Author Topic: FEATURE: Curiosity confirms organics on Mars; Opportunity’s 10 year anniversary  (Read 56737 times)

Offline Dalhousie

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Curiosity chief scientist responds to Noffke paper.

http://www.space.com/28218-mars-rover-curiosity-signs-life.html

He could not really say anything else.

"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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Curiosity chief scientist responds to Noffke paper.

http://www.space.com/28218-mars-rover-curiosity-signs-life.html

He could not really say anything else.

Do you mean in the sense that he had to say that because they decided not too investigate the feature?
« Last Edit: 01/10/2015 08:43 AM by Star One »

Offline Robert Thompson

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England has a good paper on why RNA is uniquely suited as the first catalytic self-replicator.

I cannot locate this. Link please?

Offline Dalhousie

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Curiosity chief scientist responds to Noffke paper.

http://www.space.com/28218-mars-rover-curiosity-signs-life.html

He could not really say anything else.

Do you mean in the sense that he had to say that because they decided not too investigate the feature?

Yes.
"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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Curiosity chief scientist responds to Noffke paper.

http://www.space.com/28218-mars-rover-curiosity-signs-life.html

He could not really say anything else.

Do you mean in the sense that he had to say that because they decided not too investigate the feature?

Yes.

I've seen some criticism online in relation to things like this that the Curiosity science team are too conservative in the targets they choose to investigate. I'm not sure myself whether that's fair or not as looking for life directly isn't its primary mission.

Offline the_other_Doug

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Curiosity chief scientist responds to Noffke paper.

http://www.space.com/28218-mars-rover-curiosity-signs-life.html

He could not really say anything else.

Do you mean in the sense that he had to say that because they decided not too investigate the feature?

Yes.

I've seen some criticism online in relation to things like this that the Curiosity science team are too conservative in the targets they choose to investigate. I'm not sure myself whether that's fair or not as looking for life directly isn't its primary mission.

I really don't think it's appropriate to question the science team's decisions.  We don't have the full picture that they use to make their decisions.  And when you open up that can of worms, you get to dealing with the people who are seeing everything from alien technology to little critters in the pictures.  There was indeed someone who, upon seeing a rock that seemed to inexplicably move (and was later shown to have been moved by the rover's wheel) actually filed suit in federal court to try to force the applicable science team to follow the science plan he wanted to dictate to them.  The suit claimed that NASA and JPL were guilty of gross malfeasance for not recognizing obvious living creatures in the pictures, or something like that.

In that kind of environment, with every nutcase looking over their shoulders, the science teams do well to simply make their own decisions as best they can and not worry about criticisms from those who have no idea of the constraints they face and the data they already have in hand.
-Doug  (With my shield, not yet upon it)

Offline Dalhousie

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Curiosity chief scientist responds to Noffke paper.

http://www.space.com/28218-mars-rover-curiosity-signs-life.html

He could not really say anything else.

Do you mean in the sense that he had to say that because they decided not too investigate the feature?

Yes.

I've seen some criticism online in relation to things like this that the Curiosity science team are too conservative in the targets they choose to investigate. I'm not sure myself whether that's fair or not as looking for life directly isn't its primary mission.

I don't think it is entirely fair either, given the huge issues associated with using the drill.
"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 NovaSilisko

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I don't think it is entirely fair either, given the huge issues associated with using the drill.

What is the current story with that anyway? I can't remember what specifically the issue was - something about a short circuit risk?
Do we know of any plan for dealing with it beyond using it only for very valuable targets?

Offline Dalhousie

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I don't think it is entirely fair either, given the huge issues associated with using the drill.

What is the current story with that anyway? I can't remember what specifically the issue was - something about a short circuit risk?
Do we know of any plan for dealing with it beyond using it only for very valuable targets?

I think the problem is built in, AFAIK the only solutions are to use it very sparely for the highest value targets and avoid using it in the purcussive mode.  Which is a shame really, because the onboad labs have got the capacity to do scores of samples.

The announced plan is to collect somewhere between four and eight more samples in the next 19 months (compared to five in the last 29.  At current rate of progress I suspect four is the best that can be hoped.
« Last Edit: 01/12/2015 09:23 PM by Dalhousie »
"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 NovaSilisko

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I think the problem is built in, AFAIK the only solutions are to use it very sparely for the highest value targets and avoid using it in the purcussive mode.  Which is a shame really, because the onboad labs have got the capacity to do scores of samples.

