ICAMSR - International Committee Against Mars Sample Return

From: Barry DiGregorio
Date: Monday, July 11, 2016
To: Cassie Conley
Cc: John Rummel
Subject: NASA Weighs Use of Rover to Image Potential Mars Water Sites

Dear Dr. Conley and Dr. Rummel,

When I read the headline this morning "NASA Weighs Use of Rover to Image Potential Mars Water Sites" http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=6542 I had to chuckle a bit. The article says with a quote from Dr. Conley: How close could the rover safely get to an RSL? "That's exactly the question that needs to be addressed early in the process," said Catharine Conley, NASA's planetary protection officer. "Kilometers away -- it's unlikely that it would be an issue. So the idea is to send contaminated spacecraft and merely avoid what you would call the "special regions" even though MSL likely drove right through what could be called a special region? The area of damp soil on SOL 528-532 is unmistakable. These images demonstrate that NASA really doesn't understand where the special regions might be or where liquid water might ooze up. There is ice likely everywhere a few centimeters below the soil as some images of recent meteorite impacts by MRO have shown. You see ice in the craters that are excavated. Mars water cycle follows simple rules of physics - when the triple point of water is reached (pressure and temperature) it bubbles to the surface and dampens soil to where you can actually see it and if you are a really keen observer, can see it sticking to the MSL rover wheels or gathering in droplets on the Phoenix Lander struts.

Here are some images of MSL traversing a special regions zone. http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/raw/?s=532&camera=MAHLI

Since we do not know where "special regions" might be encountered, shouldn't all Mars bound rovers and landers be sterilized to the best of NASA's ability?


Barry E. DiGregorio

From: John Rummel
Sent: Thursday, July 14, 2016
To: Barry DiGregorio
Cc: Cassie Conley
Subject: Re: NASA Weighs Use of Rover to Image Potential Mars Water Sites

Hi Barry,

I think that you have a point, but no evidence that is convincing to me. The "unmistakable" images you note show areas of fine-grain adherence, but they are unlikely candidates for a water discovery, given that they exist if full insolation at a time (see below) when the water content of the atmosphere is very low, and it is warm enough for pure water to evaporate.

Salty water? Not too likely there, either (but we have MSL looking for patches, to be sure).

Note, however, that the dates of your imagines are near to a time when nighttime relative humidity is very high, and could be near saturation on the surface-because it is so very cold. That raises interesting questions about water possibly being available enough that it could be sequestered for use, later, when temperatures go above -18C. We don't have an example of an Earth organism that can reproduce using only water vapor, whether simultaneously with warm enough temperatures or not, but we do know organisms that can metabolize with water vapor as its only water source.

It would be great to find one that can store water from vapor and reproduce!

We will keep looking.


John Rummel

From: Barry DiGregorio
Date: Monday, July 21, 2016
To: John Rummel
Cc: Cassie Conley
Subject: Re: NASA Weighs Use of Rover to Image Potential Mars Water Sites

Dear Dr. Rummel,

Thank you for your reply and information, however I still think the soil in the series of images I mentioned was damp. The detail of the impressions and striations left behind by the rover wheels in the soil look a lot like slightly damp clay. The rover wheels have not had soil adhering to them that I have seen in any other sols. I sent Chris Mckay the series of images below and even he thought it looked like damp clay. The Mars we have come to know today is vastly different than even a decade or so ago. The series of attached images show the Mars we know today - an image of a meteorite impact showing ice under the ejecta blanket; an image of the icy soil beneath the Phoenix Lander; the image of water droplets attached to the Phoenix Lander struts and finally the excellent image of H2O frost adhering to the rocks and soil of the Viking 2 Lander site.

A new study was done on perchlorates and I think it can apply to dampness of the Martian soil as well: Extremophiles can thrive on perchlorates and metabolize carbon monoxide, researchers report.

By Tanya Lewis | June 23, 2016

I will be at the Viking Symposium on July 20th. I see you are speaking as well. Hopefully I will finally get to meet you in person. Gil Levin is giving a talk as well. Should be very interesting.








Barry E. DiGregorio