Big news from Mars coming soon, maybe

The Curiosity rover comes complete with a mini chemistry lab. It's designed to analyze the composition of Martian soils and Martian air. And, right now, that particular piece of equipment is at the center of a giddy storm of activity. Curiosity has turned up something important — big enough for Curiosity's principal investigator to tell NPR, "This data is gonna be one for the history books."

What is it? NASA's not telling just yet. Right now, researchers are in the process of verifying said exciting data, in order to make sure they aren't deceiving themselves into thinking they've spotted something that isn't really there. That's pretty good policy, given the recent flap around over-hyped studies about Earth-like planets and arsenic-based life.

On the other hand, if you're trying to avoid overhyping something, might I suggest that "We have groundbreaking, world-changing data that we can't tell you about yet," is maybe not the best way to do it.

Stay tuned.

Pictured: A 360-degree view of Mars, taken by Curiosity on October 5th, from the location where it first started collecting samples of rocks and dirt. NASA/JPL



      1. Tripods. Ghosts.Yorps. Bat-webbed booger beings. Buggalo. A giant turbinium reactor. An ordinary teapot. A self-help book about how women are from Earth and men are from Jupiter. A pedestal with a single inscription among the lone and level sands.

        Just please, not more vaguely-bacteria-shaped-but-not-really things.

      2. I’m hoping for stromatolites. Considering that Grotzinger himself has done award-winning work on deducing early atmospheric conditions on earth from fossilized stromatolite concretions… that might be what a lot of people have hoped to find.

        Notice the hitch in his voice when he talks about the possible significance of the data if it pans out. I don’t think the historic terms are an exaggeration.

        I don’t want anyone to risk crying wolf, but it’s going to be a frustrating couple of weeks.

        1. Oh man, that would be awesome if they found stromatolites. Especially if they predate the oldest ones on Earth.

          1. Jumping many steps ahead of what’s reasonable, I’m really hoping for biological remnants with right-handed chirality… just to take single-genesis off the table and force us to assume that the universe is teeming with life.

          2. Why stop there?  I’m hoping for anything from a bottlecap to a bent halo to a collection of coprolites.

            These damned baby steps are killing me.

      3. > And Elvis

        In the Art-Bar in Columbia, SC, there used to be this awesome painting of a space-suited Elvis being helped onboard a ship by the Beatles dressed as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band. 

    1. Mars needs women, and it’s an employees market there… So pack your bags lady, opportunity awaits!

    1. Yeah.  The headline about “Big News from Mars coming soon” was right next to the picture of the Visible Gummi.  I was hoping for some Mars Attacks! goodness.

  1. Perhaps they found the missing methane.  That would be suitably important without meriting the complete media blackout that I’d impose if I were having to confirm the veracity of a Thark fossil…

    1. From what I understand, the results came from the SAM (Sample Analysis Module). It analyzes samples dumped into it by heating them up and checking for the gases released.

      If I had to bet on something that is claimed to be “world changing” I would bet they found amino acids. From what I understand about the rover’s landing point, it was chosen because it resembled a sedimentary basin (correct me if I’m wrong). Finding amino acids in water deposited sediment doesn’t prove there was life in the past, but it comes incredibly close.

          1. It would be significant if they found several amino acids and they all had the same chirality. Non biological amino acids should have random orientations. Biologically produced amino acids would be the same. This would be the strongest evidence that this rover could produce of life on Mars without seeing an actual fossil (or footprints or a ray-gun).

      1. Yes, but the sample is from wind-blown soil, from a wide range of sources (not just the basin Curiosity is in).

        1. Well, that’s true.  My post was only funny for people who remembered the Bandini Mountain commercials.  Fella skis down a hill of Bandini fertilizer while the voice over intones “Bandini Mountain.  Man dares to go where only cows have gone before.  Bandini is the word for fertilizer,” as the skier falls face-down in the manure.

          I would have linked the commercial, if it existed on YouTube.  As it is, few people under the age of 40 will remember that commercial, but I thought I’d give it a shot.  Oh, well.

      1. Oh please, Jesus had like one female follower and a ton of guys around him.  So you simply must mean “. . . made his boyfriend give him piggyback rides”.

        -abs doesn’t disagree with your sentiment mind you

  2. Something is making a nest on top of Curiosity. They found a bunch of red ants in the soil. The rover fell into an underground stream.

  3. Some folks on Reddit were speculating that they have found a compound or compounds that only form in water. This would pretty much prove that liquid water once flowed on Mars.

    1. We pretty much already know that liquid water flowed on the surface of Mars. We were quite sure before, and Curiosity has already brought us to “really damn sure”. Of course, just having water is somewhat interesting, but knowing when, for how long, and whether something was wriggling in it would be interesting revelations.

    2. I think the evidence for that is already overwhelming. For a “world changing” discovery, it has to be something more significant or else the scientists calling it world changing need to be thrown in Hyperbole Prison for a while.

      1. …it has to be something more significant or else the scientists calling it world changing need to be thrown in Hyperbole Prison for a while.

        Isn’t that the place where General Zod & Co. were banished in the beginning of “Superman?”

    1. And reasonable prices?

      No wait that’s rather impossible. Comfy chairs would be nice. And a couple wingback chairs in a corner with some smooth jazz playing.

  4. A thoat skeleton.

    Martian tripod assembly facility. ULLA! ULLA! ULLA!

    Dessicated corpse of Ambrose Bierce.

    Something that will make 99% of the population roll their eyes and vow never to let a NASA news leak get them excited ever again.

  5. Calm your jets, everybody. It’s just a stupid viral ad campaign for that upcoming “Justice League” movie.

    1. Curiosity falls into a crater and lands on a pile of identical rovers.  As its batteries die, its camera picks up the flare of another rover landing…

  6. If they say, “We found evidence of water.” I’m gonna smack them. Hopefully its fossils or amino acids.

  7. I just hope we’re not left wondering, again:

    Where’s the kaboom? There was supposed to be an earth-shattering kaboom!(in terms of newsworthiness)

  8. “We have groundbreaking, world-changing data that we can’t tell you about yet,”

    We have broken ground with Curiosity’s groundbreaking attachment, thus technically changing the world of Mars. We couldn’t tell you about it at the time because we have to abide by the announcement schedule.


    After all the exagerations during the last 15 years or so (Arsenic life, martian microbes twice, etc), I am extremely skeptical. And I wish they would release proper papers before starting the grandiose claims. Is it only me?

    1. Already disproved.  Stray socks are the larval form of twisted wire coat hangers.  For every sock that disappears, a hanger shows up in the back of your closet.

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