Mars Phoenix provides further evidence that Viking may have missed organics on Mars.

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exoscientist

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<p><font size="2">NASA'S Phoenix Mars Lander Checking Soil Properties.<br />"June 07, 2008 The arm of NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander released a handful of clumpy Martian soil onto a screened opening of a laboratory instrument on the spacecraft Friday, but the instrument did not confirm that any of the sample passed through the screen."<br /></font><font size="2" color="#22229c">http://phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu/news.php</font><font size="2">&nbsp;</font></p><p><font size="2">&nbsp;This confirms an argument I've been making for years now. That the reason the Viking GCMS could detect no organics in the Martian soil probably was due to low amounts of sample being delivered to the instrument. The key point is the "sample full" detector for the GCMS at BOTH Viking sites failed to give sample full indications. This is curious because there were similar sample full detectors on the biology experiments that did properly show full samples were delivered. I concluded that the sample full detectors for the GCMS were in fact operating correctly and correctly indicated that low amounts of sample were delivered. <br />I copied below a post to sci.astro were I discuss this argument. The Mars Phoenix scientists have given an explanation in this case that it might be the clumpiness of the soil that prevents it from passing through the sieving grid. I considered this as the possible reason also in the Viking case but another possibility I think should be investigated using Mars simulant soil is that the extreme low humidity of Mars creates a great amount of static electricity that causes the soil to stick to the sieving grid. <br />I've highlighted the most relevant passage in bold.</font></p><p><font size="2">=========================================== <br />Newsgroups: sci.astro, alt.sci.planetary, rec.arts.sf.science, sci.bio.misc <br />From: Robert Clark <rgcl /> <br />Date: 2000/02/25 <br />Subject: Odds of Hazard of the Mars Sample Return Mission.</font></p><p><font size="2">From the MSNBC Space bbs, </font><font size="2">http://bbs.msnbc.com/bbs/msnbc</font><font size="2">-space/index.asp : </font></p><p><br /><font size="2">******************************************************* <br />Subject: Re: Odds of Hazard (was: Re: Disagree with... <br />From: Robert Clark <br />Host: isp15a-21.pha.adelphia.net <br />Date: Thu Feb 24 12:38:47 </font></p><p><font size="2">I think the low odds frequently given for the <br />likelihood of back contamination of Mars organisms is due <br />to the assumption that the likelihood of life on the <br />surface of Mars is virtually nonexistent. There are <br />reasons to doubt this conclusion. The Antaeus report gave <br />some plausible scenarios where life could still exist on <br />Mars despite the results of the Viking missions. <br />Unfortunately this is no longer available on the <br />Astrobiology Web site in the Planetary Protection <br />section, <br /></font><font size="2">http://www2.astrobiology.com/astro/protection.html</font><font size="2"> <br />Another paper discussing possibilities for life on Mars <br />after Viking is by Thomas and Schimel: </font></p><p><font size="2">D. J. Thomas and J. P. Schimel, 1991. Mars after the <br />Viking missions: is life still possible? Icarus, <br />91:199-206, <br /></font><font size="2">http://www.lyon.edu/webdata/users/dthomas/publications/Thomas_and_Schimel_91_199-206_1991.pdf</font><font size="2"> </font></p><p><font size="2">Also discussed in the Antaeus report are some known <br />situations where organisms taken out of their natural <br />environment had flourished and out-competed the organisms <br />already there. Their conclusion essentially was this was <br />not the usual state of affairs but it was known to occur <br />on Earth. This was important since I had not seen this <br />consideration discussed in any detail in any of the other <br />NASA reports on possible back contamination by Mars <br />samples. This gave some useful information to address the <br />claims frequently made that Mars organisms would be <br />unlikely to thrive outside their natural environment. <br />It has been also asserted that it is unlikely that Mars <br />life and Earth life would even be compatible. However, <br />recent research suggests that Earth and Mars as well as <br />the other terrestrial planets have been exchanging <br />material through impact ejecta throughout the life of the <br />solar system. Experiments suggest that some microbes <br />would be able to survive the trip through space encased <br />in the meteorites. Experiments also show that some very <br />hardy Earth microbes should be able to survive on the <br />surface of Mars. So it is likely that Earth and Mars have <br />exchanged some biological material. Since they have <br />exchanged biological material should we be concerned with <br />introducing new material? An analogous question to ask is <br />since they have exchanged biological material should we <br />be concerned with introducing new material with our <br />spacecraft we send to Mars? I think most scientists would <br />say yes. If we arbitrarily introduced new material to <br />Mars we could not determine the extent of naturally <br />occurring life we found there at some later time when <br />extensive, perhaps human, exploration takes place. Also, <br />over millennia the Earth life transferred there may have <br />evolved to their new environment to be as well adapted to <br />Mars as has life that evolved there independently. In the <br />case of possible life already transferred to Earth from <br />Mars via meteorites, it is impossible to tell how much <br />this life has been damaging to the life present in the <br />area in which it arrived. It may be that over time the <br />Mars life and Earth life accommodated each other with <br />some adaptations to each. Arguing that we need not be <br />concerned with introducing new Mars life since it has <br />happened before is a little like saying since we have <br />introduced new life from one region on Earth to another <br />region without deletious effects, we need not be <br />concerned with introducing ANY new life from one region <br />to another, clearly not a legitimate argument. </font></p><p><font size="2">Now in my opinion there are also other reasons to doubt <br />the prevailing opinion that the Viking missions detected <br />no life on Mars. All three life experiments detected life <br />signs on Mars and two of them the Labeled Release and <br />Pyrolytic Release experiments also satisfied the <br />criterion of getting no life signs after sterilization by <br />heating. The third the Gas Exchange experiment is <br />frequently said to be incompatible with life since some <br />gas was still released after heating to 145 degrees C. <br />However, it is usually not mentioned that the amount of <br />gas relesed was reduced to 45% after heating and as <br />discussed again in the Antaeus report as many as 10% <br />of some organisms will survive heating even to 160 <br />degrees C. <br />The primary reason for the conclusion of no life on <br />Mars were the results of the Viking GCMS which could <br />detect no organics on the surface of Mars. Back in 1976 <br />this might have seemed a reasonable conclusion to accept. <br />However, I believe it no longer is so. Astronomical <br />observations show organics to be ubiquitous in the <br />universe. They've been found on the Moon, comets, <br />meteorites, asteroids, interstellar clouds, <br />interplanetary dust grains that fall to Earth (and <br />presumably other planets), Titan, Pluto and Charon, and <br />the moons of Jupiter, Ganymede and Callisto. These last <br />two are important because it shows organics are able to <br />survive the intense radiation environment in the vicinity <br />of Jupiter. This has relevance to the situation on Mars <br />since the UV flux