Author Topic: FEATURE: Curiosity confirms organics on Mars; Opportunity’s 10 year anniversary  (Read 40425 times)

Online Space Ghost 1962

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So by "predictions" you mean "rate of progression of travel". Took it to mean "science predictions".

These were absurdly high to begin with, to justify the "nuclear" power instead of solar. At one point banking much
on driving through the night. How do you do science while driving through the night? Personally expected a fractional improvement over Opportunity/Spirit, while also a decrease due to a more elaborate science package requiring more "non driving time".

There are political aspects to missions that intrude on reality. I would class this under that.

They were absurdly high in retrospect, but they were widely believed.  These illustrate much of the absurd expectations people have of robotic surface exploration.

Political aspects should not lead to people lying.  I would go to self deception or simply being wrong. And it should be a lesson for the future.  Robotic rover missions, especially future ones, will be oversold.  It’s happened with the 2020 rover already and continues to happen with Curiosity for the extended mission
Not lying - it could drive at night. Not sensible from the start - who'd not use the instruments on all that interim terrain, and in using the instruments, require examination in daylight as well. Consider it a unused capability.

Perhaps if they encounter a long uninteresting feature they'll use it then. Remember, the group that built the spacecraft designed to required capabilities, and the group that targeted the mission judged the site as best allowing the mission to best be completed. Neither overlapped to make sure that the expectation of all capabilities would be used to garner the mission goals. Like with field science, where you bring along an instrument the entire way that you never end up using, because the situation turned out different.

As to less than genuine use of legislation / capabilities, that's not for me to judge the merits of. The matter has been raised from the beginning. If you are upset about this small example, in the greater context of the nation (or world), you must be either very upset very often, or completely shut in and ignorant of the larger, more common cases. Neither would I believe. Nor is it relevant.

If it matters, many had doubts about this. But the alternative is larger solar/batteries. Which may not survive "wintering". I guarantee with that radioactive source, there will be heat flow for this.

The point is we have demonstrated a capability that can be used where solar has insufficient power density.

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...although the Moon has been doing quite well in the past ten years or so!

Hardly - cheap missions. No American lander/rover. Chinese with Yutu rover best example. "Precision bombing" didn't yield as much science product as humor...

I don’t care whether a mission is American or not.  The mission may have been cheap, but have been enormously successful and transformed many aspects of lunar science.

I do because I want missions to be funded by Congress, so you play by their rules. And like much in the way of science results, they are not being communicated back well, a chief limitation in planetary science, as I witnessed at the AGU yet again. I'm glad you're pleased, but I'm telling you they don't "get it", and if they don't "get it" they don't fund follow on.

The “Precision bombing" didn't yield as much science product as humor... completely missed me, I’m sorry.
S "Pete" Worden (see http://www.allreadable.com/77321U2H):
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Ames Research Center is go for the first precision bombing run on the moon.
... this in reference to various mission terminations to impact lunar features to toss up a debris cloud that may allow a dubious assay of a site. He thinks he's a wit ... he's half right.

Offline Vultur

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If you want high-powered instruments on Mars, then send high-powered (and less-flimsy) instruments to Mars.  There is no need to send people to operate them - the cost would be many orders of magnitude greater because the people would probably want to come back, require lots of Oxygen and Food and DVDs of "Three's Company" while they are there, etc etc.

No way is it many orders of magnitude - once you add in the greatly increased power budget and thus greatly increased mass... the far less capable Curiosity is already like $2.5 billion and I don't think a manned mission would cost $250 billion if done sensibly. (Possibly quite a lot less.)

Offline savuporo

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If you want high-powered instruments on Mars, then send high-powered (and less-flimsy) instruments to Mars.  There is no need to send people to operate them - the cost would be many orders of magnitude greater because the people would probably want to come back, require lots of Oxygen and Food and DVDs of "Three's Company" while they are there, etc etc.