The announced plan is to collect somewhere between four and eight more samples in the next 19 months (compared to five in the last 29.  At current rate of progress I suspect four is the best that can be hoped.

So... what happens when the fault does strike? Is it just the drill that's busted, or the whole vehicle?

Offline Dalhousie

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I think the problem is built in, AFAIK the only solutions are to use it very sparely for the highest value targets and avoid using it in the purcussive mode.  Which is a shame really, because the onboad labs have got the capacity to do scores of samples.

The announced plan is to collect somewhere between four and eight more samples in the next 19 months (compared to five in the last 29.  At current rate of progress I suspect four is the best that can be hoped.

So... what happens when the fault does strike? Is it just the drill that's busted, or the whole vehicle?


If you believe this story, best case you loose the drill (and any ability to analyse rock with SAM and CheMin with it), worse case is you lose the mission.  http://www.space.com/18834-mars-rover-curiosity-drill-break.html
"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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Oy, late again!  :-[

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...

If you find that interesting, make sure to look up Lineweaver et al on a similar model. [I think it is referenced in my previous ref.] As soon as you have repeated emergence attempts, the likelihood for life is not negligible anyway.

Mainly, as soon as you have a dynamical system with a finite phase space volume as "target" of interest, you don't get a likelihood approaching zero to hit it. Or, said differently, if you have a repeatable process it would be very finetuned to produce precisely one (or zero or a few) individual results.

I never understood the references to Monod, he seems to have been a philosopher that claimed that life is unlikely (random result).  :o That is not what you expect from a geophysics viewpoint.

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.

England has a good paper on why RNA is uniquely suited as the first catalytic self-replicator.

I cannot locate this. Link please?

A perspective article here: https://www.quantamagazine.org/20140122-a-new-physics-theory-of-life/

The published paper here: http://www.englandlab.com/uploads/7/8/0/3/7803054/2013jcpsrep.pdf

Offline Torbjorn Larsson, OM

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Curiosity chief scientist responds to Noffke paper.

http://www.space.com/28218-mars-rover-curiosity-signs-life.html

He could not really say anything else.

Do you mean in the sense that he had to say that because they decided not too investigate the feature?

Yes.

I am glad we cleared that up, because Vasavada's claim that it "probably" don't have a biological origin is not neutral.

NASA's McKay and geomicrobiologist Boston says differently in an article referenced in NASA's astrobiology portal:

"“I’ve seen many papers that say ‘Look, here’s a pile of dirt on Mars, and here’s a pile of dirt on Earth,’” says Chris McKay, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center and an associate editor of the journal Astrobiology. “And because they look the same, the same mechanism must have made each pile on the two planets.’”

McKay adds: “That’s an easy argument to make, and it’s typically not very convincing. However, Noffke’s paper is the most carefully done analysis of the sort that I’ve seen, which is why it’s the first of its kind published in Astrobiology.”"

"“The fact that she pointed out these structures is a great contribution to the field,” says Penelope Boston, a geomicrobiologist at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. “Along with the recent reports of methane and organics on Mars, her findings add an intriguing piece to the puzzle of a possible history for life on our neighboring planet.”"

[ http://www.astrobio.net/news-exclusive/potential-signs-ancient-life-mars-rover-photos/ ]

So we have one neutral commentary, where I had thought the Curiosity team would land ("we need to investigate more, the sample return mission would be excellent for that, let us take that possibility (MISS at lakes/playas) to the site selection process for the 2020 sample rover"), and one lauding, as contrast.

I don't want to speculate in individual actions. (Beware of applying statistics of population behavior on individuals!  ::)) That is why I let science writer Paul Anderson do it instead.  ;D He has now written a comment under Wall's article:

"I've been in touch with Nora Noffke regarding this re my own article(s) for my blog The Meridiani Journal as well as AmericaSpace. She doesn't think the Curiosity team (and she knows a lot of the members) has even read her full paper yet, which is lengthy and goes into a lot of detail. She also noted that no one from Space.com had contacted her re this update, to get her side. The Curiosity team may or may not be right, but she is a very respected geobiologist, so they should be taking her findings into account if they haven't already, especially after acknowledging that they *could have* looked at the features more closely, but didn't. Vasavada's background is geology and physics, but not biology or geobiology. Noffke's hypothesis deserves to be looked at and tested if possible, that's all. The Curiosity team's reaction comes off as more of a casual dismissal than based on specific rebuttals."