on Mars had been argued to limit the <br />possibility of organics on the surface. However, a recent <br />paper by Chris Chyba in Nature has argued that radiation <br />itself may create organics on the Jovian moon Europa: </font></p><p><font size="2">Jovian Radiation Could Heat Up Europan Soup <br /></font><font size="2">http://www.spacedaily.com/spacecast/news/life-00e.html</font><font size="2"> </font></p><p><font size="2">It is possible the same mechanism occurs on Mars to <br />create organics. <br />Since the prevalence of organics in the universe makes <br />it quite likely they also occur on Mars, it is my opinion <br />that an important fact was left out of the papers <br />describing the results of the Viking GCMS. In the first <br />report from the GCMS team in Science it is mentioned that <br />the sample indicator didn't get a full indication for <br />Viking Lander 1, <br />"Search for organic and volatile inorganic compounds <br />in two surface samples from the Chryse Planitia region of <br />Mars", Science, vol. 194, Oct. 1, 1976, p. 72-76. <br />This is also discussed in the online history of the <br />Viking missions: </font></p><p><font size="2">ON MARS <br />Exploration of the Red Planet 1958-1978 <br /></font><font size="2">http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/SP-4212/on-mars.html</font><font size="2">. </font></p><p><font size="2">In Chapter 11 of ON MARS, in the section "Sampling <br />the Martian Surface", it states that the Viking 1 <br />GCMS never got the signal that a sample was actually <br />delivered: </font></p><p><font size="2">"The first soil samples were acquired on sol 8, 28 <br />July. Four samples were dug, with the first being <br />deposited into the biology instrument distributor <br />assembly, the next two into the GCMS processor, and <br />the fourth into the funnel of the x-ray fluorescence <br />spectrometer. All the commands were successfully <br />executed, but there was no positive indication that the <br />gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer processor <br />had been properly filled. A second acquisition attempt <br />still did not provide a "sample level detector `full' <br />indication". The sampler system, having completed its <br />programmed sequences in a normal manner, parked the boom <br />as planned. On Earth, the lander performance specialists <br />began to analyze the possible causes of the anomaly: (1) <br />insufficient sample acquired in the collector head <br />because the same sample collection <br />site had also been used for the biology sample; (2) <br />insufficient time allowed for the sample to pass from the <br />funnel through the sample grinding section and then <br />through the fine (300-micrometer) sieve into the metering <br />cavity of the instrument; (3) grinder stirring spring not <br />contacting the sieve; or (4) sample-level-detector <br />circuit faulty. Since the "level-full" detector <br />consisted of a very fine wire stretched across the cavity <br />to which the sample material was <br />delivered, it was also possible that it had broken when <br />the soil was dropped into the funnel." <br />Ch. 11-5 SCIENCE ON MARS <br /></font><font size="2">http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/SP-4212/ch11-5.html</font><font size="2"> </font></p><p><font size="2">It is therefore puzzling to read in the Journal of <br />Geophysical Research paper on the GCMS results from <br />Viking Lander 2 that there was no sample full sensor: </font></p><p><font size="2">"The are two positions to which any of the ovens <br />can be moved in any sequence. The load position is <br />directly under the sampling system, which delivers about <br />1-2 cm^3 of surface material that after having been <br />ground is passed through a 0.3 mm sieve. A mechanical <br />poker pushes the material through a funnel into the oven. <br />This operation is timed in such a manner that the filling <br />of the oven is complete with any of the terrestrial test <br />soils (including finely ground basalt, commonly referred <br />to as 'lunar nominal'). However, there is no sensor <br />measuring the final level or completeness of the fulling <br />operation. Thus one has to assume that the oven is filled <br />to capacity, i.e., approximately 60 mm^3 of surface <br />material is being analyzed." <br />The Search for Organic Substances and Inorganic Volatile <br />Compounds in the Surface of Mars, Jour. Geophys. Res., <br />vol. 82, no. 28, September 30, 1977, p. 4642. </font></p><p><strong><font size="2">This paper discusses the GCMS results from both Viking <br />landers. The conclusion I draw from this passage is that <br />in fact the Viking lander 2 GCMS also never got a sample <br />full indication. I discussed this via email with two <br />researchers who worked on the Viking missions and their <br />view was that since the GCMS did detect water evolved <br />during heating this was proof that a sample was <br />delivered. However, one does note the JGR paper admits it <br />can't be determined the size of this sample. In my <br />opinion if was indeed the case that the Viking GCMS never <br />got a sample full indication at either of the Viking <br />sites for any of the samples drawn by the robot arm, then <br />this fact should have been mentioned in the papers <br />describing the GCMS results. This gains even more <br />significance when you consider that the sample full <br />indicator for the biology experiments was virtually <br />identical, yet DID receive sample full indications. One <br />could argue that it was only coincidence that the sample <br />full indicators failed at both Viking sites for the GCMS <br />yet worked for the biology experiments or one could <br />conclude that in fact the sample full indicators were in <br />fact giving a correct reading for the GCMS. In that case <br />one would be led to consider what was the difference <br />between the sample full indicators for the GCMS and the <br />biology experiments. It turns out the only difference was <br />that the GCMS had a much smaller sieving grid than did <br />the biology experiments because it needed smaller <br />samples. The examination of the Viking soil led to new <br />(and unexpected) information on the size of soil <br />particles, the magnetism of the particles, the <br />cohesiveness (stickiness) of the particles, and, one <br />could conclude, the static electricity of the particles <br />in the dry Martian atmosphere. In my opinion, knowing <br />that the Viking GCMS never got sample full indications <br />while the biology experiments did, could have led to <br />experiments to reproduce the Martian soil using the new <br />data returned by Viking to see if in such conditions it <br />was possible that only minute samples would be delivered <br />to the GCMS.</font></strong></p><p><font size="2">Given these facts it is my opinion that more likely than <br />not, the Viking missions did indeed discover life on <br />Mars. So I would put the probability of life at the <br />surface at above 50%. I would also put the likelihood <br />that the hardy Martian organisms could survive in the <br />Earth environment at above 50%. Following the Antaeus <br />report the cases where new introduced organisms <br />out-compete native organisms are rare, but do occur. I <br />would say the probability of this for Earth organisms is <br />certainly greater than one in a million. As a guess I <br />would put it at one in 1,000. So the probability that a <br />Mars organism introduced could out-compete Earth <br />organisms in a region might be one in 4,000. Note that <br />this may only result in a change in the dominant <br />organisms in an area. It may not be a death of the native <br />organisms. Nevertheless, this is not a situation we would <br />like to occur inadvertently. </font></p><p><br /><font size="2">Bob Clark </font></p><p><font size="2">===========================================</font></p><p><font size="2"><br />&nbsp;<br /></font></p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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3488