No way is it many orders of magnitude - once you add in the greatly increased power budget and thus greatly increased mass... the far less capable Curiosity is already like $2.5 billion and I don't think a manned mission would cost $250 billion if done sensibly. (Possibly quite a lot less.)
That is where the discussion devolves into "my unicorns are better than your pixies".

I gave a little thought to the question above about what would a robotic Mars exploration program with hundreds of tons of IMLEO mass available look like, but there are so many hypotheticals in the question that it's not something you bash into a forum post or a blog post - it would be a short book if not more.

If you start comparing against something like NASA's Mars DRM 5.0 .. it is full of hopeful technology that does not exist today and needs to be developed. If it did exist, we would not be pondering this question and Mars would be a busy place.
One can napkin design a brute force, flight-proven technology only, robotic salvo architecture with what .. about 50 Curiosity-sized landers, but that too would be a fantasy only - nobody is going to pay $10B in launch costs only for lobbing so much equipment at Mars.
And even if it weren't, by the time your first rocket lifts off you would have revised the ideas - which is happening every month right now in organizations like MEPAG. Except that they are more grounded in reality and don't dream that much about orders of magnitudes of larger spending.

As I keep asking, come up with numbers that show what is required to provide equivalent science return unmanned to what a crewed mission can do.  Numbers, please, not invocation of fantasy robots.
Fantasy robots vs fantasy ECLSS with fantasy rockets with fantasy SEPs with fantasy MAVs and ERVs and NTRs and cryo prop management and nuclear surface reactors and a looot of other pixie dust. Its all basically a good hard sci-fi story.
Because its an interesting thought exercise, at some point i'll probably write up my ideas what a technology capability driven Mars exploration program would look like but you will be disappointed - couple of first launch windows would go to 100% enabling technology development with absolutely minimal science returns.




« Last Edit: 01/02/2015 03:41 AM by savuporo »
Orion - the first and only manned not-too-deep-space craft

Offline Dalhousie

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As I keep asking, come up with numbers that show what is required to provide equivalent science return unmanned to what a crewed mission can do.  Numbers, please, not invocation of fantasy robots.
Fantasy robots vs fantasy ECLSS with fantasy rockets with fantasy SEPs with fantasy MAVs and ERVs and NTRs and cryo prop management and nuclear surface reactors and a looot of other pixie dust. Its all basically a good hard sci-fi story.
Because its an interesting thought exercise, at some point i'll probably write up my ideas what a technology capability driven Mars exploration program would look like but you will be disappointed - couple of first launch windows would go to 100% enabling technology development with absolutely minimal science returns.

If you are not prepared to do the work then I suggest you stop arguing a position for which you have neither the evidence or the wiliness to defend .   I suggest you defer to those who have the numbers and the experience from both the human and the robotic end.

If you are not prepared to do the numbers then I suggest as a minimum you come up with three Mars or lunar scientists who think that crewed missions are not desirable or needed.  With either links or references
"There is nobody who is a bigger fan of sending robots to Mars than me... But I believe firmly that the best, the most comprehensive, the most successful exploration will be done by humans" Steve Squyres

Offline Oli

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As I keep asking, come up with numbers that show what is required to provide equivalent science return unmanned to what a crewed mission can do.  Numbers, please, not invocation of fantasy robots.
Fantasy robots vs fantasy ECLSS with fantasy rockets with fantasy SEPs with fantasy MAVs and ERVs and NTRs and cryo prop management and nuclear surface reactors and a looot of other pixie dust. Its all basically a good hard sci-fi story.
Because its an interesting thought exercise, at some point i'll probably write up my ideas what a technology capability driven Mars exploration program would look like but you will be disappointed - couple of first launch windows would go to 100% enabling technology development with absolutely minimal science returns.

If you are not prepared to do the work then I suggest you stop arguing a position for which you have neither the evidence or the wiliness to defend .   I suggest you defer to those who have the numbers and the experience from both the human and the robotic end.

