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Thread: Messenger's flight reveals water source on Mercury

  1. #1

    Messenger's flight reveals water source on Mercury

    [url]http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/nation/5871096.html[/url]

    [QUOTE]By MARK CARREAU
    Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle

    Mercury, the planet closest to the sun, appears to have at least one source of water, even though the temperatures on the tiny planet soar to 800 degrees Fahrenheit.

    The existence of the water source on the dry, cratered planet was just one of the findings gathered by the Messenger spaceship when the unmanned craft sped within 124 miles of the planet on Jan. 14. NASA scientists described the observations on Thursday.

    Other discoveries included signs of an active magnetic field, volcanism and a startling contraction of Mercury's surface. The scientists hope to delve deeper into the planet's mysteries when the Messenger zips past again on Oct. 6, and maneuvers into orbit in March 2011 for at least a year of steady observations.

    For years, some astronomers have theorized that Mercury harbors reservoirs of ice at the bottom of permanently shaded craters at the planet's poles, places the sun's rays would not reach and a prospect that could hold true for the Earth's moon as well.

    [B]Water came as surprise[/B]

    The Messenger added weight to the theory when it studied chemical elements surrounding the planet produced by interactions between the planet's upper atmosphere and the solar wind, said Thomas Zurbuchen.

    The University of Michigan researcher is the lead author for one of 11 articles on Messenger's findings that appears in today's editions of the journal Science. The Messenger mission is managed for NASA by the Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University.

    Zurbuchen said the evidence of a water source came as a surprise. "Water can't really just sit there, just like it can't sit on a hot stove for a long time. But basically, this water is really there," he said.

    If not from ice in shaded craters, he said, the chemical compounds Messenger observed may come from comets and meteorites that strike the planet or from the oxygen and hydrogen blasted out of the soil by the solar wind.

    The $446 million Messenger mission was launched in August 2004. Mercury has not undergone close-up studies since NASA's Mariner 10 probe made the last of three close passes on March 16, 1975.

    One of Mercury's most puzzling qualities is its large iron core, which makes up 60 percent of the planet. The outsized core suggests to some scientists that Mercury may once have been larger and that its outer layers were stripped away by an unidentified process.

    [B]Planet may be shrinking[/B]

    As Messenger sped close in January, it found the metal core to be responsible for an active magnetic field around the planet. The presence of a global magnetic field is a feature Mercury shares with Earth, but not sister planets Venus and Mars.

    The probe also found volcanic vents, unseen by Mariner, that show ancient lava flows contributed to the material that covers much of Mercury's surface. Previously, it appeared the material flowed from craters formed as the planet was pelted by asteroids and comets.

    Messenger's cameras also spotted distinctive cliffs and fault lines, or geologic stress points, which indicate that Mercury is shrinking as its large iron core cools.

    The cooling rate is faster than previously believed, said Sean Solomon, a researcher from the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

    Once Messenger swings into orbit around Mercury, scientists hope new findings will tell them as much about the Earth and moon, Venus and Mars as it does about the planet closest to the sun.

    Much of the Earth's surface has been altered over millions of years by wind, water and volcanism. In contract, Mercury appears to have changed little since the solar system's earliest epoch, said James Head, a Brown University researcher.

    "Mercury, as well as the Earth's moon and Mars host a record of what was happening during the solar system's formative years," he said. "The first chapter of the Earth's history is missing, obliterated for the most part."[/QUOTE]

    If there is some potential for primitive life on Mercury then NASA's funding will bloat over the next decade to look for water elsewhere (our rovers found water on Mars as well).

  2. #2
    [QUOTE=XingDaorong;2615523][url]http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/nation/5871096.html[/url]



    If there is some potential for primitive life on Mercury then NASA's funding will bloat over the next decade to look for water elsewhere (our rovers found water on Mars as well).[/QUOTE]


    Right, and more wasted taxpayer dollars!

  3. #3
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    [QUOTE=asuusa;2616800]Right, and more wasted taxpayer dollars![/QUOTE]

    Why is space exploration a waste of money?

  4. #4
    [QUOTE=asuusa;2616800]Right, and more wasted taxpayer dollars![/QUOTE]

    as opposed to the billions we are spending to create a model democratic nation allied with the USA in the WOT in Iraq

  5. #5
    [QUOTE=kennyo7;2616839]as opposed to the billions we are spending to create a model democratic nation allied with the USA in the WOT in Iraq[/QUOTE]

    A poor argument.

