Water On Mars?

This could be very cool.

Striking images taken by NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft suggest the presence of liquid water on the Martian surface, a tantalizing find for scientists wondering if the Red Planet might harbor life.

The orbiting U.S. spacecraft enabled scientists to detect changes in the walls of two craters in the southern hemisphere of Mars apparently caused by the downhill flow of water in the past few years, a team of scientists announced on Wednesday.

Mars water?

The idea of flowing water on our nearest planetary neighbor is pretty exciting, but bear in mind a few caveats. Most important, the Mars Global Surveyor never phorographed water. Rather the satellite photographed a crater wall before and after something that might be water (“five to ten swimming pools”) dug a fresh gully in it. As much as anything my skepticism comes from the fact that Mars doesn’t have internal geologic heat like the Earth. A substaintially smaller planet, Mars’s molten core froze up and stopped spinning millions of years ago. On Earth liquid water can only sink so deep into the crust before natural heat transforms it to gas and it comes shooting back to the surface (e.g., Old Faithful and deep-ocean thermal vents). The inability to remain liquid beyond a certain depth keeps water shallow. On Mars, a colder planet, the water flash point ought to be quite a bit further down. Background radioactivity and pressure will prevent the planet from cooling all the way to the core, but the point where water turns into steam has probably retreated deep enough to keep liquid water well out of our reach.

This news means one of two things. Maybe a dust landslide can create an erosion track similar to what water does on Earth. Let’s call that the more likely possibility since it agrees with everything that we know about the Red Planet. But still, the possibility of liquid water near the surface almost inevitably means life. Primitive bacteria color the waters in Yellowstone Park’s hottest, most acidic thermal pools, they live in the interstitial water in tiny rock crevices miles beneath the Earth’s surface, they live in the superheated anoxic water surrounding deep-sea thermal vents. If water flows on Mars then odds are better than one in two (my math. YMMV) that something has found a way to persist. So, for a change, I really won’t mind being wrong about this.

POSTSCRIPT: Speaking of space science – in the past month NASA lost touch with the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. You would think that the space program would be on fire to repeat programs that work and have a direct impact on us – intense robotic surveying of the Red Planet and deep scrutiny of the Earth’s changing climate. Nope. NASA administrators have been instructed to steer their attention and resources towards…a moon base.

Let me clarify. America won’t build a moon base. Moving a few modules into low Earth orbit (the International Space Station) took almost more resources than several space agencies could spare. Escaping Earth orbit entirely demands an investment several orders of magnitude more intense. It is tempting to think that every aspect of technology has revolutionized as rapidly as microprocessors* but in the case of rocket science, it really hasn’t. Pushing mass beyond the reach of Earth’s orbit takes just as much energy as it did in 1965, and it isn’t trivial. Shuttling monthly supplies (food, water, oxygen, fuel) would take more resources than our space agency currently spends on its entire budget. The technology isn’t close and the budget question is laughable (maybe we can ask China to extend our credit? snrk). The only good that a moon mission will do is transfer NASA resources away from projects which could prove politically damaging for Republicans and into a useless black hole. Call it robbing Peter to pay James Inhofe.

(*) To illustrate, my wife returned a 4-GB iPod last month for warranty reasons. Circuit City handed us an equal value unit – 8 GB of memory in a substantially better package. We had owned the earlier model for less than ten months. Moore’s Law in action.






61 replies
  1. 1
    demimondian says:

    Actually, Tim F., I did some research on this. The Marian core, like the cores of all rocky object, is heated by the decay of U238 and Th 232; since the planet is roughly diameter of Earth, and since the two planets exhibit very similar xenochemistry, we can conclude that the temperature in the Martian core is roughly half that of the Earth’s core — about 2500 C. By the same argument, the temperature just a few feet below the surface should be slightly above the freezing point of water.

  2. 2
    Tim F. says:

    demi,

    Mars has about half the diameter of the Earth and one tenth the mass, so I wouldn’t present them as very similar at all. The most important element for me isn’t the point at which water can melt (I have no doubt that it is fairly shallow) but the thermal flash point. My bet is that it has retreated pretty deep into the crust and the water followed it. There might be some very interesting biology down there, but absent some world-class drilling (just imagine the stiffy that would give Halliburton) we won’t get to it.

    But as I said, I’d gladly be wrong.

  3. 3
    ThymeZone says:

    This is all part of God’s plan.

  4. 4
    Zifnab says:

    If water flows on Mars then odds are better than one in two (my math. YMMV) that something has found a way to persist. So, for a change, I really won’t mind being wrong about this.

    Firstly, your math sucks.

    Secondly, Martians are fucking awesome.

    Thirdly, “persist” seems to suggest that there was life on Mars to begin with. Life, from what I’ve studied, is ridiculously persistant. I’ll definitely be willing to bet if there was water and there was life and there still is water, then there is definitely still life.

