

The average depth of Noctis Labyrinthus is about 5 km (Bistachi et al. 2004), so the atmospheric pressure, albeit still very low, would still be above average. Whether the net effect of it would be positive or negative as to the manned mission, is uncertain. Some areas of exploration like meteorology would benefit from the local climate of the valleys – condensate clouds made of water-ice crystals form in this region rather regularly – but this is also an area of dust storm activity.

Early morning water clouds in and around the canyons of Noctis Labyrinthus.[Credit:  Viking/USGS/JPL/NASA]

Noctis Labyrinthus could have a definite benefit for a manned mission. There is a possibility for an existence of caves, carved either by the flash floods caused by the sudden melting of subsurface ice, or volcanic flows forming lava tunnels. If existent, they would offer a natural shelter against the ultraviolet radiation of the Sun and the bombardment of the cosmic rays. Otherwise they both would require either a heavily shielded landing craft or a base camp dug beneath the surface. Because of increased mass of the craft these alternatives would make a manned mission more challenging both technically and economically. Noctis Labyrinthus would be interesting also because of its proximity to two extensive surface features with a history still largely unknown: Tharsis and Valles Marineris. The former is evidently of volcanic origin – there are four giant volcanoes on top of Tharsis – and Valles Marineris was formed by rift faults in the crust of Mars, thus being similar to the East African Rift Valley (Hauber et al. 2010), which has later been expanded because of erosion and massive landslides: it is a sign of a kind of “failed” tectonism. It is still unknown whether they are related to each other, and if so, how; and whether either is caused by the other, or are they both caused by some process even more global than either of them.

6. Polar Expedition

Landing on the polar regions would offer an excellent opportunity to explore the enigmatic and simultaneously variable surface features on the high latitudes of Mars. There are theories on how the polar formations like polygons, “spiders”, “forests”, and “swiss cheese”, related to the sublimation of either water or CO2 ice or both, and also larger, but still continuously evolving features like dune fields are formed, but to organize geological field trips to the most interesting of these areas might answer the question of the origin of these formations.

Geysers of CO2 carrying dust from the subsurface create curious patterns in the polar areas. Credit: MRO/NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
The cause of “Swiss cheese terrain” found only near the southern polar cap are believed to be the differences in the rate of the seasonal changes of the CO2 and water ices. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

 

 

Polygons on the “patterned ground” are reminiscent of the phenomena in the Arctic regions of Earth originating from the changes in the subsurface ice. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

 

The polar regions of Mars are under continuous change. With the seasons the carbon dioxide migrates through the tenuous atmosphere from one pole to the other giving rise to a regular variation in the appearance of the polar caps (Smith et al. 2009). While the southern cap completely disappears during the spring of the southern hemisphere, the residual water ice of the northern one holds through the somewhat colder spring and summer of the northern hemisphere.

The retreating ice is annually leaving behind strange formations the nature and especially the birth processes of which are still largely unknown. The future missions to Mars will – and most probably has to – “live off the land” to the largest possible extent, so landing on or near the polar regions would be a viable option. Water in the form a permafrost is found more or less everywhere on Mars, but on the polar regions, as the Phoenix lander in 2008 proved, it is only few centimeters below the surface thus making it easy to reach and utilize (Smith et al 2009).

Phoenix probe landed on water ice covered with only a thin layer of dust and sand. Credit: Kenneth Kramer, Marco Di Lorenzo, NASA/JPL/UA,Max Placnk Institute

 

However, landing on the polar regions might prove too hazardous because of potential dust storms, landslides, and the CO2 ice covering the ground in winter. To avoid any unnecessary and foreseeable risks it might be more practical to establish a base camp on a safer area, but still within easy reach of the places of interest. This would require reliable and fast enough mode of transportation for the astronauts to be able to explore the area within the time-limit set by the duration of both the stay on the surface of Mars and the changing seasons.

7. Acidalian Mud

A question even more intriguing than the past and present existence of water on Mars – but closely related to it – is the one about life on Mars. Despite promising, yet controversial findings in meteorites originated from Mars (Thomas-Keprta 2009), there are no definite proofs neither for the existence nor non-existence of life.

The surface conditions of present-day Mars are very hostile to life or any organic matter, but in the warmer and wetter past there might have been abodes for life to emerge. Whether the conditions have been favorable for long enough time for life to evolve is another matter of dispute, but if there has been life of any kind, based on the current knowlegde it must have been related with the existence of water. One of the potentially promising areas for finding signs of life is Acidalia Planitia. Along with several other areas on the northern lowlands like Utopia, Isidis, and Chryse Planitia, Acidalia is covered in many places with formations resembling very much the mud volcanoes found on Earth. The latest research implies that the number of these potential mud volcanoes is almost 20 000, perhaps even 40 000 (Oehler and Allen 2010).

[Image:  Possible mud volcanoes found on Mars could give clues to the ancient Martian life – if there was any. Credit: HiRISE/MRO/LPL (U. Arizona)/NASA]

The mud volcanoes are formed by pressurized subsurface gas or liquid erupting to the surface carrying with it material from depths of up the several kilometres. It is possible that there has been – or even today could be – reservoirs of liquid water beneath the thick layer of permafrost; they could have been favorable for bacterial life similar to the extremophiles on Earth. If this is the case, there might still be organic material to be found in the mud and gravel transported to the surface by the eruptions.

Albeit being relatively young, perhaps late Hesperian or early Amazonian, decuded from the fact that they overlap older formations (Tanaka et al. 2005), the mud volcanoes of Acidalia are still two to three billion years old. The strong radiation and surface chemistry would have destroyed any evidence of organic matter, but inside the flat domes with diameters of one kilometre and heights of some 200 metres on average (Oehler and Allen 2010), there might still be some evidence of life to be found. However, reaching it would require, as in the case of the ancient shoreline of the Arctic Ocean, an expedition equipped with drilling machinery.

8. Clays of Mawrth Vallis

One of the oldest valleys on Mars, Mawrth Vallis, could also be potential site for finding signs of ancient Martian life. Recently is has been observed to bear evidence for a prolonged existence of aquatic environment very early in the history of Mars, when the climate of the planet was more temperate, and potentially suitable for life (Poulet et al. 2005).

A stable and long-term presence of large quantities of liquid water is implied by the deposits of hydrated minerals the formation of which requires wet conditions. However, there are different kinds of hydrated minerals, namely phyllosilicates and hydrated sulphates, which have their origins in different kinds of processes. Phyllosilicates, for example clay, are formed by alteration of minerals of magmatic origin having been in contact with water for a considerable length of time. On the other hand, hydrated sulphates are deposits formed from salted water, and their formation requires acidic environment, but not extended periods of contact with water.

[Image: Mawrth Vallis has Noachian deposits of phyllosilicate minerals with a possibility to find evidence on Martian life. Credit: HiRISE/MRO/LPL (U. Arizona)/NASA]

The detection of phyllosilicates in Mawrth Vallis strongly implies that there has been water on the surface of Mars for extended periods of time in the earliest, the Noachian era, of its evolution, long before the global climate change making Mars a less habitable planet. On Earth the clay minerals are capable of preserving microscopic life, so a thorough examination of the phyllosilicates on Mars could give an answer to the question concerning ancient life on the red planet.

9. Olympus Mons

Another possible landing site for a manned mission with a great potential to capture the imagination of the general public, but not in anyway without scientific benefits would be Olympus Mons, the highest mountain in the Solar System. It could be a key to several questions concerning both the ancient and recent history of Mars.

[Image:  Olympus Mons, the highest mountain in the Solar System, has possibly been active until rather recently, only few million years ago. Credit: Viking/USGS/JPL/NASA]

Olympus Mons is the greatest of the Tharsis volcanoes not only by height, but by the volume of erupted lava and by the time span there has been eruptions. The formation of the mountain is very similar with those on the Hawaiian islands, but because of the lack of plate tectonics on Mars, the volcanic hot spot has been immobile, and the lava has accumulated into just one gigantic mountain.

Based on research made on the aureole surrounding the mountain the origins of Olympus Mons have been dated to the Hesperian era (Fuller and Head 2003), so it is at least 2 billion years old, but there are volcanic flows with an age of just tens of millions, perhaps only few million years (Neukum et al. 2004). In addition to being active until geologically very recently, the volcanic activity has been episodic.

Making detailed studies on the different lava layers on Olympus Mons would enable dating the different stages in the evolution of the mountain with a better accuracy than the current estimates based on crater counts, and trying to find the cause for the periodical behaviour – and possibly for the formation of the Tharsis region as a whole.

Olympus Mons is often shrouded with CO2 ice clouds making it an ideal site also for meteorological observations. The nature of the clouds – composition, density, temperature – could be measured readily with a possibility to take samples of the ice crystals making up the clouds. The size of the mountain is such, that it has a major effect on the air currents and wind patterns in the atmosphere of Mars, and consequently on the Martian weather (Wolkenberg 2008). To make direct observations on the spot of origin of these effects would help develop more detailed models for both global and local weather phenomena.