If you are not prepared to do the numbers then I suggest as a minimum you come up with three Mars or lunar scientists who think that crewed missions are not desirable or needed.  With either links or references

Ask a planetary scientist whether he wants to spend $100bn on robotic or manned Mars exploration. I think the answer is clear.

Even if time delay is such a huge issue, which I seriously doubt, you could operate robots in real-time from orbit. There is no need to go down to the surface.

Edit: Found an interesting paper on the subject (attached).

Evaluation of Human vs. Teleoperated Robotic Performance in Field Geology
Tasks at a Mars Analog Site


Paper is from 2002 for a 2015-class rover. Humans were limited to one three-hour shift per test site, while robot operators could have one or two thee-hour shifts.

Observations per unit time for the given test cases:

Remote-rovers, terrestrial-controlled (w/delays)
observation rate = 0.2
Remote-rovers, Mars-controlled (w/o delays)
observation rate = 1 (normalized)
Spacesuited human, observation rate = 5
Shirtsleeve - free human geologist, obs rate = 27

So according to this, a spacesuited human is 25x more effective than a robot controlled from Earth. Of course when making a comparison to manned Mars exploration one has to take into account that robots can be operated for several years and multiple robotic missions can target different sites of interest on the planet.

« Last Edit: 01/02/2015 09:14 AM by Oli »

Offline pagheca

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So according to this, a spacesuited human is 25x more effective than a robot controlled from Earth. Of course when making a comparison to manned Mars exploration one has to take into account that robots can be operated for several years and multiple robotic missions can target different sites of interest on the planet.

Some data behind opinions, at least. Thanks very much for that paper.

However, the problem is also that resources are limited: until someone demonstrates costs of manned space travel can be reduced by order of magnitudes, not a 10 or 20 (or even 50) percent, because funding for space exploration are very limited the cost of even a minimalistic manned Mars mission would drain anything else, with a huge loss for science.

We have to select our target between economically feasible missions, not only high benefit/cost missions.
« Last Edit: 01/02/2015 06:26 PM by pagheca »

Online matthewkantar

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If you spent half of the budget for a manned mission to mars on unmanned missions, I believe you would got many times more science for the money.  Anybody can hand wave cheaper manned missions or more capable robots. The ISS cost what 100B dollars? I don't believe a mars mission could be done for five times that, not by government contractors anyway.

How long would this manned mission dwell on the surface, a few months at most?

Would science even allow a manned mission before we know what damage we would cause by contaminating the planet with humans and their byproducts?

Reality is our first few stabs at rovers have shown that it is possible for them to work for ten years on the surface of Mars. 250B in investment in unmanned gear could have tons of samples back here on earth, core drilling to many meters depth, improved Mars orbit relay sats, etc etc. I understand the intense desire for feet on the surface of Mars, but in my opinion you get much more bang for the buck with bots.

Matthew


Offline ThereIWas3

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That Apollo required humans on the Moon to get their results is not really relevant to this discussion, as computer and communication capabilities of 50 years ago (when Apollo was being designed). are simply laughable by today's standards.  I was in college during Apollo, and my University had one of the most powerful mainframe computers commercially available in its computer center.  It filled a room.   Any typical smartphone today is 1000 times more powerful and fits in your pocket.   Similar advancements have been made in sensors and actuators.

The problem with solar power on Mars, as experienced by the MER rovers, was not night, but winter.  They had to hibernate thru the cold, and one of them never woke up.   Either you need much larger panels (not practical on a rover) or nuclear power.  A fixed heated garage /recharge station with big panels would be nice, but we are not to that point yet.

I am convinced that until the unmanned missions return enough information to make manned missions more widely supported, there will be no funding from the US Congress for manned missions at all.
"If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea" - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Offline Vultur

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I don't think manned Mars missions really need much undemonstrated technology. You just have to be more minimalist and accept a bit more risk. No artificial gravity, no special GCR protection (solar flare shielding only), and so on.

