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NASA Suggests Nano Robots To Explore Mars

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the get-in-there dept.

NASA 104

destinyland writes "'We're going to have to do extensive robotic exploration,' says the director of NASA's Ames Research Center, suggesting nanotechnology to build self-replicating robots on Mars. Genetically engineering extraction and construction microbes could 'grow' electrical components, and eventually convert carbon dioxide on Mars into oxygen. 'If we really want to settle Mars, and we don't want to have to carry millions of tons of equipment with us to duplicate the way we live on Earth, these technologies will be key.' This interview with Peter Worden, the director of NASA's Ames Research Center, was just featured in the summer issue of H+ magazine, and he also argues that robots will be necessary to first survey Mars for underground microbes and protect the unique Martian biosphere, since it may contain clues about earth's own first life forms. In fact, given the water and carbon that's been discovered on Mars, the possibility of underground microbes is still considered real, and Worden argues that Mars 'may already be supporting life.'"

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FIST SPORT (-1, Offtopic)

ringbarer (545020) | more than 5 years ago | (#28556615)

NASA should invest in exploring the deception of these three people:

* Gottfrid Svartholm
* Fredrik Neij
* Peter Sunde

The messiahs of theft. Their greatest heist was to steal the good will offered by their supporters. The talentless scum who believe they shouldn't have to contribute a cent towards the artistic output of better people. The same scum who believed in piracy for social change. Scum who would download episodes of their favorite Sci-Fi shows, but cry the loudest when they were cancelled, incapable of making the connection between viewer ratings and advertising revenue. All played for fools by the messiahs of theft, who are laughing at you all.

I promise you this: Appeals or not, they will NOT make it to jail.

Oh no... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28556643)

The robots are going to colonize Mars and then will take over the Earth! I for welcome our new Martian robotic overlords.

Re:Oh no... (1)

furby076 (1461805) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557991)

Apparantly nobody at NASA has seen Battlestar Galactica. Come on - obviously these nano-machines will evolve into cylons (and you know they will take that name just to rub salt on the wound), come back, nuke us and then hunt us through space. Don't get me wrong, as long as I get to be the equivlant of Gaius Baltar and get Tricia Heffer I am not totally closed to this futuristic outcome.

Re:Oh no... (1)

canonymous (1445409) | more than 5 years ago | (#28561531)

Nanomachines evolving into humanoids? Sounds more like Stargate than BSG.

Welcome Martian Nanobot Overlords (1)

HannethCom (585323) | more than 5 years ago | (#28560897)

I for one welcome our new Martian nanobot overloards. All hail Emperor *zip* *click * *zoot*

REPLICATORS (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28556647)

Get the Replicator disruptor and break the bonds that hold them together before they take over the plant!

Finally (3, Funny)

lxs (131946) | more than 5 years ago | (#28556695)

It has taken a while, but finally NASA is taking my plans to use an army of nanobots to build pyramids on Mars seriously.

Re:Finally (1)

Arthur B. (806360) | more than 5 years ago | (#28556739)

I'd go see that movie, seriously, but I know I'd probably be disappointed.

Re:Finally (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28556871)

I heard a great idea today! Every welfare line should have a guy who collects cell phones, disposes of them, and cancels the contracts. That way maybe the jigaboos will realize that one reason they're poor is that they buy luxury shit they can't really afford. What an idea!!

Re:Finally (1)

DriedClexler (814907) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557593)

Yeah, now it won't be long before they seriously consider my argument that nanobots already did build Egyptian structures [wikipedia.org] on Mars!

Until they turn against you (4, Informative)

wereHamster (696088) | more than 5 years ago | (#28556725)

Replicators in Stargate: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Replicator_(Stargate) [wikipedia.org]

Re:Until they turn against you (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 5 years ago | (#28556741)

This is an interesting thought. Even without sci-fi endings, isn't it imaginable that robots such as these would be hard to stop? Is a Mars with zero CO2 preferable to what we have now? And if not, how are we going to kill them once we decide they're done? And, for bonus points, what will they think about that?

