tv Book Discussion on Mars Up Close CSPAN February 16, 2015 10:30pm-12:01am EST
. >> here is a look at some of the upcoming book fairs and festivals happening around the country. teesixteen we will be at the university of arizona with live coverage of the 7th annual tucson festival of books. the following week the virginia festival of the book will be held in charlottesville virginia. for march 252 the 29th the city of new 29th the city of new orleans we will host the tennessee williams literary festival >> marc kaufman is next. he's been two years at nasa's jet propulsion laboratory to get an in-depth look of the challenges and triumphs. mr. kaufman shows photos taken by the curiosity rover and talks about the evidence collected that suggests they're may have once been life on mars. this is about an hour and a half.
i would like to ask that your cell phone be turned off and don't take any pictures during the presentation. fyi, tomorrow in the new york times it will be all about mars and features an article by this evening speaker. curiosity is a car sized robotic rover that has been exploring the crater on mars since lending they're august 2012.
nasa wants to curiosity in november 2011 from cape canaveral and took a little over eight months to reach mars. the rover's goals are to investigate the martian climate and theology and determine whether it ever had environmental conditions favorable to life. this is treating for those interested in the exploration of faith. know matter what category you fall into this evening it is sure to fascinate. a journalist for more than 35 years worked at the sciences daytrader foreign correspondent and editor for the "washington post" for the past 12 years and has spoken extensively on astrobiology hear in the us and abroad. he is also the author of books published in 2,011 by simon & schuster.
scientific breakthroughs in the hunt for life beyond earth. please give a very warm welcome. we are pleased to have here tonight mark kaufman. [applause] >> thank you all so much for coming. this is a terrific time to be talking about mars because it turns out that a lot of events are taking place right now a lot of change and a lot of wonderful development. let's get started. okay. headshot of our character of the night. approximately half the size of earth. one a half times as far away from the sun as we are.
as i we will describe it is a place that has long lived in the imagination probably more than any other planet and for good reason. and right now we are just on the edge of learning just remarkable things about the place. in fact, we are we are learning things about the place that kind of bring back into the future some of the things that have been discussed for centuries. but 1st mars has been very much in the news. this was the siding spring, the past by mars just a month and a a half ago or so. it almost at the planet. it struck me as one of those really kind of key moments in terms of how things are changed because there are
two rovers on the ground and five warming satellites. so if it had hit mars a lot of money would have gone down the drain. things like that can matter. also this is the castle that someday we will hopefully -- hopefully bring astronauts to mars. it was launched. so this is -- many people are of the opinion that the american space program is -- in fact, fact, i we will try to argue that is not the case. and just today to some extent the subject of what i have written about for the times, but they're was another report curiosity from the curiosity team. what they said was truly remarkable. later in the top explain a
little more but this proves in terms of what they see and what the geologists and geochemist and everything else they know how to interpret. this is a delta, the end of a river that most likely was going into the lake. right they're where they were. we now have proof positive that way back when 3.5284 billion years ago mars was very wet and much more. keep in mind the number 3.8. that 3.8. that is around the era when life began on earth and when earth was warm and kind of what. i don't know. mars wasn't too different. this was kind of a rendering of what perhaps mars looked like back then or just based upon the information that they have now lakes rain, snow
a water cycle. that is the news that is happening in terms of mars. what i want to do is go back in history a bit and talk about curiosity in terms of how it is we have come to this really exciting. famously in the 19th century looked at mars maybe a little bit too much and saw canals everywhere. this became a major kind of cause. someone hear followed up on this and the kind of started the whole notion that mars was not only inhabited but it was inhabited by intelligent people who are making canals and doing all kinds of really exciting things.
and ironically they kind of intuitively turn on the something that turned out to be partially true, but they were half. again the canal. virtually everyone came into science because of the martian chronicles. it is kind of the iconic tale. here we have the canals. water is key to our understanding. this is carl sagan with the viking rover they're were two of them. they landed on mars. at the time time sagan was kind of an iconic figure. the cosmos series was it to come but he was one of the
1st astrobiologists. people astrobiologists. people thought the search for life beyond earth was possible and necessary and exciting. it took one of his jobs with viking was to look for his wife. it was explained to me that he got irate when nasa did not put lights on so that they could see these things at night. when they come at night we won't see them. in any case this is where they landed and this is what it was like. after all of that build up of canals and water and life and sagan talking about all kinds of living things coming to eat at the trough of viking this is what they found. it was pretty barren.
