Did the Mars rover Curiosity sniff signs of life last week? It's not clear yet, but scientists have definitely seen something interesting. Everyone is keeping mum, but potential findings by the Sample Analysis at Mars instrument, one of Curiosity's prime life-hunting instruments, have Mars-watchers on the edges of their seats.
Curiosity's principal investigator, John Grotzinger, was quoted on NPR Tuesday morning saying the team might have some very big news soon. "Earthshaking" was the word of choice from NPR's science correspondent, Joe Palca. Palca was apparently in Grotzinger's office when some of the data from SAM started streaming in through the Deep Space Network last week. Grotzinger wouldn't tell, but his excitement was obvious: "This data is gonna be one for the history books. It's looking really good," he said.
SAM is one of Curiosity's key science instruments, specifically designed to look for evidence of past life-friendly environments. It is looking for carbon-based molecules, which may or may not indicate life. All life as we know it on Earth contains organic molecules, but organic molecules can exist without any life--scientists have seen signs of carbon compounds on Pluto and elsewhere in space, for instance. Finding them on Mars would definitely be intriguing. At the very least, they'll indicate that Mars could play host, now or in the past, to organic material. That might, might indicate that it could have hosted life, too.
What could it have found?
SAM might have found evidence for some organic material, or it could have found nothing. A nil result would be scientifically interesting, too, because it would help round out the history of Gale Crater. But it's safe to assume that Curiosity's principal investigator probably wouldn't describe a nil result as one for the history books.
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. But it will be a step toward answering that question. Curiosity's science team already found clear-cut evidence for lots of liquid water in the past, and life as we know it needs water, too.
What is SAM, anyway?
It's a huge part of Curiosity, both physically and metaphorically. Physically speaking, it's a gas chromatograph and two kinds of spectrometers, which can identify compounds inside Martian rocks and soil. The gas chromatograph will bake rocks and soil until they start to vaporize, and analyze the resulting vapors. The mass spectrometer will measure the masses of different elements and minerals, and the tunable laser spectrometer--which we met a week or so ago, when it did not sniff much methane on Mars--will measure the abundances of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen compounds.
Why are people so excited?
Grotzinger is a cautious scientist, and showed restraint during those recent methane findings, as Palca also pointed out. At first, the team noticed a strong methane signal, which created a buzz in the scientific community. But they wanted to be sure it wasn't methane from Earth contaminating Curiosity's instruments, so they made another measurement. Turns out it was Earthly methane the first time, and more detailed analysis showed a negligible amount of the hydrocarbon--not much reason to get excited.
The MSL team is showing caution here, too. Part of the reason is probably that SAM is still doing some work. The instrument contains a self-test kit, which it will use to validate its findings and ensure there are no false positives. The kit is a ceramic sample-blank that contains a known engineered fluorinated organic compound that would not occur in real life on Earth. SAM can use that to double-check what it sees.
But still--when a high-ranking scientist like Grotzinger starts dropping words like "history" and "really good," odds are something interesting in the works. He told NPR it would likely be a few weeks before the team is ready to talk about it--so stay tuned.
Whats the time frame for announcement!?!?!? I can't handle it :(
Promotional rumor, arg....
Dark matter of outer space is made up of info cells of all Earth. We are not made for this planet but are made of it.
If there is a nook or cranny any where in our Universe that conditions will allow evolution of Earth life, it has happened.
What I am excitingly waiting for is news that one of our robots has successfully penetrated another universe. If so this would confirm that our info cells known as dark matter or energy also could and life as we know it will be.
I am sure the fact we humans sent a probe to Mars does make our makers the Annunaki very pleased. Mars can be another planet of which we can exploit and give our resources to the GODS.
"Grotzinger confirmed to SPACE.com that the news will come out at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union, which takes place Dec. 3-7 in San Francisco."
It will be ground breaking and historical. Oh well...I guess I could tell you the rumors. Apparently, they found an area in the crater that contains everyones "Other" Sock they lost in the washer.
My guess is they found Waldo or perhaps they uncovered a portion of the Statue of Liberty and then played a recording of Charlton Heston yelling, "You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!"
They found a toilet with the seat left up, undeniable proof men are from Mars.