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<p><strong><font size="2">Cheers Bob, its good to see you again.</font></strong></p><p><strong><font size="2">I can see where the argument is coming from & yes I agree wih the information in your post.</font></strong></p><p><strong><font size="2">About the clumpiness of the soil at the Phoenix site. </font></strong></p><p><strong><font size="2">As well as the static binding the particles together, I think another factor, not instead of, but as well as the location.</font></strong></p><p><strong><font size="2">This site is often covered to a depth of at least 2 metres of CO2 ice. That will be heav, even under Mars's 37.8 Earth gravity, that will still be some weight pressing down. I wonder if compression is involved during the Winters, also making the soil bind together more strongly?</font></strong></p><p><strong><font size="2">Just a thought.</font></strong></p><p><strong><font size="2">Regarding organics, I think&nbsp;this site is the make or break regarding this. It is so cold & dry here that organics will survive a very long time. Do you think the signature of past life will be here? If so I wonder if Phoenix could even determine how how ago & what caused its extinction??</font></strong></p><p><strong><font size="2">Andrew Brown.</font></strong>&nbsp;</p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font color="#000080">"I suddenly noticed an anomaly to the left of Io, just off the rim of that world. It was extremely large with respect to the overall size of Io and crescent shaped. It seemed unbelievable that something that big had not been visible before".</font> <em><strong><font color="#000000">Linda Morabito </font></strong><font color="#800000">on discovering that the Jupiter moon Io was volcanically active. Friday 9th March 1979.</font></em></p><p><font size="1" color="#000080">http://www.launchphotography.com/</font><br /><br /><font size="1" color="#000080">http://anthmartian.googlepages.com/thisislandearth</font></p><p><font size="1" color="#000080">http://web.me.com/meridianijournal</font></p> </div>
 
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centsworth_II

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<p><font color="#666699"><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>It is so cold & dry here that organics will survive a very long time.<br /> Posted by 3488</DIV></font></p><p>Except for being fried by UV radiation. &nbsp;</p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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exoscientist

