NASA Headquarters Mars-Rover Opportunity Press Briefing on March 2

I'll stick my neck out, again, and predict the findings to be released tomorrow. If I believe that the spheres are sponge gemmules certain conclusions follow. Once the rumored brine discussion is completed, the findings should be that Meridiana has signs of present underground water ice and that surface water existed there in the very recent past. Perhaps as recently as a few centuries.
Also the hematite will be a product of water, not of weathering. And the high sulfur readings, now this is a stretch, come from the rocks ...and the soil, and are sulfates.
Microbial sulfate reduction in the tissue of the cold-water sponge.
formatting link
"Sponges and sulfate reducers an ancestral symbiosis?"
"Several lines of evidence indicate a long standing symbiotic relationship between sponges and sulfate reducing bacteria. SRB were among the oldest organisms on earth."
"Combined sulfur isotope and molecular biological studies provide indirect evidence for a connection between the evolution of the microbial sulfur cycle and the metazoans."
"...the ubiquitous sulfate reducers might have been advantageous under low and unstable oxygen environments"
"A recent molecular biological study suggests that the common ancestor of the metazoa was a sponge, or a sponge like organism. Although many hypothesis try to explain the transition from unicellular organisms to multicellular organization, only three basic models seem possible."
"...offered the hypothesis that sponges derived from a union of choanoflagellate colonies and different bacteria, in which the eukaryotic partners evolved mechanisms to control an assemblage of prokaryotes."
Reply to
Loading thread data ...
Donald Savage
Headquarters, Washington March 1, 2004
(Phone: 202/358-1547)
Guy Webster
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
(Phone: 818/354-5011)
Significant findings from NASA's Mars Exploration Rover
Opportunity, now exploring Meridiani Planum on Mars, will be
announced at a press briefing at 2 p.m. EST, Tuesday, March 2,
2004, at NASA Headquarters, Washington.
The briefing will originate from the James E. Webb Auditorium,
300 E St., S.W., Washington, and will be carried live on NASA
TV with two-way question-and-answer capability for reporters
covering the event from participating NASA centers.
Dr. Ed Weiler, Associate Administrator, Office of Space Science
at NASA Headquarters, will make opening remarks. The panelists
--Professor Steve Squyres, Mars Exploration Rover (MER)
Principal Investigator, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.
--Professor John Grotzinger, MER science team geologist,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass.
--Dr. Benton C. Clark III, MER science team member and Chief
Scientist of Space Exploration, Lockheed Martin Space Systems
Astronautics Operations, Denver
--Dr. Joy Crisp, MER Project Scientist, NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
--Dr. Jim Garvin, Lead Scientist for Mars and the Moon, NASA
NASA Television is available on AMC-9, transponder 9C, C-Band,
located at 85 degrees west longitude. The frequency is 3880.0
MHz. Polarization is vertical, and audio is monaural at 6.80
MHz. Audio of the broadcast will be available on voice circuit
at the Kennedy Space Center on 321/867-1220.
For a live webcast of the briefing and information about NASA
TV on the Internet, visit:
formatting link

Reply to
Being held in Washington instead of Pasadena--yowsa.
Reply to
Joe Knapp
MSNBC says they will announce finding brine in the soil, or just under the top of it. Somebody on alt. sci .planetary predicted that a while back, repeatedly.
Reply to
Yeah, well, it's difficult to explain that white stuff that keeps showing up in the rover tracks and trenches. Something white is clearly being pressed out of the soil. Levin has been talking to the press a lot today and he's claiming it's frost released from brine in the soil (that's where the press reports are coming from). Yeah: mud. Now that woudl be something. If it is frost it should be easy to say so given their instrument suite. If it is another form of powder that would be interesting too. Frost seems the simplest explanation. I haven't taken the time to look, but if it is frost it might be expected to sublimate in the sun after a bit... "Before and after" pictures of tracks and trenches anyone? Or maybe they held thos back (couldn't blame them if they did). Did anyone see the compressed soil microscopic imager results from Spirit the other day? Squish--and viola, the soil (which already had some weird -- snow-like drifts in it) turns white. A piece of this compacted soil apparently stuck to the device, pulling it away. The white layer is very thin and only on the surface...
Hey -- they went there looking for evidence of past liquid water. It'd be interesting enough to warrant an HQ press briefing if they not only found liquid water, but liquid water present today! And if that's the case and this brine can move in large quantities when heated, maybe the ancient warm wet mars hypothesis is about to take a licking.