    Fourthly, “The Marian core, like the cores of all rocky object, is heated by the decay of U238 and Th 232”??! Does that mean the center of Mars is one giant atomic bomb? No wonder Bush was so obsessed with getting astronaughts up there.

    Finally, we need to make a law against Republicans handling anything scientific. These absolutely retarded JFK-wannabe pie-in-the-sky dreams of building moon bases and launching mars missions and making star wars systems needs to stop, like, now. Yes, everyone has seen Star Trek. Yes, everyone thinks the show was cool. No, we should not root our space exploration and utilization dollars in making a working model of the USS Enterprise. I’m getting damn sick of some show off telling me how Republicans will put a man on Pluto in 2050. If you can’t fix Iraq and you can’t handle a hurricane and you can’t even run an election correctly, you can’t play with the rocket scientists.

  5. 5
    Zifnab says:

    If water flows on Mars then odds are better than one in two (my math. YMMV) that something has found a way to persist. So, for a change, I really won’t mind being wrong about this.

    Firstly, your math sucks.

    Secondly, Martians are fucking awesome.

    Thirdly, “persist” seems to suggest that there was life on Mars to begin with. Life, from what I’ve studied, is ridiculously persistant. I’ll definitely be willing to bet if there was water and there was life and there still is water, then there is definitely still life.

    Fourthly, “The Marian core, like the cores of all rocky object, is heated by the decay of U238 and Th 232”??! Does that mean the center of Mars is one giant atomic bomb? No wonder Bush was so obsessed with getting astronaughts up there.

    Finally, we need to make a law against Republicans handling anything scientific. These absolutely retarded JFK-wannabe pie-in-the-sky dreams of building moon bases and launching mars missions and making star wars systems needs to stop, like, now. Yes, everyone has seen Star Trek. Yes, everyone thinks the show was cool. No, we should not root our space exploration and utilization dollars in making a working model of the USS Enterprise. I’m getting damn sick of some show off telling me how Republicans will put a man on Pluto in 2050. If you can’t fix Iraq and you can’t handle a hurricane and you can’t even run an election correctly, you can’t play with the rocket scientists.

  6. 6
    craigie says:

    (just imagine the stiffy that would give Halliburton)

    Please stop that. I’m feeling ill now.

  7. 7
    demimondian says:

    Yes, Mars has a tenth the mass, but its surface area is proportional to the square of its radius, and its mass is proportional to the cube of its mass. The equilibrium temperature of the Martian core is thus proportional to its radius, assuming an equal proportion of radioactive heating. That isn’t quite true — there’s a certain amount of kinetic heating caused by denser elements settling to the core which raises the core temperature of Mars a bit, but, to first order, the thermal profile is well modeled by the square-cube law.

    For the purposes of the equilibrium flash point, two factors come into play: the pressure at a given depth and the temperature at the same depth. I don’t have a pad of paper in front of me, so I can’t do the math now, but my gut tells me that they pull the flash point in opposite directions.

  8. 8
    vinc says:

    Apparently there is debate over whether Mars is tectonically active.

    The equilibrium temperature of the Martian core is thus proportional to its radius, assuming an equal proportion of radioactive heating. That isn’t quite true—there’s a certain amount of kinetic heating caused by denser elements settling to the core which raises the core temperature of Mars a bit, but, to first order, the thermal profile is well modeled by the square-cube law.

    Hmm… I don’t think it’s an equilibrium. In the class I took eight years ago (ie the class I don’t really remember) our model was that the planet gets some large initial temperature due to kinetic heating and radiation (the formation of the iron core) and then cooling occurs over time. Radiation would of course be contributing much less heat now than it did 4 billion years ago.

    In that model the reason earth’s interior is still molten is simply that the seven miles of rock that make up the earth’s crust are a really good insulator, and that the interior of the earth has a really big heat capacity.

    Hmm again… if it *was* an equilibrium problem then we have heat generation of mars H_mars=0.1H_earth (ie planetary mass ratio, assuming their compositions are the same), crust insulation R_mars=4*R_earth*crust thickness ratio (where the 4 comes from the diameter ratio squared). So that would imply that molten rock was two or three times as deep on Mars.

    If it’s an initial temperature problem then you have an RC decay with a time dependent R, and I’d guess you get similar results.

  9. 9
    mclaren says:

    “Hmm… I don’t think it’s an equilibrium. In the class I took eight years ago (ie the class I don’t really remember) our model was that the planet gets some large initial temperature due to kinetic heating and radiation (the formation of the iron core) and then cooling occurs over time. Radiation would of course be contributing much less heat now than it did 4 billion years ago.

    “In that model the reason earth’s interior is still molten is simply that the seven miles of rock that make up the earth’s crust are a really good insulator, and that the interior of the earth has a really big heat capacity.”