Re:Until they turn against you (1)

courteaudotbiz (1191083) | more than 5 years ago | (#28556821)

Is an EMP effective against nanorobots?

Re:Until they turn against you (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 5 years ago | (#28556905)

Probably, but if you miss even ONE, they'll rebuild and come back.

Re:Until they turn against you (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28556919)

Is an EMP effective against nanorobots?

Terraforming kind of loses its purpose if you have to nuke the planet to oblivion afterwards. Unless of course you have a better way of generating a strong enough wave.

Re:Until they turn against you (1)

fooslacker (961470) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557525)

EMP != nuke even if you use a nuke to create it. It totally depends on altitude and whether you cause fallout from driving debris into the air. etc. That said if you're building a bunch of electroincs with these nanobots then they're probably not going to work post EMP.

Re:Until they turn against you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28565127)

Your asking if a more or less non-existent weapon is effective against a threat that, at this point, isn't real.

I can confidently say it's about as effective as a unicorn's horn dipped in troll's blood is against gremlins that ate after midnight.

Re:Until they turn against you (1)

Arthur B. (806360) | more than 5 years ago | (#28556867)

You can design them to be wiped with an EMP, or to stop working when they're out of a specific magnetic field (and have such a magnetic field when you want them to work), a bit like some laboratory bacteria are made unable to synthesize proteins that they need so they can't survive in the wild. You could also make them solar powered and use a solar shade when you're done.

Re:Until they turn against you (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 5 years ago | (#28556929)

Or, or, or we could make them all female! And omit any frog DNA...

Re:Until they turn against you (1)

omeomi (675045) | more than 5 years ago | (#28556933)

You can design them to be wiped with an EMP, or to stop working when they're out of a specific magnetic field (and have such a magnetic field when you want them to work), a bit like some laboratory bacteria are made unable to synthesize proteins that they need so they can't survive in the wild. You could also make them solar powered and use a solar shade when you're done.

Well, then they'll just build/generate their own magnetic field, or dismantle your solar shade machine...

Re:Until they turn against you (1)

thedonger (1317951) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557119)

With only wind and solar power they will be nothing more than helpless little hippies, ripe for a good hosing! Right? Please tell me that is true. I certainly don't want some granola-munching nanobots telling me what to do!

Re:Until they turn against you (1)

omeomi (675045) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557295)

With only wind and solar power they will be nothing more than helpless little hippies, ripe for a good hosing! Right? Please tell me that is true. I certainly don't want some granola-munching nanobots telling me what to do!

I imagine they'll eventually learn to feed on human flesh.

Re:Until they turn against you (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 5 years ago | (#28556961)

You could also make them solar powered and use a solar shade when you're done.

Hurrah for the plan that'll eventually result in us requiring the creation of a "nuclear winter" scenario (or the sky blackening in Animatrix)!

Re:Until they turn against you (1)

QuantumPete (1247776) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557025)

Unless they then go ahead and evolve somehow. Random mutation in their replication algorithm, caused by solar radiation interference and bam! you've got yourself an unstoppable self-replicating army of nanobots. Skynet eat your heart out! QuantumPete

Don't have them store their code. (1)

Tangent128 (1112197) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557843)

Design them with only the storage capacity for caching a subset of the replication/operation program, and just continually broadcast the whole thing. Allows for quick bugfixes while you're at it. Now, good luck figuring out the receiver...

Re:Until they turn against you (1)

master5o1 (1068594) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557415)

Wouldn't you program the robots into detecting an 'acceptable' amount of a certain material and stopping once there is that much there...

Re:Until they turn against you (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557595)

That would make them considerably more complex. Considering the infancy of this tech, I'd doubt it.

Re:Until they turn against you (1)

master5o1 (1068594) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557635)

But today is all about kill switches and things to stop others from doing things.

