Published on December 2nd, 20120
NASA has made on Mars a “shocking discovery that will enter the history books”
NASA scientists who are working on the Mars Science Laboratory are faced with a problem: they made a great discovery on Mars, but can not reveal yet because they want to ensure that the results are not due to any fault of instruments.
John Grotzinger, MSL chief, announced that SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars), an instrument fitted to the rover Curiosity, made a discovery “shocking”.
“We get data from SAM even now as we speak, and the data are very exciting,” said Grotzinger. SAM is a miniature chemistry lab used by NASA specialists to analyze Martian soil and atmosphere.
Recently, NASA experts examined with this instrument a sample of Martian soil and the results were disturbing. “These data will enter the history books. It is something extraordinary”, says John Grotzinger.
Why will not experts NASA to announce discovery is extraordinary? Researchers want to be cautious and ensure that the results are not due to any fault of his instrument with a contamination on Earth.
NASA experts have had a false alarm in this expedition to Mars, when SAM has detected traces of methane in an air sample from Mars. The discovery was an important one because methane on Earth may come from living organisms. The folks at NASA have announced the discovery prior to verify the results, because it was possible that air samples have been contaminated air when brought Martian rover took off from Earth. Once again measured the Martian air, traces of methane are gone.
Grotzinger says his team will be ready to announce this important discovery within weeks, the specialists will be checked and rechecked extraordinary results. Most likely, the announcement will be made at the annual event “American Geophysical Union”, which will be held from 3 to 7 December in San Francisco.
Even if NASA experts will not reveal what it is yet, other specialists began to speculate on the discovery. The first clue is offered by the tool: SAM is designed to investigate the chemical and isotopic composition of Martian soil and atmosphere, looking primarily organic molecules. These molecules play an important role in the search for extraterrestrial life: life forms can not exist without organic molecules.
“If indeed a discovery that will enter the history books, I expect it to be organic material,” said Peter Smith, a scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona. Smith led another team of researchers from NASA, the Phoenix Lander mission has managed the Martian North Pole in 2008.
Discovery of simple organic compounds not really shocking, says Smith, because they probably arrived on Mars with the help of meteorites originating in the asteroid belt. Even so, such a finding would suggest that the essential elements of life exists on Mars, requiring only water (which previously existed on Mars) to produce bodies.
“If they found” signature “of a complex organism, it would be really amazing,” says Smith, as this would suggest that in the past Mars would be hosted complex forms of life. “But chances Martian rover have discovered something random digging a dune are very, very low,” concluded Smith.Discovery-Zone