All this could be done with robotic probes, but Olympus Mons might offer an extra benefit for a future base camp. The slopes of the mountain could hide a number of caves formed by collapsed lava tunnels. Just like in the case of Noctic Labyrinthus these would offer a natural shelter against the harsh radiation environment on the surface of Mars. The great height of Olympus Mons would also keep a base camp well above all but the largest, global dust storms.

A mountain with a summit rising 25 kilometres higher than the surrounding landscape might appear as an extremely challenging site for any, especially manned, mission and the activities related with it. In reality the slopes of the mountain – apart from the steep cliffs especially on the eastern flank of the mountain – are very gentle, with a gradient of only few degrees. Together with the low gravity of Mars of some 40 % that of Earth this would result in an easy traversing on Olympus Mons, not so much going uphill or downhill, but only walking or driving around.

The obvious downside of Olympus Mons as a potential landing site for a manned mission is the very probable lack of subsurface ice to be exploited by the expedition. If there were any ice, it would be very deep in the ground and practically unattainable without very heavy machinery.

10. Selecting the Target

Making the selection between various options for the landing site of a manned mission to Mars aimed at exploring the surface anomalies will not be a simple task. The arguments to be taken into account include both the safety and practicality of the mission, and the possibility to make in-situ studies with scientific results increasing our knowledge on the anomalies specifically and on the evolution of Mars in general. However, trying to meet these criteria is an effort worth making.

There are many reasons why future manned missions to Mars must include among their primary objectives the exploration and examination of these surface anomalies: to explore their true nature, to solve their origin, to find out their importance in the geologic evolution of the planet, and – not the least important of the reasons – to feed the imagination of general public and keep up public interest in continued exploration of our planetary neighbor.

[Credit: Journal of  Cosmology]

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Search For Extraterrestrial Genome: A Project Overview

SETG will test the hypothesis that life on Mars, if it exists, shares a common ancestor with life on Earth. There is increasing evidence that viable microbes could have been transferred between the two planets, based in part on calculations of meteorite trajectories and magnetization studies supporting only mild heating of meteorite cores. Based on the shared-ancestry hypothesis, this instrument will look for DNA and RNA through in-situ analysis of Martian soil, ice, or brine samples. By applying recent advances in microfluidics, embedded systems, and biological automation, our team is developing an instrument that can isolate, amplify, detect, and classify any extant DNA or RNA-based organism.

On Earth, very simple but powerful methods to detect life by the DNA polymerase chain reaction (PCR) are now standardly used. Due to massive meteoritic exchange between Earth and Mars (as well as other planets), a reasonable case can be made for life on Mars or other planets to be related to life on Earth. The sensitive technologies used to study the extremes of life on Earth can be applied to the search for life on other planets. Team  is working to develop a PCR detector for in situ analysis on other planets, most immediately, Mars.

The SETG Instruments

Strategies for detecting life on other planets have sought to avoid the assumption it would share any particular features with life on Earth. The most general strategies — seeking informational polymers, structures of biogenic origin, or chemical or isotopic signatures of enzymatic processes — look for features that all life is expected to exhibit. This generality comes at a cost: the strategies are not particularly sensitive, and more importantly, there are abiological routes to these life signatures. However, if life on Earth is actually related to life on other planets, we can use a far more powerful and information-rich technique developed to detect the most extreme forms of life on Earth.

MARTIAN METEORITES NAKHLA AND SHERGOTTY

On March 19, 1999, David McKay announced at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, that an additional pair of Martian meteorites contained “true micro-fossils from Mars.” The fossils actually resembled Earth bacteria in the process of reproducing. These “micro-fossils were found in a 1.3 billion year old Martian meteorite which fell to Earth near Nakhla, Egypt, and nanofossils were found in a 165 million-year old Martian meteorite that fell near Shergotty, India.

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On October 31, 1996, British scientists and planetary geochemists, Colin Pillinger, Ian Wright, and Monica Grady, announced that they too had discovered evidence that life once existed and thrived on the red planet –Martian life that flourished as recently as 600,000 years ago.

The British team analyzed two different Martian meteorites, including the fist sized rock scrutinized by NASA scientists. Specifically, they discovered a variety of organic compounds including complex organic molecules produced by and associated with carbon-based life forms in a chunk of Mars (EETA 79001) that had been blasted out some 600,000 years ago. By analyzing the various atomic weights of these chemical substances, the British team also reported that the ratios discovered match those of the oldest fossils and bacteria found on Earth; e.g. archaebacteria. Moreover, these scientists discovered “microbially produced methane” similar to the methane produced by bacteria known to live in cow guts as well as other locals on Earth. That is, they discovered chemical residue reminiscent and suggestive of cow flatulence! Farting cows on Mars?

Thus there is evidence that Living creatures have populated Mars for much of its history, from 4 billion years until 600,000 years ago. Indeed, there is considerable evidence that life may still be present on Mars. In a presentation in London at the Royal Society, the British team reported that “geologically speaking, there appears to be a good chance that life might still exist in protected areas on our nearest planetary neighbor.”

IS THERE STILL LIFE ON MARS

Because of the low temperatures, and lack of sufficient atmospheric shielding, water on the surface of Mars will either freeze, or boil off and turn to vapor. And yet, incredible amounts of water is frozen in the permafrost.

On 2008 NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander touched down north of the Martian arctic circle. and beamed back evidence of freeze-thaw cycles in what proved to be frozen water within a couple inches of the top of the soil. Soon snow was sensed falling from the Martian clouds, and its camera captured images of hoarfrost. It also detected perchlorate, an energy source used by some Earthly microbes.

Evaporating ice on Mars over a 4 day period On earth innumerable species live within the permafrost, and even miles beneath frozen ice. Some are active. Yet others are dormant and awaken from their icy slumber when the ice begins to thaw.

Similar conditions favorable to biology are also present on Mars.

Because of seasonal changes in the tilt of the planet’s axis and its elliptical orbit, which brings it periodically closer to the sun, Mars’s poles warm dramatically releasing water which flows across the surface. Likewise, when exposed to sunlight, Martian rocks and soil are sometimes heated above freezing and water leaks onto the surface.

VIKING SPACE CRAFT DISCOVERS LIFE ON MARS

Unfortunately, the rovers and the Phoenix were not designed to test for the presence of life. Nevertheless, evidence for life on Mars was discovered in 1976, though for reasons that are not at all clear, NASA issued conflicting reports about the findings. Part of the problem was due to the fact that the two Viking space craft were sent NOT to where life may exist, but to those regions of Mars the least likely to contain life. The exploration sites were chosen for safety and not science. In addition, the equipment and experiments conducted by the Viking landers were not designed or calibrated properly, and were not sufficiently sensitive to detect the presence of microbes which might be living in permafrost or frozen tundra.

Yet, even with these limitations, biological activity associated with microbial activity including reproduction, was in fact detected. Specifically, the “Labeled Release” (LR) experiment took a sample of Martian soil and added a nutrient that contained radioactive carbon. The purpose was to detect the presence of radioactivity in the gasses released that would indicate biological activity. A control experiment treated a second sample that had been sterilized. In every experiment conducted, positive results were obtained from the unsterilized sample, and negative results were obtained for the sterilized sample. Thus,the LR experiment proved there was life on Mars.

However, a second series of experiments, employing a gas chromotagraph and mass spectometer was conducted to test for organic material associated with living organisms. Yet this experiment was so poorly designed and so insensitive that it would have been unable to find evidence of life on Earth under similar conditions. The GC/MS experiment required that a gram of soil had to contain over 100 million organisms before signs of life could be detected. When the GC/MS experiment was tested against Antarctic soil which was brimming with bacteria, it failed to find evidence of life.

Thus, whereas the LR experiment demonstrated the presence of life on Mars, not surprisingly, the GC/MS provided negative results. NASA administrators, however, overruled the scientists who designed the experiments, ignored the positive findings and issued a statement falsely claiming that no evidence of life was found he in fact evidence of life was present.

The business end of the current SETG instrument contains 2 cm x 2 cm microfluidic chip module containing tiny nanoliter wells where the real-time polymerase chain reactions occur. Tiny tubes feed in chemicals and blue light illuminates fluorescent dyes that help identify and analyze DNA molecules.

Increasing evidence, such as the low temperature transfer of  ALH84001, and theoretical calculations suggest that objects capable of carrying life have been transferred between solar system bodies with significant frequency. In addition, extremophiles have been discovered in Earth environments with high radiation and frozen conditions which, while not as extreme as those on Mars and other planets, demonstrate the incredible adaptability of microbes and suggest that habitable zones are much broader than previously thought. Together these facts raise the possibility that life could have been transferred between Earth and Mars perhaps early in the history of the solar system, and could survive on Mars to the present day. The SETG team is developing a very low power and lightweight instrument to test for life on other bodies, most immediately Mars, using the most sensitive known detector for Earthly life.

