November 21, 2012
Earthshaking Information About Mars To Come From NASA In A Few Weeks
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
After visiting with John Grotzinger, the principal investigator for the rover mission, Palca found out that the data coming down from Curiosity now "is gonna be one for the history books."
Curiosity's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument is the one that has made the mysterious discovery. This instrument is designed to address the present and past habitability of Mars by exploring molecular and elemental chemistry.
The instrument addresses carbon chemistry through a search for organic compounds, the chemical state of light elements other than carbon, and isotopic tracers of planetary changes.
Essentially, when putting together the NPR report and what Grotzinger told Palca, it sounds as though NASA is holding back information about a discovery of possible ancient life on Mars.
Grotzinger told NPR that NASA scientists recently put a soil sample in SAM, and the analysis shows something "earthshaking." He did not provide much more information than that.
NASA held up announcing a finding before that originally looked as though they had discovered methane on Mars, which comes from living organisms. During that time, the team wanted to be sure they were measuring Martian air, and not air from the rover's launchpad. These results ended up being air brought from Florida.
Grotzinger said it will take several weeks before NASA is ready to talk about their latest finding.
NASA is still receiving its data about the latest find, and the team is "busily chewing away on it," Grotzinger told Palca.
Planetary scientist Peter Smith from the University of Arizona´s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory told Wired that if it is one for the history books, as NPR reported, then organic material is what to expect. He is a former principal investigator on a previous Mars mission.
“If they found signatures of a very complex organic type, that would be astounding,” Smith told Wired.