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PostPosted: Wed Nov 21, 2012 8:02 pm 
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Is this all bullshit or has someone else heard about this?

This data is gonna be one for the history books. It's looking really good," Grotzinger told NPR in an segment published Nov. 20. Curiosity's SAM instrument contains a vast array of tools that can vaporize soil and rocks to analyze them and measure the abundances of certain light elements such as carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen -- chemicals typically associated with life.

The mystery will be revealed shortly, though. Grotzinger told Wired through e-mail that NASA would hold a press conference about the results during the 2012 American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco from Dec. 3 to 7. Because it's so potentially earth-shaking, Grotzinger said the team remains cautious and is checking and double-checking their results. But while NASA is refusing to discuss the findings with anyone outside the team, especially reporters, other scientists are free to speculate.

"If it's going in the history books, organic material is what I expect," says planetary scientist Peter Smith from the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. Smith is formerly the principal investigator on a previous Mars mission, the Phoenix lander, which touched down at the Martian North Pole in 2008. "It may be just a hint, but even a hint would be exciting."

Smith added that he is not in contact with anyone from the Curiosity team about their results and offered his assessment as an informed outside researcher.

Organic molecules are those that contain carbon and are potential indicators of life. During its mission, Phoenix heated a sample of soil to search for organics but these efforts were stymied by the presence of perchlorates, chemical salts that sit in the Martian soil. Perchlorates react to heat and destroy any complex organic molecules, leaving only carbon dioxide, which is abundant in the Martian atmosphere.

The Viking landers, which explored opposite sides of Mars in the late 1970s, also conducted a search for organic molecules and came up empty. For decades afterward, astronomers considered Mars to be a dead planet, with conditions not very conducive to life. After the results from Phoenix, scientists realized that perchlorates were probably messing with those earlier findings as well, and could account for their negative outcome.

Curiosity's suite of laboratory instruments are able to slowly heat a sample in a way that doesn't trigger the perchlorates. They can also weigh any molecules present, determining how much carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen they are made from. Simple organic compounds wouldn't be completely shocking, said Smith, since these probably come from meteorites originating in the asteroid belt and probably are around on present-day Mars. But they would indicate that the building blocks for life are present on Mars and might only need the addition of water, which Mars had in the past, in order to produce organisms.

"If they found signatures of a very complex organic type, that would be astounding," said Smith, since they would likely be leftovers from complex life forms that once roamed Mars. But the odds of finding such a startling result in a sample of sand scooped from a random dune are "very, very low," Smith said.

Smith cautioned against speculating too much, since rumors have a way of spreading rapidly when it comes to any discussion of potential life on Mars. During his tenure on the Phoenix mission, his team was evaluating the interesting perchlorate results, which they kept secret during analysis. Rumors got out and then became worse and worse when some unsubstantiated report claimed a member of his team meeting was meeting with the White House.


http://nasawatch.com/archives/astrobiology/

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 21, 2012 8:11 pm 
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I read an article yesterday stating that they expected a major announcement after more verification of whatever. Your article is more comprehensive.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 21, 2012 8:20 pm 
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Not to worry. We're all going to a better place on 12/21.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 21, 2012 8:20 pm 
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I hope they found a skull.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 21, 2012 8:22 pm 
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I hope they found a facehugger.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 21, 2012 8:27 pm 
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I'm pretty sure there will be plenty of T&A.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 21, 2012 8:40 pm 
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Feels very much like "hey-please don't cut our budget any further."


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 21, 2012 8:54 pm 
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They found Obama's original birth certificate

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 21, 2012 9:01 pm 
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You know, I try very hard to elevate the discourse around this dump and this is the thanks I get?

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 21, 2012 9:06 pm 
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John Carter's blaster?


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 21, 2012 9:10 pm 
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I've absolutely had it with you people.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 21, 2012 9:13 pm 
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 21, 2012 9:39 pm 
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 21, 2012 10:23 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 12:15 am 
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 12:36 am 
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It's going to be something underwhelming to anyone with a post-Copernican understanding of the cosmos. It's either going to be evidence of cellular life in fossil form (millions/billions of years old), evidence of cellular life in modern form (thousands of years old), or flowing water or some shit.

Kind of a "no shit" discovery to anyone who doesn't still believe earth is the only planet in the universe capable of sustaining life.

Now, if they made a discovery on Phobos, on the other hand...

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 12:50 am 
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Either fossil or more recent evidence of xenobiology would be wig-splitting. Not because we didn't know it had to be out there somewhere, but because if it's that close, it's "got to be" everywhere else too. After all, we knew the moon existed, but actually going there was still a big deal.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 1:02 am 
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What if it's a Mayan calendar?

Or a Mormon couple?


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 1:08 am 
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Fat Cat wrote:
Either fossil or more recent evidence of xenobiology would be wig-splitting. Not because we didn't know it had to be out there somewhere, but because if it's that close, it's "got to be" everywhere else too. After all, we knew the moon existed, but actually going there was still a big deal.


Whatever it is, hopefully it will reinvigorate our interest in exploring space, if only within our solar system.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 1:18 am 
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Brutal Bajan wrote:
Fat Cat wrote:
Either fossil or more recent evidence of xenobiology would be wig-splitting. Not because we didn't know it had to be out there somewhere, but because if it's that close, it's "got to be" everywhere else too. After all, we knew the moon existed, but actually going there was still a big deal.


Whatever it is, hopefully it will reinvigorate our interest in exploring space, if only within our solar system.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 1:36 am 
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 1:46 am 
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 2:47 am 
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 3:32 am 
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tough old man wrote:
I hope they found a skull.


I hope they found a pyramid or ziggurat, made out of skulls.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 3:32 am 
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