back to article Mars: more evidence of a watery past

Over-achieving Mars rover Spirit has literally uncovered new evidence that Mars used to have a much wetter climate, thanks to a dodgy wheel. Spirit has been on Mars for much longer than mission planners had ever hoped, and is beginning to show its age: one of its six wheels no longer rotates, instead dragging a deep furrow …


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  1. Dave

    you could hear people gasp in astonishment

    ... yes and we have been astonished every time somebody tells us that there is evidence of water on Mars. We got it OK - astonishingly there is evidence of water on Mars!

    Now how will that effect global warming?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    American arrogance

    Once again the Americans believe they are better than everybody else. Most of the rest of the universe has long known about flat tires and how they should be changed. Here in Britain we have had tonnes of flat tires for many years, and never had to issue a press release about it. Now the bloody Yanks are trumpeting this mistake on their part as a FEATURE.

    JUST CHANGE THE TIRE, BOYS! Driving on a ruined rim is no reason to brag....unless you're from the U.S.

    NOTE: I am actually an American, but have grown so used to every article on here being interpreted as somehow a sign of our arrogance, that I decided to jump in and do this one myself. It felt good. The Reg rocks. Hugs from across the pond, love, Jack Bauer.

    P.S. Note that I used the crazy Brit spelling for tonnes as a tribute. You Brits are a hoot. Also, sorry about Tony Blair--Iraq seemed like a good idea at the time.

  3. Gordon Guthrie


    Sorry old son, but tonne is a metric measurement meaning a thousand kilos but ton is the old imperial version. As it happens if you are using tons as a generic adjective meaning big you use the imperial ton, not the metric one...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Spirit has been on Mars for much longer than mission planners had ever hoped"

    Where did they expect it to go to?

    I'll get my coat.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tonnes etc.

    Tonne = 1000 kg.

    In old world (excluding US):-

    Ton = 2,240 lbs.

    Short Ton = 2000 lbs

    In old world (US Only):-

    Ton = 2000 Lbs.

    Long Ton = 2,240 lbs

    A what we lost when we went Metric.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Actually old boy...

    We spell tons like that - t o n s.

    Its those damned foreigner types on the continent that have tonnes.

    Now, tyres - t y r e s would have been a better choice of tribute.

    We're sorry about Tony Bliar as well. Dashed inconvenient chappie.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Mars might well have been hospitable to life."

    Hey I know a planet like that now !

    BTW 1 ton = 1.01604 tonnes. It's not a spelling thing.

  8. Konstantinos


    /flex all the way huh? :)

    glad to see some ppl escape the brain wash though

  9. Skullfoot

    Think Small and Win

    You know its sad that NASA has the same attitude as a brownnose manager. IF they keep their heads just below water and every now and then give us a headline, then alls well. WHEN THE HELL ARE WE GOING TO MARS? With people. Gesus we have all the computing power of every 1960's mainfrain on the planet in 1 laptop and they still keep pissing around about the trip...? I thought these guys and gals at NASA were geniuses!!??? They're like Maveric after Goose dies in TopGun... lost their nerve, edgless fearfull overcompensating, excuse making. Get me whatever capsule you got! and 5 years worth of frozen taco's, and a deuce of Pepsi. I'm ready to go!

  10. Dr. Mouse


    Another minor point... tyre is spelt 'tyre' not 'tire'...

    God bless Americans, even when they try to spell properly, which isn't often, they still get it wrong. Three cheers for our special friends accross the Atlantic (apecial as in "Mummy says I'm a special boy") :P

  11. Konstantinos

    Couldnt resist...

    but to contribute :)

  12. Chris

    I'm a little bit masochistic

    And a yank. And generally the yank bashing is hilarious. So keep up the good work.

  13. Rob

    Visiting Mars...

    Yes we have the capability to get there technically, but y'see the problem lies in us. Literally. The human body is not yet capable of surving a trip there and back.

