Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Big News About Mars? (Updated Dec. 3, 2012)

NPR reports that NASA may be sitting on a big announcement about Mars:
The exciting results are coming from an instrument in the rover called SAM. "We're getting data from SAM as we sit here and speak, and the data looks really interesting," John Grotzinger, the principal investigator for the rover mission, says during my visit last week to his office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. That's where data from SAM first arrive on Earth. "The science team is busily chewing away on it as it comes down," says Grotzinger.

SAM is a kind of miniature chemistry lab. Put a sample of Martian soil or rock or even air inside SAM, and it will tell you what the sample is made of.

Grotzinger says they recently put a soil sample in SAM, and the analysis shows something earthshaking. "This data is gonna be one for the history books. It's looking really good," he says.
Unfortunately, despite this teaser, it will probably be several weeks before NASA makes any public statement about its findings.

Update (Dec. 3, 2012): Like other "teasers" in the past few years, this one also was much ado about nothing. From the Daily Mail:
The Mars rover Curiosity has completed its first chemical test of soil from the red planet, and scientists say there are no surprises so far.
The spacecraft is on a mission to look for ingredients in Martian soil and rocks that could support life.
But in the first scoop of soil analyzed, there were no definitive signs of the chemical building blocks of life.

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