[ http://www.space.com/28218-mars-rover-curiosity-signs-life.html?fb_comment_id=fbc_870092566374435_870927902957568_870927902957568 ]

I would add to Anderson's writ that Vasavada rejects Noffke's claim that there are no potential confusions (false positives) at her state of checking off on her MISS tests list, on Earth. (She do want to make a complementary microanalysis and a search for potential false positives, to make sure.) Either Vasavada makes a blanket claim that Noffke is wrong, or he has observations that would teach MISS experts something new.

In either case it would be useful, not least for strategies on rover science, if Vasavada wrote a counter-article that lays out his evidence for errors or Mars's unique MISS-like geological processes.

Can Curiosity's team really leave this behind as "a causal dismissal", especially since the 2020 rover isn't finalized? Any thoughts?
« Last Edit: 01/13/2015 06:24 PM by Torbjorn Larsson, OM »

Offline Dalhousie

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Bit more on the organics story.

http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/mars-organic-matter/#.VLWMVCuUfLG

As far as I can see from this the detection is the same as that reported in the original Sheepbed member paper, over a year ago.  What they have done is more work using simulants that, in their view increases the probability that the chlorinated hydrocarbons are indigenous, not contamination.

Still no word on a new paper to explain more of this, so it is a case of science by media release.
"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 Dalhousie

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I would add to Anderson's writ that Vasavada rejects Noffke's claim that there are no potential confusions (false positives) at her state of checking off on her MISS tests list, on Earth. (She do want to make a complementary microanalysis and a search for potential false positives, to make sure.) Either Vasavada makes a blanket claim that Noffke is wrong, or he has observations that would teach MISS experts something new.

In either case it would be useful, not least for strategies on rover science, if Vasavada wrote a counter-article that lays out his evidence for errors or Mars's unique MISS-like geological processes.

Can Curiosity's team really leave this behind as "a causal dismissal", especially since the 2020 rover isn't finalized? Any thoughts?

I don't think Vasavada has any personal competence to assess Noffke's paper.  He is not a geologist, let alone a palaentologist, has not done any field work on any planet, he's a physicist and a modeller.

Of course here I assume he is speaking for the team.  Right or wrong the team, including people who were competent to make the call decided that these features were not worth a closer look.  It's too far away in time and space to go back and check again.

All they can do is perhaps be a bit more alert to the possibility, should they see similar features, and perhaps look more closely.

I don't see any impact for the 2020 mission myself, beyond a pointer to the possibility of returning microbial textures.

"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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« Last Edit: 01/13/2015 10:11 PM by Star One »

Offline NovaSilisko

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« Last Edit: 01/13/2015 11:28 PM by NovaSilisko »

Offline Star One

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This paper now seems to be slowly picking up some more widespread coverage.

http://www.theage.com.au/technology/sci-tech/astronomy/photos-show-possible-signs-of-ancient-microbial-life-on-mars-20150112-12mt27.html

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/6425392

http://io9.com/this-curiosity-image-suggests-microbial-life-once-exist-1677739858

Uh oh... almost time for misinformed reporters to take it as an absolute fact that these structures were formed by life.

Some might argue that's no better than dismissing it out of hand that it has received in some other quarters.

Offline NovaSilisko

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Yeah... good point.

I do hope they find similar features in the future, and take the time to investigate them closely as a result of this paper. Maybe media attention will make investigation more likely.
« Last Edit: 01/14/2015 06:27 AM by NovaSilisko »

Offline Star One

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Yeah... good point.

I do hope they find similar features in the future, and take the time to investigate them closely as a result of this paper. Maybe media attention will make investigation more likely.

It's just the author of the report seems well respected and therefore not someone to be lightly brushed aside. As you say maybe the attention its gathered will garner further investigation, especially if as mentioned above she intends to pen a response to what the Curiosity team are reported to have said in reply to the original article.

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