But my guess is that there are other interesting results too. More subtle perhaps, but maybe just as interesting as far as our overall picture of mars goes.
Those blue spherules are awfully fine grained and homogenous. And it looks to me as if their abraded material created a very fine, almost graphite-like dust that was polished into the surface of the rock by the abrasion tool. And then there is the part about their being shiny when found underground. And the apparent dichotomy of lighter spherules and darker ones that lie near another on the surface yet are very well segregated... I haven't a clue what to make of that. Very odd.
And then there was the hint that the matrix has large amounts of sulfur. I am not a geologist, but that rock sure looks a lot like the stuff you see at Yosemite or Lassen to me. Remeber, that was a preliminary result and they quit talking after that. What other elements did they find? I envy this team for being in the position to put this amazing jig saw puzzle together! How much fun must that be?
One thing has seemed clear to me for quite a while now: this mission has the potential for some extraordinary science. And I'll bet tomorrow's briefing is just the beginning of a long, interesting debate. Note to textbook writers: be ready to start rewriting mars!
Reply to
Greg Crinklaw
Thats exactly what I thought when I heard the news conference would be coming from NASA HQ instead of Pasadena. Seems like quite a dramatic event to simply announce they found evidence Mars had water - maybe theres a little more to it than that?
Reply to
Elysium Fossa
But finding water fulfills the primary mission goal. In a world where science often gets caught up in complex and often contradictory interpretations a simple result to a simply stated goal probably warrants bragging rights for the NASA administrators (and rightfully so).
Reply to
Greg Crinklaw
"Greg Crinklaw" wrote
formatting link
(hazcam, 24 hour lapse, no change)
Reply to
Joe Knapp
Interesting! Thanks Joe. All the more reason to look forward to tomorrow.
Reply to
Greg Crinklaw
Also interesting is the bio of one panelist:
"Dr. Benton C. Clark is Chief Scientist, Flight Systems, at Lockheed Martin Astronautics. He received his Ph.D. in Biophysics from Columbia University in 1968. He was responsible for conceiving and developing the x-ray fluorescence spectrometers used for geochemical analyses of Martian soil samples onboard the Viking landers. He was Co-I for development of the lightflash detector and sunshade for the Particle Impact Analyzer (PIA) experiment, flown successfully on the Giotto mission. He has introduced the concept of key roles for cometary particulates and formation of comet ponds as an enabling step for the abiotic origin of life. He chairs the External Advisory Committee for the NASA Center for Research and Training in Exobiology at the University of California San Diego and Salk Institute. He has received the NASA Public Service Medal, the Wright Brothers Award, the Air Force Service Medal, and has been selected Inventor of the Year for Martin Marietta Corporation and Author of the Year for Martin Marietta Astronautics."
A couple of his papers:
"Superbug: Making a Living on Current-Day Mars"
formatting link
"Acid Snowbank as Source, Sink and Abode"
formatting link
Persistent deposits of water ice may exist at the surface, even in certain non-polar regions on Mars. Their origins can include: atmospheric precipitation (snow); surface adsorption; clathrate formation; upward percolation of H2O vapor or wicking of liquid created by subsurface heat sources; or deflation of overburden to expose buried ice or ice-rich permafrost (for purposes of expediency, such surfaceexposed deposits will be referred to in this paper as "snowbanks", regardless of the source or mechanism of transport of H2O to the surface). Many of the characteristics discussed here are relevant to any exposed body of ice. Such deposits may have unique roles as a source of H2O, a sink of chemically active gases injected into the atmosphere, and through various favorable factors, providing a haven for growth and reproduction of biological organisms on Mars which would, on Earth, be considered extremeophiles.
Snowbank Interactions with the Atmosphere:
Long-term survivabity of ice against sublimation is abetted by location on anti-solar slopes and/or covering by high albedo, low thermal inertia material. Location in a natural shaded cavity is a mechanism often observed in rugged mountainous terrain on Earth for the preservation of snow deposits well into summertime. Deposits can even summer-over, depending on shadowing, local weather, and climatological conditions. Winds and dust loads in the atmosphere provide varying inputs of new material, warm or moist atmosphere, shielding of solar insolation, and erosive forces. The high degree of eolian activity on Mars maintains a source of atmospheric dust fallout, which coats the surface ice and may, especially if saltation is active at that site, admix with it to some depth, depending on the degree of snowbank porosity. Albedo is lowered, so that heat transfer from solar insolation is amplified, but a surface debris mantle, not unlike that hypothesized for the inactive portions of cometary surfaces, can develop and evolve. These concentrations of water ice can be in communication with the atmosphere to an extent that many other reservoirs, deep underground or at polar locations, are not.
