​Mars Rover Findings ‘Not-So’ History Book Changing

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December 5, 2012
Also: Curiosity Rover, Mars, Mars Rover Findings, NASA, Paul Mahaffy

Last month, NASA scientists said the latest Mars rover findings would have some news that would change the “history books” after they analyzed some soil samples.

Well, those few weeks came Monday, and the Mars rover findings were not so history book changing. NASA announced that the rover did find signs of organic compounds in some soil samples collected and analyzed in its computerized on board lab.

However they say that the main building block for life, carbon, may have been a cast off from Earth.

“After completing an in-depth analysis of dust and sand from a Martian dune at a site called Rocknest, Curiosity’s instruments have detected water, sulfur and chlorine compounds,” said Paul Mahaffy, a member of the Mars Science Laboratory team based at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

The scientists say that in some of the samples, there were some mixtures of carbon found mixed with chlorine compounds, but they are not sure what to make of the results.

“The measured chlorine levels were far too high to have originated from Earth, but the same can’t be said of the carbon in the compounds,” said John Grotzinger, lead scientist for the Mars Science Laboratory mission, who was also the one who claimed weeks ago that the discovery “would be one for the history books.”

Now Grotzinger says, “What I’ve learned from this is you have to be careful what you say, and even more careful about how you say it.”

Scientists became excited when the onboard lab called SAM had detected a hint of methane from the Mars atmosphere. Methane is a compound given off by living things as they die and decay. But Mahaffy explained to reporters that it was a false reading, and the methane may have been a sample that had come off the rover itself when the methane attached itself to it before it left Earth.

“SAM has no definitive detection to report of organic compounds with this first set of experiments,” Mahaffy said.

“Curiosity’s middle name is patience, and we all have to have a healthy dose of that,” he added.