there were some tests that seemed to suggest that they were living microbes in the soil that were then debunked the view is that they did not find anything in the way of biology. here is another picture, and you can see not very enticing not something that kind of just screams out hey, out hey, life used to be hear for life easier now and i think it would be fair to say that because the viking pictures and the story that he was able to tell was so kind of peak it was exciting in many ways, remarkable that they landed the what the reported back was so depressing and different than what people had anticipated that they're was very little mars exploration for the next 20 20 years. it just kind of fell off the
agenda. then gradually nasa began sending orbiting satellites. satellites. they began sending back pictures. things started to change. this is -- the delta which is one of many features on mars that if it was on earth earth people would say, hey, they used to be river. it took a long time. this image was probably taken in the mid-90s, and a lot of scientists would say we don't really no what was. it could have been just eyesore it could have been carbon dioxide in some kind of frozen form but they're was a reluctance to say that they're was not only running water but standing water and water that would have run for a long time. they knew that there have been major breaks, dam breaks and water would flow
but those were catastrophic to things. this is the kind of thing you would find on earth. one of the main reasons why they said it could not be just a delta, like a a river delta was because the understanding was that the mars atmosphere can handle it. it was much too thin and anything that was standing water would quickly either evaporate or sublimate and freeze. in any case, this is what the began to see. some of the more daring scientists would say what we're looking at is obviously a riverbed and then awakened of the things. what they also began to see after sending up some instruments that could read this kind of information they're are large classes of minerals that are formed only in water. the water know clinical and
no one or know next sulfates. and yet now they were able with knew technology from the orbiting satellite to determine well yeah there was quite a bit of clay. there was sulfates. and a picture started to emerge of a place that now is very dry and very barren but maybe once wasn't. by the way, this was taken by a high-rise camera mars reconnaissance orbiter. the colors are not true colors. they enhance them so that you can see the features. otherwise it's otherwise it's just kind of a brown undistinguished kind of scene, but if you are interested in this kind of thing go to the high-rise hi risc site and you can see thousands of these magnificent images of a mars
that is very different than what people have imagined. in any case they begin to be more activity interest they're were 25 viking landed in 1997. next line they're was in 1997. then they're were the true small clovers that landed in 2,004. one of them is still going. but they knew they needed more. these were tiny things. the 1st lander after viking was basically the size of a small electric car the the others were bigger but they didn't have much capacity. so they dreamed of something much more sophisticated and came up with what we now no
as the curiosity. 2 tons as opposed to 25 pounds or 500 pounds. and and it has ten instruments and is much, much more sophisticated. here we go. because it is much larger you have a problem. how do you landed back the little ones landed them in big bowls. there were literally drop onto the martian surface, blog for a while and then the ball would open a new drive out. you couldn't do it was something that was more than 2 tons. and so this gentleman was put in charge of figuring out how to do it and came up with the idea of the sky crane. by the way, he's part of this new generation of nasa and other urgent -- other
engineers who are not what you would think about old-school engineers. he played for a long time in a rock a rock band, doesn't have his earrings on now but he usually does. how was kind of pompadour. one hip guy and his brilliant. brilliant. in any case to make them up with this idea that they would come in to the martian atmosphere going 13 hundred -- know, 13.2 25,132,000 miles an hour. that is how fast. seven minutes to go to zero without crashing. and his job was to figure out how to do it. this guy crane is the last stage of that were basically there was a mechanism that would hover for a while over the ground and then slowly drop it down to the surface.
never been done before and part of an extremely important development because in order for humans to be someday dropped on the mars they need something that can land 30 tons much more sophisticated but they are in the process of figuring it out. so this is the 1st time where they're was a camera at the bottom of the rover and it is lending mechanism. as a camera taking pictures. this is a heat heat shield after the heat shielded been shot off. the camera started taking pictures and you can see it going down going down, going down. this is the end when it's doing the sky crane. engineers really happy. to be at jcl that night was
just one of the happiest days of my life. to see that many people putting so much time and effort into it and care really deeply about it. interesting story about how they got into the habit of taking sophie's. obviously it looks like someone is they're taking the picture. there is not. it has an arm and he goes out and is a camera on it takes pictures. they. there is our guy. minus 200 degrees fahrenheit and there's a lot of radiation that pummels down.