The two things that are really "new" are landing a larger payload and (for the cheaper Mars-Direct-type mission) ISRU on Mars. But those are only weakly "undemonstrated"; propulsive landing is pretty well known by now and doing it in Mars gravity and atmosphere should only help (less wind force/gravity etc.) and we have pretty good data from the many unmanned Mars landings. And the chemistry needed for ISRU is also well known.

Offline Vultur

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If you spent half of the budget for a manned mission to mars on unmanned missions, I believe you would got many times more science for the money.  Anybody can hand wave cheaper manned missions or more capable robots. The ISS cost what 100B dollars? I don't believe a mars mission could be done for five times that, not by government contractors anyway.

Maybe it really would cost $500 billion if it was totally planned by NASA, from the launch vehicle on up. But if the infrastructure was mostly provided by someone like SpaceX... no way.

IIRC Mars Direct was supposed to be $30-50 billion. Reusable Falcon Heavy could probably cut that.

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How long would this manned mission dwell on the surface, a few months at most?

IIRC opposition class is supposed to be something like a year.

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Would science even allow a manned mission before we know what damage we would cause by contaminating the planet with humans and their byproducts?

Well, "science" doesn't allow or disallow things.

But I don't think it would matter. Existing unmanned landers contaminate the environment with pretty reactive propellants, and they probably aren't completely bacteriologically clean either despite efforts.

And the bacteria thing probably doesn't matter much. Current tech would easily distinguish between Earth imports, Mars native life, and Mars life descended from a transfer from Earth in the distant past. (A simple DNA test is sufficient - if it doesn't fit on Earth's tree of life or doesn't have DNA at all, it's a true Mars native; if it belongs on Earth's tree of life but is very distant from known things, it's an import in the distant past; if it's a known species or closely related to known human-commensal species, it's a recent import/contamination).

This sort of thing wasn't possible back in the early Space Age; back then contamination would have been a huge problem for finding life. But since metagenomics was invented... not really.

Online Chris Bergin

Let's get back on to the subject of this thread, which is the article, which isn't a honey pot for the anti-HSF gang.

Offline pagheca

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Let's get back on to the subject of this thread, which is the article, which isn't a honey pot for the anti-HSF gang.

Sorry Chris, but this has rather been an interesting discussion about the pro and con of rover vs. human exploration of Mars (see for example the very interesting paper reported by Oli), with both the parties well represented and no references to HSF in general.

Representing some people like a "gang" because of their opinions is quite unfair IMHO.
« Last Edit: 01/03/2015 07:22 PM by pagheca »

Offline vulture4

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Well over 600 samples have been analyzed with the ChemCam; once a mineral has been identified the laser is apparently pretty accurate in identifying it without full analysis.

Signal latency is indeed a major limitation in both rover movement and sample selection. One way to overcome this obstacle without humans at Mars is with improved artificial intelligence to allow autonomous rover movement and sample selection. Curiosity's computational power, although impressive for a radiation-hardened spacecraft (400MIPS, 256 kB of EEPROM, 256 MB of DRAM, and 2 GB of flash memory), is minimal compared to a modern cell phone, let alone typical autonomous vehicles like the Google car, but NASA is the only government agency that operates robots at distances too great  for teleoperation, and NASA should be leading the way in the development of AI for exploration. We will need it, unless we plan to send humans to Europa, Titan and maybe Pluto in the near future. If we achieve it, the productivity of all rovers on any celestial body will be greatly improved.
« Last Edit: 01/03/2015 09:40 PM by vulture4 »

Offline Dalhousie

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Well over 600 samples have been analyzed with the ChemCam; once a mineral has been identified the laser is apparently pretty accurate in identifying it without full analysis.