    What class was that, pray tell? The answer to the heat of the earth’s core has been known for many many years. The heat comes from radioisotopic decay. It was known quite well and calculated in the late 19th century that gravitational heating alone would have cooled the earth’s core after a mer e few million years.

    The great debate over the age of the earth involved Lord Klevin and he was proven definitively wrong. See
    http://www.springerlink.com/in.....667M41.pdf

    My own prediction for the next martian discoveries?

    Banths. Synthetic men. And princess Dejah Thoris, of course. :-)

  10. 10
    Sherard says:

    Are you kidding me ? Thanks for your brilliant analysis, Tim. Shit, why haven’t we elected YOU president yet ? Or at least senator.

    I wonder where we’d be if you and your ilk were in charge at ANY time in the last 50 years. Is there ANYTHING we’ve done that you would have approved of ?

    ROTLFMAO

  11. 11
    Bombadil says:

    ROTLFMAO

    Rolling on the laughing floor, my ass off.

    I bet you get frequent flier miles, crazy fast.

  12. 12
    Tim F. says:

    Thanks for sharing, Sherard. That has to be one of your most substantive posts ever.

  13. 13
    Tim F. says:

    Apparently there is debate over whether Mars is tectonically active.

    It must be a pretty one-sided debate. Mars has no magnetic field, which means no molten core, which means no fluid over which tectonic plates can slide. There may well be some geologic activity taking place; Mars has moons which exert tidal forces which can gradually push realignment of the crust. But the era of subduction arc volcanoes is long, long in Mars’s past.

    As a side note, I would love to hear the best geologic explanation for Olympus Mons. That is one big hill. I guess if the Martian crust stopped moving around, the single hotspot that had the shortest route from core to surface would win, but still…

    For the purposes of the equilibrium flash point, two factors come into play: the pressure at a given depth and the temperature at the same depth. I don’t have a pad of paper in front of me, so I can’t do the math now, but my gut tells me that they pull the flash point in opposite directions.

    Refer to the phase diagram of water here. Pressure keeps water in its liquid state, temperature pushes it in the other direction.

    On any planet pressure is simply a measure of depth. Temperature is the interesting variable. If you dropped the temperature by half then water would retreat much further down than temperature alone would predict, because at that point the pressure would have dramatically increased as well. The pressure effect would work as a positive feedback in response to decreased temperature.

  14. 14
    nongeophysical Dennis says:

    I would at some point like to see a radio observatory on the far side of the moon, where it would be well insulated from Earth’s radio pollution, and this would likely–actually almost certainly involve some form of relay network to get the data back to us. I don’t think that would require a continous manned presence though; something more akin to Hubble writ large, largely automated with regular visits for maintenance and upgrade.

    As my username would suggest, I am not a geophysicist, but rather I used to be a mundane old geologist, at the time not feeling like doing engineer level math for non-engineer level pay. However threads about planetary science always pique my curiousity Tim–it’s one of the many reasons I check this blog a few times a week, although I rarely post.

    Now I have my coffee all nice and warm and ready to see some heat flow arguments! Oh yeah, good times.

    I won’t be able to contribute much though, most of familiarity with heat flow comes from hydrogeology–the hydraulic equations were largely derived from heat flow IIRC. So it’ll be nice to see what I’ve forgotten! :)

  15. 15
    Bombadil says:

    Hmm again… if it was an equilibrium problem then we have heat generation of mars H_mars=0.1H_earth (ie planetary mass ratio, assuming their compositions are the same), crust insulation R_mars=4*R_earth*crust thickness ratio (where the 4 comes from the diameter ratio squared). So that would imply that molten rock was two or three times as deep on Mars.

    I’m continually amazed at the wide variety of people who read/post here. It runs from the very intelligent (physicists, chemists, mathematicians) through the full spectrum, all the way down to Sherard.

    Quite the community.

  16. 16
    demimondian says:

    The phase diagram is exactly what I had in mind, though.

    Below the surface of an object, pressure is controlled by two independent variables: depth (assuming uniform density, which is roughly valid for the crust of both planets) and G_object, (gmr_Mars = 0.37 gmr_Earth, .) At any depth d, the pressure on Earth is gmr_Earth * d * common_crust_density, and the pressure on Mars it 0.37 times that value. Thus, the pressure on Mars is LOWER than that of Earth, and, therefore, the phase transition is at a lower depth on Mars than it is on Earth.

  17. 17
    Buddy says:

    Seems more probable to me that the slide on the side of this dusty crater is just that. Dust. But who knows, water would be interesting, and makes for great headlines, at least.

  18. 18
    Tim F. says:

    Thus, the pressure on Mars is LOWER than that of Earth, and, therefore, the phase transition is at a lower depth on Mars than it is on Earth.

