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 Undisclosed Finding by Mars Rover Fuels Intrigue 
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Post Undisclosed Finding by Mars Rover Fuels Intrigue
NY Times wrote:
Undisclosed Finding by Mars Rover Fuels Intrigue
By KENNETH CHANG
Published: November 27, 2012

The Mars rover Curiosity has found something — something noteworthy, in a pinch of Martian sand. But what is it?

The scientists working on the mission who know are not saying. Outside of that team, lots of people are guessing.

The intrigue started last week when John P. Grotzinger, the Mars mission’s project scientist, told National Public Radio: “This data is going to be one for the history books. It’s looking really good.”

And then he declined to say anything more.

Fossils? Living microbial Martians? Maybe the carbon-based molecules known as organics, which are the building blocks of life? That so much excitement could be set off by a passing hint reflects the enduring fascination of both scientists and nonscientists with Mars.

“It could be all kinds of things,” said Peter H. Smith, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona who was the principal investigator for NASA’s earlier Phoenix Mars mission but is not involved with Curiosity. “If it’s historic, I think it’s organics. That would be historic in my book.”

Dr. Grotzinger and other Curiosity scientists will announce their latest findings on Monday in San Francisco at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

Do not expect pictures of Martians, though.

Guy Webster, a spokesman for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., which operates Curiosity, said the findings would be “interesting” rather than “earthshaking.”

Mr. Webster noted that “a really big announcement,” if one should occur, would most likely be made at NASA headquarters in Washington and not at an academic conference.

Whatever is revealed will be linked to the work of Curiosity’s sophisticated chemistry laboratory instrument, Sample Analysis at Mars — SAM, for short. The rover’s robotic arm dropped the first bit of sand and dust into the instrument on Nov. 9, and the scientists have been analyzing and contemplating ever since.

One of the main goals of SAM is to identify organic molecules, but it would be a big surprise for organics to show up in a first look at a sand sample selected more as a test exercise than with the expectation of a breakthrough discovery.

Curiosity will be headed toward layers of clays, which could be rich in organics and are believed to have formed during a warm and wet era early in the planet’s history. But Curiosity has months to drive before arriving at those locations.

And the Curiosity scientists have learned through experience that it pays to double-check their results before trumpeting them. An initial test of the Martian atmosphere by the same instrument showed the presence of methane, which would have been a major discovery, possibly indicating the presence of methane-generating microbes living on Mars today. But when the scientists ran the experiment again, the signs of methane disappeared, leading them to conclude that the methane found in the first test had come from air that the spacecraft had carried to Mars from its launching spot in Florida.

Mr. Webster, who was present during the interview with NPR, said Dr. Grotzinger had been talking more generally about the quality of data coming back from Curiosity and was not suggesting that the data contained a breakthrough surprise. “I don’t think he had in mind, ‘Here’s some particular chemical that’s been found,’ ” Mr. Webster said. “That’s not my impression of the conversation.”

On Twitter, Curiosity chimed in: “What did I discover on Mars? That rumors spread fast online. My team considers this whole mission ‘one for the history books.’ ” (The public information staff at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory writes the posts for the rover.)

This would not be the first time that rumors eclipsed the actual findings from Mars.

In 2002, the Mars Odyssey orbiter found evidence of frozen reservoirs of water beneath the surface of Mars, leading to breathless rumors in the British press that the Bush administration was about to announce a commitment to send astronauts there within 20 years. The White House remained quiet.

Dr. Smith, the Phoenix Mars scientist, had a similar experience in 2008 when Aviation Week reported, “The White House has been alerted by NASA about plans to make an announcement soon on major new Phoenix lander discoveries concerning the ‘potential for life’ on Mars.”

“The blogosphere lit up,” Dr. Smith said.

At a hastily arranged news conference, Dr. Smith revealed the actual news: chemicals known as perchlorates had been found in the soil. “The public was not interested in that,” he said.

If Curiosity’s pinch of sand indeed contained organics, it would again revive the possibilities of life on Mars. For now, Curiosity scientists are still analyzing the data.

“I do want to temper expectations,” said Mr. Webster, the spokesman. “But then again, I don’t know exactly what they’re going to say they’ve found.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/28/scien ... rigue.html

I wonder if they found this guy:
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November 29th, 2012, 11:28 am
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Post Re: Undisclosed Finding by Mars Rover Fuels Intrigue
Interesting.

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November 29th, 2012, 5:16 pm
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Post Re: Undisclosed Finding by Mars Rover Fuels Intrigue
Wow! Who'd of thought that a void that was once surrounded by water would someday have planets with residual ice crystals on it....

Kind of makes you think back to Genesis 1 huh?


Yeah, probably not.....

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November 30th, 2012, 9:15 am
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Post Re: Undisclosed Finding by Mars Rover Fuels Intrigue
FoxNews wrote:
Tantalizing hints of 'organics' on Mars, NASA says
Published December 03, 2012
FoxNews.com
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They made a mountain out of a molehill.

Curiosity did make a big discovery on Mars, one that had the world speculating about the potential discovery of "organics" on the Red Planet. There's something there all right -- but it's little more than a pile of scientifically relevant sand, experts from the space agency said Monday.

During initial tests, the Curiosity team found hints of complex chemicals and simple organic molecules: evidence of chlorine, sulfur and water in Mars dirt studied by its onboard laboratory, as well as organic compounds containing carbon, the building block of life. But the space agency must now verify that these organics didn’t come from Earth or elsewhere in the cosmos.

NASA urged caution before jumping to conclusions about these complex chemicals.

John Grotzinger, who sparked a wave of rumors two weeks ago when he said that Curiosity had a finding that was “one for the history books,” noted that “patience” is Curiosity’s middle name.

"You have to be careful about what you say and even more careful about how you say it," he said. "I was misunderstood."

“Organics are clearly there,” said Paul Mahaffy Principal Investigator for Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM). Determining whether or not the organics found are biological in nature is “well down the road,” Grotzinger said during the conference Monday adding that there won’t be a "hallelujah moment” and that the hype surrounding the announcement came down to a “misunderstanding.”

The speculation began on Nov. 20, when Curiosity chief scientist John Grotzinger of Caltech in Pasadena told NPR “this data is gonna be one for the history books.” Grotzinger works on a team studying data from the rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument, an onboard chemistry lab able to identify organic compounds -- carbon-based molecules that are essentially the building blocks of life.

Grotzinger’s enthusiasm led to wildly overblown speculation that such compounds -- as well as biological compounds, little green men, and even Jimmy Hoffa -- had been found.

"We have a globally representative material that we have analyzed with all the instruments," Grotzinger said. "These comprehensive investigations are going to be the basis on which we make major discoveries. But we're going to have to be patient."

"We're doing science at the speed of science in a world that goes at the speed of Instagrams."


Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/science/2012/12/ ... z2E1EtncF8

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December 3rd, 2012, 3:32 pm
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