If Mars is sterile but rich in resources it's there for the taking, human exploration will march forward. If there is life... Mars will become hands off / scientists only.
If ithey have found evidence of certain things that could, might, possible have supported life in the past then this is again not interesting by a long shot. Of course the hype machine at NASA will continue. Turning a mouse into an elephant. Just like that new type of life they found that didn't turn out to be new life at all. Remember all that hype? Just like the new moon program that was cancelled because it turned out to be way above budget. The Venture star!
And probably their new mega rocket which they claimed would be way, way above budget but congress made them continue anyway. So we know it's not budgetted fully by a long shot. NASA hypes everything these days obviously to get more funding or have it at least stay at current levels. You can't really blame them for trying but all this over hype about non life finds is just ridiculous. Tell me if you actually find real life and not these possible, maybe, could be stories.
I'm guessing...they have evidence!That the "face"image taken by viking 1 orbiter on july 25,1976 of mars in the cydonia region...is indeed a decapitated head of an unknown entity but casualty of the klingons from a long ago war. Probably a vicious fight.. for mars remaining resources.
My guess is that they will finally confirm organics in the soil the next step is confirming extant, still in existence, life on Mars that they also found at the Viking and Phoenix Landers site. Viking Landers found organics, the Phoenix Lander discovered it but couldn't verify it because of perchorates in the soil skewed the results, it will be confirmed that what Chris McKay said in 2010. see
"In 2010 The discovery of the highly reactive chemical perchlorate in the phoenix Lander led NASA's Christopher McKay, an astrobiologist at the Ames Research Center, and Navarro-Gonzalez to test whether the perchlorate had skewed the Viking results that showed no sign of organic material on Mars.
Perchlorate, which consists of chlorine and oxygen, actively absorbs electrons from surrounding compounds when heated. "It could sit there in the Martian soil with organics around it for billions of years and not break them down," McKay said. "But when you heat the soil to check for organics, the perchlorate destroys them rapidly."
We are not alone.
Hydration effects have caused there to still be liquid water clinging to the surface of the sand?
Based on my knowledge of the universe, the things contained in it and the distribution of those things, I'm guessing that they found a Starbucks.
Looking at the picture above of Curiosity, why are we looking at the intake of a two barrel carburetor?!!!!
The same media hysteria as usual. They'll get all excited about the potential meaning of something, blast if all over, tout it as proof of exo-life......then a couple weeks or months later they'll find it was nothing at all, but won't bother hardly mentioning that fact.
So we are told to stand-by to stand-by for something that won't be told for 2 1/2 weeks.
I would actually be more excited if they announced a large presence of gold then I would be if they said they found microbial life.
they found a fossil...man's humanity
As i expected, no life. NASA is already massively backing down on this:
Yet another damage control over hype moment for NASA because the whole world now believes the 'earth shaking', 'history making' announcement means proof of dead or living martian life. Just like the claim of a new type of life that didn't turn out to be new at all. The planet gliece 581g with life that didn't turn out to be a planet in the first place let alone have life. And just like many orher false claimes and overhyped stories from NASA scientists. Are they just shouting whenever they like these days.
Mars chemistry will produce minerals
that are unique to its environment.
Unobserved and unknown until we
get into full analyze of it features.
A huge find could be a mineral with
Heat resistant or some other property.
Some times the great discovery is made.
While looking for something else.
I am just dreaming now optimistically, but it would be cool if Curiosity found some kind of itty bitty tiny life!
In my thinking, NASA not gone discover anything that is useful for humanity. But they have problem, NASA gone be blamed for greenhouse effect on MARS.
If life is ever discovered on Mars, we humans would never be allowed to setup home there. Yea we can send sterile probes but nothing more. The environmentalists will declare this planet off limit and protect from contamination, let alone what microbes we bring back to Earth. Finding life on Mars in one sense is bad news, despite it being highly scientifically interesting.
Intelligent life on Mars was allegedly destroyed by an invasion long ago. The humanoid life form had modest technology
Earth shaking discovery on Mars by Curiosity? It should be to 99% of the earthlings.
For now, I tend to believe that the earth shaking announcement weeks from now is that Curiosity got lost and landed instead in Arizona.
Just a few miles from the moon landing, lol.