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<p><font size="2">&nbsp;Here's one report on research on static electricity that might occur in Martian soil:</font></p><p><font size="2">======================================<br />Title: Electrical Properties of Martian Regolith Simulant Particles.<br />Authors: Calle, C. I.; Kim, H. S.<br />Affiliation: AA(Sweet Briar College), AB(NASA/Kennedy Space Center)<br />Journal: American Astronomical Society Meeting #193, #96.07<br />Publication Date: 12/1998<br />Origin: AAS<br />Abstract Copyright: (c) 1998: American Astronomical Society<br />Bibliographic Code: 1998AAS...193.9607C</font></p><p><font size="2">Abstract<br />Hubble Space Telescope observations of Mars from Earth as well as spacecraft <br />measurements from orbit around Mars and from the Martian surface itself have <br />shown that suspended dust is a significant component of the Martian atmosphere. <br />Dust clouds have been observed extending over areas as large as a few million <br />square kilometers. Hubble has also photographed planet-wide dust storms lasting <br />for over one month. These conditions, coupled with the absence of any <br />significant amounts of water in the Martian atmosphere, may create electrostatic <br />potentials that could be hazardous for astronauts and equipment in future <br />missions. The electrical properties of the Martian soil have been determined <br />directly only by radio occultation from spacecraft in orbit about Mars, by <br />earth-based radar, and by microwave radiometry. For the present work, <br />experiments were designed to determine the electrical properties of a Martian <br />regolith simulant prepared from Andesitic rocks by NASA Johnson Space Center <br />that has been shown to be a good spectral analog to the soil in the bright <br />regions of Mars. The volume electrical conductivity of the simulant was measured <br />to be intermediate between that of a good conductor and that of a good <br />insulator. Thus, the simulant particles were expected to exhibit fairly high <br />surface electrostatic charging and polarizability. Experiments to determine <br />polarization and electrostatic charging of the simulant particles under several <br />conditions were conducted. <br />=======================================</font></p><p><font size="2">&nbsp;IF it is static electricity that is causing the stickiness then to get samples to be delivered to the Mars Phoenix instruments we might try to take the samples when the moisture in the air is highest.<br />&nbsp;The Mars MER rovers found there was frost deposited at night that burned off in early morning. This time would likely be when the humidity was highest at those sites.<br />&nbsp;The Mars Phoenix site is in a polar region during Martian northern summer where the Sun is always above the horizon so strickly speaking there won't be *night-time* frost deposition. Still there is great air temperature variation from -30C to -80C so there will likely be a diurnal time frame when the frost deposition is highest and also an optimal time frame where this frost will burn off as the temperature rises. Note also that orbital observations show that atmospheric water vapor is highest in the Mars polar regions so such frost deposition at the Phoenix site might be signicantly higher than for the equatorial MER rovers.<br />&nbsp;However, it is not certain that static electricity due to low air moisture is the problem here. Conceivably it might be the exact opposite where residual *liquid*&nbsp; water in the soil contributes to the stickiness of the soil. If this is the case then we will actually want to take the samples when the himidity in the air is lowest. Both scenarios should be tried.<br />&nbsp;Still another possibility is the magnetite particles that have been seen at the other landing sites is the cause of the stickiness. If this is the case I doubt that humidity variations will have an effect on the stickiness. I don't have a solution in this case. Perhaps experiments with Mars similants containing such magnetic particles would provide a solution about how best to deliver samples to the lander experiments.</font></p><p><font size="2">&nbsp;&nbsp; Bob Clark</font></p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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baulten

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>Except for being fried by UV radiation. &nbsp; <br /> Posted by centsworth_II</DIV></p><p>Doesn't the low angle of the sun mitigate a little bit of the UV intensity?&nbsp; Below the surface it certainly would be even better preserved&nbsp;</p>
 
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centsworth_II

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<font color="#666699"><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>Doesn't the low angle of the sun mitigate a little bit of the UV intensity?&nbsp; Below the surface it certainly would be even better preserved&nbsp; <br /> Posted by baulten</DIV><br /></font>One reason given for studying the powdery surface layer is that it represents grain samples from all over Mars, brought together and moved about by dust storms.&nbsp; So over decades or centuries, I suspect that the surface material has been pretty well exposed.&nbsp; But hopefully Phoenix will be able to scoop down to a level where there is material that has been protected from the harsh conditions of the surface for thousands or millions of years.&nbsp; That's the plan anyway. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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qso1

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<p><font color="#800080">Given these facts it is my opinion that more likely than not, the Viking missions did indeed discover life on Mars. So I would put the probability of life at the surface at above 50%. I would also put the likelihood that the hardy Martian organisms could survive in the Earth environment at above 50%. Following the Antaeus report the cases where new introduced organisms out-compete native organisms are rare, but do occur. I would say the probability of this for Earth organisms is certainly greater than one in a million. As a guess I would put it at one in 1,000. So the probability that a Mars organism introduced could out-compete Earth organisms in a region might be one in 4,000. Note that this may only result in a change in the dominant organisms in an area. It may not be a death of the native organisms. Nevertheless, this is not a situation we would like to occur inadvertently. Bob Clark Posted by exoscientist</font></p><p>While I agree that there is still the possibility of life on Mars regardless of the Viking missions negatively interpreted results. Both the Viking and this mission demonstrate why we will eventually need humans to go and not only confirm robotic data, but study any microbiological life forms if any exist there.</p><p>Unmanned, probe data and all the papers in the world are still well short of actual confirmation.&nbsp;</p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><strong>My borrowed quote for the time being:</strong></p><p><em>There are three kinds of people in life. Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen...and those who do not know what happened.</em></p> </div>
 