    Astronauts in high earth orbit (think ISS) for six months lose massive amounts of bone density and suffer all sorts of problems. On our current tech, the trip to Mars is about 3 and a half years (give or take), That's seven years there and back. Plus you wouldn't just be popping there for a visit - if you're going you're going for a year on surface at least. Say you want a decent scientific study done when you get there at 3 years surface time. That's a 10 year trip out and back with all that time planet side. Ove half of that is done in the vacuum of space and then the planet itself is pretty hostile. We'd be damn lucky to get anyone back at all and if we did they'd probably hve to spend the rest of their lives in orbit due to the lack of bone structure they'd have.

    We are the limit to our journey to Mars and until we can combat muscle/bone loss and radiation absorbtion on a massive scale there's no way we can go.

  14. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Re: Visiting Mars...

    Solution (of sorts) to the bone loss problem is a big-ish spinning ship so the centripetal force mimics gravity. Think "ark in space" from the old Dr. Who episode, but minus the body-eating insect thing.

    A bigger problem is the cumulative radiation dose, and protecting against the odd solar flare or two. Some solutions to that may exist, but how they would impact on the cost (as for spinning ship) are serious questions.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Brit News

    You got The Register, New Scientist, and The Economist. I just can't find that kind of news in America. The best we have is Wired. I'll keep reading until our ratings obsessed media can print something that qualifies as news.

  16. BossHog

    Re: Visting Mars....

    To Paul Crawford:

    >> Think "ark in space" from the old Dr. Who episode, but minus the body-eating insect thing.

    There you go, cost cutting again. :)

  17. Tek

    Yank Bashing

    Okay, I don't usually do this, but I'm going to side with the septics here. Does 'Beagle' ring any bells? I think the Spirit has done a tad more for science than Beagle ever will.

    Just my 2 cents worth (thats 1p for everyone else).

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Risk Averse

    I think rather than technological problems hampering a trip to Mars, though they do exist, its more down to a risk averse NASA. Dead astronauts are bad publicity, personally I can't see us getting anywhere with that attitude.

    Thats not to say that astronauts are risk averse, unlikely in their profession, but the administration is.

  19. Adam


    Anyone here ever hear of Beagle?

    Nope, don't know what you're going on about old chap!

    *Walks off whistling*

  20. A J Stiles


    What I have always wondered is, why isn't a tonne (= 1000kg, and embarrassingly similar to a ton [= 20 cwt = 160 stone = 2240lb = about 1016kg]) called a megagramme?

  21. Frank Bellavance

    Well, let me take a moment to be proud

    Just to remind people. Those 2 rovers had an original mission time of 90 days. Another reason to ask the Canadiens to design things ;-)

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It would seem that any imbecile could infer from what was written that NASA didn't expect the machines to still be working after this long. That might require an actual open mind, as opposed to some snide, narrow-minded twit desperately searching for some way to feel superior, however ridiculous it makes him/her look... not to mention arrogant.

    Also, any idiot, whether British or American, could see that they are not bragging about the stupid tire. Rather, they appear to have found good fortune out of an unfortunate situation.

    And then to tear off on a [pointless] tangent about tons and tires and spelling, all in an attempt to prove ... what, exactly? Lost me there, old boy(s). Just because Americans spell it differently doesn't mean it's wrong, just as it doesn't mean the British spelling is right. It's just different. And what, exactly, is 'centripetal force'? Would it be some mutation of, or distant relative of, 'centrifugal force'? That's just hilarious.

    Perhaps if some of the 'extra-special' Brits were intelligent enough to actually BE rocket scientists and work at NASA, they could solve all of the problems there, as well as world hunger, global warming, and alternate energy sources. That might, however, require a break from looking down your 'special' noses at those who do try. To do ANYTHING.

  23. Benjamin

    artificial gravity on the cheap

    Getting to Mars will surely require

    "artificial gravity"; but please, don't

    speak of building a giant "ark", or

    perhaps a huge torus filled with trees

    and parks like in various sci fi.

    Remember that we *do* have gravity here,

    therefore lofting all the materials to build

    such space-cities from Earth makes no

    sense (let's wait until we have the ability

    to build the big hardware on other locations

    with less gravity).

    The simple solution, seems to me, is to

    take two (or more) reasonable-sized

    space capsules, connect together with, oh,

    say a kilometer of cable, and spin.

