Scientists Speculate on Top-Secret Mars Rover Discovery

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posted on Nov, 26 2012 @ 04:32 PM
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I'm aware of the thread on the upcoming announcement of an important finding on Mars. I came across this article on space.com, that looks at what some scientists are discussing and thought I would share.


Whatever history-making news there is to report, Curiosity scientists are expected to cough up the goods at this year's American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in San Francisco, to be held from Dec. 3 to Dec. 7.

On the AGU agenda is a discussion of Curiosity's search for organic molecules on Mars with its Gas Chromatograph-Mass Spectrometer — a key instrument to help explore the surface and subsurface of Mars, seeking traces of prebiotic or biological activity.

As expected, readers in the blogosphere have already chimed in with what they believe Curiosity has found; their guesses so far have included a fossil, a black monolith, Tang and Jimmy Hoffa.


The good news is we can expect to know what, exactly, is so exciting between Dec 3, and Dec 7. Personally I hope it's the third. I'm sure I'm not alone in wondering if this is finally it, proof that life can/did/does exist outside of Earth. Here's some commentary from the science community...


Most scientists contacted by SPACE.com believe that Curiosity's SAM has detected organic chemical compounds. Still, some experts caution that the rover's finding may be overhyped.


Well they're scientists, they're not supposed to get hyped until they've seen conclusive data.


"This is going to be a disappointment," said Chris McKay, a NASA space scientist at Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. "The press description of the SAM results as 'earthshaking' is, in my view, an unfortunate exaggeration. We have not (yet) found anything in SAM that was not already known from previous missions: Phoenix and Viking."


Well, how does he know what they've found, I believe no one outside the SAM team knows anything yet. A CTer might find it interesting that he mentions Viking and what we already know from that. (I'm not sure it was conclusive one way or the other what Viking found on Mars.)


But James Garvin, chief scientistat NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and a member of Curiosity's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) science team, had a different take.

"What John Grotzinger was saying as our very capable project scientist on MSL is exactly the case," Garvin said. "The analytical payload on MSL —in particular, SAM as a suite —has been making unprecedented measurements of solid material samples with incredible implications about Mars, but which require, as in all science, demonstration of reproducibility and adequacy of calibration/validation."

Garvin said the SAM team, plus the wider MSL science team (including Grotzinger), "are working industriously to have consistent results for the world to revel in as soon as possible."

"It is more akin to waiting for test results from one's doctor … we want to be sure they are valid and properly interpreted and explained," Garvin added.

Unlike imaging and related experiments, highly sensitive results from SAM's instruments, which include mass spectrometers, tunable diode laser spectrometers and gas chromatographs —require very great care in calibration, validation and interpretation, Garvin emphasized.

"MSL with its Curiosity rover really is analogous to the Hubble Space Telescope in the impact it can and will have —we just have to be patient," Garvin said.

Similar to the Hubble Space Telescope, Garvin added, "We have to be patient to use our tools to look at the 'right stuff.' Stay tuned … Mars will not disappoint and nor will MSL."



Also awaiting the word from the Curiosity science team is Michael Mumma, a planetary scientist also at NASA Goddard, where he is founding director of the Goddard Center for Astrobiology.

"It clearly relates to the first soil sample analyzed by SAM. I suspect the delay means that a second sample is being analyzed to confirm findings from the first," Mumma said.

In Mumma's view, "blockbuster findings" could include the discovery of a major release of methane from pyrolyzed soil, with measurements of certain intriguing chemical variations called isotopologues. A finding of complex hydrocarbons (molecules containing hydrogen and carbon) or of a type of chemical compound called polymers, would also be a major discovery.


This may be the dreaded "It's exciting to scientists but not to the general public" we're all so familiar with.


"I think the minimum finding that could get Grotzinger to describe it as 'historic' is complex organic compounds," said Gilbert Levin, an adjunct professor at Arizona State University in Tempe.

Levin was a life-detection experimenter on NASA's Viking mission to Mars in 1976. Levin and co-experimenter Patricia Ann Straat led the Viking Labeled Release (LR) investigation, which returned data from Mars indicating the presence of microbial life, the team asserts.

"I have already pointed out that the Viking PR [The Viking biology package also consisted of the Pyrolytic Release experiment (PR)] showed that simple organics are continually being formed on Mars, so they would be no big deal for Curiosity," Levin told SPACE.com. "I doubt SAM could have detected proof of living microorganisms. But, slowly, ineluctably, NASA is being dragged into the mire of life on Mars, and will ultimately, maybe soon, have to reverse its opinion on the results of the Viking LR."


This I like very much and brings up an important question. If (huge if) there does happen to be microbial life on Mars, does the Viking crew get credited with the discovery or does the Curiosity crew get it... shared?

I can't wait to know.



edit on 26-11-2012 by Kali74 because: (no reason given)




posted on Nov, 26 2012 @ 04:34 PM
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A new dawn is coming

I think if they prove life (any type) lives on another planet it will be the biggest thing ever

Who knows it may change us all for the better.
S&F Sir cheers



posted on Nov, 26 2012 @ 04:40 PM
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reply to post by Kali74
 



Well they're scientists, they're not supposed to get hyped until they've seen conclusive data.