Acidification of the Martian Snowbank:
Gases in the martian atmosphere which are chemically reactive with H2O will be taken up and sequestered from their source. Such gases arise from all magmatic exhalations, whether explicit extrusive releases or seepage through vents, fumeroles, or sulfataras. Typical releases include the sulfur and chlorine-containing gases as well as water, and less reactive gases such as CO2 and CH4. Impacts by large bolides will also cause the release of S from the relatively S-rich igneous rocks (based on martian meteorites). Reduced compounds, such as H2S, S, SO, SO2, and CH4 will be quickly converted into their high oxidation state analogs by the plethora of oxidative species (atomic oxygen, OH radical, H2O2, superoxide ion, ozone) that reside in the martian atmosphere as a result of the intense UVmediated photochemical environment. As a result, SO3 will be readily available from these transient events to combine with the H2O ice. These two molecules have an extremely high affinity for reacting together, and once they do the resulting solution is both hygroscopic and reactive with SO3.
Consequences of the Acidic Snowbank:
Liquefaction and Geological Processes:
As seen in the accompanying phase diagram, several eutectics are formed, each with freezing points which are depressed relative to pure water or, for that matter, sulfuric acid "neat" (pure). These freezing points range from -34 to -74 ºC, well below the depressing capabilities of most salts and below peak and average temperatures, respectively, in non-polar regions on Mars (polar temperatures of -125 ºC cause freeze-up, slowing the process to one limited by solid-state diffusion). The first eutectic, which has the strongest depressant effect, requires only 1 molecule of SO3 per 10 molecules of H2O, and hence will form in the earliest stages of conversion of native ice to acidic ice. Liquefaction is therefore physically possible, without even accounting for supercooling effects. The proportion of material to the solid phase can alter the composition of the residual liquor. Physical affects on the macroscale can vary from solid plasticity to slush to free liquid, depending on the exact chemical makeup and bulk temperature. Macro-movement is inevitable in response to gravitational forces, resulting in regimes encompassing sliding, creep and free flow. A premier example of intense current interest is the side-wall gullies found on crater walls at high latitudes. Many other less obvious manifestations should occur, however, from sapping to analogs of glacial activity.
Abode for Extremeophiles:
On the microscale, liquefactions enable all the special benefits that render liquid H2O so beneficial to life forms on Earth (mobility for transport of nutrients and waste products, consumption as a chemical reactant; stabilization of macromolecular tertiary structure; as a diluent; as a catalyst; as a medium for organism motility). From the standpoint of microorganisms, this is perhaps the single most critical prerequisite to their ability to function metabolically. The acidic snowbank therefore provides an abode for these organisms which can survive the low pH of the environment. Acid-compatible extremeophiles are abundant on Earth, and encompass a variety of detailed lifestyles. However, the acidic habitats on our planet are almost always at high temperatures, the hydrothermal and sulfateric environments associated with magmatic centers of activity. Such environments are possible on Mars as well, but the overall aridity and very low pressure of the atmosphere mitigate against the longevity of hydrothermal regions, unless buried and isolated from communion with the surface.
Acidophiles on earth often are hyperthermophilic. Any putative martian organism in this environment must, rather, be a psychrophile as well as acidophile, and able to function at stressingly low levels of water activity, hence an osmophile. On the other hand, such organisms need not be as xerophilic (desiccationloving) like their non-ice dwelling cousins in the surface regolith of Mars. Energy metabolism may take advantage of a number of possibilities. Sunlight can penetrate ice and even "dirty" ice, which attenuates the lethal, short wave-length UV that penetrates the thin atmosphere to reach the surface of Mars. Hence, phototrophs may exist within this ecoenvironment. A number of chemolithotrophs are acidophiles, but their typical energy source is from the oxidation of reduced iron or sulfur compounds. It has been proposed that H2 is almost sufficiently abundant in the martian atmosphere to support sulfate reduction. The source of such sulfate could that thought to be in the ubiquitous soil, and the resulting sulfide could be recycled in a sufuretum ecology to produce sulfate again. Nutrient availability is enhanced in many respects. Low pH solubilizes many ions, especially the metal cations (e.g., transition elements) that enable enzymes to have high specificity and catalytic kinetic effect. It is also now known that the shergottite martian meteorites can be extracted with acidic solution to yield abundant phosphate and other nutrients.
etc. etc. etc. (See link!)