    (There will probably be other synergistic

    benefits to splitting up the "eggs" into multiple



  24. FerretOfDoom


    I hate the word "Synergistic".

    Anyway, you think NASA's going to send up a new:

    ____Tire _____Tyre (Please choose your regional spelling)


    Think those things have road hazard warranties on them?

  25. Benjamin


    I don't think I've ever seen it

    spelled out (in practical use), but

    I have occasionally seen the unit, Mg,

    used (scientific/engineering contexts).

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Has anybody noticed...

    that this as good as a scientific result as anything planned? They used the wheels of the rovers to dig before, but since one of the wheels broke they dig up everything while moving. This means they can actually see and then check every bit of land they cover. That's something nobody planned before launch and this is good. The two small rovers did more than enough already and they just keep going...

    If humanity wants to do more serious work, then we might just send more complex (semi humanoid) robots, so they could assemble anything by following the orders given from earth. Getting people there could be done now, even in a good healthy condition, but it should be done when they can stay there indefinetly. Settling on a new planet is better done with a one way ticket and a chance to live there. Remote controlled base builder robots with repair robots to repair them could make a very good team.

    And finally sending humans there could be done with rotational artifical gravity and lots of water as a radiation shield. Building a ship like this could be done in orbit at a space dock. A good place to build one would be the iss. It's there and we can get there and back with good old (and dirt cheap) soviet technology (aka. the sojuz and progress rockets). Using the 3 stage version and converting the fuel tanks of the last stage into a ship we could get up some equipment and lots of cargo space on every trip. Building a whole ship this way would cost around as much as a single shuttle launch. (as i said, russian rockets are cheap, they even use standard aircraft fuel) The ship would look like a funny space station with huge engines (instead of the small sojuz proulsion unit on the iss), but it doesn't have to be able to land on any planet, there are dedicated landers for this job.

    ps: Going to the moon would be a better idea first, testing the robots and the base there and then we can try mars. All we have to do is get rid of the idea of a return trip. If we send colonists that's much cheaper and easier.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re: Title

    I want to apologize for my countryman's ignorance and insulting remarks. As you can see not all Americans have a sense of humor (humour) or can readily discern humor when not demonstrated by the Three Stooges.

    I am also encouraged by recent press release from the European Space Agency (ESA) regarding their many current space-based projects advancing the science and application of space exploration. Something my fellow countryman has obviously missed out on having anchored his mind in the mid to late 1960's.



  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    As in H.M.S. Beagle - the ship used by Darwin

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    You are delusional.

    Earth supported humans and humans adapted to life on Earth, at least as well as we can afford. Don't invest my money in fantasies of life in zero gravity, barren mega-gravity, or in Mars radiation so great that man would be eternally confined to a small and extremely fragile, self contained, eco-capsule, like a goldfish in a bowl. Don't tinker us into that when we should be cleaning up the planet that will indeed support metric life, Earth. White sand under an (imperial) inch of red dirt,huh? It takes a lot of gravity to distribute a layer of dust so evenly over so much space. And you want to live there???

  30. Charlie van Becelaere


    I couldn't resist replying to several of the comments left here. Accordingly:

    Skullfoot is volunteering to go (after having overcome the various supposed technical obstacles to the trip). To which I can only add - make room for me as well.

    Rob avers that said obstacles are relatively insurmountable. To summarise, "it's too hard, we'll never get there." whiner

    Tek suggests using waste disposal tanks as spacecraft (unless I'm reading him(?) incorrectly) - Tek is going with the septics.

    Frank Bellavance asks us to allow hockey players from Montreal to design our spacecraft. That hardly seems wise, as they couldn't even make the playoffs. Of course, that does mean they have more time on their hands ....

    An anonymous poster (with a descriptive "Title" to the post) goes mental on everyone and everything. (I hope he(?) feels better).

    Finally, MedusasBigO (I'm guessing that was a nickname of some sort rather than a posting title) posits that Earth can support metric life. And so, apparently, it can (viz France), but the real question is whether it ought. Hadn't we worked this all out - we want our pints, whether British or American.

    ad astra and all that biz.

