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Mars Phoenix Finding - Rumors

Started by kmichaelm, 08/04/2008 08:50AM
Posted 08/04/2008 08:50AM | Edited 08/04/2008 01:35PM Opening Post
From the The Planetary Society Weblog By Emily Lakdawalla at

http://www.planetary.org/blog/article/00001584/

Apparently there's something more exciting yet to be announced by Phoenix
Aug. 3, 2008 | 15:10 PDT | 22:10 UTC

The Internet is buzzing with rumors of some discovery made -- but not yet announced -- by the MECA team on Phoenix. MECA is the instrument that includes the Wet Chemistry Laboratory, the Optical Microscope, and the Atomic Force Microscope. It and TEGA form the two main chemical analysis tools on Phoenix, the instruments that allow it to study what the north polar soils tell us about present and past Mars climate and chemistry.

I don't have any more information on these rumors than is available elsewhere on the Internet. To summarize briefly: there is apparently some result from the Wet Chemistry Laboratory that is very interesting, having to do with the "past habitability" of Mars. This instrument can't discover life on Mars, so it's not that; it would have to do with the potential for life to exist, something revealing that there is some Earthlike chemistry happening now or in the past that has not before been seen on Mars. According to Craig Couvalt of Aviation week, it was interesting enough to brief the President's Science Advisor; however, the Phoenix mission's Twitter feed denies this.

I don't have my own source for news on this; all I have to go on is Craig Couvalt's article, in which he seems he's in touch with some very leaky source indeed -- and the Phoenix Twitter feed.

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White House Briefed On Potential For Mars Life

http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewnews.html?id=1297

Craig Covault Friday, August 1, 2008

Copyright 2008 Aviation Week & Space Technology

The White House has been alerted by NASA about plans to make an announcement soon on major new Phoenix lander discoveries concerning the "potential for life" on Mars, scientists tell Aviation Week & Space Technology.

Sources say the new data do not indicate the discovery of existing or past life on Mars. Rather the data relate to habitability--the "potential" for Mars to support life--at the Phoenix arctic landing site, sources say.

The data are much more complex than results related NASA's July 31 announcement that Phoenix has confirmed the presence of water ice at the site.

International news media trumpeted the water ice confirmation, which was not a surprise to any of the Phoenix researchers. "They have discovered water on Mars for the third or fourth time," one senior Mars scientists joked about the hubbub around the water ice announcement.

The other data not discussed openly yet are far more "provocative," Phoenix officials say.

More at http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewnews.html?id=1297

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http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/08/rumors-abound-a.html

Rumors Abound About 'Potential for Life' on Mars
By Alexis Madrigal EmailAugust 03, 2008 | 12:12:11

Soil_scoop Rumors are flying this weekend that Mars Phoenix has made a major discovery relating to the potential for life on Mars.

Wired.com reached Sam Kounaves, the mission's wet chemistry lab lead, by cell phone this morning. He quickly directed us to speak with NASA's PR representatives, but not before he said, simply, "Rumors are rumors."

They stem from an article in Aviation Week and subsequent pickup on Slashdot and elsewhere indicating that the White House had been briefed on the potential for life on the planet.

"The White House has been alerted by NASA about plans to make an announcement soon on major new Phoenix lander discoveries concerning the "potential for life" on Mars," wrote Craig Covault, citing anonymous sources on the Phoenix Lander's wet chemistry lab team.

Covault's article showed some restraint, though, and made sure to note that "sources say the new data do not indicate the discovery of existing or past life on Mars."

The subtleties, however, were quickly lost in the blogosphere, where excitement began to build that simple extraterrestrial life, or something suggesting its presence, had been found on Mars.

Late last night, @MarsPhoenix (aka Veronica McGregor, a NASA employee) responded to the story, via the mission's Twitter account.

"Heard about the recent news reports implying I may have found Martian life. Those reports are incorrect," she Tweeted. "Reports claiming there was a White House briefing are also untrue and incorrect."

More at http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/08/rumors-abound-a.html

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