Sunday, December 02, 2012

NASA downplays import of latest Mars rover discovery

Rumors about a big discovery on Mars by the Curiosity Rover have been circulating since chief Curiosity scientist John Grotzinger was quoted by NPR as saying that a rover instrument had detected "data [which] is gonna be one for the history books." The fact that the instrument was responsible for detecting organic compounds just heightened speculation.

Now, whatever that data is will be revealed on Monday. However, NASA tried to downplay any wishful thinking -- perhaps about life on Mars -- in a statement it gave on Friday.
Rumors and speculation that there are major new findings from the mission at this early stage are incorrect. At this point in the mission, the instruments on the rover have not detected any definitive evidence of Martian organics.
In other words, there's no life on Mars, or at least, none we have detected. No news here; move along; move along.

For space geeks still hoping against hope, the presentation will be made at 9:00 a.m. PST (1700 GMT) during the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

While Grotzinger set speculation off with his statement, the Curiosity rover itself didn't help matters. On Nov. 21, the day after Grotzinger's statement, the rover tweeted:
What did I discover on Mars? That rumors spread fast online. My team considers this whole mission "one for the history books”
Despite any possible disappointment regarding the Monday announcement, the raw materials for life may be more common in the solar system than originally thought. On Thursday, the Mercury Messenger team revealed that it had found compelling evidence that water ice is present in permanently shadowed regions of the planet's poles.

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