all in all it is a harsh environment so it has to be designed in order to be able to handle that. this was the destination. it was formed probably about three and a half to 3.8 billion years ago when a large meteorite hit that goes in days of the call and starts kicking other things out. there's a there's a lot of debate as to how this particular moment in the middle came to be. there's an unusual 3.2-mile high amount in the middle of the crater. they selected they selected it because there were signs that they're was water, not adults of both alluvial sand going out. and also they're was a lot
of minerals that are formed only in water was detected in any have this mountain. know rover or machine of any type is ever gone to another planet and had ever had amount like this like a. this is something i hope people understand how unique this was. it struck me as a really signal moment in the history of space science and in fact it has been. to put it into context --
and they're have been seven successful landings on mars. hopefully not being nationalistic but nasa has done all seven of them. they're are a lot of old metal deposits on the planet if there's one thing the united states does really well it's go to mars. it makes us exceptional. the blue is the northern lowlands. we we will talk about this more later but it is about a mile to 2 miles below the other green and yellow and ten. this is a very key thing because they're is some
suggestion that it is getting more persuasive than perhaps it was a huge ocean which would have enormous implications in terms of the potential for life. you can see where curiosity is. this is called the dichotomy where it cuts across. about one 3rd of mars is very low area and into thirds is the highland after curiosity lands and starts looking around 17 cameras. it contrasts with what vikings. you see why they got so excited. these are features that are very brownell that you can kind of imagine were once somewhat different. and you can see the fine layering.
they are clear layers between sedimentary rock as opposed to volcanic basalt or whatever. the the sedimentary rock has to be brought their buy by something be it water or wind or whatever and then if it becomes rock over time but this is all sedimentary and was with the curiosity team described the promised land. it's taken a while to get there. that's what brought all these people into their job. this is a conglomerate, kind
of like a concrete almost. they. they found it within a month or so of lending. conglomerate is that requires water. it cannot come about -- it cannot be formed without water and also there are a lot of small pebbles. small pebbles the scientists interpreted as being something that only water to bring down. within two months or so of arriving they had something that had been speculated on for decades or running water on mars. third was. more real-life picture and
it does not maybe come across too well well, but that is not sharp. that is a a channel a big canyon coming down. this is what was given the name peace ballot that is the stream and in the alluvial sand the curiosity landed at the end of. that is where it saw this conglomerate and other kinds of things. this really makes sense just to backpedal for a 2nd. named after the roman god of war.
one of them is lower than the others. this is really landed. this is the jet exhaust and this is the track they took. going the opposite way from afar. this is the kind of daring them from the do this was promising and so they headed in the other direction. they've got some criticism for that over the years but as you'll see it was very successful, and i believe a wonderful thing to do. this is where they ended up. up. this is an area called
yellowknife bay. you, again remember those images we saw from viking i was just volcanic rocks strewn around. this looked like and in fact was the bottom of the lake. look at this. these are the kind of things the kind of mud this is actually mudstone. and it and it looks very much like what would happen when the lake of what they call a plan which would be a low kind of marsh when it would dry up. here you here you go. that's what they found. and then they drove into it. but this but this never before on mars or any other planet is this kind of thing been found and researched. again to backtrack this is the art of curiosity, 7 feet long.
elements are there based on that. they did the zapping and they could see here a line which tells them -- but they are geologists and they know about these things -- not that this was an area that have water in it not once but many times. as you will see the surrounding mud stone really have water in it because it was something like 20% clay and clayey means water. it requires water and then this is a gypsum calcium sulfate and it would have come into that area after everything had dried out once and now it was watery again. so you have an ability from 100 million miles away to look with this incredibly fine detail detail. they have a camera on that tour it and it's unlike anything they
have ever done before. it's like a geologists field camera or glass and they were able to take this picture which is something that big. so early on or after they have gone through this first campaign which takes about a year, they conclude well you know the crater was once quite wet. at this point they were willing to say there was a lake there but they did say that water came down the cliff, would form a broad expanse of water in the sand and this happened over a period at that point they estimated into thousands or tens of thousands of years which was important but it was not really enough time for anything
resembling life to develop and these were not yet the conditions for life. just to backtrack what they concluded here in this whole area was that there was not only water and it was water that the project scientist famously said was water you could drink. it was that pure in terms of all the different things that were needed but also in terms of being not acidic and not very basic. it was right down the middle which is what you want for life. so it has water. it had an energy source from the sun and it had all the chemical elements carbon and oxygen hydrogen and so on and said they declared that this area was the first place found outside that was habitable.
it doesn't mean it was inhabited but it means that if there was life there, if life began there he could have survived. and there were conditions there that could have allowed for that initial origin just as life began to .3 billion years ago this was 3.8 billion years ago or 3.5 and they were similar kinds of conditions. all right after their time at the day they decided they said okay it's time to go to their destination. in this little graphic mount sharp as this one. this is everest. this is mt. mckinley. sorry i forget what that one is so it's a big mountain.