Sulfur has been detected at high levels at the site. Could the spherules be life?
Reply to
Joe Knapp
This should be interesting. I look forward to seeing what they think are "significant" findings.
Reply to
Zed wrote in news:
I think they have settled on a theory that explains the presence of the blueberries in their host matrix. I hazard a guess that they have strong evidence that water was involved. This would imply lots of water and lends credence to a once warm wet Mars. That would be a very significant finding itself. As to the presence of liquid water in the soil, I would be interested to see the proof of that. They have not shown photos of liquid water or ice from these missions. Finding a low concentration of water in the sand would not be such a significant result since the orbiters have already demonstrated the strong likelihood that water exists. I have a feeling they have hit the cover off the ball in some other respect. Maybe evidence of a hotspring or Jonathan's ancestors.
Spooky how MER-B was somehow attracted like a fly into a spider's web. Has anyone calculated the improbablility of winding up in a crater which hosted such a tremendous geological display? Must be near Superball odds on this terrain.
I'm looking forward to hearing the news! They certainly have hyped it up a bit.
Reply to
I would expect any crater this size to reveal the bedrock. I mean, why wouldn't it? Did anybody notice that they finally images the large crater to the east? What looks to be a much bigger outcrop! Also, craters this size or larger aren't everywhere but they are spread around pretty liberally. Unlikely yes, but I wouldn't think it "superball odds".
Reply to
Greg Crinklaw
Most of the spheres are echinoderms, like crinoids, very similar to species that were on the Earth 530,000,000 years ago. They look like sand dollars, with armor segments, linear rows of dots, and also have slots and pores. Take any image, for instance from Sol 014, and do some contrast and brightness adjustments in a photo editor program. You will soon discover that they are NOT the featureless little balls of mineral that they have been claiming! I have found a number of species already, very similar to fossils here on Earth, but they are definitely not terrestrial species! Now, FLAME ON ALL YOU WANT! I have absolute proof and will also have the last laugh, my friends. Oh, and some of my data is posted on my site now, just so you can judge for yourself.
formatting link
Chip Shults
Reply to
Sir Charles W. Shults III
"jonathan" wrote
Man, the mystery of evolution! And before that there were reversible, self-reproducing non-living phases in the "soup" that grew more and more complex leading up to life.
If Mars is wet (liquid brine or acid solution) even today, with solar irradiation bathing the surface, life forming is a totally natural and deterministic thermodynamic response. In a much wetter (oceanic) environment an organism like a sponge might evolve through random mutations and fortituous assemblages of cooperating entities, but the final forms and life cycle is constrained to a small subset of stable geometrical and mathematical topologies. And thus similar patterns are repeated in nature in so many diverse contexts, even perhaps on another planet. The mathematician Rene Thom observed:
"Let us start with the very basic objection of the finalists to a mechanist theory of evolution: if evolution is governed by chance, and mutations are controlled only by natural selection, then how has this process produced more and more complex structures, leading up to man and the extraordinary exploits of human intelligence? I think that this question has only a single partial answer, and this answer will be criticized as idealistic. When the mathematician Hermite wrote to Stieltjes, 'It seems to me that the integers have an existence outside themselves which they impose with the same predetermined necessity as potassium and sodium,' he did not, to my mind, go far enough. If sodium and potassium exist, this is so because there is a corresponding mathematical structure guaranteeing the stability of atoms Na and K; such a structure can be specified, in quantum mechanics, for a simple object like the hydrogen molecule, and although the case of the Na or K atom is less well understood, there is no reason to doubt its existence. I think likewise there are formal structures, in fact, geometric objects, in biology that prescribe the only possible forms capable of having a self-reporoducing dynamic in a given environment."