Something about space exploration and science on a distant planet could get any person, including scientists, excited or "hyped up", I know i certainly am.



his I like very much and brings up an important question. If (huge if) there does happen to be microbial life on Mars, does the Viking crew get credited with the discovery or does the Curiosity crew get it... shared?


My guess would be the curiosity team would get the credit, perhaps a shared acknowledgement. I think credit is due when irrefutable evidence is discovered.

To conclude, i certainly hope the announcement is of substantial nature and we are not left holding our breaths.



posted on Nov, 26 2012 @ 04:40 PM
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reply to post by boymonkey74
 


It's hard to imagine getting emotional about microbial life but I totally am. Even if it's not existing currently, if they have some strong evidence, enough to say these tiny things lived on Mars millions of years ago, I will be so emotional that I will cry. It's huge, if that's what this is. If it's only 'scientifically exciting' then meh, back to waiting... lol.



posted on Nov, 26 2012 @ 04:42 PM
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reply to post by MDDoxs
 





To conclude, i certainly hope the announcement is of substantial nature and we are not left holding our breaths.


Me too, it's hard to wait even another minute.



posted on Nov, 26 2012 @ 04:42 PM
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reply to post by Kali74
 


I get all giddy too

Who knows those little guys may be beneficial to humanity in ways we have no idea about.
Lets bring some home
(as long as they do not turn us into the living dead) lol



posted on Nov, 26 2012 @ 05:24 PM
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reply to post by Kali74
 


This sounds like they 'knew' what they would gonna find, before the mission even started.


WASHINGTON—Stick a shovel in the ground and scoop. That's about how deep scientists need to go in order to find evidence for ancient life on Mars, if there is any to be found, a new study suggests. That's within reach of Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory rover expected to land on the Red Planet next month.

The new findings, which suggest optimal depths and locations to probe for organic molecules like those that compose living organisms as we know them, could help the newest Mars rover scout for evidence of life beneath the surface and within rocks. The results suggest that, should Mars harbor simple organic molecules, NASA’s prospects for discovering them during Curiosity’s explorations are better than previously thought, said Alexander Pavlov of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, lead author of the study.

However, within 5 to 10 centimeters (2 to 4 inches) beneath the surface, the amount of radiation reduces tenfold, to 50 million grays. Although that’s still extreme, the team reports that simple organic molecules, such as a single formaldehyde molecule, could exist at this depth – and in some places, specifically young craters, the complex building blocks of life could remain as well.

read full article


As for 'sharing' any future findings with the Viking mission. At least the name is still cooler.


“Right now the challenge is that past Martian landers haven’t seen any organic material whatsoever,” Pavlov said. “We know that organic molecules have to be there but we can’t find any of them in the soil.”


Interesting how the narrative has changed over time. Now organic molecules have to be there.

Remember this?


Prof. Sun Kwok and Dr. Yong Zhang of the University of Hong Kong show that an organic substance commonly found throughout the Universe contains a mixture of aromatic (ring-like) and aliphatic (chain-like) components. The compounds are so complex that their chemical structures resemble those of coal and petroleum. Since coal and oil are remnants of ancient life, this type of organic matter was thought to arise only from living organisms. The team's discovery suggests that complex organic compounds can be synthesized in space even when no life forms are present.

Not only are stars producing this complex organic matter, they are also ejecting it into the general interstellar space, the region between stars. The work supports an earlier idea proposed by Kwok that old stars are molecular factories capable of manufacturing organic compounds. "Our work has shown that stars have no problem making complex organic compounds under near-vacuum conditions," says Kwok. "Theoretically, this is impossible, but observationally we can see it happening."

Read more at: phys.org...



edit on 26-11-2012 by talklikeapirat because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 26 2012 @ 06:27 PM
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Originally posted by talklikeapirat
reply to post by Kali74
 


This sounds like they 'knew' what they would gonna find, before the mission even started....


Well, they certainly hoped that they possibly could find that Mars was once a habitable planet. If they didn't think it was possible, they would not have bothered sending this particular rover (with this particular suite of instruments) in the first place.

People can speculate all they want about NASA motives for sending this rover, but it seems to me that if they did NOT know if Mars was ever habitable, this rover is a logical scientific instrument to send there to find out.




Originally posted by talklikeapirat


“Right now the challenge is that past Martian landers haven’t seen any organic material whatsoever,” Pavlov said. “We know that organic molecules have to be there but we can’t find any of them in the soil.”


Interesting how the narrative has changed over time. Now organic molecules have to be there.

Considering what we have recently learned about organic molecules prior rovers have found in the 8 years they have been there, it seems more likely now that Mars would have some organic compounds. Whether or not they are "light" organics (the kind more preferred by life processes) is a different question.

I'm not so sure why you sound as if you doubt that science learns things as it goes along -- building upon past discoveries to add to those past ones, and make new discoveries. It's what science has always done.