on the top it's not as sedimentary and not as interesting. it's call kind of a hard formed dust that turned into rock. here is all the sedimentary parts we were talking about before. and this is the promised land. getting to the promised land was going to require six or seven miles of travel and it turned out to be very difficult. rovers are incredibly versatile machines but they are also very complex and they have a lot of moving parts. they had more than their share of problems but as we will see they met. all right, this is the rover at work. much of it is done autonomously
in terms of the rover being able to take orders and do things itself and sometimes can even not take orders but rather think for itself. it is that artificial intelligence built into it and it's the future and these kinds of russert -- robers they are not going to necessarily need people like this woman dana thompkins who has the coolest job on earth. she is the rover driver. she looks at 3-d things and you can really see the contours of the land here and her job is to draw a path and then understand the coordinates and look for obstacles and then back goes and
is reviewed by a lot of different committees who want to see where the science is good and also want to make sure that they are being fit but she is the one and their 14 others others that are going to write the program that dennis sent up to mars and the next day the rover due what it's told in terms of driving. you can't see it too well here but these are the wheels and after about a year and a half or so they notice that there are big holes. that's not good. there are six wheels. this is the front to end the middle to and they needed to have a lot of traction built into these wheels because they
were going to be going uphill but that is meant to traction can be too heavy and the struts are diagonal but the aluminum behind it is quite then and somewhat unexpectedly to them as they would drive along it would be stuck into sandstone and it would puncture the wheels. so unfortunately aaa does not go to mars or the gale crater many other parts of mars but not gale crater so they had to figure out what to do. and largely they go backwards now. turns out that was less stressful on the wheels and it has proven to be a decent way to go. i said earlier that there was a
designed part of a programmed route and then there is an autonomous part where the rover tends to drive on its own. because it's going backwards what they had to do is they do the program part and then they program the turnaround and then it goes forward on its own. in any case it's going backward into the future. on the way to mount sharp they come across all kinds of really to me very interesting things. this is an iron meteorite. it's actually the kind of thing that you find at the museum of natural history and wherever. they land on mars just like they land here and for that matter meteorites of all kinds lend their and they bring organic material to mars just like they bring it here.
these are the building blocks of life carbon-based building blocks of life that curiosity is searching for. it turns out the atmosphere there allows in a lot more radiation which then destroys the organic, but this kind of meteorites makes clear that yeah there is a lot of meteor at activity and organics are coming in but you have to. organics are an important part of the life story. this is the fault which is just a volcanic rock but again just look at the context of mars up close. what could be more this is a small piece of rock that they are able to magnify to this enormous extent. you can see here this is a
little bits of dust and little bits of sand in whatever and when you contrast that began with what has been possible in the past this is just a whole new generation and not only does it provide phenomenal art as far as i'm concerned but also as you will see a lot of science that was not possible without this. a good question. i don't recall. i can get it for you. i think it's centimeters. it's not millimeters. this is crystal and also on the road to mount sharp. the overall back story here is that what they're finding is that mars has basically the same chemistry as earth and basically
the same kind of interactions and rocks have the same kinds of interactions with water and other elements as they do on earth and come up with similar kinds of results. so the phenomena and studies understood and known here on earth they now feel quite comfortable that they see the same kinds of structures that they can assume properly that is the same kind of thing they find on earth. now here is a chicken bone. as you know it's not that there have been probably a dozen formations like this. wind designed bits of rock that have caught people's attention and it's all over the internet where they found a rodent, they found a gopher and they found all kinds of things.
this is not a chicken bone. i wish it was. there is a famous image of a human face taken from orbit maybe but probably not. all right so another selfie. it's like a large oceanliner and are largely female. at this point it's getting closer to mount sharp and it has made it quite a few kilometers going backwards. it is once again finding a kind of sedimentary striated rock that is so interesting to the
scientists because it means that there was water there and that brings us to today's news. this was an image that was leaked today and what it shows is quite clearly that here there were layers, layer upon layer upon layer of sedimentary deposits and to have it this plaque they say means it was a lake. if it was more wavy or whatever then it would be a river for a delta or a stream but this means that this was a lake and they have come across quite a few of these and in fact the whole wave from yellowknife bay to the base of mt. sharp has been going through they have found one delta delta after another after another. so there was water just pouring in here over what now john
grotzinger says his tens of millions of years, no longer thousands or tens of thousands but tens of millions of years, forming lakes deltas streams and this is the kind of composite there was. probably it might have come and gone over period of time but it was a large lake. another aspect of this that is very exciting, remember early on i showed you a picture of the delta and there were until just a few years ago a lot of people would say that wasn't water. that wasn't a river. now all of those kinds of formations, and there are hundreds of them around mars, be pretty definitively identified
as being the result of water. which changes the whole nature of the discussion about mars because that means there was global water and to do that, we will get to that in another slide that requires a whole change of paradigm and understanding of what mars is about. >> it looks like a string. right there. >> there are? right there. i kind of doubt it but it is beautiful. this is in detail, that same kind of layered rock that has the geologist so utterly delighted and the way that they came to the tens of millions of
years from thousands of years is that they are now on the geological formation, the murray foundation that is the base of mt. sharp and they can see that it gradually ascends about 150 meters and all of what is there they know from where they are now is the same kind of stuff. and to have built up 150 meters of this kind of layered material to say nothing of what is below it takes a long long time because it doesn't happen overnight. so that's how they began to say okay not thousands of years and not tens of thousands but millions and maybe tens of millions and maybe getting into hundreds of millions too. what they have also done is concluded based on these most recent discoveries that the
water was running their probably much later than anticipated. it has always been said or it has long been said that there was water on mars. if there was water it was early in the lockean period from 4.5 billion years ago which was when the planet formed to maybe 4 billion years ago. that is when there were still in the atmosphere but they know that the gale crater didn't form until after that. now you have millions of years forming this body of water so it's suddenly becoming clear that mars has a condition for stable water well past where they thought initially or that they thought for a long time. this is kind of a cool picture.