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JonClarke

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>NASA'S Phoenix Mars Lander Checking Soil Properties."June 07, 2008 The arm of NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander released a handful of clumpy Martian soil onto a screened opening of a laboratory instrument on the spacecraft Friday, but the instrument did not confirm that any of the sample passed through the screen</DIV></p><p>Bob, you&nbsp;indulging in selective quote mining to support a false claim. Further down the very same page you will find that Viking 1 team&nbsp;the decided to run the experiment on the assumption that there was a sample in there. Gases were evolved at 200 and 500 degrees.&nbsp; The secoic section in on page 407 of the original text at http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4212/ch11.html</p><dt><em><font face="Geneva">As one observer noted, the gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer was the court of appeals in the event that the biological experiments did not present a clear verdict. </font><strong><sup><font face="Geneva">65</font></sup></strong><font face="Geneva"> With the initial uncertainties from the biology experiments, the molecular analysis team decided to gamble that the GCMS had received its sample on sol 8 (see pages 398-400) and made the first analysis on 6 August (sol 17). Klaus Biemann reported to the press on the molecular analysis-"the first half of the first sample experiment of the organic analysis"-the following day. The soil sample was there! And the oven had worked as planned. There was always speculation among the news representatives about what new hardware problems might appear, but this time the scientists could report, "It did work as predicted, heated to 200&deg; and stayed there for thirty seconds. The entire gas chromatograph mass spectrometer worked well like all gas chromatograph mass spectrometers do." Although the molecular analysis team was obviously pleased that its instrument was working well, the results from the GCMS would be the source of the most frustrating data for those exobiologists who were hoping to find life on the Red Planet.</font> </em></dt><dd></dd><dt><em><font face="Geneva">About 300 mass spectra, electronically provided graphs identifying the molecules detected in the Martian soil sample, were returned by the first run of the GCMS. The molecular analysis specialists were particularly interested in determining if carbon compounds were in the sample, since biochemistry is largely the chemistry of carbon. The basic structure of the carbon atom enables it to form large and complex molecules that are very stable at ordinary temperatures. While no carbon compounds were detected in the first sample analysis, there was no great concern, since it was believed that the sample would have to be heated to 500&deg;C before the organics would be broken down and detected by the instrument. The only surprising aspect of the first data was the very small amount of water released by the sample. </font><strong><sup><font face="Geneva">66</font></sup></strong> </em></dt><dd></dd><dt><font face="Geneva"><em>On 12 August, the GCMS experiment was run again with the first sample being heated to a maximum temperature of 500&deg;C. Biemann reported that this analysis "to our surprise, evolved a large amount of water. Indeed so much that it gives us trouble in analyzing the data." Still, the critical point of this analysis was that there were probably no organics. If the reactions observed in the biology instrument were the consequence of life, then it was expected that the GCMS would detect organic compounds [</em><a name="408" title="408"></a></font><em><strong><font face="Geneva">408</font></strong><font face="Geneva">] in the same soil. Neither this analysis nor the subsequent one at the </font><font face="Geneva">Viking 1 </font><font face="Geneva">site, nor those carried out at the </font><font face="Geneva">Viking 2 </font><font face="Geneva">landing area, produced traces of organic compounds at the detection limits (a few parts per billion) of the GCMS. </font><strong><sup><font face="Geneva">67</font></sup></strong> </em></dt><dd></dd><dt><font face="Geneva"><em>Failure of the gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer to detect organic compounds was devastating for those who believed that life on Mars was possible. For Jerry Soffen, the GCMS results were "a real wipe out." Once he assimilated the fact that the GCMS had found no organic materials, he walked away from where the data were being analyzed saying to himself, "That's the ball game. No organics on Mars, no life on Mars, "But Soffen confessed that it took him some time to believe the results were conclusive. At first, he argued with Tom Young that there must have been no sample present in the GCMS, because there had to be organics of some sort on the planet. Soffen bet Young a dollar that the second analysis would prove that the instrument had been empty. To his dismay, the data indicated instead that there was a sample in the instrument and that the sample was devoid of organics.</em></font> </dt><p>It is a fact that the Viking GCMS worked as specified (they even detected the traces of chemicals&nbsp;used in their cleaning when tested on route to Mars).&nbsp; The absence of detectable organics can mean only&nbsp;two things.&nbsp; Either they were not present in the samples above detection limits or they were refactory at the heating temperatures.&nbsp; Both these possibilities willbe tested by Phoenix, assuming everything works.&nbsp; Pheonix has greater sensitivity and can heat samples to 1000 degrees.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>If these tests come up negative then&nbsp;you will have to accept that&nbsp;the organics are not there.&nbsp;&nbsp;If you continue to clutch as straws what then would distinguish you from the Hoaglandites arguing that the face on Mars is real?</p><p>Of course Phoenix might find higher amounts of organics tht Viking.&nbsp; This would be excitig, but, still would not man the Viking results were wrong s Phoenix will be able to sample greater depths and&nbsp; different locality.</p><p>Jon</p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><em>Whether we become a multi-planet species with unlimited horizons, or are forever confined to Earth will be decided in the twenty-first century amid the vast plains, rugged canyons and lofty mountains of Mars</em>  Arthur Clarke</p> </div>
 
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dragon04

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>Doesn't the low angle of the sun mitigate a little bit of the UV intensity?&nbsp; Below the surface it certainly would be even better preserved&nbsp; <br /> Posted by baulten</DIV></p><p>With negligible atmosphere and essentially no magnetosphere, the short answer is that "less intense" would still be "too intense".&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <em>"2012.. Year of the Dragon!! Get on the Dragon Wagon!".</em> </div>
 