  31. Andrew

    Amen to that -- invest in Earth!

    Space travel is fine to write about and make movies about, but when it comes to investing untold billions what exactly are we trying to achieve? As for colonization of the universe, forget it. Anywhere we go we have to bring more of Earth with us than most people realize -- and it's not just the basics like food, water, radiation shielding, gravity -- all hard enough on their own to bring along. There's a significant psychological component too. Nobody really knows how the human brain would work when separated from Earth for years. I wouldn't be surprised if it made most people psychotic, or at least severely depressed -- just sitting in a windowless room for a few days can do that. Even if Earth-like planets exist a few light years away there's no plausible technology that could get human beings there. The bottom line is that we are part of Earth. We deceive ourselves if we pretend we can exist without it. Our ties to our planet are deeper than anyone knows. Plus the shear magnitude of the expense of trying to leave Earth in any significant way are better spent making our one true home more livable. Let's keep our priorities straight.

  32. Mike

    Brit vs Yank magazines

    "The best we have is Wired." ?

    Oh, _Please_ . Combining Omni-grade science with "We will make your eyes bleed, because we can" layout since bell-bottoms were cool?

    At least look into "Make". Not _exactly_ news, but better for your head (News, I get from the Economist and ElReg, of course. I may be a Yank, but I'm not _stupid_ :-)

  33. cd


    "Another reason to ask the Canadiens to design things"

    So that's why the tire went flat, got it at Crappy!

    "Think those things have road hazard warranties on them?"


  34. Benjamin

    gravity on Mars

    To "You are delusional" above: IIRC, Mars has

    a good bit *less* gravity than Earth.

    Might be kinda fun to live there, at least

    in that one respect.

  35. Jackson Capper

    It's News

    You're all so negative. More evidence of water on Mars. You're reading the news. That's news. There's no US pride or nationalism in here, it's a news article and it's good to hear about what's going on.

    I would hate to be an article writer, because all anyone says is how crap the article was.

    Appreciate that your being informed.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re: Title rant

    "And what, exactly, is 'centripetal force'? Would it be some mutation of, or distant relative of, 'centrifugal force'? That's just hilarious."

    Centripetal force is, exactly, the external force required to make a body follow a circular path at constant speed. The force is directed inwards, towards the centre of the circle. In other words, if you were standing in a spinning space station, it's the force you would feel pushing up against your feet. Centrifugal force is the force your feet would exert down onto the floor.

    Same coin, two sides. HTH


  37. Jimbo

    Centripetal force.

    Someone wrote:

    >And what, exactly, is 'centripetal force'? Would it be some mutation of, or distant relative of, 'centrifugal force'? That's just >hilarious.

    If you have two pods attached by a cable spinning on a central axis (to generate artificial gravity), then centrifugal force would stick the astronauts to the floor (outside edge) of the pod.

    The centripetal force would be the floor pushing up towards the axis, stopping the astronauts from flying off in opposite directions.

    (at least this is what I'm lead to believe by a certain wiki site!)

    Hope this clears it up.

  38. Aubry Thonon

    Re: Tonne

    "What I have always wondered is, why isn't a tonne (= 1000kg, and embarrassingly similar to a ton [= 20 cwt = 160 stone = 2240lb = about 1016kg]) called a megagramme"

    Wasn't a "tonne" originally a container of some type? A barrel containing amounts greater than 350L?

  39. Gregory Lee

    Mars Express

    Well, I've got few things that might help my fellow whiners at/AL. They say it's too costly ( for training ) and too costly to lose a perfectly good men ( good as no crimes commited). Nasa could save themselves all the worries for naught. I say this, get used to the idea of ( colonization) and pick the best of the lot. In the sense no one will miss them if accidentally vaporized. Lets go and training few good men who spend their days waiting for gas chamber in their raggedy customary uniform emblazoned with black/white horizontal bars from top to bottom. They are already quite used to being stuck 24/7 in clostrophobic inducing small walls. And tell them if they manage to return in one piece they will be set free. Sounds like good 'ol Clint Eastwood cigar chewing sun burnt egomaniacal poker faced Western huh ? Well think of it as a good deed done for the cause of discovering another Australia or America. Chuckles !!

