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JPL Clarifies Curiosity's Lack of Historic Discovery So Far

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 29-Nov-2012
Updated: 29-Nov-2012 11:22 PM

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) issued a press release today clarifying that the Mars Curiosity rover has not, in fact, made a historic discovery at this early stage of its expedition.  The clarification follows a week of speculation that a major announcement would be made soon.

The confusion began with a November 20 story on National Public Radio where Curiosity principal investigator John Grotzinger was quoted as dropping a tantalizing hint that recent results from the analysis of Mars samples by Curiosity's SAM instrument would be "one for the history books."   The comment sparked a frenzy of speculation as to what Curiosity might have found.

Stories surfaced on Mashable and Slate yesterday, however, explaining that Grotzinger was referring to the expectation that Curiosity would make historic findings over the course of its 2-year mission, not that something has been discovered already.

The confusion was reborn later in the day when news reports appeared quoting JPL Director Charles Elachi as telling an Italian university audience on Wednesday that "[p]erhaps Curiosity has found simple organic molecules....It's preliminary data that must be checked (on) organic, not biological, molecules."

Today, JPL, which is operated by the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) under contract to NASA, issued a statement saying that  "[r]umors and speculation that there are major new findings from the mission at this early stage are incorrect."  Later it adds that "[a]t this point in the mission, the instruments on the rover have not detected any definitive evidence of Martian organics." 

The fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) is often the venue for announcements of new scientific findings about the Earth and other solar system bodies.  This year's AGU meeting will be held next week in San Francisco and a press conference on Curiosity is scheduled for Monday morning at 9:00 am Pacific Standard Time (12:00 noon Eastern Standard Time).  It will be streamed at http://www.ustream.tv/nasajpl.  At that time, everyone will know what has been discovered, or not.

 


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