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exoscientist

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<p><font size="2"><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>Bob, you&nbsp;indulging in selective quote mining to support a false claim. Further down the very same page you will find that Viking 1 team&nbsp;the decided to run the experiment on the assumption that there was a sample in there. Gases were evolved at 200 and 500 degrees.&nbsp; The secoic section in on page 407 of the original text at http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4212/ch11.htmlAs one observer noted, the gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer was the court of appeals in the event that the biological experiments did not present a clear verdict. 65 With the initial uncertainties from the biology experiments, the molecular analysis team decided to gamble that the GCMS had received its sample on sol 8 (see pages 398-400) and made the first analysis on 6 August (sol 17). Klaus Biemann reported to the press on the molecular analysis-"the first half of the first sample experiment of the organic analysis"-the following day. The soil sample was there! And the oven had worked as planned. There was always speculation among the news representatives about what new hardware problems might appear, but this time the scientists could report, "It did work as predicted, heated to 200&deg; and stayed there for thirty seconds. The entire gas chromatograph mass spectrometer worked well like all gas chromatograph mass spectrometers do." Although the molecular analysis team was obviously pleased that its instrument was working well, the results from the GCMS would be the source of the most frustrating data for those exobiologists who were hoping to find life on the Red Planet. About 300 mass spectra, electronically provided graphs identifying the molecules detected in the Martian soil sample, were returned by the first run of the GCMS. The molecular analysis specialists were particularly interested in determining if carbon compounds were in the sample, since biochemistry is largely the chemistry of carbon. The basic structure of the carbon atom enables it to form large and complex molecules that are very stable at ordinary temperatures. While no carbon compounds were detected in the first sample analysis, there was no great concern, since it was believed that the sample would have to be heated to 500&deg;C before the organics would be broken down and detected by the instrument. The only surprising aspect of the first data was the very small amount of water released by the sample. 66 On 12 August, the GCMS experiment was run again with the first sample being heated to a maximum temperature of 500&deg;C. Biemann reported that this analysis "to our surprise, evolved a large amount of water. Indeed so much that it gives us trouble in analyzing the data." Still, the critical point of this analysis was that there were probably no organics. If the reactions observed in the biology instrument were the consequence of life, then it was expected that the GCMS would detect organic compounds [408] in the same soil. Neither this analysis nor the subsequent one at the Viking 1 site, nor those carried out at the Viking 2 landing area, produced traces of organic compounds at the detection limits (a few parts per billion) of the GCMS. 67 Failure of the gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer to detect organic compounds was devastating for those who believed that life on Mars was possible. For Jerry Soffen, the GCMS results were "a real wipe out." Once he assimilated the fact that the GCMS had found no organic materials, he walked away from where the data were being analyzed saying to himself, "That's the ball game. No organics on Mars, no life on Mars, "But Soffen confessed that it took him some time to believe the results were conclusive. At first, he argued with Tom Young that there must have been no sample present in the GCMS, because there had to be organics of some sort on the planet. Soffen bet Young a dollar that the second analysis would prove that the instrument had been empty. To his dismay, the data indicated instead that there was a sample in the instrument and that the sample was devoid of organics. It is a fact that the Viking GCMS worked as specified (they even detected the traces of chemicals&nbsp;used in their cleaning when tested on route to Mars).&nbsp; The absence of detectable organics can mean only&nbsp;two things.&nbsp; Either they were not present in the samples above detection limits or they were refactory at the heating temperatures.&nbsp; Both these possibilities willbe tested by Phoenix, assuming everything works.&nbsp; Pheonix has greater sensitivity and can heat samples to 1000 degrees.&nbsp;&nbsp;If these tests come up negative then&nbsp;you will have to accept that&nbsp;the organics are not there.&nbsp;&nbsp;If you continue to clutch as straws what then would distinguish you from the Hoaglandites arguing that the face on Mars is real?Of course Phoenix might find higher amounts of organics tht Viking.&nbsp; This would be excitig, but, still would not man the Viking results were wrong s Phoenix will be able to sample greater depths and&nbsp; different locality.Jon <br />Posted by jonclarke</DIV></font></p><p><font size="2">&nbsp;&nbsp;Jon, there&nbsp;is another important factor that needs to be considered that I didn't include in this sci.astro post from 2000 since it wasn't known at the time. It's the&nbsp;fact that the Mars Odyssey GRS/HEND instrument has shown there is much more water in the martian soil than expected, certainly at the mid latitude Viking 2 site but even at the near equatorial Viking 1 site.</font></p><p><font size="2">&nbsp;Keep in mind that since the sample full indicator gave no response, the only reason they know SOME sample was delivered was because they detected water evolved on heating. But because we now know there is significant amounts of water in the martian soil the amounts of water they observed could still have come from a small sample, too small to trigger the sample full indicator and also too small to provide detectable organics that were in fact there. </font></p><p><font size="2">&nbsp;Note that I'm not disputing that the GCMS worked correctly and was able to detect residual organics that were already&nbsp;in the instrument prior to launch and also water that was on Mars. I'm even saying the sample full indicator was operating correctly. I'm saying that it was because insufficient sample was able to be passed through the sieving grid that was responsible for the GCMS inability to detect the organics that were there.</font></p><p><font size="2">&nbsp;Note also that even in the Phoenix case even though not enough sample was delivered to trigger the sample full indicator some small amount was able to penetrate sieving grid. This was discussed in the June 9th audio conference. See the partial transcript here:</font></p><p><font size="2">Phoenix on Mars.<br /></font><font size="2">http://www.bautforum.com/space-exploration/74917-phoenix-mars-2.html#post1258742</font></p><p><font size="2">&nbsp; Bob Clark</font></p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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michaelmozina