Re:Until they turn against you (1)

cmiller173 (641510) | more than 5 years ago | (#28562309)

More likely they will stop when they run out Mars.

Re:Until they turn against you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28558705)

And if not, how are we going to kill them once we decide they're done? And, for bonus points, what will they think about that?

I hate to be the only reply so far to point this out, but this is reality not stargate.

The worst that would happen is a programming bug to cause out of *originally specified* control.

How do you kill them? send the packet to shut down. built in timers. If it came down to a total system fault, 99% likelyhood the error will result in nothing BUT shutdown, and outside of that range, EMP charges and blocking power sources (aka sunlight, we are already in orbit with machines clearly under better control than the ones you envision)

What will they think? They are machines, so nothing. Thinking implies intelligence, and no one at NASA plans on that, even when and if it becomes possible!

In reality, these questions not only have answers, but multiple answers, of which are not mutually exclusive from each other.

Just ask, what happened to all of our other probes and robots sent into space when we were done with them?
They are either still floating out there, or sitting dead on a planet/moon, or a few had the unlucky fate of being slammed into something (at least hopefully for science)
What did those robots think? *nothing*

An apt quote:

Skroeder: Maybe it's pissed off.
Newton Crosby: It's a machine, Schroeder. It doesn't get pissed off, it doesn't get happy, it doesn't get sad, it doesn't laugh at your jokes...
Newton Crosby, Ben Jabituya: ...IT JUST RUNS PROGRAMS!

Re:Until they turn against you (1)

JesterUSCG (1371271) | more than 5 years ago | (#28556827)

And they always turn against you!!!!

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Re:7mod up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28556955)

Typing and multiple personality disorder don't mix!

Microbes? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28556729)

Scientists care more about fictitious microbes on Mars than about living people on Earth.

Great Idea! Now lets see some self assembly... (3, Interesting)

purduephotog (218304) | more than 5 years ago | (#28556733)

... but most of the heavy lifting is going to come from genetically engineered microbes.

I've been following with interest the bacteria that was recently revived from the ice core samples. The assumption (logical or not) is that if they can survive that extreme situation they may be adapted to this sort of extreme condition.

With GE we can introduce traits, perhaps not as specific as we'd like, but still to tailor the needs. Bacteria that can break down iron oxide into Fe or other easily smeltable materials- that could extract gold (there has been some postulation that 'tracer' gold is nothing more than bacterial waste). We already have some plants that can selectively uptake metals and sequester them in the cellulose - but then breeding those with any other traits destroyed the character set that was capable of doing so.

I should also state I'm a fan of Mars from KSR- and if we start introducing extremophile bacterial colonies we may never find out if life evolved on that planet. I for one am waiting for that little tidbit and the Vatican's response (I expect it to be something along the lines of "Not intelligent thus God discarded the world as unsuitable", but I digress).

I say go for it... but I'd really really really want to know that the lab doing the work was fully set up to prevent accidental releases. While an extremophile may not like the conditions outside as too energetic... I'd hate to find out they're quickly adaptable - with those cell walls specifically thickened and hardened to handle UV (another assumption on my part) as well as low pressure they might just turn out to be a bitch to kill. Then again, keeping them in conflict with the UV sterilizer lights might just be the way to grow them hardier :)

Re:Great Idea! Now lets see some self assembly... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28556801)

... I should also state I'm a fan of Mars from KSR-

Ah, that's your problem-- his main interest is in politics, and he's, at best, superficial about the science. (Great climbing scenes, though!).

There's some good SF that gets the science right about Mars, but KSR isn't it.

Re:Great Idea! Now lets see some self assembly... (1)

GreenTech11 (1471589) | more than 5 years ago | (#28556937)

The idea sounds very good in principle, but I am worried about what happens if we get the DNA coding wrong, I'm not expecting Day of the Triffids stuff here, but do we really know enough about what each little bit of DNA does to be sure we wont create something we'll regret?