    That is an excellent point. If we key in the gravity difference (my point about the two planets’ mass difference coming back to bite me in the ass…) the possibility of near-surface water seems significantly higher.

  19. 19
    Bombadil says:

    Seems more probable to me that the slide on the side of this dusty crater is just that. Dust. But who knows, water would be interesting, and makes for great headlines, at least.

    Yeah, Tim said as much in his original post, and it makes as much sense as anything. But there’s yet another alternative — they finally got the snowmaking equipment working again, and the first run of the season is now open. We need to send cameras with better resolution to see if it’s a bunny slope or a black diamond.

  20. 20
    Buddy says:

    Looks like a helluva slope, too. That would be a vacation to die for!

    Also in re phase transition, we are assuming pure water. Briny water would Eff the equation up, as would other (possibly unknown) impurities.

  21. 21
    pie says:

    Are you kidding me ? Thanks for your brilliant analysis, Tim. Shit, why haven’t we elected YOU president yet ? Or at least senator.

    I wonder where we’d be if you and your ilk were in charge at ANY time in the last 50 years. Is there ANYTHING we’ve done that you would have approved of ?

    ROTLFMAO

    Sherard has helped kill spoof on this site. It’s not even fun anymore, thanks to the fact that the only genuine right-wing posts anymore consist of this mindless crap. At least Darrell was entertaining. This reads like it was written by someone who’s been huffing glue for the last several days. That person has probably entertained themselves, but for us long-suffering spoofers, it’s hard to work with this kind of material.

    How am I supposed to spoof this, Sherard? “Yeah, Tim, you’re fucking retarded! Fuck you! Go to fucking Hell, you fucking Commie!” Because really, that’s intellectually on par with what you’ve just written.

    If you wrote something more intelligent, I could spoof it, providing a stupefying “echo” of your original post, to our mutual benefit. Your opinions get buttressed, and I get to make fun of those opinions. Everyone wins, and nobody’s hurt.

    Your post here, however, has no substance whatsoever. I can’t echo a sullen glare. No cave, however deep or dark or spooky, will provide an echo for upraised middle fingers.

  22. 22
    Keith says:

    I’m putting my money on the water being ejected due to being superheated as a result of alien nucular reactors plunging into the Martian surface. Within a year, the atmosphere will settle & it will be a sunny paradise much like Jamaica or Gitmo.

  23. 23
    demimondian says:

    Nah. It’s actually a side effect of the heating caused by the black hole which is consuming Mars, even as we speak.

  24. 24
    Steve says:

    Sherard has helped kill spoof on this site. It’s not even fun anymore, thanks to the fact that the only genuine right-wing posts anymore consist of this mindless crap.

    The root of the problem is that the Republicans have been so awful for the last several years that the intelligent conservatives are now on our side of most issues. No one is able to mount a coherent defense of, say, Bush and his policies, so that’s why a good debate is hard to find these days.

  25. 25

    It’s on Amerikas tortured brow
    That Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow
    Now the workers have struck for fame
    ‘Cause Lennon’s on sale again
    See the mice in their million hordes
    From Ibeza to the Norfolk Broads
    Rule Britannia is out of bounds
    To my mother, my dog, and clowns
    But the film is a saddening bore
    ‘Cause I wrote it ten times or more
    It’s about to be writ again
    As I ask you to focus on

    Sailors fighting in the dance hall
    Oh man! Look at those cavemen go
    It’s the freakiest show
    Take a look at the Lawman
    Beating up the wrong guy
    Oh man! Wonder if he’ll ever know
    He’s in the best selling show
    Is there life on Mars?

    David Bowie – “Life On Mars,” from the album “Hunky Dory”

  26. 26
    pie says:

    The root of the problem is that the Republicans have been so awful for the last several years that the intelligent conservatives are now on our side of most issues. No one is able to mount a coherent defense of, say, Bush and his policies, so that’s why a good debate is hard to find these days.

    Yeah, but at least you can point and laugh at some of them. You can’t even do that with Sherard, it’s too pathetic. I just feel sorry for him.

    David Bowie – “Life On Mars,” from the album “Hunky Dory”

    Great song. “Space Oddity” is a better album, though.

  27. 27
    Andrew says:

    By killing all of the humor in irony, sarcasm, spoofing, and impersonations, Republicans have once again made the world safe for prop comedy.

    I for one welcome our new Carrot Top overlords.

  28. 28
    Detlef says:

    Tim F. wrote:
    It must be a pretty one-sided debate. Mars has no magnetic field, which means no molten core, which means no fluid over which tectonic plates can slide.

