(Image source: NASA)

BY STEVEN SPARKMAN
ANCHOR ZACH TOOMBS


Did NASA find the building blocks of life on Mars? It’s impossible to say at the moment, but the team behind the Mars rover Curiosity are playing coy with the media about a big discovery.

The story comes from NPR. Journalist Joe Palca was in the office of the head of the rover mission, John Grotzinger, when some interesting findings came across his screen.

Grotzinger: “This data is going to be one for the history books. It's looking really good.”

Palca: “Grotzinger can see the pained look on my face as I wait, hoping he'll tell me what the heck he's found.”
Grotzinger: “I know I'm killing you.”

The only details that are known at this point is that the interesting readings came from the rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars instrument, or SAM.


SAM is a suite of several instruments which let Curiosity analyze gas, soil or rock and tell what it’s made of. (Via NASA)

So what did SAM uncover? NASA is keeping tight-lipped, saying they’re taking a few weeks to verify the findings. But the fact they’re using words like “earth-shaking” is getting science writers all wound up.

Just like earlier this year when rumors of a major discovery at CERN made the media think “Higgs-boson,” rumors of a major discovery by the rover takes the mind to one place: life, or at least the organic compounds that make up life. (Via The New York Times, The Guardian)

A writer for Discovery News reminds us — the point of the rover’s mission is to look for those compounds.

“Should Curiosity detect these organics, the mission will have confirmed the presence of the building blocks of life on the surface of Mars.”

A planetary scientist tells Wired something similar, saying:

“If it’s going in the history books, organic material is what I expect … It may be just a hint, but even a hint would be exciting.”

Of course, someone has to throw cold water on the speculation. Popular Science reminds us that “organic” doesn’t mean “life,” it just means the compounds have carbon.

“Even if SAM found some organic molecules, it’s still a long way from finding hard evidence for life, or even evidence that Gale Crater could have been a haven for life in the distant Martian past.”

Still, a lot of writers are having fun with the speculation with a writer for Universe Today tweeting “l knew it! Curiosity found my keys” and the Sarcastic Rover tweeting “Not sure what it means, but my new discovery has been code-named ‘Operation Mind-Reading Alien Slug-Worm.’”

NASA says they’ll announce what’s really going on sometime in December.

NASA Playing Coy With Mars Rover Secret Discovery

by Steven Sparkman
1
Transcript
Nov 20, 2012

NASA Playing Coy With Mars Rover Secret Discovery

 

(Image source: NASA)

BY STEVEN SPARKMAN
ANCHOR ZACH TOOMBS


Did NASA find the building blocks of life on Mars? It’s impossible to say at the moment, but the team behind the Mars rover Curiosity are playing coy with the media about a big discovery.

The story comes from NPR. Journalist Joe Palca was in the office of the head of the rover mission, John Grotzinger, when some interesting findings came across his screen.

Grotzinger: “This data is going to be one for the history books. It's looking really good.”

Palca: “Grotzinger can see the pained look on my face as I wait, hoping he'll tell me what the heck he's found.”
Grotzinger: “I know I'm killing you.”

The only details that are known at this point is that the interesting readings came from the rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars instrument, or SAM.


SAM is a suite of several instruments which let Curiosity analyze gas, soil or rock and tell what it’s made of. (Via NASA)

So what did SAM uncover? NASA is keeping tight-lipped, saying they’re taking a few weeks to verify the findings. But the fact they’re using words like “earth-shaking” is getting science writers all wound up.

Just like earlier this year when rumors of a major discovery at CERN made the media think “Higgs-boson,” rumors of a major discovery by the rover takes the mind to one place: life, or at least the organic compounds that make up life. (Via The New York Times, The Guardian)

A writer for Discovery News reminds us — the point of the rover’s mission is to look for those compounds.

“Should Curiosity detect these organics, the mission will have confirmed the presence of the building blocks of life on the surface of Mars.”

A planetary scientist tells Wired something similar, saying:

“If it’s going in the history books, organic material is what I expect … It may be just a hint, but even a hint would be exciting.”

Of course, someone has to throw cold water on the speculation. Popular Science reminds us that “organic” doesn’t mean “life,” it just means the compounds have carbon.

“Even if SAM found some organic molecules, it’s still a long way from finding hard evidence for life, or even evidence that Gale Crater could have been a haven for life in the distant Martian past.”

Still, a lot of writers are having fun with the speculation with a writer for Universe Today tweeting “l knew it! Curiosity found my keys” and the Sarcastic Rover tweeting “Not sure what it means, but my new discovery has been code-named ‘Operation Mind-Reading Alien Slug-Worm.’”

NASA says they’ll announce what’s really going on sometime in December.

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