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>I'm even saying the sample full indicator was operating correctly. I'm saying that it was because insufficient sample was able to be passed through the sieving grid that was responsible for the GCMS inability to detect the organics that were there.</DIV></p><p>It seems to me that the fact there was no "full" indication, and we're having similar problems loading samples into the current equipment both seem to bolster your position.&nbsp; You could concievably be right about the detector and the amount of the sample being tested on the Viking missions, and yet this would still not resolve the issue.&nbsp; If in fact life signs are detected from current and/or future missions, then your argument may definitely come into play. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> It seems to be a natural consequence of our points of view to assume that the whole of space is filled with electrons and flying electric ions of all kinds. - Kristian Birkeland </div>
 
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michaelmozina

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<p>http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/phoenix/images/press/RS012EFF897276092_11C90MBM1.html</p><p>I've been looking at the recent images of the dirt on the screen of the new lander.&nbsp; I really don't know enough about the various parts of Phoenix or the angles of objects in the image, but at first glance, it does seem like some dirt particles seem to cling to the sides of different parts with various angles which might suggest that eiither moisture or static cling is holding the dirt in place. </p><p>It does seem concievable to me that your are correct about the amount of dirt that entered the Viking experiments, but I would not jump to any conclusions about the biological life issue. There is no one to one correlation between being right about Viking experiments, and being correct about the existence of biological life on Mars.&nbsp;</p><p>I personally tend to believe that life is abundant in the universe, but I have no idea if other planets or moons in our own solar system are capable of supporting and life forms.&nbsp; It's maybe a more important question if Viking experiments were influenced in a similar way as Phoenix, but the question of biological life remains unanswered.&nbsp; Hopefully you'll have some of those answers very soon. :) </p><p>&nbsp;</p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> It seems to be a natural consequence of our points of view to assume that the whole of space is filled with electrons and flying electric ions of all kinds. - Kristian Birkeland </div>
 
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exoscientist

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<p><font size="2">&nbsp;On the possibility that problem of the stickiness of the soil might be <br />due to the magnetic particles, the Phoenix team has done some <br />experiments with Mars soil simulants that contain some proportion of <br />magnetic particles so you would think this problem would have already <br />been seen in these simulations if that were the reason. Perhaps though <br />there was a higher proportion of magnetic particles than expected in <br />the actual Mars soil. <br />I did a web search on how you can demagnetize a permanent magnet and <br />found this: <br /></font></p><p><font size="2">Magnet. <br />5 Magnetization and demagnetization. <br />"Permanent magnets can be demagnetized in the following ways: <br />Heating a magnet past its Curie point will destroy the long range <br />ordering. <br />Contact through stroking one magnet with another in random fashion <br />will demagnetize the magnet being stroked, in some cases; some <br />materials have a very high coercive field and cannot be demagnetized <br />with other permanent magnets. <br />Hammering or jarring will destroy the long range ordering within the <br />magnet. <br />A magnet being placed in a solenoid which has an alternating current <br />being passed through it will have its long range ordering disrupted, <br />in much the same way that direct current can cause ordering." <br /></font><font size="2">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnet#Magnetization_and_demagnetization</font><font size="2"> <br /></font></p><p><font size="2">&nbsp;The TEGA instrument will heat the sample to high temperature, but of <br />course this can't be used to remove the magnetization if you can't get <br />the sample to the instrument in the first place. <br />&nbsp;The second method of demagnetizing could conceivably work, but I <br />doubt the Phoenix lander has a magnet that could be passed over a soil <br />sample. A variation on this might be to rub and mix around the sample <br />on itself, then the different magnetic orientations on the particles <br />might tend to cancel each other out. <br />&nbsp;The third possibility might also be feasible by striking hard on the <br />sample to demagnetize it. The scoop might be used for this purpose. My <br />guess though is that you would have to place the sample on a hard <br />surface to do this. A flat metal surface on the lander would work but <br />there might be a worry that this could jar the landers internal <br />electronics by doing this. Perhaps the sample could be placed on top <br />of a hard rock that the robot arm could reach. <br />&nbsp;I don't think the fourth method mentioned of passing an alternating <br />current over the sample is feasible since I doubt the lander has the <br />capability of doing this to a sample that is outside the lander. <br /></font></p><p><font size="2">&nbsp; &nbsp; Bob Clark <br /></font></p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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MeteorWayne

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<p>That news came out on the Phoienix thread in Missions and Launches a few hours ago. I know, I posted it!</p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font color="#000080"><em><font color="#000000">But the Krell forgot one thing John. Monsters. Monsters from the Id.</font></em> </font></p><p><font color="#000080">I really, really, really, really miss the "first unread post" function</font><font color="#000080"> </font></p> </div>
 
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exoscientist

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>That news came out on the Phoienix thread in Missions and Launches a few hours ago. I know, I posted it! <br />Posted by MeteorWayne</DIV><br /><br />&nbsp;Thanks. I'll check that thread more often.</p><p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Bob Clark</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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qso1

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Big hats off to JPL. Phoenix has already been an extremely impressive mission so far. Now they can get down to the nitty gritty. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><strong>My borrowed quote for the time being:</strong></p><p><em>There are three kinds of people in life. Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen...and those who do not know what happened.</em></p> </div>
 