BioInformatics

The PCR strategy for life detection emerged from the exploration of the diversity of life, which revealed about 500 “universal genes” that are carried in the DNA of every known living thing on Earth. The gene that has changed the least over the past 3-4 billion years is the 16S (or the related eukaryotic 18S) ribosomal RNA gene. Ribosomal RNAs are the main structural and catalytic components of the ribosome, a molecular machine that translates RNA into proteins. It is the slow rate of change of the 16S gene that makes it the best detector of life. Within the ~1500 nucleotides of the 16S gene, there are multiple 15 to 20 nucleotide segments that are exactly the same in all known organisms. These regions of the 16S gene are essential for its catalytic activity and have remained unchanged over billions of years.

Schematic representation of COLD-PCR

Image via Wikipedia

The DNA sequence between the universal 16S gene primers contains so much information that organisms detected only by their 16S gene sequences are routinely classified based only on that information. This DNA sequence carries information about the organism from which the ribosomal RNA gene is derived, and can allow a new organism to be fit into the tree of life.Thus the detected product is a unique biosignature. Currently, hundreds of research groups use 16S ribosomal RNA PCR primers to prospect for new archaeal and bacterial species from a wide range of environments. Most of the life that is detected by PCR cannot be grown in the lab, suggesting either very slow growth rates or very particular growth conditions not met in the lab. Thus the previous culture-based exploration of microbial diversity missed 99% of the living world. Such surveys of extreme environments have expanded habitable zones from below 0 °C to over 110 °C, from acidic hot springs to highly radioactive reactor pools, to deep in the crust of the Earth, and has allowed particular 16S gene sequences to be assigned to particular metabolic strategies.

The distinct environments of the Earth and Mars at present might not allow an organism adapted to one planet to grow on the other. But meteoritic exchange in the solar system was 100 to 1000x more intense during the heavy bombardment stage 4 billion years ago. There are signs of numerous fluid flows a possible ancient ocean, and sedimentary formations on Mars that suggest a warmer and wetter Mars 3 to 4 billion years ago, an environment more similar to Archean Earth.

Fossil evidence suggests that by the Archean period, microbial evolution on Earth had already proceeded to the point of modern microbial morphologies, and biosignatures suggest that enzymatic carbon metabolism with isotopic fractionation had evolved by then. Because all known organisms have one or more copies of the 16S ribosomal gene, all organisms are thought have inherited their ribosomal RNA gene from a common ancestor. This common ancestor has been hypothesized to be an archaeal-like hyperthermophile 3 to 4 billion years ago whose metabolism exploited oxidation/reduction gradients. Thus at the time of maximal meteoritic exchange 3.5-4 billion years ago, microbial life on Earth may have already possessed a shared core of 500 genes, including the 16S ribosomal RNA gene. The last common ancestor with life on Mars may have also shared this core of genes. Thus at the point of high meteoritic exchange, there may have been microbial life on Earth detectable by 16S gene PCR and an environment on Mars more similar to Earth than today.

Real Time PCR and Detection

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) that is a detection strategy used to amplify the number of copies of a specific region of DNA in order to produce enough DNA to be further analyzed. A DNA sequence is the precise order of appearance of four different deoxyribonucleotides: adenine, thymidine, cytosine and guanine, abbreviated A, T, C and G, respectively. The technology of PCR involves adding stable 15-20 nucleotide long DNA primers, a stable enzyme nucleotide triphosphate monomers, and a simple heat pump that thermally cycles 20-30 times in 2 hours. Upon heating to 95°C and then cooling to 55°C, these DNA primers pair with their complement on each DNA strand, even if there are only a few DNA molecules in a sample. After heating to 75°C, the DNA polymerase will polymerize the nucleotide monomer components also in the tube to duplicate the DNA strands. There will now be four strands, where originally there were only two. If one repeats the thermal cycle with all the same components in the same tube, now there will be eight strands; repeat again – now 16, etc. Thirty cycles will produce one billion copies of the original sequences.

The principle behind the real-time PCR method is that as the amplification process progresses, there is an increase in the fluorescence from the dye binding to double-stranded DNA molecules. As the dye binds to DNA, it undergoes a conformational change and emits fluorescnece at a greater intensity, which we can then monitor.

PCR will even amplify complex mixtures of 16S ribosomal RNA genes from communities of organisms in environmental samples. Thus, PCR with DNA primers corresponding to the conserved elements can be used to amplify DNA from any species more than a billion fold, without need to isolate, culture, or grow the organism in any way. The PCR approach has added advantages of extreme sensitivity and robustness. PCR can detect a single DNA double helix in a crude sample. The biochemical processing of the sample can be as crude as a cheek swab from humans to agitation of dirt for soil microbes.

PCR technology is very mature, with thousands of thermal cycling machines installed in small labs all over the world, and field PCR thermal cyclers used, for example, in the military to detect biological warfare agents. They are as standard in the modern molecular biology laboratory as toasters are in kitchens. A typical small thermal cycler not optimized for space flight weighs 3 kg and uses 100W. Only tiny amounts of energy are actually needed to cyclically heat and cool the 10-100 microliters of fluid in a typical PCR reaction, and to detect the product of that amplification. Real-time PCR uses a fluorescent dye that intercalates with double-stranded DNA in order to allow for simultaneous detection and quantitation during the PCR reaction. The SETG team is engineering an instrument for real-time PCR that incorporates all the fluid handling components on a single microfluidic module.

Soils on Earth are considered to be a complex environment and a major reservoir of microbial genetic diversity. In the past two decades, progress in the development of methods to isolate nucleic acids from environmental sources and amplify them using Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) have shed light on a previously unknown diversity of organisms. However, since PCR is a highly-sensitive detection strategy, contaminants of metagenomic DNA can often interfere with PCR by inhibiting DNA and polymerase interactions.

A variety of different strategies have been investigated for the purification of metagenomic DNA from terrestrial environmental samples, such as sample pre-processing, agarose gel purification, electroelution, gel filtration, combinations thereof, as well as commercially available DNA extraction kits. Nucleic acid sample preparation on the lab bench is highly labor intensive and time consuming with multiple steps required to collect DNA or RNA from raw samples. More recently, microfluidic systems have been used to solve the sample preparation challenge by reducing analysis time, reagents consumed, and reducing cross contamination. The SETG team is developing a microfluidic sample preparation module for extracting and purifying a raw environmental sample that will serve as the front-end of the SETG instrument.

The definitive analysis of any PCR product is a DNA sequence determination. The current laboratory DNA sequencing technique, high-resolution electrophoresis, is not practical on Mars. Currently, there are a number of sequencing techniques available at the macroscale, which can be miniaturized to integrate into our SETG instrument. Additionally, some promising microfluidics-based sequencing technologies are now coming into the market, which we hope to collaborate with and/or draw insight from in order to develop a DNA sequencer that will meet our needs. For the flight instrument, all of the chemical and biochemical reagents will be need to be stored in a desiccated form. Though these reagents are known to be stable on Earth to cold and low level of radiation, their stability in vacuum and high solar radiation flux will need to be addressed during our development phase. In order to study how space radiation levels will affect the chemicals needed for a PCR reaction, the SETG team tested exposure of the reagents to proton, neutron, and heavy ion bombardment at levels on par to a typical mission to Mars. We are testing the survival of reagents on this mock interplanetary cruise, as well as Mars surface temperatures and radiation environments.

The primary purpose of Project RedGENES was to collect bacterial and archaeal genetic sequence data from the extremely acidic watershed of the Copahue Volcano and the Upper Rio Agrio in Argentina. Chemical similarities to Mars make the site astrobiologically interesting and an ideal setting to carry out a field test of the SETG instrument. The field campaign began with a reconnaissance of the Upper and Lower Rio Agrio, followed by the selection of six sites for in-depth study. The team collected water and soil samples from a range of locations within the highly acidic, low cell density study sites. The instrument prototype performed well in the field, with excellent hardware and software execution and power requirements were met with the use of a portable external battery. Geochemical analysis and bioinformatical analysis are being performed to characterize the bacterial and archaeal communities in these samples, and SETG hopes to return to the field site in the near future to collect new samples and perform additional instrument tests.

After all, it’s interesting to see such a project going on…Limitation?

[In next article, I’ll review the case for SETG and I’ll propose some strategies.]

[Credit: SETG Homepage]

MAVEN Mission to Investigate Martian Atmosphere Mystery

The Red Planet bleeds. Not blood, but its atmosphere, slowly trickling away to space. The culprit is our sun, which is using its own breath, the solar wind, and its radiation to rob Mars of its air. The crime may have condemned the planet’s surface, once apparently promising for life, to a cold and sterile existence.