    PS: For those cranky faced lots cringing on spare parts for "Mars Express". Stuffs you can return to Crappy is worth the gold , most of times ( a lot of stufffs are quite good useful and works actually). FYI ; so long as you've got the 1) receipt (YOu might have trouble explaining to courteous helperhands on the floor where your stuffs's gonna be used in, like in Rocket to Mars) , 2) in original box (ha, too bad you might have a tad bit of trouble getting the stuff back in the box . If and when brought back from failed Mars orbit), and 3) within 2 weeks or so of purchase ( Well here lies the real problem , 7 years just to come and go means automatic voided warranty, sorry) . But the idea was good for exploratory devise.

  40. Paul Murray

    Forget ecology

    I know this will iritate people who want to keep Mars as-is so we can study it, but I say: breed some lichen or extremophile bacteria that can survive there, and seed Mars with life. Once it's covered with lichen, we can send up some reindeer to eat it.

  41. Chris Elvidge

    Re: Tonne as a container

    TUN is a barrel of 252 (imperial) gallons


  42. james newcombe

    Send them in

    They should send monkeys to start with, and colonize mars with them. A real planet of the apes - that would kick arse

  43. Sarah Davis


    if the asteroid belt is made from the remnents of a planet, perhaps, when it exploded, some part impacted mars (causing it's atmosphere to deteriate), and possibly the same source for the asteroid that hit earth wiping out the dinosaurs - just a speculation

    :-) sarah

  44. Clive Galway

    RE: invest in Earth!

    What you seem to forget is that potentially exploring space IS investing in earth.

    If we could move a bunch of nasty industry off the planet (eg mining and associated refining) then we wouldn't need to do it on earth. Also, if we had materials off-planet already, we wouldn't need to burn more rocket fuel to take them off-planet to build ships / habitats with.

    Plus, if we had stuff coming IN to earth as well as OUT, then that would mean we could use something like a lift (Yes, it is possible as the earth is spinning - see centripedal force.) - use the weight of the incoming minerals to lift the outgoing stuff (ie people, equipment) into space: A launch with little or no energy requirements. And what about nasty stuff we don't want? Nuclear waste / biotoxins / tony blair - space would be a much safer place for them than earth.

    Plus then there is the argument of putting all your species' eggs in one basket. As it stands now, all we need is one big 'roid and we are all toast.

    That enough reasons for ya?

  45. Daniel

    Life on Mars

    Forget all the talk about rotating space ships, and anti gravity. All you need is a back lot at universal studios and some red rocks and sand.

  46. Chris Cheale

    If I remember correctly...

    from A level Physics - technically there's no such a thing as centrifugal force; it's merely momentum - the force you feel pushing you to the floor in a rotating chamber (spaceship in this instance) is merely your body attempting to continue moving with the same velocity (i.e. in a straight line) - think turning a corner in your car.

    Of course, the first thing we were taught in A Level Physics was that just about everything we'd learnt at GCSE was simplified to the point of being innaccurate so it's entirely feasible that anyone with a degree or doctorate in Physics could tell me I'm talking guff - hey ho.

  47. Paul

    Can I just say

    that if you accelerated at 1G halfway to Mars and then decelerated at 1G you'd get there quicker, have no need for artificial gravity and you'd need a massive amount of fuel and um...

    It NASA is serious about sending folk to Mars, it would make sense to ferry as much stuff to Mars as possible beforehand, so that humans would have everything they needed when they got there. You could do that years earlier using less fuel and do you know what, I can't be arsed.

  48. Alistair Stewart

    Mr Spock Explodes with Emotion

    What's this, "explosive vulcanism"? Did the Vulcan empire colonize Mars and then have a war over the dwindling water resources?

    Perhaps it should read, "explosive volcanism"?

  49. Stephen Gray

    re RE: invest in Earth! By Clive Galway

    "If we could move a bunch of nasty industry off the planet (eg mining and associated refining)" so you're moving the mine off world, its the Earth thats being mined, are you moving that off world? laffable

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