I"m in favour of GM crops, mainly because I feel that is simply an acceleration of selective breeding, but engineering a process into an organism that does not normally do this worries me. (I realise that this too can be seen as accelerated selective breeding, but this is thousands of generations as opposed to a few hundred max.)

Re:Great Idea! Now lets see some self assembly... (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 5 years ago | (#28560209)

I don't see the need for all of the complications. Going through all of that is completely pointless. Send me to Mars. I'll make robots for NASA if they send me a little food and water every once in a while. Hell, if anyone has ever met some of my ex-girlfriends they would know I'm completely immune to cold.

Only Sci-Fi (5, Insightful)

A. B3ttik (1344591) | more than 5 years ago | (#28556761)

He basically said: "In order to colonize Mars, we will need to use Technology that doesn't exist yet but I bet that it'll probably be kind of like this."

Not to rain on anyone's parade, but I'm not sure how this is newsworthy, since it's completely idle speculation.

Re:Only Sci-Fi (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 5 years ago | (#28556903)

Well, they did not go to the Moon using existing technology...

Re:Only Sci-Fi (2, Informative)

SleepingWaterBear (1152169) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557679)

Well, they did not go to the Moon using existing technology...

The technology needed to go to the moon was at least all pretty clear when we decided to do it. We'd already been up in space a few times. We knew how to make most of the bits and pieces we'd need, or at least knew exactly what the things we were missing would look like. We, at the least, knew where to start. In this case it really is pure speculation since we don't even know where to start in engineering the sort of nano technology he's talking about. Maybe 10 years from now something like this might be viable, but until someone can tell me what sort of manufacturing technique will be used to make these nano bots, this is just sci-fi.

Re:Only Sci-Fi (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 5 years ago | (#28564795)

In May 1961, when the moon race was kickstarted by Kennedy, we knew next to nothing about putting a man on the Moon. We knew it should be possible, in theory. we spent billions and it happened despite the drawbacks.
Use one tenth of the Apollo's program budget, and you'll get self-replicating machines in the next ten years. Give it the same budget and you'll get them in 5 years, with 5 years left to miniaturize.

Re:Only Sci-Fi (1)

dhudson0001 (726951) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558109)

It's newsworthy as it demonstrates how the "absurd" ideas that Drexler proposed more than 20 yrs ago, while still in many areas theoretical, continues to gain in relevance when discussing real science. To call it idle speculation ignores the billions of dollars in research and development that is happening now...obviously, right under your nose.

If it makes you feel more comfortable go back to Sci-Am articles about 10 years ago when Gary Stix published several stories arguing about the impossibilities of self-reproducing molecular nanotechnologies...sounds like your right in line with where his opinions where at that time, so I'd say you have some catching up to do!

Re:Only Sci-Fi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28559811)

Exactly.

Hey, while they're at it, why don't they create "microbes that convert carbon dioxide into oxygen" for our planet too?

Our new overlords! (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28556781)

I, for one, welcome our new nano robots overlords!

Any other science fiction for us? (5, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#28556783)

Can we even build "Self-replicating nano robots" on EARTH?

Re:Any other science fiction for us? (1)

Arthur B. (806360) | more than 5 years ago | (#28556875)

And more to the point, do we really want to ?

Re:Any other science fiction for us? (4, Funny)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | more than 5 years ago | (#28556877)

Nope, which is why we're now going to try doing it on Mars. Makes sense to me.

Distance (1)

mac1235 (962716) | more than 5 years ago | (#28560211)

Safer to do it far away from us.

Re:Any other science fiction for us? (1)

idigitallDotCom (1396193) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557427)

"self-replicating" suggests to me that that the robot would be able to create another object of exactly the same structure as itself.
On Earth - maybe, just maybe it can find the components necessary to put together another one of itself... but on mars? is there life on mars, firstly, and are there left over nano-robot components from which to build more nano-robots?

