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#1 2003-10-04 08:26:13

Bill White
Member
Registered: 2001-09-09
Posts: 2,114

Re: A dumb question. . . - from a liberal arts major :-)

[color=#000000:post_uid0]Organic chemistry is primarily based on 4 elements, right?

Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. Other elements are essential but in much lesser quantities than these four. I am not a scientist so correct me if I am wrong here.

Water makes H and O available and carbon dioxide makes C and O available but does Mars have any nitrogen? My anecdotal reading suggests Mars is extremely nitrogen poor. Is this true? Does Mars have sufficient nitrogen to support a biosphere, even if only bacteria?

Without elemental nitrogen how can there be life on Mars? Without abundant nitrogen how could a biosphere wide nitrogen cycle ever develop? Am I missing something obvious or would a lack of nitrogen make life on Mars very, very unlikely?[/color:post_uid0]

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#2 2003-10-04 09:03:20

Byron
Member
From: Florida, USA
Registered: 2002-05-16
Posts: 844

Re: A dumb question. . . - from a liberal arts major :-)

[color=#000000:post_uid0]Organic chemistry is primarily based on 4 elements, right?

Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. Other elements are essential but in much lesser quantities than these four. I am not a scientist so correct me if I am wrong here.

Water makes H and O available and carbon dioxide makes C and O available but does Mars have any nitrogen? My anecdotal reading suggests Mars is extremely nitrogen poor. Is this true? Does Mars have sufficient nitrogen to support a biosphere, even if only bacteria?

Without elemental nitrogen how can there be life on Mars? Without abundant nitrogen how could a biosphere wide nitrogen cycle ever develop? Am I missing something obvious or would a lack of nitrogen make life on Mars very, very unlikely?[/color:post_uid0][/quote:post_uid0]
[color=#000000:post_uid0]You're absolutely right about the critical importance of nitrogen...and they haven't discovered any on Mars with the exception of the 2.7% that exists in the native atmosphere.

But you will hear many scientists say that there is a strong likelihood of nitrate beds embedded in the Martian crust, but we need to get machines and -people- down there to find out for sure.  But if nitrogen is really as scarce as initial observations suggest, yes, you're right about a biosphere not having a chance to develop...

If Mars is to be terraformed someday, you will need *lots* of nitrogen...and if it doesn't exist on Mars, you'd have to import it from places such as Titan, which has oceans of that stuff. (Or Venus, I think it has nitrogen as well in its thick atmosphere.)

B[/color:post_uid0]

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#3 2003-10-05 02:32:47

Spider-Man
Banned
From: Pennsylvania
Registered: 2003-08-20
Posts: 163
Website

Re: A dumb question. . . - from a liberal arts major :-)

[color=#000F22:post_uid0]You'd definitely want to take nitrogen from Titan.  Though it would take a long time both ways travelling, it would be so much cheeper and easier, as the delta-v required is significantly and exponentially less the further away one is from the sun.

Nitrogen is essential to create the basic neutrients for life, yes, but no such [i:post_uid0]sine qua non[/i:post_uid0] for humans.  Nitrogen is a buffer gas, essentially, and is actually potentially harmful in situations of varying pressure, causing the bends when one decompresses too rapidly.  If Mars had 5psi of around eighty percent oxygen, as opposed to the 21% O2 at 15 pounds per square inch as at Earth sealevel, that would be perfectly breathable for humans.  SkyLab, for instance, had just 5psi of pure oxygen, and the astronauts aboard had more than enough atmosphere to thrive in.[/color:post_uid0]


[img]http://myth.bungie.org/hosted/inmates/spiderman.jpg[/img]

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#4 2003-10-06 07:49:48

Bill White
Member
Registered: 2001-09-09
Posts: 2,114

Re: A dumb question. . . - from a liberal arts major :-)

[color=#000000:post_uid0]Isn't this a "life on Mars" thread?

