Tags: mars | discovery | life | planet

NASA: Recent Mars Discovery 'One for the History Books'

Wednesday, 21 Nov 2012 10:04 AM

By Bill Hoffmann

An astounding discovery described as “one for the history books’’ has been made on Mars, NASA has revealed.

The find has something to do with a soil sample recently extracted from the Red Planet’s surface by the Mars rover Curiosity.

But the federal space agency says it’s waiting a few more weeks before revealing the latest development in the exploration of the fourth planet from the sun.

The discovery was made by Curiosity’s “sample analysis’’ instrument, which identifies the components of soil in a chemistry lab onboard the space craft.

There is speculation the find could have something to do with water, which would indicate the possibility that life once existed or does exist on Mars.
There’s a reason NASA may be gun shy about coming out with an announcement about the discovery too soon.

The main reason is caution. Curiosity chief scientist John Grotzinger and his team were almost stung once before, according to National Public Radio.

When an air sample was analyzed it appeared there was methane in it, which could indicate life.

But then the question arose of whether the sample was Martian air or air brought along from the rover’s Launchpad at Cape Canaveral.

However, Grotzinger is excited — and sounding confident — about the latest find.

"This data is gonna be one for the history books," Grotzinger told NPR.
“It’s looking really good.’’

For the past few weeks, Curiosity has concentrated on collecting soil samples from a sandy ridge in a area called "Rocknest."

It uses a scooper attached to a robotic arm which digs for soil, shakes it into a fine powder, and then pours it into the sample analysis instrument.



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