    Are you sure about no molten core?
    From 2003:

    http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/ne.....ws_ID=4699

    “Earth has an outer liquid-iron core and solid inner core. This may be the case for Mars as well,” said Dr. Charles Yoder, a planetary scientist at JPL and lead author on the paper. “Mars is influenced by the gravitational pull of the sun. This causes a solid body tide with a bulge toward and away from the sun (similar in concept to the tides on Earth). However, for Mars this bulge is much smaller, less than one centimeter. By measuring this bulge in the Mars gravity field we can determine how flexible Mars is. The size of the measured tide is large enough to indicate the core of Mars can not be solid iron but must be at least partially liquid,” he explained.

    In addition to detection of a liquid core for Mars, the results indicate the size of the core is about one-half the size of the planet, as is the case for Earth and Venus, and the core has a significant fraction of a lighter element such as sulfur..

    APS X-rays reveal secrets of Mars’ core

    Recent observations from the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft have placed tight new constraints on the Mars’ core, indicating that the core of Mars is at least partially fluid and roughly 50 percent of the planet’s radius. Taken together with the high-pressure experiments, these findings imply the core of Mars may be even richer in light elements, more than 17 percent by weight, if predominately sulfur, and about twice the concentration of light elements thought to exist in the Earth’s core.

    “The nature of the core of Mars is a critical unresolved issue that holds the key to an understanding of the evolution, structure and dynamics of the planet’s interior,” said Shen, a senior research associate. Shen has been studying the density and chemistry of iron sulfide at high temperatures and pressures. “The behavior of iron sulfide at high pressures and high temperatures plays a key role in understanding the state of the martian core.”

    Such research could also help explain some of the awe-inspiring surface features of Mars, such as a volcano three times as high as Mt. Everest and a canyon system three times as deep and four times as long as Earth’s Grand Canyon.

    “Sulfur chemistry is very interesting,” Shen said. “A small amount of sulfur leads to an iron alloy at high pressures and temperatures, and significantly affects its physical properties. Melting temperature, for example, can be reduced by adding sulfur.”

  29. 29
    Punchy says:

    If we key in the gravity difference (my point about the two planets’ mass difference coming back to bite me in the ass…) the possibility of near-surface water seems significantly higher.

    Confused, Tim. Why wouldn’t ice anywhere NEAR the surface just sublimate? Near zero atmosphere, thus no ambient pressure…how could ice within miles of the surface not just sublimate prior to liquifaction and then “eruption”?

    Until they can see water, I’m marking this down as tracks from a dust storm.

  30. 30
    BlogReeder says:

    Interesting post, Tim F. I saw that story on Drudge and thought cool.

    NASA administrators have been instructed to steer their attention and resources towards…

    Are you really that paranoid? Quick, look behind you! I think I see Karl!

    Maybe this is just politics. Wasn’t there a post here about NASA proposing unusually unpopular projects to get funding for popular ones?

  31. 31
    Tim F. says:

    Are you really that paranoid?

    Let’s see, an ad hominem inside an unsupported appeal to incredulity. You must have a quota to fill.

    The problem with behaving like an ass, blogreeder, is that you look that much worse when you turn out to be wrong. Or see this:

    One NASA scientist, William Patzert, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, confirmed the general tone of the agency that year.

    “That was the time when NASA was reorganizing and all of a sudden earth science disappeared,” Mr. Patzert said. “Earth kind of got relegated to just being one of the 9 or 10 planets. It was ludicrous.”

    A more civilized commenter would apologize. I won’t hold my breath.

    Wasn’t there a post here about NASA proposing unusually unpopular projects to get funding for popular ones?

    You mean this post. I made clear that the interpretation was a guess on my part, since I don’t live inside the head of any NASA administrator.

  32. 32
    MNPundit says:

    That’s the most frustrating thing imaginable.

    Everything anyone has ever done or will do doesn’t mean a thing if we can’t escape the Earth–but there’s so much to do here to get to the point where we really can direct our attention to the stars and make it work.

    Thanks for setting us back a couple decades cleaning up your mess W!

  33. 33
    RSA says:

    If I were a science conspiracy theorist, I would be thinking hard about the similarity between the photos of Tim F.’s post and photos like this. Fantastic Voyage, anyone?

  34. 34
    pie says:

    By killing all of the humor in irony, sarcasm, spoofing, and impersonations, Republicans have once again made the world safe for prop comedy.

    I for one welcome our new Carrot Top overlords.

    I hate you. Death to the collaborators! Why aren’t they burning Carrot Top effigies in the streets? For that matter, why haven’t they been burning Carrot Top effigies in the streets for the last 10 years?

  35. 35
    pie says:

    That’s the most frustrating thing imaginable.

    Everything anyone has ever done or will do doesn’t mean a thing if we can’t escape the Earth—but there’s so much to do here to get to the point where we really can direct our attention to the stars and make it work.

    Thanks for setting us back a couple decades cleaning up your mess W!

    We’ve got a couple billion years, don’t we? No rush.

    That’s assuming global warming/killer bees/giant meteorites/nuclear war/gay marriage/the Book of Revelations/Carrot Top don’t kill us all first, of course.