He goes on to talk about the thermodynamics behind the process:
"In the last analysis, whence can life on our planet come but from the continuous flux of energy from the sun? The solar phtons arriving in contact with the soil and seas are immediately stopped, and their energy abruptly degraded into heat; in this way the discontinuity of the earth and water surface is a shock wave, a cliff down which the negentropy of the sun's rays fall. Now, life can be considered as some kind of underground erosion of this cliff, smoothing out the discontinuity; a plant, for example, is nothing but an upheaval of the earth toward the light, and the ramified structure of its stem and root is the same as that found when a stream of water erodes a cliff and produces a mound of debris. Plastids, veritable photon traps, are the miniscule orifices where this subterranean circulation begins. The energy stored in the noble form of chemical energy begins its slow decline. It flows underneath the cliff like a fluid, and its circulation echoes the inverted pyramid of the ecology of living beings. Each living species is a structurally stable singularity... of this circulation. As in hydrodynamics the energy of a turbulent regime flows from low-frequency oscillations towards higher frequencies, finishing in thermal chaos, so in life those with slow metabolism (plants) are the prey of the faster-metabolizing (animals)... There is no doubt it is on the philosophical plane that these models have the most immediate interest. They give the first rigorously monistic model of the living being and reduce the paradox of the soul and the body to a single geometrical object... [The] dynamical situations governing the evolution of natural phenomena are basically the same as those governing the evolution of man and societies, profoundly justifying the use of anthropomorphic words in physics... Biologists will perhaps reproach me for not having spoken of biochemistry in precise terms. This is true, and I do not deny the importance of chemical constraints on the dynamic of life. But I believe that any such constraint, and any chemical bond, can be considered as a geometrical factor in an appropriate space. Writing the equation, in atoms, that connects two constituents of a chemical reaction is one, the coarsest, of these constraints; the topology of biochemical kinetics and its relation with the spatial configuration of macromolecules are others that are certainly more decisive." -- Thom, "Structural Stability and Morphogenesis"
These mathematical structures, like the mathematical structures guaranteeing the the stability of Na, exist at each of the 100 billion solar systems in the Milky Way. It's vain to think that only in our locale were these types of pathways realized.
Reply to
Joe Knapp
What you have are convincing pictures of what appears to be life. You could be right, they remind me of the sea urchins we find here at the coast. We also have pictures of the loch ness monster, big foot and ufos. It won't be proof until we have one in our hands for a little more analysis
chris in napa
Sir Charles W. Shults III wrote:
Reply to
A fluvial origin for Stone Mountain? The other site, Gustev, seems to be "101 varieties of boring basalt".
Reply to
Life on Mars? Some of the Sol 53 raw images looked like a running mouse, but that was just a rock shadow. Or was it?
Reply to
Greg Crinklaw wrote in news:
My point is that it is extraordinarily unlikely that MER-B would wind up in a crater like this. Superball odds was hyperbole.
Hindsight is 20/20 I guess. Before 1/25/04 no one predicted there would be an outcrop of layered rock at the landing site and that MER-B was going to roll gently northward into a crater, changing course by 90 degrees after screaming in from the west. Now everyone can say it is obvious there would be exposed rocks in craters. Many of them are dust covered though, as you observe in the great majority of images from orbit.
Looking at the DIMES images, there are precious few craters of this size on this terrain in Meridiani. They are well spaced. I'd say by surface area, they would be on the order of 0.01% (1 in ten thousand). So the odds of winding up there must be on the order of a quite unnatural sounding 1 in a thousand if you allow that in bouncing across the terrain, the probability of bouncing into a crater is 10 times greater than hitting one at random from on high. Perhaps longer odds if you conclude it was necessary for the lander to make a sharp turn near the surface in order to find a crater.
When contemplating such an incredible long shot one can't help feeling that Mars might simply have wanted us to find this spot.
Reply to
Having published works on Mississippian-aged crinoids, I have to say that you are about as clueless as they come. As for them being featureless, I know of no one at JPL who has made that statement. If you know of a link where someone at JPL made that statement, perhaps you coul provide it for us. But you are correct, in that they are certainly not featureless. Unfortunately the features they do have are far to small to resolve meaningfully with the microscopic camera on the Rovers. I was able to identify a tiny crystal protruding from one of the spherules, yet the resolution was not high enough to determine with any certainty what the crystal form was (Although I think it may have be orthrombic or tetragonal). If it is either of these, that would leave out both jarosite and hematite as possible candidates for the spherules.
Reply to

PolyTech Forum website is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.