Sounds flashy and all.. but not feasible.

Re:Any other science fiction for us? (1)

Spacezilla (972723) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557735)

is there life on mars

If there is I wanna go there, just like Elton John, the rocket man.

Re:Any other science fiction for us? (1)

mattwarden (699984) | more than 5 years ago | (#28566799)

Well, this guy [wikipedia.org] is evidence that somebody can.

News: NASA to create Replicators! (5, Funny)

alta (1263) | more than 5 years ago | (#28556881)

Seriously, has no one at NASA watched stargate? I can tell you how this ends.

1. NASA creates self replicating nanobot to perform a useful function
2. life form develops beyond their wildest dreams.
3. replicators begin attacking humans.
4. replicators begin to LOOK like humans.
5. O'neal sticks his face in some mind alterning THING that implants all the knowledge of the ancients.
6. O'neal makes BFG 3000 that can blast them, but it's not enough.
7. Daniel and Carter link all the stargates, creating one big distributed network (internet?)
8. Ba'al, big evil Goa'uld, knows the secret code to set off super-weapon in the temple where the Jaffa live...
9. 'super radiation' kills travels through all the portals across the universe, killing off the replicators.

So, someone go ahead and tell NASA to cut it out.
Can't they see this ended badly?
Somehow this lead to a new storyline with the stupid Oreye, Ori, whatever they are.

Re:News: NASA to create Replicators! (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557049)

10) We find ANOTHER set of near identical replicators that were left in place by the ancients.
12) We figure out how to freeze them
13) They get un frozen and start to do their job of taking out the wraith by killing the food source (humans)
14) McKay figures out rather than breaking APART the nanites, we crank up their bond and suck them all into a black hole.

Re:News: NASA to create Replicators! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28557577)

15) ????
16) Profit!

Re:News: NASA to create Replicators! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28557325)

-_-

Hallowed are the Ori.

Let me see your head.

Re:News: NASA to create Replicators! (1)

Phoenixlol (1549649) | more than 5 years ago | (#28561403)

Or, once we get there and come in contact with them, we grow gas masks on our faces and walk around repeating "Are you my mummy? I wany my mummy."... offtopic maybe... but everyone lives

Re:News: NASA to create Replicators! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28562021)

You missed a step:

1b. Profit!

Self-replicating robots... (2, Funny)

RobVB (1566105) | more than 5 years ago | (#28556917)

Maybe I've watched too much science fiction, but building self-replicating robots never seems to turn out quite the way you'd want. A few examples: the NS5 robots from I, Robot, the Decepticons - although those weren't man-made, and the Cylons. Is this something we want to recreate? Because humanity only survived the Cylon invasion thanks to the Galactica, so maybe NASA should think about building a few Battlestars before they go messing around with things they don't fully understand. Hey, maybe that's what the NSA is planning to work on in Utah?

Not really important (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 5 years ago | (#28556983)

Self replicating nano-technology is far in the future, it is good NASA looks into it, but there is only one good thing I would take out of his proposal and apply it immediately : robots sent to Mars need to be autonomous. 20-40 minutes of lag is not a good way to drive a rover. Have a dozen of cheap rovers, give them a daily (or even hourly) schedule of things to do, and, for god's sake, let them do their things autonomously ! DARPA's Grand Challenge has proven since 2005 (or was it 2004 ?) that autonomous vehicules in a desert can ride up to 40 mph without problems. At this speed, it takes less than 200 days to go from equator to poles.

And it would be nice to also have robots (or simply landers) dig a good depth of martian ground to see wether it is possible to have good water ice, whether it is electrolysable and/or drinkable, suitable for culture, etc...

Re:Not really important (1)

smallshot (1202439) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557709)

they already are part autonomous:
http://marsrovers.nasa.gov/technology/is_autonomous_mobility.html [nasa.gov]

At least when it comes to driving. The NASA guys are pretty smart, and I'm sure other tasks are as autonomous as they could make them with the technology they had when they built them.

