Is There Life on Mars? Curiosity’s Secret Discovery Might Say So


NASA’s Curiosity rover has found something important and possibly historic on its trek across the red planet. But the scientists involved are staying silent until they can confirm their claims.

Sourcing from geologist John Grotzinger of Caltech, Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) is believed to have picked up a sample with massive consequences. “This data is gonna be one for the history books. It’s looking really good,” Grotzinger told NPR on November 20.

SAM is a mini-lab that is capable of vaporizing parts of soil and rocks to analyze them and determine the quantities of elements like carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen within. These elements have a fantastic association: they are essential for life.

NASA will hold a press conference during the 2012 American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, CA in early December, but until that time others are free to guess what news they might have to share.

If the discovery really is historic, it makes sense that NASA spends a great amount of time checking and double-checking their findings to ensure they are accurate and the time needed to do so would push back any announcement to December. But the most exciting piece comes from the fact that SAM made the discovery.

If SAM were to make any significant findings, they’d likely be tied to the discovery of organic material within soil and rock samples.

In past Martian endeavors, the Phoenix endeavor heated some soil looking for organic materials but the equipment would heat the sample too quickly and release perchlorates that would destroy the organic molecules and leave excess carbon dioxide. Before that, in the 1970s, the Viking landers also made attempts to look for organic molecules but came up with nothing.

The designers of Curiosity assumed that the perchlorates were the cause of the negative results and were skewing the results. SAM was designed to heat the samples slowly and prevent the release of perchlorates.

The presence of simple organic material wouldn’t be too incredible as it’s possible organic material came from meteorites that hit the planet. But it would be enough to suggest life on Mars. With the presence of water, all the ingredients are there.

A more shocking discovery would be complex organic material. Such a finding would be the remains of some life that existed on the planet previously, but finding complex organic material in a soil sample would be highly unlikely.

It’s fairly easy to speculate when NASA claims to have a big discovery and then stays quiet about it. The best we can do now is make moderate claims, and stay patient. It could be anything.


Attribution

NPR


Commentary Ticker

  • Data Knows Best: Greatest TV Shows Get Ranked and Graphed
    March 26, 2014 | 10:50 am

    Every argument is better with charts and graphs. Sometimes a little linear regression can provide more insight than a long-winded report. GraphTV tests that theory by plotting the ratings of popular television shows. It all started with Breaking Bad. Data guru Kevin Wu was watching its fifth and final season and couldn’t help but think [...]

  • A Coin-Inspired National Spirit, Hopefully
    March 20, 2014 | 11:56 am

    The Lakota Nation, a group of seven Native American bands in North and South Dakota, voted to make a Bitcoin-like crypto-currency called MazaCoin their official currency, according to Forbes. Programmer and Lakota activist Payu Harris believes that the coin will help the Lakota people gain sovereignty over their land. “To be a truly independent state [...]

  • Smartguns and the Promise of Progress
    March 3, 2014 | 9:50 am

    With the recent Sandy Hook elementary school shooting (and the 44 school shootings since) still relatively fresh in our collective minds, and with Congress empirically unable to do anything to stop gun violence at all, it seems slowing, if not stopping, the gun violence epidemic has fallen on a strange coalition of gun manufacturers, Silicon [...]

  • Watch: Movies Without Imaginary Friends
    January 28, 2014 | 12:56 pm

    If you seriously haven’t watched Fight Club yet (or read the book by Chuck Palahniuk) stop and go do that right now. You’re fifteen years late to the craziest party. Okay, you’ve watched it now? Onwards. A visual effects specialist in New York accelerated himself to Internet fame in mid-January when he edited Tyler Durden [...]

  • The Racism of “Racism”: The Complicated Origins of the Term
    January 17, 2014 | 12:27 pm

    “Racism,” like race, was invented. The term “racism” has done a lot of heavy lifting for anti-racism advocates, helping to frame anyone discriminating by race as misguided. Just as with classism or sexism, not only does the word racism give name to an evil, it helps to create the thing as evil in the first [...]

  • RSSArchive for Commentary Ticker »

Join our mailing list!



Trending on The Airspace