Mars or Bust


The first interplanetary travelers fom earth.

Scientists have picked the first crew of Earthlings to fly to another planet. Those chosen for a Mars mission to be launched in October include specimens of thale cress and brewer's yeast, and a microbe known as Conan the Bacterium.

Together with several other microscopic organisms, these representatives of earthly life will be carried in a package that will be flown on a Russian robot spacecraft and are scheduled to be returned to Earth in 2012. The experiment - Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment, or Life - is designed to show if living organisms can survive unprotected in space for long periods and thus support the theory of panspermia, which argues that simple organisms can survive for years as they float through space and that life on Earth could have been wafted here from another world.

"Some scientists believe the solar system's first living organisms may have originally evolved on Mars and were then blasted to Earth on debris that was thrown into space when meteorites crashed on to Mars," said Dr Bruce Betts, of the US Planetary Society, which has funded the $1m Life project. "On Earth these simple microbe-like beings then started to evolve - ultimately into animals and humans. In other words, we may all be Martians under our skin."

The idea that simple life forms could survive unprotected in space is controversial but has been backed by recent discoveries of bacteria that thrive in boiling, acid springs, in nuclear reactors, in vents deep below the oceans and other extremely hostile environments. However, no one has yet tested bacteria's ability to survive for years in deep space.

In fact, the mission is not being aimed at Mars but at Phobos, the larger of the planet's two moons. It will be crossing interplanetary space, nevertheless, making the organisms in the Life capsule Earth's first interplanetary travellers.

The Russian mission, called Phobus-Grunt (the Russian word for soil is grunt), will take 10 months to reach Mars and will then spend several more months in orbit round the planet before landing on Phobos. It will collect a sample of its soil and blast back to Earth, along with the Life capsule. These few scoops of material will become the first sample of extraterrestrial soil to be brought to Earth since the lunar missions of the 1970s.

The fact that the probe will be making an Earth-Mars return journey made it especially interesting to the Planetary Society, added Betts. The organisation, based in Pasadena, California, is backed by space flight enthusiasts and has paid for several experiments that have been undertaken in space, including some carried out on space shuttle missions.

"In low Earth orbit, living beings are protected by Earth's powerful magnetic field, which deflects cosmic rays and also the Sun's most intense radiation. So it is impossible to test if bacteria and other organisms could survive interplanetary space in craft, such as the space station or space shuttle, that only orbit a few hundred miles above Earth.

"However, by taking them to Mars and back, we will discover if our samples are hardy enough to survive the intense radiation that can be experienced in deep space," added Betts.

The Phobos-Grunt mission will last for 34 months and will carry its samples of Earth's humbler life forms in a three-inch-diameter titanium case. These will include the bacterium deinococcus radiodurans, whose ability to survive intense radiation has earned it the scientific nickname Conan the Bacterium.

Other life forms will include thale cress; tiny water creature tardigrade - or water bear - which can also survive extraordinary extremes of temperature and pressure; samples of brewer's yeast, one of the most widely studied organisms on Earth; and some grains of permafrost from the Siberian Arctic. This last sample contains many different microbes and will be used to determine if a living colony of interdependent organisms are hardier and more resistant to radiation than a single microbial species.

The Russian aerospace company NPO Lavochkin, which is building and launching Phobos-Grunt, has given a launch date in October, while acknowledging that this deadline will be tight. The company has also insisted that the Life capsule will not break open in the event of Phobos-Grunt missing its target and plunging into Mars.

I hope this succeeds. Panspermia helps explain the supposed mathematical discrepancy between the chances of certain evolutionary steps being taken and the estimated length of time that life has been present on the planet. It would also help to explain how certain forms of life seem to be resistant to stimuli that they would not naturally encounter on Earth. For instance, certain insects are resistant to x-ray radiation, but there is no naturally occurring source of x-rays on the planet.

Unhappy Camper

Hells yeah
Mar 10, 2008
Fayettenam Area, NC
When I was a young lad of 13 or so, I was in an advanced Science and Math class. ( for egg heads )

For an entire school year we followed the THEN ( 1980's ) NASA plans to colonize MARS.

So, nearly 30 years later you will understand if I lack enthusiasm about this issue.

Sad really .. I had envisioned boots on the surface by 1990 and full titties an beer by 2001.

Oh the folly of youth.


I understand. I've put aside any hopes for colonizing any time soon because of the serious lack of interest by those in charge of funding, even though its technically feasible.

This, though, is exciting purely from a scientific standpoint. It may lend weight to one of my favorite theories. So here it has me crossing my fingers, so to speak.


*facepalm* its not an article about colonizing mars....

Its about testing a theory that could fundamentally change the way we look at the evolution of life on Earth, AND could be the first real proof that life is not quite as rare of a phenomenon as some people think.


Mao's Pet Cat
Mar 2, 2008
Hong Kong, hiding from the Kommies!
*facepalm* its not an article about colonizing mars....

Its about testing a theory that could fundamentally change the way we look at the evolution of life on Earth, AND could be the first real proof that life is not quite as rare of a phenomenon as some people think.
I KNOW what the article is about.

While you're at it, smartass, *bitch slap* yourself on both cheeks.


Jul 29, 2008
Fuck Mars. Governments are blowing TRILLIONS of collective dollars on the ETHOS of colonizing other planets, yet scoff at the concept of pumping money into the issues that we're facing right here on our own.

War, famine, hunger, violence, terrorism, eco disasters, overlogging, healthcare, HIV, cancer. Pump some dollars into that shit and when those problems are solved, start aiming for the stars.

I saw the Obama the other day talking about going to moon. Hey, asshole, Kennedy beat you to it about forty years ago. There's nothing ventured in returning to the moon, unless your idea of something ventured is the loss of billions of dollars.

The International Space Station is, thus far, the most expensive object ever built by man. And what have we gained from its existence? What has this orbiting monstrosity contributed to solutions to terror, crime, poverty, hunger, or curing disease? Beyond that, it has a lifespan that's less than my fucking plasma TV.

I've said this before, but the American space program needs to be suspended indefinitely until we can be dug out of this Great Recession we're in.

Or at least until I can go to the hospital without having to take a fucking 2nd mortgage out on my home.