NASA says don't believe the rumors, no signs of life on Mars yet
You know how NASA recently got all of our hopes up when one of its scientists told NPR "This data is gonna be one for the history books" in reference to data coming back from Curiosity's organic matter detector? Well, it turns out that you probably won't be finding this data in your public school's US history books anytime soon.
So what was all the hype about? NASA says that the rumors and speculation floating around on the net are incorrect, and that the exciting data from Curiosity is actually in regards to the rover's first use of its "full array of analytical instruments to investigate a drift of sandy soil."
Curiosity contains a suite of instruments called Sample Analysis at Mars, or SAM. SAM is basically a traveling chemistry kit that includes three instruments: a mass spectrometer, a gas chromatograph, and a tunable laser spectrometer. Together, these tools can help Curiosity identify organic (carbon-based) compounds, should there be any on Mars. When word got out that NASA wasn't ready to say what the data coming back from SAM was, the bloggosphere exploded with speculation.
NASA says that at this point in time, SAM has not detected any definitive evidence of organic material on Mars. However, Curiosity is still early on in its mission and has only been on the red planet for a few months; Curiosity will spend two years roaming Gale Crater to see if the surface of Mars ever had environmental conditions that might favor microbial life.
So why don't you just....
Turn that frown upside down: We're fewer than four months into a multi-year mission. We've only just begun!— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) November 29, 2012
NASA will give more information about the rover's first use of SAMat the American Geophysical Union's Fall Meeting in San Francisco, which takes place on December 3rd at 9am. Stay tuned for more updates.