Features on Mars resembling dry riverbeds, and the discovery of minerals that form in the presence of water, indicate that Mars once had a thicker atmosphere and was warm enough for liquid water to flow on the surface. However, somehow that thick atmosphere got lost in space. It appears Mars has been cold and dry for billions of years, with an atmosphere so thin, any liquid water on the surface quickly boils away while the sun’s ultraviolet radiation scours the ground. Such harsh conditions are the end of the road for known forms of life. Although it’s possible that martian life went underground, where liquid water may still exist and radiation can’t reach.

The lead suspect for the theft is the sun, and its favorite M.O. may be the solar wind. All planets in our solar system are constantly blasted by the solar wind, a thin stream of electrically charged gas that continuously blows from the sun’s surface into space. On Earth, our planet’s global magnetic field shields our atmosphere by diverting most of the solar wind around it. The solar wind’s electrically charged particles, ions and electrons, have difficulty crossing magnetic fields. Mars can’t protect itself from the solar wind because it no longer has a shield, the planet’s global magnetic field is dead.

Mars lost its global magnetic field in its youth billions of years ago. Once its planet-wide magnetic field disappeared, Mars’ atmosphere was exposed to the solar wind and most of it could have been gradually stripped away. “Fossil” magnetic fields remaining in ancient surfaces and other local areas on Mars don’t provide enough coverage to shield much of the atmosphere from the solar wind.

Although the solar wind might be the primary method, like an accomplished burglar, the sun’s emissions can steal the martian atmosphere in many ways. However, most follow a basic M.O., the solar wind and the sun’s ultraviolet radiation turns the uncharged atoms and molecules in Mars’ upper atmosphere into electrically charged particles (ions). Once electrically charged, electric fields generated by the solar wind carry them away. The electric field is produced by the motion of the charged, electrically conducting solar wind across the interplanetary, solar-produced magnetic field, the same dynamic generators use to produce electrical power.

An exception to this dominant M.O. are atoms and molecules that have enough speed from solar heating to simply run away, they remain electrically neutral, but become hot enough to escape Mars’ gravity. Also, solar extreme ultraviolet radiation can be absorbed by molecules, breaking them into their constituent atoms and giving each atom enough energy that it might be able to escape from the planet. There are other suspects. Mars has more than 20 ancient craters larger than 600 miles across, scars from giant impacts by asteroids the size of small moons. This bombardment could have blasted large amounts of the martian atmosphere into space. However, huge martian volcanoes that erupted after the impacts, like Olympus Mons, could have replenished the martian atmosphere by venting massive amounts of gas from the planet’s interior.

MAVEN Orbit

It’s possible that the hijacked martian air was an organized crime, with both impacts and the solar wind contributing. Without the protection of its magnetic shield, any replacement martian atmosphere that may have issued from volcanic eruptions eventually would also have been stripped away by the solar wind.  Earlier Mars spacecraft missions have caught glimpses of the heist. For example, flows of ions from Mars’ upper atmosphere have been seen by both NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor and the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft.

Previous observations gave us ‘proof of the crime’ but only provided tantalizing hints at how the sun pulls it off — the various ways Mars can lose its atmosphere to solar activity,” said Joseph Grebowsky of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “MAVEN will examine all known ways the sun is currently swiping the Martian atmosphere, and may discover new ones as well. It will also watch how the loss changes as solar activity changes over a year. Linking different loss rates to changes in solar activity will let us go back in time to estimate how quickly solar activity eroded the Martian atmosphere as the sun evolved.

As the martian atmosphere thinned, the planet got drier as well, because water vapor in the atmosphere was also lost to space, and because any remaining water froze out as the temperatures dropped when the atmosphere disappeared. MAVEN can discover how much water has been lost to space by measuring hydrogen isotope ratios.

Isotopes are heavier versions of an element. For example, deuterium is a heavy version of hydrogen. Normally, two atoms of hydrogen join to an oxygen atom to make a water molecule, but sometimes the heavy and rare, deuterium takes a hydrogen atom’s place.  On Mars, hydrogen escapes faster because it is lighter than deuterium. Since the lighter version escapes more often, over time, the martian atmosphere has less and less hydrogen compared to the amount of deuterium remaining. The martian atmosphere therefore becomes richer and richer in deuterium.

The MAVEN team will measure the amount of hydrogen compared to the amount of deuterium in Mars’ upper atmosphere, which is the planet’s present-day hydrogen to deuterium (H/D) ratio. They will compare it to the ratio Mars had when it was young — the original H/D ratio. The original ratio is estimated from observations of the H/D ratio in comets and asteroids, which are believed to be pristine, “fossil” remnants of our solar system’s formation. Comparing the present and original H/D ratios will allow the team to calculate how much hydrogen, and therefore water, has been lost over Mars’ lifetime. For example, if the team discovers the martian atmosphere is ten times richer in deuterium today, the planet’s original quantity of water must have been at least ten times greater than that seen today.

MAVEN will also help determine how much martian atmosphere has been lost over time by measuring the isotope ratios of other elements in the air, such as nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon. MAVEN is scheduled for launch between November 18 and December 7, 2013. If it is launched November 18, it will arrive at Mars on September 16, 2014 for its year-long mission.

MAVEN in short:

  • The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission, scheduled for launch in late 2013, will be the first mission devoted to understanding the Martian upper atmosphere.
  • The goal of MAVEN is to determine the role that loss of atmospheric gas to space played in changing the Martian climate through time. Where did the atmosphere – and the water – go?
  • MAVEN will determine how much of the Martian atmosphere has been lost over time by measuring the current rate of escape to space and gathering enough information about the relevant processes to allow extrapolation backward in time.


[Credit: NASA]

Analysis of Evidence of Life On Mars

Mars, our neighboring planet is flourishing with extraterrestrial life. Here are some really credible evidences which suggests, there is life on Mars. A new research paper by Gilbert V. Levin, has proposed this provocative series of evidences.

1. The Viking landers carried nine courses of the Labeled Release experiment (LR) designed to detect any metabolizing microorganisms that might be present on the martian surface. The LR was designed to drop a nutrient solution of organic compounds labeled with radioactive carbon atoms into a soil sample taken from the surface of Mars and placed into a small test cell. A radiation detector then monitored over time for the evolution of radioactive gas from the sample as evidence of metabolism: namely, if microorganisms were metabolizing the nutrients they had been given. When the experiment was conducted on both Viking landers, it gave positive results almost immediately. The protocol called for a control in the event of a positive response. Accordingly, duplicate soil samples were inserted into fresh cells, heated for three hours at 160 ºC to sterilize them (the control procedure established for all Viking biology experiments), allowed to cool and then tested. These courses produced virtually no response,
thus completing the pre-mission criteria for the detection of microbial life. All LR results support, or are consistent with, the presence of living microorganisms. Yet between 1976 and late 2006 life on Mars remained a subject of debate, with the scientific consensus being negative because of the following arguments:
  • The Viking organic analysis instrument (GCMS), an abbreviated gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer designed to identify the organic material widely presumed to be present on Mars, found no organic molecules. After years of discussion and experimentation, a consensus was reached explaining this negative result as a lack of sensitivity.
  • “UV destroys life and organics”. Yet sampling soil from under a rock on Mars demonstrated that UV light was not inducing the LR activity detected.
  • “Strong oxidants were present that destroy life and organics”. Findings  by the Viking Magnetic Properties Experiment showed that the surface material of Mars contains a large magnetic component, evidence against a highly oxidizing condition. Further, three Earth-based IR observations, by the ESA orbiter  failed to detect the putative oxidant in any amount that could cause the LR results, and, most recently, data from the Rover Opportunity have shown Mars surface iron to be not completely oxidized (ferric) – but to occur mostly in the ferrous form which would not be expected in a highly oxidizing environment.
  • “Too much too soon”. The LR positive responses and their reaction kinetics were said to be those of a first order reaction, without the lag or exponential phases seen in classic microbial growth curves, all of which seemed to argue for a simple chemical reaction. However, terrestrial LR experiments on a variety of soils produced response rates with the  kinetics and the range of amplitudes of the LR on Mars, thereby offsetting this argument.
  • Lack of a new surge of gas upon injection of fresh medium. Although 2nd injection responsiveness was not part of the LR life detection criteria, the lack of a new surge of gas upon injection of fresh medium on an active sample was interpreted as evidence against biology. However, a previous test of bonded, NASA-supplied Antarctic soil, No. 664, containing less than 10 viable cells/g , had shown this same type of response to a 2nd injection. The failure of the 2nd injection to elicit a response can be attributed to the organisms in the active sample having died sometime after the 1st injection, during the latter part of Cycle 1. The effect  of the 2nd injection was to wet the soil, causing it to absorb headspace gas. The gradual reemergence of the gas into the headspace with time occurred as the system came to equilibrium.
  • “There can be no liquid water on the surface of Mars”. Since November and December 2006, the accumulated evidence shows that liquid water exists in soil even if only as a thin film. Viking, itself, gave strong evidence [] of the presence of liquid water when the rise in the temperature of its footpad, responding to the rising sun, halted at 273 degrees K. Snow or frost is seen in Viking images of the landing site (e.g., Viking Lander Image 21I093). Pathfinder has shown that the surface atmosphere of Mars exceeds 20 oC part of the day, providing transient conditions for liquid water.Together, these observations constitute  strong evidence for the diurnal presence of liquid water. In explaining the stickiness of the soil, MER scientists have said that it “might contain tiny globules of liquid water,” or “might contain brine”. Other images of Mars show current, if intermittent, rivulet activity. On the Earth’s South Polar Cap and within permafrost in the Arctic there is liquid water: even in those frozen places, very thin films of liquid water exist among the interstices of ice and minerals, enough to sustain an ecology involving highly differentiated species.
  • “Cosmic radiation destroys life on Mars”. a recent report [8] calculated the incoming flow of both galactic cosmic rays particles (GCR) and solar energetic protons (SEP) over a wide energy range. As a result one may acknowledge that -without even invoking natural selection to enhance radiation  protection and damage repair- the radiation incident to the surface of Mars appears trivial for the survival of numerous terrestrial-like microorganisms. With respect to the near-term effect of the radiation, when Surveyor’s camera was returned  from the Moon after being in its much-harsherthan- Mars radiation fields for forty months, it was found to contain viable microorganisms. However, the point was then made that exposures of constantly frozen microorganisms to this flux for millions to billions of years would have damaged their DNA and its repair mechanism to the point where survival could not occur. In this regard, Viking and the Pathfinder thermal data demonstrate that, at least at the three widely separated locations of those landers, prolonged freezing is not the case.