    Does wasting money on one thing suddenly make wasting money on something else legitimate?

    Of course it doesn't.

    With that said, NASA suffers from the same disease of all Govt., bloat and ineffecientcy, but they ARE a needed and valuble service, both for ongoing scientific development and real-world advances. As with much of our Govt., I would support a little more oversight and cost-cutting, but support the agency itself and it's goals.

  6. #6
    [QUOTE=Warfish;2616846]A poor argument.

    Does wasting money on one thing suddenly make wasting money on something else legitimate?

    Of course it doesn't.

    With that said, NASA suffers from the same disease of all Govt., bloat and ineffecientcy, but they ARE a needed and valuble service, both for ongoing scientific development and real-world advances. As with much of our Govt., I would support a little more oversight and cost-cutting, but support the agency itself and it's goals.[/QUOTE]

    Ok i should have said as opposed to wasting money on finding a cure for cancer or for research on heart disease.

  7. #7
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    I never understood why people think we shouldn't spend the money to explore space. I understand that funding is needed in so many places, but to halt science is to halt man's progression. We've already gained so much in such a short amount of time from space exploration, and we've barely scratched the surface.

    I know this all sounds cliched, but I truly feel NASA's work is extremely important.

  8. #8
    [QUOTE=sourceworx;2617011]I never understood why people think we shouldn't spend the money to explore space. I understand that funding is needed in so many places, but to halt science is to halt man's progression. We've already gained so much in such a short amount of time from space exploration, and we've barely scratched the surface.

    I know this all sounds cliched, but I truly feel NASA's work is extremely important.[/QUOTE]

    I agree with you. But there are always people who for whatever reason feel this is wasted money . People have different priorities/interests. I would rather spend money on science and the arts as opposed to nation building. There are those who feel otherwise. Its ok.

  9. #9
    [QUOTE=sourceworx;2617011]I never understood why people think we shouldn't spend the money to explore space. I understand that funding is needed in so many places, but to halt science is to halt man's progression. We've already gained so much in such a short amount of time from space exploration, and we've barely scratched the surface.

    I know this all sounds cliched, but I truly feel NASA's work is extremely important.[/QUOTE]

    Not cliched at all. While I do trust the private sector to help propel science (as scientific advance is often profitable in some form), I also like the idea of our Govt. helping science as well. It's one of the things I actually support the Govt. in taking my tax money for.

    Hmm, Ken and I in agreement. I wonder if the forum is about to implode......

  10. #10
    [QUOTE=sourceworx;2616829]Why is space exploration a waste of money?[/QUOTE]

    What good does it do us to know that there's water on Mars or Mercury? Even if we found billions of barrels of oil there, what good would it do us?


    We landed on the moon almost 40 years ago and got what benefit from it...bragging rights?

  11. #11
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    [QUOTE=asuusa;2617117]What good does it do us to know that there's water on Mars or Mercury? Even if we found billions of barrels of oil there, what good would it do us?


    [B]We landed on the moon almost 40 years ago and got what benefit from it...bragging rights?[/B][/QUOTE]

    A lot of the technology that we use today came from the technology that was developed to get to the moon. Our lives would be drastically different today if it weren't for the space program.

    Exploring other planets allows us to better learn how this planet works. It can also eventually lead to us settling on other planets.

    You don't find this kind of stuff exciting?
    Last edited by Sourceworx; 07-07-2008 at 02:40 PM.

  12. #12
    [QUOTE=sourceworx;2617162]A lot of the technology that we use today came from the technology that was developed to get to the moon. Our lives would be drastically different today if it weren't for the space program.[/QUOTE]

    True, but a lot of that tech would get developed anyway, and I don't see where my life is "drastically" different w/o space program!

    [QUOTE]
    Exploring other planets allows us to better learn how this planet works. [/QUOTE] Such as....?

    [QUOTE]It can also eventually lead to us settling on other planets.[/QUOTE]
    Again, what's the benefit? If we go to any other planet, we have to take everything for our existence with us...is the cost worth it?

    [QUOTE]
    You don't find this kind of stuff exciting?[/QUOTE]

    Sure, but it ought to be private enterprise not govt. doing it! If it's not profitable for PE, then why is taxpayer's money worth it?

  13. #13
    Private enterprise can't invest in anything on the magnitude of Space Exploration without a guarantee of profits in the relatively short term. Corporations are great when given a new market to build-out (like the internet) but lousy a pioneering a dicey new thing.