What are the odds that there are = any = bacteria on Mars without a nitrogen cycle?[/color:post_uid0]

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#5 2003-10-06 08:34:07

dickbill
Member
Registered: 2002-09-28
Posts: 749

Re: A dumb question. . . - from a liberal arts major :-)

[color=#000000:post_uid0]You'd definitely want to take nitrogen from Titan.  Though it would take a long time both ways travelling, it would be so much cheeper and easier, as the delta-v required is significantly and exponentially less the further away one is from the sun.[/color:post_uid0][/quote:post_uid0]
[color=#000000:post_uid0]It is important to mention it again: rather than to take some nitrogen from a planet satellite, it is better to go further from the sun, in the Kuiper's belt for example, and take the nitrogen there.

Titan is gravitationaly linked to Saturn, to go there, a spaceship would have to orbit saturn first and then what ? we don't even know if we can land on Titan, maybe there is no solid surface in there, and how to take Titan's atmosphere ? compress it and put it in big balloons ? then send it back to Mars, like in KSR ... It seems to me that it would take a lot of energy for a negligible amount of nitrogen.

In contrast, further away from the sun, after Pluto and so on, there are plenty of comet-like objects there, rich in water and ammoniac (containing nitrogen). These objects are so far and so loosely linked by gravity to the sun (remember the " inversely proportional to the square of the distance " law of Newton ) that a push with a thumb can disturb their orbit. Disturbing is not directing, of course, but a small ionic engine, pluged into the comet, firing up at the right time, could probably disturb the comet and  send it in a collision trajectory with Mars, using Jupiter or Saturn to gravitationally assist the disturbance. So the ionic engine would create the initial disturbance while the giant planets would create the gravitational pull to MArs.
And you could possibly end up with kilometer-size objects full of good stuff for MArs, including nitrogen, crashing into the Martian atmosphere. (maybe it could be better to blow the comet just before it enters the Mars atmosphere, I am not sure) . This is much much more than you will ever be able to take from Titan, and for a much lower cost. Just the duration of the operation would be longer, but we have time. It could be the solution to resplenish the Mars atmosphere on the long term.[/color:post_uid0]

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#6 2003-10-06 14:00:09

~Eternal~
Member
Registered: 2003-09-25
Posts: 211

Re: A dumb question. . . - from a liberal arts major :-)

[color=#000000:post_uid0]According to scientist their is only Carbon based life-forms that really on Nitrogen,Oxygen, and heat hmm.
*Hopefully waits for the Titan probe to reveal some Nitrogen based life forms that breath methane.*[/color:post_uid0]


The MiniTruth passed its first act #001, comname: PATRIOT ACT on  October 26, 2001.

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#7 2003-10-06 21:22:31

Josh Cryer
Moderator
Registered: 2001-09-29
Posts: 3,830

Re: A dumb question. . . - from a liberal arts major :-)

[color=#000000:post_uid0]Bill White, you've reenforced my belief that there is no life on Mars. Quite an interesting point, I wish I'd read about this earlier so that I could've explored the concept over the weekend.

Plants cannot exist without Nitrogen. Animals are subsets of plants. There's more than meets the eye, here.

Of course, it'd be great if we were wrong with this inclination, but I think Bill has hit it.[/color:post_uid0]


Some useful links while MER are active. Offical site NASA TV JPL MER2004 Text feed
--------
The amount of solar radiation reaching the surface of the earth totals some 3.9 million exajoules a year.

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#8 2003-10-06 21:23:52

Josh Cryer
Moderator
Registered: 2001-09-29
Posts: 3,830

Re: A dumb question. . . - from a liberal arts major :-)

[color=#000000:post_uid0]Hahaha, and shame on you guys for hijacking Bill's thread!![/color:post_uid0]


Some useful links while MER are active. Offical site NASA TV JPL MER2004 Text feed
--------
The amount of solar radiation reaching the surface of the earth totals some 3.9 million exajoules a year.

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#9 2003-10-07 04:56:24

alokmohan
Member
From: india
Registered: 2003-09-14
Posts: 169

Re: A dumb question. . . - from a liberal arts major :-)

[color=#000000:post_uid0]This is a pertinent question .CHON as we say is essential for existence of life.If there is no nitrogen is mars things are really tough.[/color:post_uid0]

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