Yes -- at one time science did not know if there were organic compounds elsewhere in the solar system. However, new discoveries have led them to the realization that there are. Why do you find that suspicious? I mean, before the 20th century, nobody knew that other galaxies like the Milky Way existed, but new discoveries told them otherwise. Discoveries happen.

edit on 11/26/2012 by Soylent Green Is People because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 26 2012 @ 06:39 PM
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If it does turn out to be some form of life, microbial or otherwise every nation on earth with the technical capability to build a ship or robotic probe will do so.

Mars here we come!!!



posted on Nov, 26 2012 @ 06:42 PM
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" some experts caution that the rover's finding may be overhyped. "


this is my guess,


every time they announce some great finding, it has turned out to be a dud...sure great discovery but not as ground shaking and over advertised as they build them up to be.



posted on Nov, 26 2012 @ 06:46 PM
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reply to post by Kali74
 


S&F

Great thread Kali!

I also wait for the news that for once and for all, will change how we reason with the Red Planet, Earth and ourselves.

Proof of Life?

With it a new way to think, to understand, and to view what we as humans really represent to the Cosmos.



posted on Nov, 26 2012 @ 06:49 PM
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Originally posted by severdsoul
" some experts caution that the rover's finding may be overhyped. "


this is my guess,


every time they announce some great finding, it has turned out to be a dud...sure great discovery but not as ground shaking and over advertised as they build them up to be.


It's usually the media (or the people on ATS) that creates the hype.

I remember last year NASA announced one of their semi-regular news conferences they occasionally hold to announce new findings, and it was announced with very little detail. Some people on ATS began threads wildy speculating what it could be -- Nibiru, Alien Disclosure, SETI finding a signal, Asteroid Armageddon. However, it was about the planet with two suns. Those people on ATS were quite disappointed that it wasn't Nibiru, Disclosure, or SETI, and some were even blaming NASA for the hype, when actually NASA hyped nothing.

In this case, though, it was NASA's own John Grotzinger who may have hyped it a bit by saying that this will be "One for the history books". The only problem is that what a planetary scientist considers history-making may seem mundane to the common person.

edit on 11/26/2012 by Soylent Green Is People because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 26 2012 @ 07:00 PM
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They're going to tell us what they somewhat told us with the 1977 Viking missions "search for life" experiments. That there are inconclusive indications of life in that soil.

They decided that acknowledgement was a bit too premature in 1977 and decided that they needed to create a slow, logical, stepping-stone pathway to that announcement. And we have seen it play out exactly from that time on until today.

What they also discovered with the Viking Orbiters at the same time was that the the little satellite, Phobos, in a most impossible position for a moon around Mars for half a dozen solid reason, was not naturally placed there. NASA released the Orbiter images of the bodies mysterious grooves before they realized that they had made a colossal mistake. The grooves are clear evidence of of the little body having been moved into that position by intelligent control.

Phobos has about the fewest decent images available of any of our system's moons, and even the decent, early Viking images of the mysterious grooves are usually replaced with more mundane later versions that show none of the fields and placement of the grooves. You usually have to find the old images in oldd books to see them.





edit on 26-11-2012 by Aliensun because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 26 2012 @ 07:28 PM
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reply to post by Soylent Green Is People
 


Not suspicious at all, i just found it interesting, genuinely. I was referring to something completely else.

Warning, link contains 'downer'

I'm curious(!) too what the announcement will be.



posted on Nov, 26 2012 @ 08:07 PM
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reply to post by Soylent Green Is People
 


this is true, ats has a tendancy to blow things
way out of shape when it comes to things like
this.

i hope it is some big huge news, would be great.

Although i have found all the releases interesting,



posted on Nov, 27 2012 @ 06:53 PM
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reply to post by sonnny1
 


Thanks Sonny. It would be nice if it was something that gave us humans here on Earth something to think about besides our hatred for one another.



posted on Nov, 27 2012 @ 06:59 PM
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My vote is on Jimmy Hoffa.
That would explain why no one can find him.



posted on Nov, 30 2012 @ 10:05 AM
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Originally posted by Kali74
reply to post by boymonkey74
 


It's hard to imagine getting emotional about microbial life but I totally am. Even if it's not existing currently, if they have some strong evidence, enough to say these tiny things lived on Mars millions of years ago, I will be so emotional that I will cry. It's huge, if that's what this is. If it's only 'scientifically exciting' then meh, back to waiting... lol.


you wait until the greys arrive



posted on Nov, 30 2012 @ 10:09 AM
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I'm sure whatever NASA releases will seem important to those who think it is important. I have to return to an important thread I am monitoring, the one with the Pizzas.



posted on Nov, 30 2012 @ 10:18 AM
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I'm hoping that the findings are a least an indication of a strong possibility of life on Mars whether ancient or current.
NASA's funding is closely scrutinized and my concern is, with Curiosity's astronomical cost, that both politicians and the taxpayers will decide such missions are not worthwhile without major discoveries.
What NASA needs here, or at sometime during this mission, is an "Oh my God!" finding.
I think fossil evidence would do it, but even finding organic evidence such as a couple of amino acids may suffice.
Ideally, a significant finding could boltster the public and political will to send a manned mission.
...right now that's a dreamlike scenario.





 
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