    They built the railroads through private enterprise only because the federal government agreed to give the companies title to all the land for 2 miles (or something) on each side track they laid. Ergo, more track, more land -- even if the railroad itself had been a flop, the real estate would have been worth a great deal.

    Space program = satellite TV/Radio & GPS. Huge advances in computers and lightweight materials. Also Tang.

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    [QUOTE=asuusa;2617376]True, but a lot of that tech would get developed anyway, and I don't see where my life is "drastically" different w/o space program![/QUOTE]

    The computer you're using owes much of its existence on NASA. Cellphones, GPS, TV as we know it, cordless power tools, home insulation, and on and on and on........

    All of it was developed to help NASA meet its goals. Eventually the companies that produced them found a way to market it to consumers.

    [URL="http://techtran.msfc.nasa.gov/at_home.html"]http://techtran.msfc.nasa.gov/at_home.html[/URL]

    [URL="http://www.thespaceplace.com/nasa/spinoffs.html"]http://www.thespaceplace.com/nasa/spinoffs.html[/URL]


    [QUOTE=asuusa;2617376]Such as....?


    Again, what's the benefit? If we go to any other planet, we have to take everything for our existence with us...is the cost worth it?[/QUOTE]

    You don't see the benefit of colonizing other planets? It won't benefit you and me (A lot of NASA's goals are not achievable in our lifetime), but future generations can greatly benefit from what we do now.


    [QUOTE=asuusa;2617376]Sure, but it ought to be private enterprise not govt. doing it! If it's not profitable for PE, then why is taxpayer's money worth it?[/QUOTE]

    Private Enterprise benefits greatly from space exploration. All R&D is done by private corporations. And a lot of that technology is then used in some way to sell to the general consumer.

    The space program has been extremely profitable for PE.

  15. #15
    [QUOTE=sourceworx;2617492]The computer you're using owes much of its existence on NASA.
    [/QUOTE]

    So you think that w/o NASA I wouldn't be using a Dell Latitude to make my reply to you?

    Computer development was already underway by '69, in fact a friend of mine worked in computer programming for IBM in the early 60s.

    I'll grant that maybe the space program gave greater urgency to faster development of many products, but I think most would be here for us to use anyway!

  16. #16
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    [QUOTE=asuusa;2617579]So you think that w/o NASA I wouldn't be using a Dell Latitude to make my reply to you?

    Computer development was already underway by '69, in fact a friend of mine worked in computer programming for IBM in the early 60s.

    I'll grant that maybe the space program gave greater urgency to faster development of many products, but I think most would be here for us to use anyway![/QUOTE]

    Computers existed before '69, but they were the size of rooms. The ones created for the Apollo missions were revolutionary in the fact that they were much smaller (microchips replacing vacuum tubes) and required much less power.

    What's amazing is today your microwave is more powerful than what they had.

    Computers aside, a lot of the technologies that the space program brought forth was conceptualized strictly for utilization by the space program. Later on many corporations found ways to sell the stuff to consumers.

    In the main forum, Sooth brought up the Discovery Channel's recent When We Left Earth miniseries. It really shows how each Gemini and Apollo mission was a building block that led up to Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon. It's great stuff, and you realize how ballsy these guys were.

  17. #17
    [QUOTE=asuusa;2616800]Right, and more wasted taxpayer dollars![/QUOTE]

    In what sector of government aren't our tax dollars wasted? Billions are wasted through defense and social services spending alone and billions more in state level corruption and politically motivated job handouts. Scientific development as a result of NASA funding far outweighs the transparent waste that goes on there imo.

  18. #18
    [QUOTE=asuusa;2617117]What good does it do us to know that there's water on Mars or Mercury? Even if we found billions of barrels of oil there, what good would it do us?


    We landed on the moon almost 40 years ago and got what benefit from it...bragging rights?[/QUOTE]

    Helium 3, a substance infinitely preferable for nuclear fusion, is hardly found at all on Earth yet is abundant on our moon and most likely on other terrestrial bodies without an atmosphere shielding the surface from solar winds. NASA discovered this through manned and unmanned exploration and observation, making the possibility of a profitable lunar colony in the future possible.

  19. #19
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    I don't think you can really put a dollar value on the importance of this stuff. Being selfish about it and always asking "what good is it for me" isn't the right way to look at it, imo. In thousands of years, if we don't destroy ourselves first, humans might being looking back on this stuff in the same way that we look back on the invention of the wheel.

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