Magnetic Field Issues (1)

dkh2 (29130) | more than 5 years ago | (#28556985)

One of the real problems with sending a colony of air breathers to Mars is that the atmosphere there is thin. The atmosphere is thin because the planetary magnetosphere is not a strong enough protective shield to protect it from being eroded by solar wind. We underestimate the benefits to us here on Earth with regard to our own planetary magnetic field.

Ironically, it may take only a minor improvement in the strength of the Martian magnetosphere to provide sufficient protection to allow us to harvest atmospheric gasses from interplanetary space and effectively terraform the planet.

Re:Magnetic Field Issues (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557611)

So we should all send our old hard drives to NASA?

Re:Magnetic Field Issues (2, Interesting)

Tangent128 (1112197) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557949)

Hmm... semi-serious-question: how much would it cost to just surround the Martian equator with a closed circuit of solar cells? And would that current generate a sufficient magnetic field?

Re:Magnetic Field Issues (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558261)

The cost would be enormous (the cheapest way I can think of would be to establish a colony there to manufacture and install them...).

I have no idea about the magnetic field, but I imagine that it would take an enormous array to get anywhere close (I don't think even our largest transmission lines are noticeable in space...).

If the giant circuit idea is practical from a physics standpoint, it would probably be vastly cheaper to do it using nuclear power.

Mars, Nano-machines, etc. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28557005)

Are they TRYING to imitate a well-known anime from the late 90s? Let's just build the giant mechas, the interplanetary spaceship, and find us a deadpan genius pre-teen for tech support while we're at it.

nanobots?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28557027)

Wait, why don't they do that HERE? Why can't we benefit from this technology on Earth first? It would be a new industrial/tecnological revolution. Mars can come later.

Evil not included (2, Interesting)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557055)

Ignoring the robots-turning-evil angle on this, let's consider a more likely scenario. Probably any self replicating nano-things would be bacteria, or possibly very small machines that act like bacteria. I see two very likely scenarios that don't require any sort of thought, agency, or evil on their part:

1) Being designed to convert CO2 to O2, some of these things get carried back to earth (inside of human lungs, perhaps) and radically alter earth's atmosphere, or

2) They mutate and start metabolizing other things, like rocks or people.

Re:Evil not included (1)

wisdom_brewing (557753) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557873)

dont we already have enough bacteria on this planet/in our bodies that can "mutate and start metabolizing other things"?

from what i understand there are more bacterial cells in your body than your own (in quantity, not im mass) - i think theyve got enough of a chance already

ok, so having more UV speeds up evolution, but by what factor? and how would they evolve to metabolise humans if there are no humans around?

seriously, this is NOT a real issue...

I am feeling sick... (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557093)

Here come those replicators we heard about on SG1 or in that movie Screamers.....I thought we would have a little more time to set up before the onslaught started...!

Re:I am feeling sick... (1)

Mursk (928595) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558165)

From now on, please reference this instead of Screamers:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Variety [wikipedia.org]

;)

Re:I am feeling sick... (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 5 years ago | (#28562389)

The movie title was better, and more poignant in remembering the movie itself...and itc contents

Converting CO2 to oxygen sounds like a good idea (1)

still cynical (17020) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557127)

How about we try it out here first? We have plenty of extra CO2 floating around that won't be missed, and I don't think anyone on Mars would complain if we do ours first.

Re:Converting CO2 to oxygen sounds like a good ide (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28558025)

How about we try it out here first? We have plenty of extra CO2 floating around that won't be missed, and I don't think anyone on Mars would complain if we do ours first.