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michaelmozina

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>Big hats off to JPL. Phoenix has already been an extremely impressive mission so far. Now they can get down to the nitty gritty. <br /> Posted by qso1</DIV></p><p>NASA TV had a nice documentary on the Pheonix mission.&nbsp; &nbsp; It is extremely impressive to me as well.&nbsp; I'm looking foward to the results of these experiments now that the "clumpiness" problem has been resolved.&nbsp; Congrats to Peter Smith and his entire team.&nbsp; This has been an amazing story so far, and the science team is only getting started. :) </p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> It seems to be a natural consequence of our points of view to assume that the whole of space is filled with electrons and flying electric ions of all kinds. - Kristian Birkeland </div>
 
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qso1

Guest
<p><font color="#800080">NASA TV had a nice documentary on the Pheonix mission.&nbsp; &nbsp; It is extremely impressive to me as well.&nbsp; I'm looking foward to the results of these experiments now that the "clumpiness" problem has been resolved.&nbsp; Congrats to Peter Smith and his entire team.&nbsp; This has been an amazing story so far, and the science team is only getting started. :) <br /> Posted by michaelmozina</font></p><p>Missed that documentary. I did get to see the first of the microscopic images of martian dust. Then there was the image of what appeared to be ice. The high reflectivity in some areas looked like the ice was slightly melting.&nbsp;</p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><strong>My borrowed quote for the time being:</strong></p><p><em>There are three kinds of people in life. Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen...and those who do not know what happened.</em></p> </div>
 
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aphh

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<p>How deep can Phoenix go? If there were traces of organics, they might be real deep, especially if they existed eons ago.</p><p>Mars does not have tectonic plates, like those on earth, so the internal pressure builds up and pushes up certain regions rather violently. Hence IMHO we should go to a place like Olympos Mons that the pressure pushed upward a great deal. Even there we might need to dig real deep to find any traces of organics.</p><p>If Mars once had life, it might have occurred millions of years ago, so any evidence would be buried really deep now thanks to dust build up. Searching for the evidence of past life on Mars might actually require drilling like you drilled for oil on earth. On some location you do not need to go deep but other locations require a deep hole.</p><p>On second thought, what if we found oil on mars? Would there be a huge race to Mars for the energy? <img src="http://sitelife.space.com/ver1.0/content/scripts/tinymce/plugins/emotions/images/smiley-smile.gif" border="0" alt="Smile" title="Smile" />&nbsp; </p>
 
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MeteorWayne

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>How deep can Phoenix go? Posted by aphh</DIV><br /><br />I don't recall precisely. I know Andrew answered that question in the Phoenix Landrer thread in M&L.</p><p>I think it's about a foot and a half</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Edit: It could be a meter and a half...checking.,</p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font color="#000080"><em><font color="#000000">But the Krell forgot one thing John. Monsters. Monsters from the Id.</font></em> </font></p><p><font color="#000080">I really, really, really, really miss the "first unread post" function</font><font color="#000080"> </font></p> </div>
 
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aphh

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>I don't recall precisely. I know Andrew answered that question in the Phoenix Landrer thread in M&L.I think it's about a foot and a half <br /> Posted by MeteorWayne</DIV></p><p>Thanks, I think the proposed ExoMars rover addresses this issue with a drill capable of going to atleast some depths. But we would really need to go there and drill on suitable locations to see whether somebody or something was once there.&nbsp;</p><p>Also, if there is current life on Mars, the organisms might be extremophiles living deep underground.</p><p>Something created the CO2 and O2, that's for sure.&nbsp;</p>
 
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MeteorWayne

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>I don't recall precisely. I know Andrew answered that question in the Phoenix Landrer thread in M&L.I think it's about a foot and a half&nbsp;Edit: It could be a meter and a half...checking., <br />Posted by MeteorWayne</DIV><br /><br />Found it, Thanx Andrew (as usual)</p><p><strong><font size="2">The RA can dig approx half a metre or about 1.6 feet deep. </font></strong></p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font color="#000080"><em><font color="#000000">But the Krell forgot one thing John. Monsters. Monsters from the Id.</font></em> </font></p><p><font color="#000080">I really, really, really, really miss the "first unread post" function</font><font color="#000080"> </font></p> </div>
 
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aphh

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>Found it, Thanx Andrew (as usual)The RA can dig approx half a metre or about 1.6 feet deep. <br /> Posted by MeteorWayne</DIV></p><p>Are there any models to evaluate how old layer at 1.6 feet might be? I'm afraid it is not old enough to contain traces of past life.</p><p>I figure things on Mars are a bit like they are on a desert here; now you only see sand but dozens of millions of years ago lush rainforest existed on that same spot (ofcourse tectonics moved the locations here, but the idea is the same).&nbsp;</p>
 
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MeteorWayne

Guest
<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>Are there any models to evaluate how old layer at 1.6 feet might be?&nbsp; <br />Posted by aphh</DIV><br /><br />It's expected to be the "permanent" water ice layer.</p><p>How old? I have no idea <img src="http://sitelife.space.com/ver1.0/content/scripts/tinymce/plugins/emotions/images/smiley-smile.gif" border="0" alt="Smile" title="Smile" /></p> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font color="#000080"><em><font color="#000000">But the Krell forgot one thing John. Monsters. Monsters from the Id.</font></em> </font></p><p><font color="#000080">I really, really, really, really miss the "first unread post" function</font><font color="#000080"> </font></p> </div>
 
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