ChemCam is probably one of the biggest technological innovations of the mission, well worth repeating in the future because it gives non-contact geochemistry.  But it doesn't do mineralogy, one of the biggest drawbacks of the instrument suite of Curiosity  is it lacks the ability to do either remote and contact mineralogy.  Mineralogy and geochemistry are not the same, different minerals can have the same chemical compositions (e.g calcite and aragonite are both CaCO3).  Glasses may show the same composition as crystalline rock with with very different implications WRT genesis. 

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Signal latency is indeed a major limitation in both rover movement and sample selection. One way to overcome this obstacle without humans at Mars is with improved artificial intelligence to allow autonomous rover movement and sample selection. Curiosity's computational power, although impressive for a radiation-hardened spacecraft (400MIPS, 256 kB of EEPROM, 256 MB of DRAM, and 2 GB of flash memory), is minimal compared to a modern cell phone, let alone typical autonomous vehicles like the Google car, but NASA is the only government agency that operates robots at distances too great  for teleoperation, and NASA should be leading the way in the development of AI for exploration. We will need it, unless we plan to send humans to Europa, Titan and maybe Pluto in the near future. If we achieve it, the productivity of all rovers on any celestial body will be greatly improved.

The real latency for Mars isn't the comunication lag but the twice a day time comms slot.

For the past 60 years we have been promised that level of  AI in the next decade or so.  We are still waiting.  Certainly neither ExoMars or the 2020 rover, or the proposed Chinese or Indian rovers will have it.  That takes us out to the 2020s.

What we are more likely to see is improved autonomous navigation allowing longer drives and some degree of onboard classification of data highlighting features of interest.  These have certainly be trialled by ExoMars testbeds.
"There is nobody who is a bigger fan of sending robots to Mars than me... But I believe firmly that the best, the most comprehensive, the most successful exploration will be done by humans" Steve Squyres

Offline Star One

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Offline Dalhousie

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People might also be interested in an earlier paper in the same journal on MISS in the 3.5 Ga Dresser Formation in WA.

http://online.liebertpub.com/toc/ast/13/12

The paper shows what can be learned when you can study the material properly (macrophotography, photomicrographs, thin sections, laser Raman imagery, structural analysis).
"There is nobody who is a bigger fan of sending robots to Mars than me... But I believe firmly that the best, the most comprehensive, the most successful exploration will be done by humans" Steve Squyres

Offline Torbjorn Larsson, OM

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(Sorry for a late response. Life intervened.)

I have to disagree. The article is very astute.

Interesting comment, thanks, although I am not necessarily convinced. The fact that life emerged very early is a good indicator, but statistically speaking doesn't say very much.

Can you please write some references regarding what you says?

I remember a paper some years ago (cannot find it anymore but I discussed about it very much) talking about the fact that DNA/RNA could be the only chemical mechanism available to guarantee certain characteristics of life. This is important because it means we could at least "recognize" alien life and apply standard tests to verify its existence.

For the thermodynamics of replicators and the stability of their exponential increase (at best), see Pascal "Suitable energetic conditions for dynamic chemical complexity and the living state", Systems Chemistry; Pross (et al) on the same subject. England has a good paper on why RNA is uniquely suited as the first catalytic self-replicator.

For the likelihood, see Spiegel and Turner http://arxiv.org/abs/1107.3835 . If you want to test it, replace their bayesian model with hypothesis testing. (Or use bayesian ratio testing.)
« Last Edit: 01/08/2015 11:16 AM by Torbjorn Larsson, OM »

Offline Torbjorn Larsson, OM

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Typically you don't use definitions to recognize life anymore than you do to recognize rocks or species. You have to differentiate, as Noffke does for fossils.

There are more or less unique properties of life though:

- Species are products of the life process (evolution; Darwin's definition). Therefore you can test populations (but not individuals) for that.

- Organisms are persistent. (Schroedinger's definition; Pross's take on the topological stability that exponential replication confer.) You can test for that.

