Life on Mars? Maybe not: NASA rows back on findings

Nov 21, 2012
This artist's concept features NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, a mobile robot for investigating Mars' past or present ability to sustain microbial life. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA downplayed Wednesday talk of a major discovery by its Martian rover after remarks by the mission chief raised hopes it may have unearthed evidence life once existed on the Red Planet.

Excitement is building over soon-to-be-released results from NASA's Curiosity rover, which is three months into a two-year mission to determine if Mars has ever been capable of supporting .

Its Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instruments have been sending back information as it hunts for compounds such as , as well as hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen, that would mean life could once have existed there.

In an interview with US broadcaster National Public Radio, aired Tuesday, lead mission investigator John Grotzinger hinted at something major but said there would be no announcement for several weeks.

"We're getting data from SAM," he said. "This data is gonna be one for the history books. It's looking really good."

A spokesman for 's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is managing the project, appeared to pour Wednesday on the hopes of space enthusiasts looking forward to an earth-shattering discovery.

"John was delighted 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 delighted by results at other points during the mission so far," spokesman Guy Webster told AFP.

"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," Webster said.

Scientists do not expect Curiosity to find aliens or living creatures but they hope to use it to analyze soil and rocks for signs the of life are present and may have supported life in the past.

The $2.5 billion Curiosity rover—which landed in Gale Crater on the on August 6—also aims to study the Martian environment to prepare for a possible human mission there in the coming years.

US President Barack Obama has vowed to send humans to the planet by 2030.

Explore further: NASA seeks proposals for commercial Mars data relay satellites

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SleepTech
3 / 5 (6) Nov 21, 2012
@MarsCuriosity

What did I discover on Mars? That rumors spread fast online. My team considers this whole mission "one for the history books"
LariAnn
2.2 / 5 (18) Nov 21, 2012
Guy Webster, NASA's JPL spokesman - NASA's JPL censor. Let the data speak for itself. If the lead mission investigator says, "THIS DATA is going to be one for the history books," as a scientist, can't we trust that he is referring to THIS DATA and not to the whole mission in general? He does know how to speak about the whole mission if he so desires, you know. The JPL spokesman must take all of us for idiots, able to be manipulated by the official censor even when the lead mission investigator has been clear in his statement.

IMHO, this type of thing coming from a "spokesman" is one good reason why not to trust what NASA finally ends up feeding us as the "truth". The investigators know, but the spokesman censors.
Donutz
4.3 / 5 (23) Nov 21, 2012
No need to invoke conspiracy. Remember the hoopla about the arsenic-based bacteria? We give them grief if they announce too soon, we give them grief if they delay before announcing, we give them grief if they just stand there and shake. Jeez. Give them a change to line it up. I'm betting on a big announcement, with fireworks, dancing girls, circus animals...
RazorsEdge
2.3 / 5 (9) Nov 21, 2012
@Donutz you forgot publicity-seeking politicians ready to get the Trekkie vote.
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
4.6 / 5 (9) Nov 21, 2012
Ah, that is an even simpler explanation. I already surmised it was the reporter that injected the "earthshattering" declaration. Now it is about the high quality of the SAM data, and how that (and the rest of Curiosity data) makes history.

@ LariAnn: You are (conspirationist) nutty.

Also, the observations will be released when they have been properly constrained by the experiment.

Think of a jpeg, getting the raw data without the algorithm or software won't give you a picture.

Same here, the raw data from an uncalibrated observation on a for an outsider sketchily understood instrument isn't giving outsiders any information. The data format is input into software prepared for months or years ahead, a lot of work to repeat.

It is a massive task to get observations out of the data.
NOM
3.7 / 5 (12) Nov 21, 2012
As usual the media have misunderstood something technical and over-reacted, so now the Nasa guys are having to waste time in damage control.
But it's funny to see how the conspiracy nutjobs react to this. They are just so gullible.
maxb500_live_nl
1.6 / 5 (14) Nov 21, 2012
Oh no. Nasa has overpromised once again! Just like the new type of life claim that was not even new at all, yet they told the whole world and looked like complete fools when the truth came out. Just like the NASA astronomers claiming gliece 581g existed and had life on it. Later the Europeans who had detected all the other planets at Gliece said the data they use doesn't show anything let alone a planet with life on it. Now they have exited the world with a claim so big that it must mean life on mars. The whole world is reporting on this claim of 'earth shaking, history making' proportions! Guess what they are going to disappoint everyone once again and Nasa will further loose credibility both in the world and with US students who might have been interested in science. Big shame on these reports.
Terratian
3 / 5 (6) Nov 22, 2012
With all the hype now surrounding this "earth shattering" announcement, there is going to be disappointment.