I'd prefer to try it on mars first. Last thing we need is it getting out of control here, converting all of the CO2, ending plant life on earth (with us quickly following).

vapourware (1)

Necroloth (1512791) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557143)

I remember watching Tomorrow's World a decade or more ago and they were talking of terraforming Mars... I've been waiting since! Scientists are coming up with different ideas of terraforming and a lot are on the basis of what technology will be available in the future... it seems the future is possibly even further away that Duke Nukem Forever!

i always thought nanotech was assbackwards (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557215)

in that, you look at your average list of requirements that nanotech is supposed to fulfill, and pretty much some microbe or insect already does most of that

i think to satisfy the requirements here, you start with a preexisting microbe to do all the terraforming requirements. and if its something bizarre like surveillance you want, you work that into an insect somehow. now if you are thinking using insects for surveillance on mars is insane, i'm saying i agree with you. only that genetically engineering a preexisting insect to do that is LESS insane than satisfying the requirements here with something you are building out of nanotech from scratch... that can replicate, use energy sources, and transmit the info to a transponder for beaming back to earth? tall order, no?

plenty of insects subsist off of fungi and lichen, something that could be genetically engineered to grow on mars. andyou don't have your temperature concerns, insects for example are the kings of Antarctica:

http://www.reuters.com/article/environmentNews/idUSTRE50C0B020090113 [reuters.com]

and as for beaming info back to earth, you don't have to wire that ability into every insect. take a cue from foraging social insects like bees, wasps, or ants: each colony contains some sort of transponder that monitors the social cues the insects naturally communicate to each other in the hive about what is out there in the environment around them. the abilities of borrowing beetles prove you can do lots of below the surface exploration by swapping in those genetic components, etc.

i'm not saying any of this is easy, but what i am saying is that the far reaches of what we can do with genetic engineering are much closer to our abilities than the far reaches of what we can do with nanotech

cue... (1)

blackfrancis75 (911664) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557273)

another round of "Total Recall" jokes... get 'em while they're hot.

Red Planet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28557275)

Now to be renamed Gray Planet.

Has earth already solved this problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28557361)

Why not just find some Earth, photosynthesizing microbe that has had the benefit of a half billion years of evolution, and plant it on Mars? Something that's used to the dry, cold, nutrient poor, sometimes dim, terrain of the arctic or antarctic. There has to be something.

nano size - why (1)

Kvasio (127200) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557381)

nano size, because Mars Rovers moved too fast.

Texas Association of School Administrators (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28557477)

Next notice will go about Texas Association of School Administrators. I bet my pattern recognition software.

Nanobots not necessary (1)

Kamamura (235695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557621)

Handful of insects
thrown to the Martian red sky
mosquitos
wasps
bees
flies
all fall and promptly die
without atmosphere
noone can fly
experiment failed
but tax dollars flow my way...

Why bother? Not enough gravity to keep atmosphere (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28557671)

Why go through the billions (trillions) of dollars needed to terraform another planet when said planet does not have the mass or the magnetic field that's needed to keep a habital atmosphere for any significant time. If we boosted O2 to bare levels and other gasses where people could work without suits, the loss due to solar wind and just plain lack of gravity will mean the atmosphere reverts back to "normal" withing about three decades.
It just isn't worth terraforming mars unless we can increase its mass substantially (eg: crash a bunch of iron-rich asteroids and water-rich comets into it...then wait a couple of hundred years for the melted mess to calm down)

Mike Boyle, JPL

Step 1. (1)

StickyWidget (741415) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557775)

Develop Nano-bots capable of exploring Mars....

~Sticky
/Step 2: Reprogram nano-bots to consume Earth...

each new martian rover is ten times heavier (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 5 years ago | (#28557817)

The Pathfinder was the size of toy car.
Spirit and Opportunity the size of golf cart.
Curosity (Mars Science Lab) is the size of an SUV. This last one is is over two years late, a billion over budget, and tempting Congress to cut NASA's budget drastically.

All hail! (0, Redundant)

kheldan (1460303) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558123)

I, for one, welcome our self-replicating nanotechnological robotic Martian overlords!