this is a deposit of salt that they found in one of the areas. they tested it and that is what made it blue and taking away the outset and then they tested it and it was salt. just like a lake dries up here and you have salty deposits as well as mud that's what they found. this is like would last six months. now this is a picture that was just released today. this is their current thinking about what happened. here's gale crater and water starts coming down because it forms up and there is a water cycle that allows for rivers to be coming down here and then
there's this lake and it probably comes and goes over long period of time but even if there is no lake there is groundwater. this is again important for the life story because as we were discussing earlier in order for there to be a plausible origin of life and survival of microorganisms there has to be water. it doesn't have to be water on the surface. water in the ground could also work. it turns out there are a lot of microbes that live on rocks. that's where they get their energy source. [inaudible] >> well we don't know that it didn't. i think it would be fair to say an awful lot of scientists think that probably did. finding this is really really hard. the oldest microbial life found on earth was for sure or the
consensus is with 3.5 billion years ago and some people say 3.8 but these are little -- this is microbes that interact with rock in such away that there is a residue. they are arguing about what they find in australia. they bring it into a lab and examine it for years and years so it does take a long time before they can do that here. but the supposition were the theory, the hypothesis is that there was a habitable area. we don't know how life started here but there is really no particular reason to think that it didn't start on mars. it started here. >> i read that there's a greater likelihood that possibly you could find of microif they drill deeper 10 20, 100 feet.
what's the technological problem that prevents them from doing that? >> i'm sorry i have to ask you to repeat the question. the question was about the likelihood or the greater likelihood that there would be microbial life having existed a ways down 10 meters whatever rather than on the surface. that is indeed accurate. the top probably half a meter or so is utterly baked by the radiation and so it needs to go deeper. the answer is that it's really really hard to bring instruments there that can do it. this is the first journal curiosity drill is the first one that has arrived here. the european space agency has a mission called exomars that is supposed to land on mars in 2018
although the rocket is what they rush in space and -- agency but putting that aside that exomars rover will have a drill that can go down i think two meters and that is expected to be if it works potentially a lot richer in terms of finding that kind of stuff. but all of this is very very hard to determine what you have found and that is why what mars scientists are really excited bout in addition to all of this, they want to bring back a rock. they want to bring back soil. very hard to do. getting there is something that the united states has done now seven times and landed successfully. no one at this point has the
technology to blast off again and come back. that's something that will require a lot of technological advance and a lot of money and a lot of support from the taxpayers. but in any case here you can see this is after all the soil that brought down here and it creates a big lump of material and those are the kinds of things that they now see all-around gale crater. they can't see the water but they see where the water was. now going back to one of the pictures i started with perhaps it's more clear. look at this. this tells us that there was a delta there. it's so obvious, the structure of it and the shape.
they are also are in terms of the kind of rock in the kind of rock grains here till the same kind of story. one of the things that was surprising about the announcement today was they said since the yale and ice age which was one of the lowest points in yield crater they have been going up in elevation the whole time. and yet as they see all these deltas the elevation is such that they are going toward what is now mount sharp and that makes no sense since the water we know came from the other side from a cliff. so what they are describing today is a gale crater that once had gale -- mount sharp in the middle of it.
they don't have plate tectonics and this was not volcanic. this was not created out of the of mars. this was something that was created by layer after layer after layer after layer. and to me this is one of the most fascinating parts. in order for as we were saying earlier for there to be as much water in mars and around mars as there apparently was back in the good old days there needed to be a huge reservoir. if there was water that was in the lake it would evaporate and then go away. it needed to be replenished and there needs to be rain. there needs to be snow. there needs to be a lot of moisture in the air and the climate modelers who for the last 15 years said this is not possible.