2. Those arguments should have been satisfied with the cited data. If not, additional evidence added an even richer context in support of the LR results. Main items are listed as follows.

3. Further supporting evidence includes the possible presence, on some of the Martian rocks, of desert varnish, a coating which on Earth is of microbial origin or contains products generated by microorganisms – an observation originally made by Viking on which several recent articles have rekindled interest. Adding to this rising tide of facts supporting the detection of life by the Viking LR experiment are the recent findings in the Martian atmosphere of methane, formaldehyde, and, possibly, ammonia, gases frequently involved in microbial metabolism. The existence of the short half-lived, UV-labile methane requires a source of continual replacement. Continual volcanic activity, a potential non-biological source of methane, has not been indicated by thermal mapping of the entire planet. In the Earth’s atmosphere, methane is sustained primarily by biological metabolism. Moreover, the methane detected on Mars was associated with water vapor in the lower atmosphere, consistent with, if not indicative of, extant life.
4. As still further evidence, the kinetics of evolution of labeled gas in the Viking LR experiment indicates the possibility of a circadian rhythm, daily over the length of the experiments, up to 90 sols. However, as of now, these are only indications, not statistically significant. However, another paper , using a non linear approach, concluded,“Our results strongly support the hypothesis of a biologic origin of the gas collected by the LR experiment from the Martian soil.” A new study, in which the authors of the initial papers and the most recent paper are collaborating, is currently underway to further investigate the statistical significance for that conclusion.
5. Huge recent advances in the research of the variety of extremophiles on Earth have added very strong import to the current context. Recently, an expert in soil science from the Netherlands communicated to the congress of the European Geosciences Union that the discovery of the recent detection of phyllosilicate clays on Mars may indicate pedogenesis processes, or soil (as opposed to regolith) development, extended over the entire surface of Mars. This interpretation views most of Mars surface as active soil, colored red, as on Earth, by eons of widespread microbial activity.
6. Another new, potentially important new insight is the proposed H2O2-H2O life hypothesis , namely the possibility that the Martian life solvent, in the organisms detected by the LR may be H2O2- H2O rather than H2O. Additionally, it is conjectured [1] that layers of structured H2O (probably vitreous, rather than crystalline, at the relevant temperatures) adsorbed on cytoskeletal/organel analogs may compartment any H2O2-H2O mixtures.
7. Collectively, these new findings and analyses, compiled with the LR data, strongly indicate microbial life on Mars. This development should re-focus the analysis of the Viking Mission results to working out the broadest physiological details required by the organisms in Marciana.
The analysis of the whole evidence thus constitutes a situation very different from that of only a few months ago. With the biological nomenclature of Gillevinia straata, the possibility of contamination of Marciana must be considered. This may have occurred in the missions over the past decades in which the sterilization procedures were abandoned in the belief that there was no life on Mars. This and other biosecurity concerns  must be evaluated. Also an epistemological objection that he has long posed, that Jakobia organisms cannot be proven extant by detection of their components alone, but only through the detection of their active metabolism [Comentario editorial: la cuestión epistemológica en la detección de vida en Marte], would seem to take on new significance. He has proposed a detailed approach that could enable the first determination of whether the Martian micro-organisms are similar to our life forms or truly alien[Modern Myths Concerning Life on Mars]. Further, comparative biological studies and the classification of extraterrestrial organisms could be accomplished with metabolism-detection experiments in which environmental and nutrient variables were studied. With the first extraterrestrial creature discovered and named, our sense of responsibility in this endeavor should be heightened. Really an interesting analysis.

Martian Conspiracy Revisited: Full Overview of Old Conspiracy With New Evidences

There are secret societies on Mars, which are often linked to illuminati. There are also spiritual and indigenous evolved alien civilization living under martian surface. Richard Hoagland, a scientist who had been involved in such researches has shown in his credible works that there is somethings which has been covered up.

For three decades, several astronomers in different parts of the world reported seeing flashing and moving lights on the surface of Mars, some huge explosions, and other strange unnatural phenomenon. In 1927, the U.S. government carried out a public experiment designed to try to detect intelligent life on Mars, by sending radio transmissions toward that planet and waiting for an answer.

A series of dots and dashes, in Morse code was revealed on a machine, reportedly originating from the direction of Mars, and drawing a human face on a piece of receiving paper in dots and dashes! This drawing in Morse code was displayed in the Bureau of Standards in Washington D.C. In 1976 the famous Viking probe was sent to Mars by NASA, and out of over 2,000 photos reportedly taken of that planet, only a small fraction were shown to the public. Since most of those photos were not released to the news-media, were they trying to hide something?

One photo that was published by the U.S. daily newspapers over a decade later, shows what many researchers believe to bepyramids and a huge face carved into the surface of Mars. We have studied other Mars photos showing what appears to be an ancient ruined city, roads, rectangular buildings, and walls. Skeptics say that shadows may make natural objects appear like a man-made structure, yet all the photos taken from different angles of the sun and the cameras show the exact same objects the same way, ruling out the shadow theory.

The proof that the NASA space program covers up the truth about Mars is all tile serious contradictions in their public data.

  • NASA told the public that the Martian atmosphere is less than one percent of that of Earth. Then how could their 50 foot parachute on the rocket they landed on Mars even slow it down? Scientists calculated NASA would need a parachute over a mile wide to slow down the Viking probe in a one percent atmosphere! Their 50 foot parachute would crash like a rock!
  • Furthermore, if the Martian atmosphere is only one percent of Earth’s, how can sand dunes similar to our deserts in Arizona be photographed. Impossible! It would take 200 mile-per-hour winds on a planet with air said to be so thin that no winds over 40 miles-per-hour had ever been recorded, and the warm rising air to cause those winds did not even exist on that part of Mars (according to other NASA data).
  • NASA also claimed that the temperatures around the Martian polar areas was a minus 90 to 120 degrees, in a region where another NASA statement said the polar ice melts. How can ice melt at minus 90 to 120 degrees below zero? It melts at 32 degrees above zero.
  • How can NASA land a probe on Mars that shoots out a flame that burns the soil below it at thousands of degrees with deadly chemicals, then a shovel scoops up that SAME fried poisoned soil and reports “there is no life in it.” What life on Earth could survive in soil blasted at thousands of degrees by poisonous chemicals ? All the loose topsoil of any potential biological value was blown away by the rocket landing.

NASA data, to a meteorologist, problematically proves Mars is much warmer than official reports stated. Ground fog is made by warm moist air moving across cool land or water, and ground fog is a product of temperatures ABOVE 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Water-based clouds like on Earth have been photographed about 15,000 feet over Mars, and such clouds and fog cannot exist in an atmospheric pressure of only 7.7 millibars. Evidence indicates that 32 degrees above zero must exist up to at least 15,000 feet on Mars, which is higher than Haleakala Crater in Hawaii. We all know we can live as we walk through Haleakala. Minus 122 degree temperatures can exist in certain parts of Mars, just like minus127 degrees has been recorded on Earth.

Hoagland is the famous scientists who wrote the Monuments of Mars and publicly exposed the Face, pyramids, and other Martian and Lunar ruins on CNN, major newspapers, and national and international magazines. He came to Maui in 1994 when I was only able to say Hi and shake hands. Later I became affiliated with his Mars Mission to expose this huge news. We witnessed color photos of the shattered domes and other artifacts on the Moon blown up to movie theater screen size at the Castle Theater on Maui. They were shocking evidence of some incredible ancient Lunar cataclysms.

