Posted By K. Michael Malolepszy
NASA to Announce 'Major' Discovery by the Opportunity
Mars Rover at 2 p.m. ET
By Robert Roy Britt
Senior Science Writer, SPACE.com
Update: First posted March 22
NASA (news - web sites) will announce a "major
scientific finding" from its Mars rover mission today
at 2 p.m. ET.
The announcement will be made at NASA Headquarters in
Washington, D.C. and carried live on NASA TV. An
article about the discovery will be posted to the
SPACE.com home page, also at 2 p.m. ET.
The last time NASA promised something like this
involving Mars, the result was the revelation that the
Opportunity rover's landing site had once been soaked
with water, providing the first evidence gleaned from
the surface for past liquid water on Mars.
A spokesperson for NASA told SPACE.com that the big
announcement would again involve a discovery by the
Opportunity rover and not its twin, Spirit.
The agency did not provide detail regarding the
science involved, and the spokesperson would not
Rover scientists have said they were eagerly pursuing
whether the water that once existed at the rover
landing site was groundwater or might have been a lake
or ocean. In fact, as of late last week they did not
agree on what the most recent evidence revealed.
Experts have said they might learn the answer to that
question with further investigation, but that they
were not certain the answer would become clear.
One of the scientists that will help present the
findings is Dave Rubin, a sedimentologist with the
U.S. Geological Survey (news - web sites).
The rock outcropping studied in the shallow depression
at the landing site was formed long ago as layers of
sediment, scientists have said previously. But they've
not yet been able to say how long ago, or for how long
water was present.
The persistent presence of water is thought to be a
prerequisite for life, though the fact that there was
water does not mean there was biology. Biologists say
life could work its magic either above or below the
ground. But clearly the idea of a Martain lake would
capture more public fancy.
All signs point to something important in the
announcement, as NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe will
make opening remarks. He is typically not involved in
science announcements and did not participate in the
previous blockbuster presentation of Opportunity's
Other speakers include Cornell University professor
Steve Squyres, the principal investigator for the
overall rover mission, and John Grotzinger,
co-investigator for rover team from the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology (news - web sites). Rounding
out the presentation will be Jim Garvin, NASA lead
scientist for Mars and the Moon, and Ed Weiler, NASA's
associate administrator in the Office of Space