Saturday, December 01, 2012

Life On Mars? Announcement Monday

Speculation About "Historic" Mars Announcement

The next news conference about the NASA Mars rover Curiosity will be held at 12 p.m. EST) Monday, Dec. 3, in San Francisco at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

Photo: The "Jake" Rock photographed and studied by the Curiosity rover in September.

Rumors and speculation that there are major new findings from the mission have circulated this week but NASA officials say at this early stage the rumors are incorrect. A spoof story appeared this week showing a photo of plastic Mardi Gras-like beads next to a real piece of plastic lying on the Martian ground. The plastic had fallen from the Curiosity Rover.

The news conference will be an update about first use of the rover's full array of analytical instruments to investigate a drift of sandy soil. One class of substances Curiosity is checking for is organic compounds -- carbon-containing chemicals that can be ingredients for life. At this point in the mission, the instruments on the rover have not detected any definitive evidence of Martian organics.

The Mars Science Laboratory Project and its Curiosity rover are less than four months into a two-year prime mission to investigate whether conditions in Mars' Gale Crater may have been favorable for microbial life. Curiosity is exceeding all expectations for a new mission with all of the instruments and measurement systems performing well. This is spectacular for such a complex system, and one that is operated so far away on Mars by people here on planet Earth. The mission already has found an ancient riverbed on the Red Planet, and there is every expectation for remarkable discoveries still to come.

Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

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