  36. 36
    canuckistani says:

    I have to say that I’m excited by the prospect of a moon base, but not at the expense of the outstanding robot science NASA is doing. I’d like to see them justify it on the strength of the science that can be done there, though, and not as a staging area for Mars missions. I can’t help feeling that if we’re going to work that hard to get out of the earth’s gravity well, we’d climb back down into the moon’s for no good reason. Wasn’t that what the space station was for?

  37. 37
    vinc says:

    The heat comes from radioisotopic decay. It was known quite well and calculated in the late 19th century that gravitational heating alone would have cooled the earth’s core after a mere few million years.

    I certainly didn’t mean to imply that radiation wasn’t a factor. But that is the most logical interpretation of my original comment. Thanks for complaining about that.

    I can’t read the article you link here, and I won’t read it at work. But googling around finds people saying things like, for example, “two primary sources of internal energy are the decay of radioactive isotopes and the gravitational energy from the earth’s original formation.” I am not willing to do the work to figure out the numbers at this time.

    It was an approximation techniques course.

  38. 38
    TenguPhule says:

    The problem with behaving like an ass called blogreeder

    Fixed.

  39. 39
    Punchy says:

    Why aren’t they burning Carrot Top effigies in the streets?

    Ah…Florida Atlantic University’s most famous graduate….

  40. 40

    Water On Mars?

    NASA has announced plans for a permanent moon base. Construction would begin around 2020 when astronauts return to the moon.
    The base will be built at one of the moon’s poles, because of the mild climate with more sunlight. Four-person crews will s…

  41. 41
    BlogReeder says:

    I made clear that the interpretation was a guess on my part, since I don’t live inside the head of any NASA administrator.

    But I guess now you do?

    My earlier remark about you being paranoid was merely a question. I’m shocked you misconstrued my jest as being part of an argument. Just shocked. Also, my ass statement previously was directed at that pompous ass Pb. Correcting other people’s spelling, indeed.

    I still think you’re giving this administration way too much credit for insidiousness. In the budget speech given by Michael Griffin he seemed to be more concerned about replacing the space shuttle.

    We’ve worked hard to address this problem more holistically in the FY 2007-11 budget formulation. We also are delving more deeply into the strategic implications of using shuttle-derived launch systems for the Crew Launch Vehicle and Heavy-Lift Launch Vehicle

    What is a Crew Launch Vehicle?

  42. 42
    pie says:

    Ah…Florida Atlantic University’s most famous graduate….

    They’ll probably name a building after him. Erect a statue of him on the quad.

    That assumes they haven’t done these things already, of course.

  43. 43
    demimondian says:

    Pie? FAU doesn’t have a quad; it has a left runway and a right runway.

    It used to also have five pairs of endangered owls that prevented building on much of the campus.

  44. 44
    Mike P. says:

    This is all great! Great thread and no snark intended. As the owner of a fairly large telescope, I wish I had a clue as to what was being discussed here beyond Mars, water, maybe. That’s my failure though, not the posters.

    More astronomy posts, please!

  45. 45
    r€nato says:

    I’d like to see them justify it on the strength of the science that can be done there, though, and not as a staging area for Mars missions.

    Wouldn’t part of the point of having a moon base, be to practice for survival on Mars? Capturing ice and breaking it into H and O for use as fuel and breathing air? I didn’t think the moon base was such a horrible idea, so long as it’s a stepping stone to Mars and not just a dead end on a dead planet.

    I can’t help but think that part of the motivation for the Mars base is Republican fears of the Chinese going to the Moon and we’re not there to greet them and remind them who was there first…

  46. 46
    vinc says:

    mclaren, a bit more on Kelvin: as I understand it the data he had was the near-surface temperature gradient. He did not argue that the core would be cold after a billion years absent a heat source, merely that the cold solid surface layer would be significantly thicker.

  47. 47
    Rick Moran says:

    There is not one word in the linked article about “steering attention and resources” toward a moon base by taking it away from unmanned, robotic planetary missions.

    Not. One. Single. Fucking. Word.

    You have no evidence for that statement. In fact, if you want to fall back on logic to prove it, you could say that the entire Shuttle program is taking away from umanned missions and be a helluva lot more accurate than saying a mission 20 years into the future is sucking resources away from any Mars missions.

    You, without a doubt, are the most knee jerk, reflexive, ignorant Bush/GOP basher on the internet. You put Hamsher to shame. You make Kos look like a Republican.

    There’s more depth to water on Mars than there is to your intellect.

  48. 48
    pie says:

    Pie? FAU doesn’t have a quad; it has a left runway and a right runway.

    What is this, modeling school?

    It used to also have five pairs of endangered owls that prevented building on much of the campus.

    Then Carrot Top came along and took care of that little problem for them, right?

    More astronomy posts, please!