- Organisms are irreversible. (Haldane's definition; Pross's take on the thermodynamics of replication.) You can test for that, but there are confusions.

- Organisms are based on a genetic ancestry of RNA (most likely; England's research on the thermodynamics of replication). As I understand it, the variants of nucleotides are strictly set by RNA replication and catalysis to be 4 and those 4 out of 8 possible. [There is a good Quora response to that effect.] We happen to use the 4 that are more or less most easy to produce chemically I think.

- Cells vibrate. (The new nano-beam test for collections of live cells.  Bacteria use pumps in/out and flagella (some); archaea and eukaryotes use internal actins and tubulins to reconfigure, move (some species), divide, ... Of course some archaea has archella and some eukaryotes cilia to move.) Again: tests and confusions.
« Last Edit: 01/08/2015 11:51 AM by Torbjorn Larsson, OM »

Offline pagheca

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Typically you don't use definitions to recognize life anymore than you do to recognize rocks or species. You have to differentiate, as Noffke does for fossils.

There are more or less unique properties of life though:

- Species are products of the life process (evolution; Darwin's definition). Therefore you can test populations (but not individuals) for that.

- Organisms are persistent. (Schroedinger's definition; Pross's take on the topological stability that exponential replication confer.) You can test for that.

- Organisms are irreversible. (Haldane's definition; Pross's take on the thermodynamics of replication.) You can test for that, but there are confusions.

- Organisms are based on a genetic ancestry of RNA (most likely; England's research on the thermodynamics of replication). As I understand it, the variants of nucleotides are strictly set by RNA replication and catalysis to be 4 and those 4 out of 8 possible. [There is a good Quora response to that effect.] We happen to use the 4 that are more or less most easy to produce chemically I think.

- Cells vibrate. (The new nano-beam test for collections of live cells.  Bacteria use pumps in/out and flagella (some); archaea and eukaryotes use internal actins and tubulins to reconfigure, move (some species), divide, ... Of course some archaea has archella and some eukaryotes cilia to move.) Again: tests and confusions.

Spiegel & al. 2012 is a very interesting paper indeed. I was thinking to try something like that but had not enough understanding of the issue (and time) for that. Still reading...

Those above are unique properties of life on Earth. But what let you assume this are also necessary to alien life? You write that RNA is "most likely" in particular. On what you base that? Any reference?

Offline Star One

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Typically you don't use definitions to recognize life anymore than you do to recognize rocks or species. You have to differentiate, as Noffke does for fossils.

There are more or less unique properties of life though:

- Species are products of the life process (evolution; Darwin's definition). Therefore you can test populations (but not individuals) for that.

- Organisms are persistent. (Schroedinger's definition; Pross's take on the topological stability that exponential replication confer.) You can test for that.

- Organisms are irreversible. (Haldane's definition; Pross's take on the thermodynamics of replication.) You can test for that, but there are confusions.

- Organisms are based on a genetic ancestry of RNA (most likely; England's research on the thermodynamics of replication). As I understand it, the variants of nucleotides are strictly set by RNA replication and catalysis to be 4 and those 4 out of 8 possible. [There is a good Quora response to that effect.] We happen to use the 4 that are more or less most easy to produce chemically I think.

- Cells vibrate. (The new nano-beam test for collections of live cells.  Bacteria use pumps in/out and flagella (some); archaea and eukaryotes use internal actins and tubulins to reconfigure, move (some species), divide, ... Of course some archaea has archella and some eukaryotes cilia to move.) Again: tests and confusions.

Spiegel & al. 2012 is a very interesting paper indeed. I was thinking to try something like that but had not enough understanding of the issue (and time) for that. Still reading...

Those above are unique properties of life on Earth. But what let you assume this are also necessary to alien life? You write that RNA is "most likely" in particular. On what you base that? Any reference?

Good question what is it says that RNA is always the preferred option.

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