It is probably one of two things: 1) some organic molecules or 2) methane in the atmosphere.

Mars has methane hot spots, but Curiosity landed in a low methane density area for some reason. That reason may be that this is a geology mission, not a life finding mission. For a 2.5 billion dollar rover, it doesn't even have a $50 microscope that could see microbes. It could drill right through an extant microbial colony and not even know it.

My guess is more basaltic like rocks with an unusually amount of some mineral (yawn). I think NASA dropped the ball, they went for "follow the rocks" instead of "look for life". Now they have to artificially create a story when there isn't one. Worried about funding?
gopher65
2.8 / 5 (11) Nov 22, 2012
For a 2.5 billion dollar rover, it doesn't even have a $50 microscope that could see microbes.

My understanding is that a few bright lights in the US House and Senate thought that the funds spent on Viking could have been better directed. They banned NASA from directly searching for life on Mars. That's why NASA always does theses back-@22ward things, like search for water, organic molecules, or methane. They are not allowed to do anything else.
VendicarD
2.6 / 5 (10) Nov 22, 2012
NASA is restricted in what it can do on Mars because Congress knows the Terrible Secret of Space.

http://www.youtub...ot9iJm_k

Pushing is the answer.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.1 / 5 (27) Nov 22, 2012
900 foot tall glass-headed Martians who are lying down are so hard to find unless you actually bump into them.
philw1776
2.1 / 5 (7) Nov 22, 2012
"US President Barack Obama has vowed to send humans to the planet by 2030."
Who here believes these empty words?
Lurker2358
2.1 / 5 (10) Nov 22, 2012
"US President Barack Obama has vowed to send humans to the planet by 2030."
Who here believes these empty words?


Travelling to and from the planet, hard as that will be, is not even the big problem. The problem is avoiding cross-contamination of chemical and potential biological environments.

Because you can be assured that once you send humans to Mars, one way or another, microbes from inside the crew cabin WILL make it onto the surface of the planet, which if they then somehow survive, all science about any alleged ancient life will be destroyed eventually.

The idea of accidentally bringing back any potential Mars life to Earth, slim as those chances are, is unacceptable. While it might not be a shape-shifting woman that adapts to anything, like in the Species movie, it could be something worse, conceivably, such as an alien prion or some other pro-genetic compound. Maybe it's not even DNA, but whatever it is, it could be destructive here on Earth.
Kedas
5 / 5 (2) Nov 22, 2012
More details about their findings are expected in the first weeks of December.
baudrunner
2.3 / 5 (9) Nov 22, 2012
Just because Curiosity findings indicate that life had no origins on Mars does not mean that Mars was incapable of providing an environment for life that may have visited it in the past. There are some spooky anomalies on that planet that bear investigating from that perspective.

We are searching for life on other worlds, and we need something to go on. On the subject of life on other worlds: the Great Pyramid represents the Earth. All the numbers point to it. To my mind, that means that the other two pyramids are dimensionally representative of two other worlds which have life on them. We should focus on planets of those dimensions using Kepler and whatever other means we have at our disposal to do so, basing our search on the messages contained within the Great Pyramid of Cheops.
obama_socks
2.4 / 5 (17) Nov 22, 2012
The story is put out to retain the public interest, and then squashed with a disclaimer. This is normal routine PR for NASA…too much time out of the public eye that must include the popularly perceived possibility that life once existed on Mars or exists at present, is hurtful if not suicidal.
Your taxes pay for the mission, but NASA OWNS ALL of the data, the pictures…everything. Whatever glimmer of information the Agency ALLOWS you to see is at THEIR pleasure.
It is naive to believe that NASA could ever be forthcoming with historic data that could prove past or present life on Mars even when they have it. Mars is the "ace-in-the-hole" as far as a planet that we can eventually populate in the event of the partial or full demise (destruction) of Earth. So, it is important to ensure funding continues despite budget cutting.
VendicarD
2.7 / 5 (12) Nov 22, 2012
ConservTards like ObamaSox see every aspect of life as a conspiracy against them.

