Everybody chill, NASA says: No Martian organics found

November 30, 2012 by Nancy Atkinson, Universe Today
Curiosity maneuvering her robotic arm and conducting a close-up examination of windblown ‘Rocknest’ sand dune. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ken Kremer/Marco Di Lorenzo

Relax everyone. There are no little green men or even a hint of organics on Mars… not yet, anyway.

"Everybody, chill," Tweeted the Curiosity rover today. "After careful analysis, there are no Martian organics in recent samples."

Update: And also, the Curiosity rover did not find plastic Mardi Gras beads on Mars either. More about that below.

Rumor and speculation abounded (and yes, we admit being part of that) after an interview with Mars Science Laboratory scientist John Grotzinger indicated something "earth-shaking" could be announced soon. "This data is gonna be one for the history books. It's looking really good," Grotzinger was quoted by NPR.

Over a week later, NASA finally issued a statement that "speculation that there are major new findings from the mission at this early stage are incorrect," and said that a news conference from the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) on Monday, December 3 will be an update about first use of the rover's full array of analytical instruments to investigate a drift of sandy soil.

"One class of substances Curiosity is checking for is organic compounds—carbon-containing chemicals that can be ingredients for life. At this point in the mission, the instruments on the rover have not detected any definitive evidence of Martian ," the press release said.

The discussion on Twitter is that NASA perhaps didn't do enough last week to quell the onslaught of conjecture and speculation. But most people in the US were scurrying off for the Thanksgiving holiday and perhaps didn't notice a Tweet from the Curiosity Rover:

"What did I discover on Mars? That rumors spread fast online. My team considers this whole mission 'one for the history books'."

JPL's press spokesperson Guy Webster told Universe Today's Ken Kremer as much last week, saying "As for history books, the whole mission is for the history books. 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."

So, while it won't be "big" news, you may want to tune into the press conference anyway at 9 a.m. PST Monday, Dec. 3. Audio and visuals from the briefing also will be streamed online at: www.ustream.tv/nasajpl .

Bummed? NASA stressed today that Curiosity is less than four months into a two-year prime mission to investigate whether conditions in Mars' Gale Crater may have been favorable for microbial life. While Curiosity is exceeding all expectations, and has already has found an ancient riverbed, there's no earth-shaking news to report at this time.

But don't be surprised if there are some remarkable discoveries still to come.

And about those plastic beads…

As a prank, someone put up a very convincing-looking JPL knock-off webpage saying the rover had found plastic beads on Mars, and a la The Onion, supposedly quoted real scientists. One look at the picture, however and it becomes obvious this is a fake, plus the writer puts Curiosity at Endeavour Crater, where the Opportunity rover is located. Phil Plait does his normal great job of explaining it all, so check out his post at his new home at Slate.

Everybody chill, NASA says: No Martian organics found
Fake beads on Mars. Credit: Xevier Jenks

In the meantime, the shared this cute video that also speculates a bit about what could be found on Mars:

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2 / 5 (12) Nov 30, 2012
What was Grotzinger so excited about?? WHat does he and others know that NASA/JPL doesn't want the paying public to know?

Never A Straight Answer, yet again.
4.4 / 5 (8) Nov 30, 2012
Ever met someone who really loves what they do? They can sometimes be more excited about things than the general public is. A lot more excited. They might then be confused about why nobody else is so excited, because to them some discovery that seems mundane to the lay person is huge news to them. Pick something that you are really interested in and try to get others that don't share the interest excited about it and you'll see exactly where Grotzinger could have been coming from.
2.3 / 5 (4) Nov 30, 2012
volcanic activity.
2.5 / 5 (11) Nov 30, 2012
They can sometimes be more excited about things than the general public is. A lot more excited.
IMO the leak of this report has been carefully planed. Such a sensationalists report always emerge, when the Congress approves the budget for the next year.
2.8 / 5 (8) Nov 30, 2012
The only thing other that organics that would justify his choice of words would be if some of the dirt had massive concentrations of very valuable elements.

In other words, I don't think his choice of words was even remotely accurate.
2 / 5 (4) Nov 30, 2012
I am still waiting for conspiracy buffs to claim they see gum wrappers in Curiosity images.
3.4 / 5 (7) Nov 30, 2012
Angry disappointment.

Grotzinger should have already issued a statement, himself, taking responsibility for having used language that was so easy to misinterpret.

It goes without saying that many would have taken this as evidence of some kind of cover up, but that has no bearing upon what is the right and proper thing to do under the circumstances.

He may be a scientist involved in a "gee whiz" mission, and all, but that's no excuse for not understanding the keen interest the Paying Public shares in it.

3.4 / 5 (10) Nov 30, 2012
This is just another NASA coverup.

People in the know, are reporting that NASA has discovered Gum Wrappers inside the jaws of a human like skull on Mars.

Speculation is that it is the long lost skull of Charlton Heston.
2.6 / 5 (9) Dec 01, 2012
One doesn't have to believe in conspiracy theories or forever believe the gubment is lying to you in order to wonder very reasonably whether or not they have decided to hold something back.

I mean really were they to have discovered something truly historic, I'd think the first instinct on the part of any government was to "manage the information regarding such an incredible discovery".

Say they discovered actual life (no I'm saying I believe that they did right now).

Unlike most developed nations, the USA still has a significant # of devoutly religious people, many of whom would not take kindly to this sort of news.

While the rest of the world would be celebrating, millions in the US could interpret this as "God's ultimate test of faith" and really start a conspiracy theory for the ages going.

Rather than deal with such pointless chaos, sane officials might decide to axe the big announcement, and allow knowledge to unofficially leak out over a year to keep such people calm.
2 / 5 (6) Dec 01, 2012

Why do you think finding life on another planet would even be a "test of faith"?

I'm not aware of anything fundamental in any major world religion that would be disturbed by discovering life on another planet.

Individuals or sub-groups are not representative of the whole.

Does that mean I currently believe anything is out there? No.

Would it change my belief in God if anything was discovered? No.
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 02, 2012
This is just another NASA coverup.

No it's the end of the biggest one of all. Curiousity found proof that NASA never landed on the moon! The whole thing was filmed on mars then photoshopped.
1.6 / 5 (7) Dec 02, 2012
Well the Russians knew all about it from the very beginning, so we shared this with them. Probably really is something but maybe not Martian life; rather pieces of a crashed alien craft that had been spotted earlier by an orbiter(s). This was probably Curiosity's primary mission in the first place, AND will be the basis of the future planned 'sample and retrieval' mission. Spot! Find! Get! Simple!! Suppose the Chinese suspect this and are acting up in the world by grabbing the South China Sea, open ocean plainly against the law of the sea, and daring the 'world's great powers' to do anything about it! Heeeeyyyyyy! do anything to us and we will tellllllll! Weee do not give a wooden nickel about your faiths and will revel in your chaos! Just you tryyyyyy to stop us. Our radios are sooooooo readyyy!
3.2 / 5 (5) Dec 02, 2012
I'm not aware of anything fundamental in any major world religion that would be disturbed by discovering life on another planet.
Apart from launching more wars over whose god has the biggest penis.
Individuals or sub-groups are not representative of the whole.
Yes elections are just theater. The whole thing is for show because everyone is such an iconoclast.
Would it change my belief in God if anything was discovered? No.
A simple voltage potential applied to the right area of your brain would fix that
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 02, 2012
... rather pieces of a crashed alien craft that had been spotted earlier by an orbiter(s). This was probably Curiosity's primary mission in the first place ...
Had this been the case, any announcements would have been carefully staged to avoid just this sort of speculation by conspiracy nutjobs.

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