they were the ones who were saying that delta could not be a real delta because the atmosphere would allow it. now the gentleman who was is about to become project scientist with saying there is a whole new interest in the idea of a -- which was the third of mars and if that's the case then the issue again for life that's terrific to have that kind of water to have huge pools like that and some little islands and it. that is very much like what earth was like around 3.8 billion years ago. you'll probably hear more about the ocean than mars in the days ahead. there's a lot of back and forth. they haven't found anything that
suggests there was a shoreline here. these are the kinds of things that they looked for but they have found quite a few rivers in valley networks that empty here. that suggests that the water was going down into a big pool. so you have the northern ocean and you have an increasing possibility for life and you have a story that says there was water all over in for a long period of time. this is one of my last slides. this was taken by curiosity and this is right here it's a blowup of it, this is earth and that is the men taken from mars. and one of the things that is really compelling i think about the curiosity story is that a potentially will tell us an enormous amount about earth. going into it i was wasn't as
deeply aware of this but when you think about it earth has been changed so much since the early days through plate tectonics and the crust moving all around and most important by life-changing everything around. if there was life on mars we know that it probably didn't last more than about 3.5, 3.3 billion years ago because the climate change clearly got much colder and it got much more acidic, it got much more in hospital and just to backtrack for a second the reason why is because magnetic field that surrounds of mars disappeared. the magnetic field is what protects from radiation having the same fate as mars did. we have a terrific magnetic field. we are proud of it.
they have a remnant of the magnetic field but in any case because earth has changed so much over the eons, much of the history is gone for good. it will never be understood. we can push back some things in terms of when there might've been microbial life but a lot of things we cannot. on mars there hasn't been that same kind of churning and so it's possible that when they have the technology to drill down deeper irwin perhaps the young gentleman here becomes an astronaut and arrives on mars and thank you, i really appreciate your daring. they will find potentially a lot of things that give them insight into what happened on earth when the earth was young. all the things that are now
visible. that is why this image struck me as so important because mars is one very similar to earth but back in the day was very much our cousin and two it would tell us a lot about earth. and that's the end. this is again what to me is a beautiful sedimentary lower bound of mount sharp. probably the most interesting thing features ever researched in the history of nasa in my view. [applause] thank you, thank you. >> any chance the rovers can get to the cave? >> the question is about caves and if rovers can get there.
i would say yes. i don't know of any particular reason why there wouldn't be caves going up mount sharp. you may recall one of the images shows there was a big canyon coming down the mountain. i think it's probably easy to imagine that there would have been cavelike structures there and they would have been been protected from the radiation and potentially would have more organic that is still detectable. yes. i'm sorry can you say that again please? a very good question. do the taxpayers or the primary data factors it was
$2.6 billion. the structure itself was built largely out of the jet propulsion lab in pasadena which i had a very good fortune of spending two years there, year and a half there and i have to say you would be proud of what your tax money is doing out there. these are brilliant people working incredibly hard taking huge risks and doing spectacular stuff. but there also were 10 instruments on curiosity. there are two ovens that go up to about 2000 degrees fahrenheit and they cut the samples and the gas would come off but there are also the lasers.
like many not so many past programs but missions going forward there's a lot of international cooperation so the germans played a role, the canadians. there's a russian russian instrument. the french were very important and there is a spanish influence as well. that is kind of the future. generally the u.s. will send it up and create the capsule and maybe the structure itself but the instruments are going to be international. [inaudible] >> it's largely aluminum. i take that back. the wheels are definitely aluminum. i think the structure itself has a lot of aluminum and it but other metals as well. >> why didn't they make these
wheels out of kevlar? >> the question is why didn't they make wheels out of kevlar and the answer is simple. one, you will ferkol at the very and of its dissent the wheels were actually part of the landing mechanism and so they had to be structured in a certain way as a result of that in the second they were going to be driving uphill. they needed to be light aroused they wouldn't get the traction. they would go up and then down so they needed something very light. i think kevlar would be better. [inaudible] >> the question is are there -- off humans bear and the answer is yes. however every president since i think richard nixon has said we are going to send astronauts to
mars. it's very complicated. it's very expensive. you have to do quite a few missions to other destinations in order to learn how to get to mars but i think it would be fair to say now that the o'brien capsule is there that there is more momentum to send humans than ever before. and one of the things i've discovered is that just like in my generation the apollo program was the quintessential american achievement and away. today a lot of young people see mars in the same way that going to mars learning first about it and then sending human beings to mars is a significant goal. is it significant enough to have that decades long momentum that you need?