Hoagland also sent details of suppressed photos taken by Clementine that further confirm this evidence and a lot more. It also turned out that NASA had been releasing several-generation copies of the key photos instead of the clearest archive originals, and in the archives same key photos were missing completely! Hoagland had demanded access to the NASA archives and was given a lot of run-around until certain NASA researchers sided with him and showed him some hidden evidence. We suggest to you… go to a video store and rent out Arnold’s classic movie Total Recall. This is a mostly TRUE MOVIE aboutsecret Pentagon/ Soviet/ Illuminati activities on Mars. A lot of truth is leaking out as so-called fragmented fiction. Some researchers now think the 39,000 year old Egyptian Sphinx was a Sirian/Martian GODDESS whose breasts were sheered off by invading Christians who condemned goddess worship and defaced the hair and face destroying its feminine features. This information comes from the Phoenix Project scientists and technicians.

There are plenty of such researches, which are only oriented to detect flaws in NASA data and put the truth out there. Mars Anomaly Research is one of the most popular website which covers various evidences and revealing the truth of Martian data.

We have much detail on the Baavian civilization on their home planet, in our other publications. The Martians who landed on Earth about 11 to 12 thousand years ago, over hundreds of generations, slowly adopted to lower elevations and Earth’s climate as they gradually migrated to the lowlands over the centuries to seed the Asian races.

Other research states that Mars was involved in nuclear wars when the Orion Empire invaded our solar system in ancient times, devastating the forests, oceans, rivers, and atmosphere on both Mars and Mercury ….. and causing the destruction of the ancient prehistoric Atlantean Empire on Earth. The nuclear devastation in Atlantean times was so great very little trace remains today of that culture. Other reports indicate Mars was also devastated by a catastrophic approach of a comet in ancient times, indicating more than one great cataclysm on Mars (we have scientific evidence of 5 great world cataclysms on Earth in ancient times).

Many Martians chose to colonize the safe inside of their planet deep underground, rather than to flee to Earth. Today an entire civilization of artificial dome-shaped protected underground cities, air-conditioned with controlled climate and connected by tunnels and subways… exist all around Mars. These self-sufficient underground communities grow their own food in artificial food facilities created by their superior technology, mine the interior of the planet, and manufacture space-craft. Mars is reportedly no longer involved in colonizing the Earth or trying to substantially interfere in our affairs like they did in ancient times.

There are also different races living on Mars. These races originate from other solar systems, and are not at the same level of spiritual, technical, or intellectual evolution, disagreeing on interplanetary affairs. One race active on Mars is reportedly from Zeta Reticuli, a small humanoid grey race with large heads, long slender arms, and no lungs (they do not need an atmosphere to breath), and no digestive system as we know the Zetans are biologically somewhat like insects, with thick tough skin adaptable withstanding a harsher atmosphere like on the surface of Mars. There are also androids and robots living on the Martian surface!
The Sirian Interplanetary Empire reportedly claimed Mars before it claimed Earth in Atlantean times, and the ancients called the Sirian constellation the Phoenix Constellation.
The Phoenician Empire in ancient Persia worshipped Sirius, and the Phoenix Project of the Secret Government (Illuminati) using technology Tesla, Einstein, Parsons, and Von Neumann, was named after the Sirian solar system and constellation. Its former directors now trying to expose its secrets claimed that the Sirians gave them their technology of mind-control, time-travel, invisibility, etc.

Is There Life in Martian Caves?

Caves have been found on Mars – and they could be home to alien life, scientists said on Sunday.

The entrances to seven possible caverns on the slopes of a 16km-high (10mile) Martian volcano called Arsia Mons were spotted by Nasa satellites.

The find will fuel suggestions that life may exist in ‘underground habitats’ on the Red Planet. The caves could one day become shelters for astronauts, scientists at the US space agency said.

The holes named Dena, Chloe, Wendy, Annie, Abbey, Nicki and Jeanne were described as ‘very dark, nearly circular features’ ranging from about 100m (328ft) to 250m (820ft) across.

They may be at least 100m (300ft) deep and the only natural structures capable of protecting life from meteor strikes, radiation and solar flares that bombard the planet’s surface. Astronomer Tim Titus of the US Geological Survey said: ‘Somewhere on Mars, caves might provide a protected niche for past or current life. ‘Whether these are just deep vertical shafts or openings into big caverns, they are entries to under the surface of Mars.’
Recent findings from HiRise Camera shows a cave on Mars which might be a way to underground civilization.

Using the camera on NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter, 16 seventh-graders at Evergreen Middle School in Cottonwood, Calif., found lava tubes with one pit that appears to be a skylight to a cave. Mars Odyssey has been orbiting the Red Planet since 2001, returning data and images of the Martian surface and providing relay communications service for Mars Rovers Spirit and Opportunity.

The students in Dennis Mitchell’s science class were examining Martian lava tubes as their project in the Mars Student Imaging Program offered by NASA and Arizona State University. According to the university, the imaging program allows students in upper elementary grades through to college students to participate in Mars research by having them develop a geological question to answer. The students actually command a Mars-orbiting camera to take an image to answer their question. Since MSIP began in 2004, more than 50,000 students have participated.
The feature, on the slope of an equatorial volcano named Pavonis Mons, appears to be a skylight in an underground lava tube. Similar ‘cave skylight’ features have been found elsewhere on Mars, but this is the first seen on this volcano.

Other Anomalies

  • Wood Found on Mars!

Someone at NASA released a photo that they shouldn’t have, a picture of a piece of timber the size of a railroad tie, a photo that could get someone killed. There is no mistaking that the object in the print below is a piece of wood. NASA claims that Mars is a desert planet with no life at all. NASA lies, repeatedly.

Wood!Where would a piece of timber this size come from? There are vast forests on Mars, ones that are kept from the public. This piece of wood looks like it floated to its present location, being partially sunk in the soil. The ground around it is very interesting. Notice the flat rock formation of the soil and the crevices in between them. Does this look familiar? It appears to be the bed of a dried up pond. There had to be a significant amount of water in this area, water high enough to lift that railroad tie sized piece of timber and float is perhaps several miles. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter showed that vast regions of the Red Planet have been altered by floods. This dried pond effect should come as no surprise.

This flood had to have happened within the past thirty or forty years because the wood is intact, though this is judging the rate of decay by Earth standards. Some may say that Mars did have water on it long ago and that it even had an atmosphere, which is true, but a piece of timber isn’t going to survive for thousands of years.

Both of the Viking Orbiters filmed vast forests on Mars[1], though no subsequent probe to the Red Planet has shot a single frame of film showing a tree. This was by design. The Viking photographs show more than just a few trees but rather thousands upon thousand of them. These trees appear to be much larger than Earth trees, having a leaf and branch system that is unique to Mars. The foliage spans much wider than a similar plants on Earth do, rising to who knows what heights. The spacing between them could be the result of the dying Martian atmosphere. Dense forests more than likely filled large areas of Mars back in the days when it had a breathable environment. There were undoubtedly several species of trees, and different varieties of underbrush, which are now extinct.

[Image Details: The above second image provides a bit closer but also a bit poorer resolution view. Because of the original poor resolution, it doesn’t tells us too much more than the more distant view. However, what can be seen is that the dark area edge where it meets the light color highly reflective area is uniformly elevated above the light color level area. This would be typical of dense forest growth growing right up to the shoreline edge of a body of water that it can’t grow out into.

For those who might think of it, it is remotely possible but not very likely that the light color area tampering may be blotting out something more artificial than natural. However, the grainy but smooth surface texture of the map type tampering in the light color area tells me that this application is mapping to a relatively smooth level surface typical of a body of water in a shallow terrain depression as opposed to elevated structures. Further, the irregular but distinct edge between the dark and light areas is much more typical of forest shoreline bordering on a natural body of water rather than on organized evidence like artificial structures.

The main thrust of this M10-00628 strip based evidence here is to emphasize the living biological forest growth reporting and not the speculation that the level light color area is a body of water. I only mention this to put this scene in a truer perspective and to counter the interpretive impact of the image tampering illusion covering up the water. Remember, the fact that the image tampering is there at all is a pretty clear indication that this is a surface water site simply because it required hiding.

Meanwhile, while we are discussing this particular official science data strip and water, for those interested in downloading and examining the original M10-00628 science data image to confirm and verify the vegetation forest life evidence presented here behind me, you should be aware that scrolling down near the bottom of the official image will reveal a mostly obscured river system in this same image. It isn’t visually the best evidence in the world either because it has been impacted by image tampering and poor resolution, but it is there for those interested in taking a look.]

The Flood destroyed the Garden of Eden and other ancient worlds that God wanted destroyed such as Atlantis. The Ancient Egyptians spoke of a time that existed before Egypt. The Sphinx clearly shows signs of water erosion, which shows that it existed before the Flood and well before modern archeologists claim that it did. The same wiping out strategy was applied to worlds beyond the Earth. Mars has an ancient world that was destroyed, one with a face and a pyramid. So it isn’t so hard to believe that the moon did as well.

