Will NASA release Earth- ... er, Mars-shaking news?
November 21st, 2012
11:17 AM ET

Will NASA release Earth- ... er, Mars-shaking news?

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN

A big "OMG" moment for space enthusiasts may be coming!

We were certainly excited to read on NPR's website that the Curiosity rover may have discovered something "really interesting." John Grotzinger, principal investigator for the Curiosity rover mission, revealed to NPR that "This data is gonna be one for the history books. It's looking really good."

The data in question come from soil that was analyzed by an instrument suite on the rover called SAM, the Sample Analysis at Mars. This chemistry set is equipped to look for compounds of carbon, such as methane, as well as hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. These would suggest at least the possibility that life could have once existed there.

But Grotzinger would not tell NPR exactly what about the latest results could be so "earthshaking" (should we say "Mars-shaking"?). And it will be several weeks before the public may know anything further about the matter, NPR reported. The scientists don't want to say anything prematurely, before they're sure they know what they're seeing.

NASA-Jet Propulsion Laboratory spokesman Guy Webster told CNN that the science team is not ready to discuss the soil inspection from SAM and that the same policy applied to past results from the Curiosity mission.

"The scientists want to gain confidence in the findings before taking them outside of the science team. As for history books, the whole mission is for the history books," he wrote in an e-mail. "John was excited about the quality and range of information coming in from SAM during the day a reporter happened to be sitting in John's office last week. He has been similarly excited by results at other points during the mission so far."

Curiosity has been roaming Mars since its spectacular landing August 6, which involved a supersonic parachute and a sky crane. It weighs nearly 2,000 pounds and has 17 cameras on board. With the rover's sophisticated instruments, the $2.5 billion mission is exploring Mars in ways that no manmade probe has ever been able to before.

The rover landed in a place called Gale Crater, which may have once contained water. In fact, during its first couple of months of exploration, Curiosity found evidence of ancient water, based on rock formations that appeared to have formed in the presence of water.

For several weeks, Curiosity was parked at a place called Rocknest, where it scooped up soil samples and discovered shiny objects.

On November 16, the rover started driving again, NASA said. Currently it's on its way to a location called Point Lake. It moved 83 feet eastward Sunday.

Meanwhile, space fans have taken to Twitter to post humorous speculations about the rover's discoveries using the hashtag #CuriosityFindings. @treelobsters writes, "That red dust? Actually paprika." @jkfecke adds, "Face on Mars is huge statue of Justin Bieber." And particularly groundbreaking would be, as @TechyDad writes, "A giant pile of unmatched socks that disappeared from the Earth's washing machines."

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Filed under: In Space • Mars
soundoff (869 Responses)
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  4. cnyc

    Well, here is an apparently interesting true story that could be relate to the above. A guy named Osvaldo Navarrete back in 2000 predicted something like this.
    As it turns out, a similar time traveler emerged in South America in the year 2000.

    According to the Crónica newspaper of Concepción (Chile) a man named Osvaldo Navarrete had arrived from our near future – the year 2012, to be exact. According to Navarrete’s testimony, he had been one of several subjects of a military experiment in time travel designed to return to the year 2000. Interviewed by journalist Richard Sierra, Navarrete made some predictions about the coming ten years, stating that a disaster would sweep the planet and have “terrible consequences for mankind.”

    The time traveler informed the journalist that in the year 2012, the United States was governed by a black president, and that this head of state would inform the people of the discovery of vestiges of ancient intelligent life on Mars following the arrival of a space probe. Writing in mid-October 2012, we can say that the time traveler was on the money. President Obama, however, has made no such disclosure yet). The result of this announcement, stated Navarrete, would be worldwide unrest. Discovery of the Marian ur-civilization would prompt the great powers to work jointly against “an alleged alien attack”, adding to the worldwide social and political crises.

    Chrononaut Navarrete was not forthcoming about the way in which he crossed the unsoundable gulf of time from 2012 to 2000. Did he appear in a baroque time machine like Rod Taylor in George Pal’s legendary The Time Traveler, or naked and disoriented in an alleyway like Michael Biehn in The Terminator? The question remains unanswered, and his whereabouts unknown. The last available information on this intriguing person is that he claimed to be “eluding pursuit”, vanishing after making a statement to a radio station.

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    November 28, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
  5. Buck

    Hey, wait just a darn minute here.... that desert looks jut like Mojave.... is NASA faking Mars just like they faked the moon landing back in '69 inside their tin-foil and paper-mache lunar 'lander'??


    November 26, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  6. Jude Brummett

    I read about half of the comments before my eyes started hurting. I noticed it went from a lot of intense debate to people making silly comments. I think some people have forgotten that science is about asking questions and keeping an open mind, believing that anything is possible. As for people stuck on their religious beliefs, stop telling people to prove that a god does not exist. Nothing is considered absolutely true until proven absolutely true. We don't try to prove things untrue, we try to prove things true to better understand the universe.

    November 26, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  7. JA

    If it's "one for the history books" it better be a DNA sequence of some sort.

    November 26, 2012 at 10:39 am |
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