    To the moon, Alice!

  49. 49
    pie says:

    There is not one word in the linked article about “steering attention and resources” toward a moon base by taking it away from unmanned, robotic planetary missions.

    Not. One. Single. Fucking. Word.

    Nah, we can keep the unmanned missions going too. All we have to do is make the Iraqis pay for the moon base. Supplemental budget allocations of the Iraqi Provisional Government. Should work out.

    You have no evidence for that statement. In fact, if you want to fall back on logic to prove it, you could say that the entire Shuttle program is taking away from umanned missions and be a helluva lot more accurate than saying a mission 20 years into the future is sucking resources away from any Mars missions

    Probably true. I wish we’d develop some cheaper, more efficient method of breaking Earth’s orbit, but I have no idea what that would be. A giant elevator into space? Wormholes? It sounds absurd. All I know is, the shuttle program blows, it’s pricey, and whenever it kills people any idea of a moon base gets pushed back by about 20 years.

    There’s more depth to water on Mars than there is to your intellect.

    Cordially…

  50. 50
    demimondian says:

    You didn’t read the press when Bush’s “new vision” was trumpeted, did you?

    Manned space flight is a boondoggle. It’s expensive and dangerous — and, as the Mars rovers have shown, unnecessary. All of the “research” which was done by the Apollo teams, at great risk to them, could have been done of far less by unmanned probes, even then.

    Of course, we wouldn’t have gotten _Apollo 13_ out of it, which is a loss, I guess.

  51. 51
    Bombadil says:

    Manned space flight is a boondoggle. It’s expensive and dangerous—and, as the Mars rovers have shown, unnecessary. All of the “research” which was done by the Apollo teams, at great risk to them, could have been done of far less by unmanned probes, even then.

    True, true and true.

    And yet…..

    I’ve been fascinated by space travel since the beginning of Project Mercury. John Glenn was a hero to the nine-year old me (I still have the scrapbook I put together about his flight, and my father, recognizing how much it meant to me, wangled a couple tickets to see an official NASA presentation some months afterwards), and I watched every launch and read all I could find about each mission.

    I once looked back at how taken I was with it all, and tried to figure out what was at the core of my feelings. I think it was simply, “Look what we (people) can do!”. People, actual people, can go out into space, can fly to the moon and come back, can build these intricate machines and make them work, can figure out solutions to all these issues. All they need is the right motivation and the resources to do it, and nothing is impossible.

    Since then, the blinders have come off, and reality has set in. I can look back and see all the things that money would have been better spent on (or even all the ways the space program would have been improved if not for the artificial “space race”). Sure, a lot of nifty things we take for granted now were spun off from development work done, so it’s not like the money was thrown away, but stuff went undone that shouldn’t have.

    But, sometimes, I want that feeling back. I want to watch something and be able to say, “Look what we can do!”

  52. 52
    demimondian says:

    Oh, G-d, how true.

    I stayed up late to watch the Eagle land. I built a telescope with my own hands because of Apollo. Like you, I remember thinking “Look what we can do!”.

    And I’m not at all sure that Apollo was a waste of money, or even a poor use of money. I am sure that a return to the moon would be both.

  53. 53
    Buddy says:

    Humans have an innate desire to explore, and I mean physically explore, the universe around them. I bet if louis and clarke had had the technology we have today they would have still scoffed at the idea of sending robots into the wilderness instead of going themselves. Some people are just that way. There’s more to it than just research: There’s the thrill of it all, and some people live for that.

    Now whether government should be funding adrenaline junkies for their fixes is another discussion.

  54. 54
    Tim F. says:

    Rick Moran,

    Thanks again for your kind words. If you read both linked articles you will find quite clearly that NASA researchers are very concerned about Earth sciences and useful space missions that have already been trimmed back in favor of manned boondoggles. Specifically, Mars.

    In fact if you read the moon story and the two articles that I linked in the comments the connection should be quite clear. Reallocations have already happened due to the dingbat focus on a Mars mission. One might think that the moonbase idea is simply another brain fart from a short-attention span administration, but in fact that isn’t true. The proposed moon base is specifically designed as a way station for the Mars mission. One is part and parcel of the other.

    And for what it’s worth, I don’t think very much of the space shuttle either. The libertarian in me (we all have one somewhere) winces at the expense relative to what we could accomplish without sending up seven men with life support each time we launch a mission.

  55. 55
    Buddy says:

    Yea but I don’t know how else you do research on humans in space without humans… wait ‘fer it.. Being in Space! :-D Yes it is expensive. Yes the shuttle program is outmoded and expensive. Yes space travel should be privately funded, probably. But there is research in re Human physiology in space that can only be done by putting humans out there. Plus there is a lot of other types of research that, while possible robotically, are difficult to do without human interaction. Machines and humans using remote control simply can’t do some of the experiments efficiently.