What the fuck? (1, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558561)

and protect the unique Martian biosphere,

      So this guy has already discovered life on Mars, huh? After all, you don't get a BIOsphere without BIOS - life.

      Another idiot talking out of his ass.

Ridiculous... (1)

StellarFury (1058280) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558621)

It's unclear whether self-replicating "nanobots" are even possible to engineer, let alone possible to engineer in the next 50 years. We barely have MEMS, let alone NEMS, and as far as I know, virtually all of those MEMS systems are fabricated top-down (using focused ion beam milling and other such high-energy laboratory devices) not bottom-up. Self-replication is another thing entirely.

I understand that NASA is founded on "long-view" principles, but seriously, sometimes we need to understand the current status of the research and weed out what is reasonable and what is (unfortunately) still science fiction.

Re:Ridiculous... (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#28559603)

It's unclear whether self-replicating "nanobots" are even possible to engineer, let alone possible to engineer in the next 50 years

Well, there is the existence proof of bacteria and other microbes. Whether we can make equivalent machines remains to be seen, but there's no physical law preventing it.

-jcr

Um, excuse me... (1)

zaivala (887815) | more than 5 years ago | (#28558753)

Has nobody read "The Intrepid" by Stanislaw Lem? Seriously? Nanorobots?

Now Just A Darn Minute Here (1)

BigBlueOx (1201587) | more than 5 years ago | (#28559059)

First I read a Slashdot story about flesh eating robots and then one about some NASA guy who wants to make SELF-REPLICATING robots?? Hello?? Self-replicating flesh eating robots?? I mean! These things will live by The Three Laws: Kill em, Chop em up, Eat em!! I mean! Dood!! I know we have a population problem and all but! Dood!!!

What about other planets? (1)

rattaroaz (1491445) | more than 5 years ago | (#28559209)

How long before we get nano probes to explore Uranus? Really, REALLY sorry. Just had to ask.

Is there enough pressure there? (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#28559567)

Extracting oxygen's all well and good, but even if we do that, would there be enough atmosphere on Mars to make it livable?

-jcr

Re:Is there enough pressure there? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28561887)

Extracting oxygen's all well and good, but even if we do that, would there be enough atmosphere on Mars to make it livable?

-jcr

Probably not, as even on Earth the atmosphere is only ~20% oxygen, and much beyond this percentage the danger of fires and explosions incraese significantly. An inert buffer gas is needed, since it seems to work well on Earth I propose nitrogen. As far as were to get the extra nitrogen I don't have an clear answer. Perhaps it can be found in sufficient quantities in rocks on Mars, or in various forms from comets and asteriods.

The Grey Goo fallacy. (1)

w0mprat (1317953) | more than 5 years ago | (#28568317)

If we get to the technology level we can build self-replicating nano machines that can survive and function outside very specific laboratory conditions / external energy input. The world would have already been long radically transformed by nanotechnology. Thus it makes the grey goo scenario unlikely (since we'd have the technology level to defend against this problem) and importantly, it means we would have long had the technology ability to go to mars more traditional ways easily and get a colony started.
 
  So not newsworthy at all, and get off my lawn.

Self-replicating is close to life (1)

mattr (78516) | more than 5 years ago | (#28570105)

If they really were self-replicating they might compete with life already there, unless very firmly under human control.

That said it is a nice idea since small payload = small investment, but we will probably need some civilian teams compete in an X-prize for progressively more powerful airborne / hunting bots on our own planet. I don't think I would like what they come up with to become common Earth-side. They sound very annoying and dangerous.

Re: (1)

clint999 (1277046) | more than 5 years ago | (#28570439)

they already are part autonomous: http://marsrovers.nasa.gov/technology/is_autonomous_mobility.html [nasa.gov] At least when it comes to driving. The NASA guys are pretty smart, and I'm sure other tasks are as autonomous as they could make them with the technology they had when they built them.
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