unclear. i hope so, i sure hope so. the canals ended up to be figments of people's imagination. one of the things that scientists often say about mars is that it will mislead you all the time. this is current scientists as well answered me going back then you think you see something. you are looking for your lens and you are seeing oh my god. they were projecting that and that's what these folks tried so hard not to do. they gather data and they have a team of printer + test. they. they go over the data and put it on paper. people criticize them or agree with them. there's a process that evolves
so i think it probably is fair to say that when they conclude that there was an ancient large lake there that 50 years from now people aren't going to say that's like a canal. i think it really was. yes sir. [inaudible] do you find that these committees need to be anonymous in their goals or define there is a lot of bureaucracy and it takes a long long time for every step? >> some of both. the question was about i had mentioned the committees that play a role in deciding where the rovers can go and also there are many committees that decide where the next rover should go
or what kind of instruments it should have and so on. it's a very slow-moving and bureaucratic and the answers primarily yes. not so much the operational committees now because they have to make decisions in a very short timeframe and they do so but in terms of the committees that decide the kind of bigger question, the policy questions take a long time. there's another rovers similar to curiosity that is then scheduled to land in 2020 and a process of deciding where it would go and what kind of instruments that would have has been going on for a year. so is that -- there is a long process. also nasa has a variety of layers of decisions of oversight.
a committee that recently looked at a variety of missions and this was one of them and they concluded that this was not doing what it was supposed to that it was not doing enough science. it was kind of a controversial conclusion because in the first year they found that mars was inhabitable which was a blockbuster discovery. and it turns out that the committee, some of the people had a grudge against a variety of different folks. suffice it to say that i think a couple of other things that are coming puts to rest the criticism. although they were driving a long way as they had to dig into mount sharp they were also doing science and they found all these doctrines and they concluded -- but it would be inaccurate for me to say there's not a lot of
bureaucracy here. there is. some of it is necessary and it's really expensive. some of it is -- >> in the united states -- also mars is interesting astrologically. each describes a circle which represents -- and across represents matter coming out of spirit. and it made an arrow. >> thank you. when you think, when i think of
astrologists what i find interesting especially about that is the desire the intuition of humans that there is life out there that other things have happened beyond what happens on earth. end of my first book i wrote a lot about the search for life beyond earth. with the discovery of all these exoplanets and planets in other solar systems of which there are now billions it almost seems impossible that there is not life on some of them. so that intuition that is attached just like yours the intuition that there was water on mars. yeah there was but not now. it was long ago.
there are couple of slides i can show you that appear to be water dribbling down flowing down cliffs in the summer but they are in the process of trying to determine if it's water or something different like maybe sand underneath but it appears to be salty water. >> the last, too stole my question. they have had no doubt that there is life out there with the moon and the stars. i don't know if there are trillions of planets. >> yes and the understanding
that there are a lot of stars certainly goes back a long way. the estimate now in the milky way alone is that there is something like 300 million stars and probably most of them have planets or they are solar systems and planets that orbit them. and so that's just one of hundreds of millions of galaxies. so i think it would be fair to say that yes astrophysicists and other scientists are very much of the opinion that there is to be life found and that is why mars is so important. so far we have an example of one planet where there is life. if it turned out there was life on mars at this point we could
get a pretty good handle even if it was microscopic and didn't have time to evolve. then there they would be potentially two. once you have two then the likelihood of other planets and life goes up like this. so that's why they are so much attention being paid. one of the parallels that i like to think about is that for a long time scientists have speculated and assumed that they were planets beyond our solar system but it wasn't until 1997 that they proved it. and i kind of think that maybe there is the same kind of dynamic going on. they didn't have the technology before. they didn't have the intellectual pathway but in 1997
several groups came together and they said isn't exoplanet and it picked up steam and now they find them everyday. it may well be that this is what happens with life. people are looking for it and can't find it we don't know how to do it. we don't have the technology yet but when we do maybe we will find it in a lot of places. >> is it possible to find elements that are new to us? >> remarkably, no. the chemistry appears to be very similar. there are probably some elements that aren't there. chemistry is not my field but what the team says in general is that nothing has surprised them in terms of what they find.