It is truly a mental disease.
FrankHerbert
2.2 / 5 (13) Nov 23, 2012
Obama_socks, still looking for those semi-transparent martians?
GSwift7
4.1 / 5 (14) Nov 23, 2012
I already surmised it was the reporter that injected the "earthshattering" declaration.


Here's a link to the original interview. Grotzinger did use the phrase "one for the history books". It sounds like he is really excited about something specific they found, not just good data.

Warning, this is a recorded voice interview, so turn your volume down if you are supposed to be working!!!!!

http://www.npr.or...-for-now
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.8 / 5 (26) Nov 23, 2012
Because you can be assured that once you send humans to Mars, one way or another, microbes from inside the crew cabin WILL make it onto the surface of the planet, which if they then somehow survive, all science about any alleged ancient life will be destroyed eventually.
Manure. Extremophile Mars life would be much better suited to surviving on mars than earth life. Anything foreign would most likely be out-competed and consumed, including possibly us.

This is probably why we haven't found any evidence for a shadow biosphere, or precursor earthlife, or anything resembling alien life here on earth.

Marslife will have had plenty of time to seek out and inhabit any habitable niche. We should plan on protecting ourselves from it while we are there, not it from us.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.8 / 5 (26) Nov 23, 2012
The story is put out to retain the public interest, and then squashed with a disclaimer. This is normal routine PR for NASA…too much time out of the public eye
-And pussytard should know, as she works there. I found this little insinuation, one of many:
His clownish antics is a source of mirth and merriment for us all.
Anyway, I took a few days off from NASA..."
-Google it.
TheKnowItAll
1 / 5 (2) Nov 24, 2012
Reality check: There is no evidence whatsoever that there was ever life on Mars and there is no evidence that life could naturally develop and truthfully it is somewhat irrelevant. Our actual agenda is to occupy another planet soon and since it is easier to heat up a tent than it is to cool it down we chose Mars over Venus. The only life we will find on Mars is us humans in a decade or so. All we need is to find out what chemicals are readily available so we can process them for our needs. It is no secret to me as to why curiosity has the testing equipment it has.
VendicarD
2.1 / 5 (7) Nov 24, 2012
If God put life on Mars then letting it go extinct was a mistake, and since God doesn't make mistakes, there has never been life on Mars.

QED.
PhotonX
5 / 5 (1) Nov 24, 2012
Just like the NASA astronomers claiming gliece 581g [sic] existed and had life on it.
Rubbish. Post a link that shows NASA claiming positive evidence of life on Gliese581g. _Potential_ for life on a Goldilocks-zone planet is a far shot from claiming life.
JohnCanham
5 / 5 (1) Nov 26, 2012
There are agreements between NASA and the Principle and Co-Investigators restricting the release of data for some time frame.
If you want to know about the scope and the intent of the mission, fire up your browsers and check out MEPAG, the JPL based mission web sight, or perhaps contact one of the investigators.
There is a significant amount of information out there.
The Space Act of 1958 requires NASA to share the information unless it presents a risk to national security. Look it up. Eventually, all of the data will probably end up poseted on the web for everyone to peruse, but not until the required delay on the release of the data.
Graeme
5 / 5 (1) Nov 27, 2012
"Earth shattering" could mean that Earth was shattered, with a piece broken off, with an earth sourced meteorite being found by Curiosity.
Noumenon
3.8 / 5 (16) Jan 10, 2013
.
Noumenon
3.9 / 5 (15) Jan 10, 2013
The Minkowski metric uses a Lorentzian signature, η = diagonal {-1,1,1,1} and zero every where else, so that the inner product between any two basis vectors is 〈e∨μ, e∨ν〉 = η∨μν, ... =δ ∨ij,... implying orthonormality.
Noumenon
3.8 / 5 (16) Jan 10, 2013
...wrong thread