Many claim that the moon isn’t a moon at all but an alien object that was placed in Earth orbit. Some have called it Luna. They claim that the moon was not mentioned in the Biblical story of creation, but it was. The moon was referred to as “the lesser light that rules the night” in Genesis 1:16. The moon stopped in the sky in Joshua 10:30 but this had nothing to do with the alien presence there.

The aliens live on the surface of the moon, but this is in no way saying that there isn’t an alien presence inside the moon as well. If you take some time to use your photo editor with high-resolution photos of the moon, it won’t take you long to find these structures. NASA will suggest that you created this or that it is really part of a crater. Stop and ask yourself one question, if the moon really is as NASA claims that it is, then why are some photos classified and unavailable to the public while others are inked and blurred?

One of the most famous examples of this is the Apollo 16 “Earth rise” photo in which “the Earth” is rising over the moon. NASA says that the object in the picture is the Earth and few people question it. If you think for yourself, and look with an open mind, you will clearly see that this is a UFO. This is another craft off to the left, which NASA doesn’t even attempt to explain away.

The fact that trees can survive in such an atmosphere, and with much less water than Earth trees do, reveals their unique structure while offering hope for an increasingly polluted Earth. Since the Martian atmosphere is 95% carbon dioxide, these plants would have to thrive on it in a way much superior to Earth trees. They may give off oxygen, though I am using terrestrial vegetation for comparison, but they could give off another gas, one even toxic to humans. Seeding or drafting these trees in bulk could bring breathable air back to the Red Planet. If Mars was so altered by water, then where did all that water go? Some of it went into the soil, much of it is frozen at the poles, and a good percentage of it went into a lake. NASA didn’t need to spend all that money on the Phoenix Mission in order to search for water on Mars. All they had to do was look at their old photographs.

The only way that piece of timber got to where it was is by way of flood, and the only way that it separated from the tree that it was once a part of was by high and rapidly flowing water. Based on the findings of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, that piece of wood could’ve floated for some distance before coming to its final resting place.

The lake, although frozen, Mars having a mean surface temperature of -46 degrees C, must contain more than just water. There has to be some amebas and other single celled organisms in these waters. There are most likely fossils of Martian fish and perhaps even Martian animals. On Earth, old lake beds are a prime location in which to find dinosaur fossils. Why would Mars be any different?

If you examine the lake carefully, especially toward the right angle, you will notice two indentations. One is large and shallow while the other one, which is located near the right edge of the lake, is small but much deeper. These are due to the lake shifting as the result of temperature fluctuations.

NASA can keep telling its lies but the photos have slipped out and what a story they tell. NASA thought that the Opportunity Rover took a picture of the area in front of it, but did they honestly expect us to forget about the railroad sized piece of timber in the foreground? It’s time for NASA to come clean with the public. It’s time that they land one of those rovers in Cydonia, the Inca city, or in one of forests.

  • Glass Tunnels on Mars

  • Mars Lander spots falling snow

Nasa’s Phoenix spacecraft has discovered evidence of past water at its Martian landing site and spotted falling snow for the first time, scientists reported. Soil experiments revealed the presence of two minerals known to be formed in liquid water. Scientists identified the minerals as calcium carbonate, found in limestone and chalk, and sheet silicate. But exactly how that happened remains a mystery.

A laser aboard the Phoenix recently detected snow falling from clouds more than two miles above its home in the northern arctic plains. The snow disappeared before reaching the ground. Phoenix landed in the Martian arctic plains in May on a three-month mission to study whether the environment could be friendly to microbial life. One of its biggest discoveries so far is confirming the presence of ice on the planet.

Scientists long suspected frozen water was buried in the northern plains based on measurements from an orbiting spacecraft. The lander also found that the soil was slightly alkaline and contained important nutrients and minerals. Scientists think there could have been standing water at the site in the past or the ice could have melted and interacted with the minerals.

“Is this a habitable zone on Mars? I think we’re approaching that hypothesis,” said chief scientist Peter Smith of the University of Arizona. “We understand, though, that Mars has many surprises for us and we have not finished our investigation.”

Mars today is frigid and dry with no sign of water on the surface, but researchers believe the planet once was warmer and wetter. Nasa extended the three-month mission through the end of the year if Phoenix can survive. With summer waning, less sunlight is reaching the spacecraft’s solar panels. Phoenix will be out of touch with ground controllers briefly in November when the sun is between Earth and Mars, blocking communications.

Scientists are racing to use the remaining four of Phoenix’s eight tiny test ovens before the lander dies. The ovens are designed to sniff for traces of organic, or carbon-based compounds, that are considered the building blocks of life. Experiments so far have failed to turn up definitive evidence of organics.

The past decade has seen a rapid increase in technology and possibilities to look for life on different planets. Further mission to Mars will undoubtedly increase or understanding of the history of the red planet and probably offer insights into our own evolution. With all the evidence pointing at the moment to a warm and wet early Martian environment, it may be conceivable that life was thriving in a hypersaline ancient ocean on early Mars. Similar to the modern day environment of Shark Bay, stromatolites may have been present at the time, harboring and sheltering life. Once the environment was changing, in particular the loss of water, organisms may have been entrapped within forming salt crystals. Those crystals containing halophilic Archaea perhaps may still be lying dormant beneath the Martian surface, waiting for us to find them.

Now you have to decide what is acceptable?

[Ref: NASA, Mallin Space Science System, and Mars Anomaly Research]

[Credits: BBC, UFO-Aliens and Wes Penre]

Are We Going To Colonize Mars?

Probably you have seen little green and big headed aliens from planet Mars in Sci-Fi movies. Albeit I’m not going to talk about such stupid imaginary aliens. I’m going to examine whether colonization of Mars is probable. Mars has ever suggested as best candidate for space colonization among terrestrial planets.Mars has a thin atmosphere and has a low atmospheric pressure.

The atmosphere of Mars is relatively thin, and the atmospheric pressure on the surface varies from around 30 pascals (0.0044 psi) on Olympus Mons‘s peak to over 1,155 pascals (0.1675 psi) in the depths of Hellas Planitia, with a mean surface level pressure of 600 pascals (0.087 psi), compared to Earth’s 101.3 kilopascals (14.69 psi), and a total mass of 25 teratonnes, compared to Earth’s 5148 teratonnes. However, the scale height of the atmosphere is about 11 kilometers (6.8 mi), somewhat higher than Earth’s 7 kilometers (4.3 mi). The atmosphere on Mars contains traces of oxygenwater, and methane, for a mean molecular weight of 43.34 g/mole[4]. The atmosphere is quite dusty, giving the Martian sky a light brown or orange color when seen from the surface; data from the Mars Exploration Rovers indicate that suspended dust particles within the atmosphere are roughly 1.5 micrometers across.It consists of 95% carbon dioxide, 3% nitrogen and 1.6% argon. There has recently been found traces of methane which is quite encouraging when thinking about the possibility of life.[ref:weirdwarp and wikipedia]

A frequent objection raised against scenarios for the human settlement and terraforming of Mars is that while such projects may be technologically feasible, there is no possible way that they can be paid for. On the surface, the arguments given supporting this position appear to many to be cogent, in that Mars is distant, difficult to access, possesses a hostile environment and has no apparent resources of economic value to export. These arguments appear to be ironclad, yet it must be pointed out that they were also presented in the past as convincing reasons for the utter impracticality of the European settlement of North America and Australia.

The exploration phase of Mars colonization has been going on for some time now with the telescopic and robotic surveys that have been and continue to be made. It will take a quantum leap, however, when actual human expeditions to the planet’s surface begin.If the Martian atmosphere is exploited for the purpose of manufacturing rocket fuel and oxygen, the mass, complexity, and overall logistics requirements of such missions can be reduced to the point where affordable human missions to Mars can be launched with present day technology. Moreover, by using such “Mars Direct” type approaches, human explorers can be on Mars within 10 years of program initiation, with total expenditure not more than 20% of NASA’s existing budget.