some of the things they have found for instance there was a large deposit of opal so if anyone is in the opal market you might want to go to mars and you can dig it out and do well. so the chemistry appears to be the same. i'm sure there are some elements that aren't there but some but they have detected that are different. interesting that you should ask. the question was has a and for my first book i spent a lot of time with a gentleman who was the methane specialist at nasa. he had been looking for methane on mars for 15 years. i had the good fortune to go to him to chile that they have it desert which is where the most powerful telescopes are and
where you are high up and there is no light so it's beautiful. he had detected what he understood to be an enormous plume of methane that have belched out from the planet in several places and then stopped. he wrote a paper about that a journal highlighted in science. it was highlighted by nasa. it was like a really big deal. if there's methane which is an organic material and it's coming from below the surface you put two and two together and it suggests there might be more organics and their methanogens little organisms that live on methane and create methane so methane gas if they detect it would be a big deal. the paper in the world of science had its critics and for
a while it looked like the theory was on the ropes and at first readings for methane by curiosity were not at all promising. this gentleman says curiosity couldn't find the kinds of things he was looking for but suffice it to say i think you are going to hear something in the not-too-distant future about methane that is going to make mike mama happy. >> in the late 90s -- which had at the time was definitive signs of microbial life. opinion has vacillated over the years and is not thought to be now what it was then.
>> correct. this was the famous allen hills 84011. it was found in antarctica and that is where they get most of the mars meteorite that are the most pure. it doesn't land in the farm and immediately gets organics in them. it lands in antarctica. this was a paper and a few that was very high-profile. there were five biosignatures in his meteorite and you are exactly right. that gradually scientists kind of took on each of those features and said this is not true and this is not true. i can tell you that robert mckay who is an author that passed away recently, they believed
more strongly than they did. i think it was in 1997. they believe more strongly that they did find signs of organic life and so you can never quite tell. sometimes issues in science get debunked and the debunking goes too far. they are debunked because there really isn't a substance they are but one of the people who was key in the debunking a guy named andrew steele has now himself published papers saying they found a meteorite that did not have microbial fossils but it did have organic carbon in them which is a big step. this would be from mars. if i could digress also to
something one of the things i find really interesting we are talking about meteorites. they hit all the time and date kick up in some of them are really big. they kick up a lot of soil, of rock and we now know through the world of the extreme of files there is microbial life that can live in an extreme environment. we know that these can survive in hibernation. so there's a theory that has developed that life from earth potentially an asteroid hits they kick up a lot of rock. some of it has microbial life in it and over the eons its sales to mars and lands they are and it starts life.
as it turns out from the perspective of the scientists mars back 3.8 billion years ago was more conducive to life than earth. a lot of people who support this theory say it probably happened the other way around. an asteroid hit and it kicked up a lot of rock which means there were martians. [laughter] [applause] is our time for more questions? >> you mentioned it's a world of outer space so a planet had its own unique atmosphere. >> absolutely yes and mars had a
different atmosphere at one point. and when it lost that magnetic field it lost altitude but another way that astrophysicists are looking and biologists are looking for exoplanets, distant exoplanet might have life and they can now do this, they can look at the planet and analyze the atmosphere. they have detected carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide i thank and oxygen it turns out which we assume is like oxygen, great that is what we need for life. oxygen bonds very quickly with other elements so it has to be constantly replenished in order for there to be in oxygen additive. if they were to find and exoplanet that had a lot of oxygen or ozone in its
atmosphere that would be some believe like 95% proof that there is life there. oxygen has to be constantly replenished. so that's another form of searching for life elsewhere. [inaudible] >> the question was are there gases on mars that are different than here and then also this it's this kind of material being shared with folks in school? in terms of the first i think the answer is no, it's the same
kind of gases that we find here. i mentioned earlier in terms of the second part nasa doesn't awful lot as a part of their mission to present information in all different kinds of ways. the reason i can show you these pictures is there is no copyright on them. they are all public domain. truthfully one of the reasons i wrote the book was i wrote it in a way that hopefully is accessible to a broad range of people. i didn't do things or describe things that were inaccurate but i didn't go into the kind of mindnumbing detail that a science book can go into. so i tried to make it into a narrative and explain the science that way. and to be honest with you when i
go out and talk to people and sell my book the sales are the most pleasing to me is when there is a young child or that hopefully will read it in the future. yes. >> earlier use the term -- and there are meteorites and they are organic so i guess if you could clarify the use of the term organic because to me i hear -- >> it is a confusing thing. organics are carbon-based compounds like carbon and hydrogen and oxygen together and those are the building blocks of life. they are not life itself.
they are what makes amino acids and nucleic acids and things like that. and it turns out that there is organic material like this carbon-based compounds throughout the universe. this is another one of the relatively recent discoveries that all of that stuff is out there and is falling on planets and moons and whatever else. and so the question then is if there is organics and if organics are found are they the kind of organics that come from the universe or are they the kind of things that life built because organics come that way as well. and that is going to be one of the big challenges if they find organics and again i can't say too much about this but i think there will be some news on that fairly soon and the issue over