    Secondarily, I think, it fuels an interest in science. Space travel is ‘Sexy’ and hopefully will attract more and more bright minds into the science field, whereby they might then go on to figure out the solution to anything from global warming to who knows what else.

    Short term maybe it is a waste of money, but long term space exploration has been a huge driver of technological breakthrough benefits everyone in the end. Heck who would have thought that the particle physics lab at CERN would have given the world the WWW?! Automated Blood Pressure recorder? Yep, First used on Alan Shepard. Scratch resistant glasses… Satellite Protectant. Pacemakers? Based on Satellite telemetry electronic theory. Heat protection for racing drivers and firefighters? Came from space shuttle thermal protection research, and modern airplanes are based around many of the composites developed for the space shuttle. Now I realize alot of this has nothing to do with ‘sending people into space’ but to me thats part and parcel of space exploration. Sending dogs, monkeys, and Robots are just a precursor for the ‘real deal.’

    The sad thing about the Shuttle program is we’ve not developed any further in 25 years, not the ‘expense’ of the shuttle in my book. The practical benefits of sending people up in the Shuttle have outweighed the ‘expense’ many times over, but it’s time we move forward from that outmoded model.

  56. 56

    […] At least one commenter didn’t take very well to my suggestion that an addlebrained moonshot would steer NASA resources away from programs which actually serve some practical good, for example as robotic exploration and Earth science. Let’s leave aside the obvious point that a moonbase would absorb more resources than NASA spends on the rest of its objectives combined. NASA scientists have already warned that the addled scheme to put men on Mars, of which the moonshot is part and parcel, sucks resources from critical missions. I guess that wasn’t obvious enough. […]

  57. 57
    MNPundit says:

    “We’ve got a couple billion years, don’t we? No rush.

    That’s assuming global warming/killer bees/giant meteorites/nuclear war/gay marriage/the Book of Revelations/Carrot Top don’t kill us all first, of course.”

    You have made my point for me. This is our one shot, our planet won’t be able to generated the resources to advance to this level again. If our civilizations are broken by any of the things you mentioned then we will NEVER be able to leave the stars. That generates even more urgency to do it…

    …we need to escape. At least some of us, before it’s too late.

  58. 58

    Water On Mars?

    Scientists say water has flowed on Mars within the last five years. NASA photographs have revealed bright new deposits seen in two gullies on Mars that suggest water carried sediment through them sometime during the past seven years.
    “The shape…

  59. 59

    […] Right now NASA does some extremely cool things, for example robotic exploration of our neighbor planets. NASA also does some extremely useful things like understanding climate change through careful observation of the Earth. Unfortunately there is a third category, massive vanity projects that won’t happen and already suck resources from NASA’s useful projects. Hertz could mean that the budget shortfall will cut back the third kind of mission, which is cool. It’s not like boots on Mars will add any mission capabilities that robots can’t or won’t soon be able to do. But I suspect that Hertz is really talking about the former kind of Mars mission, which when you think that one of our robots just found evidence for running water near the surface of Mars strikes me as a small tragedy. […]

  60. 60

    […] Anything to add, Rick? […]

  61. 61

    […] Count my friend Rick Moran in as well. […]

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Count my friend Rick Moran in as well. […]

  2. […] Anything to add, Rick? […]

  3. […] Right now NASA does some extremely cool things, for example robotic exploration of our neighbor planets. NASA also does some extremely useful things like understanding climate change through careful observation of the Earth. Unfortunately there is a third category, massive vanity projects that won’t happen and already suck resources from NASA’s useful projects. Hertz could mean that the budget shortfall will cut back the third kind of mission, which is cool. It’s not like boots on Mars will add any mission capabilities that robots can’t or won’t soon be able to do. But I suspect that Hertz is really talking about the former kind of Mars mission, which when you think that one of our robots just found evidence for running water near the surface of Mars strikes me as a small tragedy. […]

  4. Water On Mars?

    Scientists say water has flowed on Mars within the last five years. NASA photographs have revealed bright new deposits seen in two gullies on Mars that suggest water carried sediment through them sometime during the past seven years.
    “The shape…

  5. […] At least one commenter didn’t take very well to my suggestion that an addlebrained moonshot would steer NASA resources away from programs which actually serve some practical good, for example as robotic exploration and Earth science. Let’s leave aside the obvious point that a moonbase would absorb more resources than NASA spends on the rest of its objectives combined. NASA scientists have already warned that the addled scheme to put men on Mars, of which the moonshot is part and parcel, sucks resources from critical missions. I guess that wasn’t obvious enough. […]

  6. Water On Mars?

    NASA has announced plans for a permanent moon base. Construction would begin around 2020 when astronauts return to the moon.
    The base will be built at one of the moon’s poles, because of the mild climate with more sunlight. Four-person crews will s…

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