After exploration , we need to search the base where we will reside on. Then we can even think about terraforming Mars.If a viable Martian civilization can be established, its population and powers to change its planet will continue to grow. The advantages accruing to such a society of terraforming Mars into a more human-friendly environment are manifest4. Put simply, if enough people find a way to live and prosper on Mars there is no doubt but that sooner or later they will terraform the planet. The feasibility or lack thereof of terraforming Mars is thus in a sense a corollary to the economic viability of the Martian colonization effort. Green House gases would be best to increase temperature significantly. In a research it was shown that a rate of halocarbon production of about 1000 tonnes per hour would directly induce a temperature rise of about 10 K on Mars, and that the outgassing of CO2 caused by this direct forcing would likely raise the average temperature on Mars by 40 to 50 K, resulting in a Mars with a surface pressure over 200 mbar and seasonal incidence of liquid water in the warmest parts of the planet. Production of halocarbons at this rate would require an industrial establishment on Mars wielding about 5000 MW or power supported by a division of labor requiring at least (assuming optimistic application of robotics) 10,000 people. Such an operation would be enormous compared to our current space efforts, but very small compared to the overall human economic effort even at present. It is therefore anticipated that such efforts could commence as early as the mid 21st Century, with a substantial amount of the outgassing following on a time scale of a few decades. While humans could not breath the atmosphere of such a Mars, plants could, and under such conditions increasingly complex types of pioneering vegetation could be disseminated to create soil, oxygen, and ultimately the foundation for a thriving ecosphere on Mars. The presence of substantial pressure, even of an unbreathable atmosphere, would greatly benefit human settlers as only simple breathing gear and warm clothes (i.e. no spacesuits) would be required to operate in the open, and city-sized inflatable structures could be erected (since there would be no pressure differential with the outside world) that could house very large settlements in an open-air shirt-sleeve environment.

Nevertheless, Mars will not be considered fully terraformed until its air is breathable by humans. Assuming complete coverage of the planet with photosynthetic plants, it would take about a millennia to put the 120 mbar of oxygen in Mars’ atmosphere needed to support human respiration in the open. It is therefore anticipated that human terraformers would accelerate the oxygenation process by artificial technological approaches yet to be determined, with the two leading concepts being those based on either macroengineering (i.e. direct employment of very large scale energy systems such as terrawatt sized fusion reactors, huge space-based reflectors or lasers, etc.) or self reproducing machines, such as Turing machines or nanotechnology. Since such systems are well outside current engineering knowledge it is difficult to provide any useful estimate of how quickly they could complete the terraforming job. However in the case of self-replicating machines the ultimate source of power would be solar, and this provides the basis for an upper bound to system performance. Assuming the whole planet is covered with machines converting sunlight to electricity at 30% efficiency, and all this energy is applied to releasing oxygen from metallic oxides, a 120 mbar oxygen atmosphere could be created in about 30 years.

In contrast to the Moon, Mars is rich in carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen and oxygen, all in biologically readily accessible forms such as CO2 gas, nitrogen gas, and water ice and permafrost. Carbon, nitrogen, and hydrogen are only present on the Moon in parts per million quantities, much like gold in sea water. Oxygen is abundant on the Moon, but only in tightly bound oxides such as SiO2, Fe2O3, MgO, and Al2O3, which require very high energy processes to reduce. Current knowledge indicates that if Mars were smooth and all it’s ice and permafrost melted into liquid water, the entire planet would be covered with an ocean over 100 meters deep. This contrasts strongly with the Moon, which is so dry that if concrete were found there, Lunar colonists would mine it to get the water out. Thus, if plants were grown in greenhouses on the Moon most of their biomass material would have to be imported. But the biggest problem with the Moon, as with all other airless planetary bodies and proposed artificial free-space colonies (such as those proposed by Gerard O’Neill8) is that sunlight is not available in a form useful for growing crops. This is an extremely important point and it is not well understood. Plants require an enormous amount of energy for their growth, and it can only come from sunlight. For example a single square kilometer of cropland on Earth is illuminated with about 1000 MW of sunlight at noon; a power load equal to an American city of 1 million people. Put another way, the amount of power required to generate the sunlight falling on the tiny country of El Salvador exceeds the combined capacity of every power plant on Earth. Plants can stand a drop of perhaps a factor of 5 in their light intake compared to terrestrial norms and still grow, but the fact remains; the energetics of plant growth make it inconceivable to raise crops on any kind of meaningful scale with artificially generated light. That said, the problem with using the natural sunlight available on the Moon or in space is that it is unshielded by any atmosphere.

Mars, on the other hand, has an atmosphere of sufficient density to protect crops grown on the surface against solar flares. On Mars, even during the base building phase, large inflatable greenhouses made of transparent plastic protected by thin hard-plastic ultra-violet and abrasion resistant geodesic domes could be readily deployed, rapidly creating large domains for crop growth. Domes of this type up to 50 meters in diameter could be deployed on Mars that could contain the 5 psi atmosphere necessary to support humans. If made of high strength plastics such as Kevlar, such a dome could have a safety factor of 4 against burst and weigh only about 4 tonnes, with another 4 tonnes required for its unpressurized Plexiglas shield. In the early years of settlement, such domes could be imported pre-fabricated from Earth. Later on they could be manufactured on Mars, along with larger domes (with the mass of the pressurized dome increasing as the cube of its radius, and the mass of the unpressurized shield dome increasing as the square of the radius: 100 meter domes would mass 32 tonnes and need a 16 tonne Plexiglas shield, etc.). Networks of such 50 to 100 meter domes could rapidly be manufactured and deployed, opening up large areas of the surface to both shirtsleeve human habitation and agriculture. If agriculture only areas are desired, the domes could be made much bigger, as plants do not require more than about 1 psi atmospheric pressure. Once Mars has been partially terraformed however, with the creation of a thicker CO2 atmosphere via regolith outgassing, the habitation domes could be made virtually to any size, as they would not have to sustain a pressure differential between their interior and exterior.

Now other important prospect for colonization of Mars is Transportation of material. Here is table from research paper which shows it won’t be costly enough though.

To understand this, it is necessary to consider the energy relationships between the Earth, Moon, Mars, and the main asteroid belt. The asteroid belt enters into the picture here because it is known to contain vast supplies of very high grade metal ore10 in a low gravity environment that makes it comparatively easy to export to Earth. Miners operating in the main belt, for reasons given above, will be unable to produce their necessary supplies locally. There will thus be a need to export food and other necessary goods from either Earth or Mars to the main belt. As shown in the table below, Mars has an overwhelming positional advantage as a location from which to conduct such trade.

Table 1                  Transportation in the Inner Solar System

                                    Earth                 Mars

                             DV(km/s) Mass Ratio  DV (km/s)  Mass Ratio
Surface to Low Orbit            9.0      11.4       4.0       2.9
Surface to Escape              12.0      25.6       5.5       4.4
Low Orbit to Lunar surface      6.0       5.1       5.4       4.3
Surface to Lunar Surface       15.0      57.6       9.4      12.5
Low Orbit to Ceres              9.6      13.4       4.9       3.8
Surface to Ceres               18.6     152.5       8.9      11.1
Ceres to Planet                 4.8       3.7       2.7       2.1
NEP round-trip LO to Ceres     40.0       2.3      15.0      1.35
Chem to LO, NEP rt to Ceres    9/40      26.2      4/15       3.9

Nevertheless, the order of magnitude of the $320,000 fare cited for early immigrants-roughly the cost of a upper-middle class house in many parts of suburban America, or put another way, roughly the life’s savings of a successful middle class family – is interesting. It’s not a sum of money that anyone would spend lightly, but it is a sum of money that a large number of people could finance if they really wanted to do so. Why would they want to do so? Simply this, because of the small size of the Martian population and the large transport cost itself, it is certain that the cost of labor on Mars will be much greater than on Earth. Therefore wages will be much higher on Mars than on Earth; while $320,000 might be 6 year’s salary to an engineer on Earth, it would likely represent only 1 or 2 years’ salary on Mars. This wage differential, precisely analogous to the wage differential between Europe and America during most of the past 4 centuries, will make emigration to Mars both desirable and possible for the individual. From the 17th through 19th centuries the classic pattern was for a family in Europe to pool it’s resources to allow one of its members to emigrate to America. That emigrant, in turn, would proceed to earn enough money to bring the rest of the family over. Today, the same method of obtaining passage is used by Third World immigrants whose salaries in their native lands are dwarfed by current air-fares. Because the necessary income will be there to pay for the trip after it has been made, loans can even be taken out to finance the journey. It’s been done in the past, it’ll be done in the future.

In short, Martian civilization will be practical because it will have to be, just as 19th Century American civilization was, and this forced pragmatism will give it an enormous advantage in competing with the less stressed, and therefore more tradition bound society remaining behind on Earth. Necessity is the mother of invention; Mars will provide the cradle. A frontier society based on technological excellence and pragmatism, and populated by people self-selected for personal drive, will perforce be a hot-bed of invention, and these inventions will not only serve the needs of the Martians but of the terrestrial population as well. Therefore they will bring income to Mars (via terrestrial licensing) at the same time they disrupt the labor-rich terrestrial society’s inherent tendency towards stagnation. This process of rejuvenation, and not direct economic benefits via triangle-trade for main-belt asteroid mineral resources, will ultimately be the greatest benefit that the colonization of Mars will offer Earth, and it will be those terrestrial societies who have the closest social, cultural, linguistic, and economic links with the Martians who will benefit the most.

[ref: The Economic Viability Of  Space Colonization by Robert Zubrin]

Mars Anomaly

Here is an interesting video! Watch this and tell me what do you think?

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