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Mars Rover Finds Complex Chemicals But No Organic Compounds

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the plastic-not-included dept.

Mars 137

techtech writes in with the results from the first soil samples tested by the Curiosity rover. "Although NASA's Curiosity rover hasn't yet confirmed the detection of organic compounds on Mars, it's already seeing that the Red Planet's soil contains complex chemicals — including signs of an intriguing compound called perchlorate. The first soil sample analysis from Curiosity's Sample Analysis at Mars lab, or SAM, was the leadoff topic today at the American Geophysical Union's fall meeting in San Francisco. The findings were eagerly awaited because of rumors that the Curiosity team was on the verge of announcing major findings — and although NASA tamped down expectations, the scientists said they were overjoyed with the first round of analysis."

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NASA have nearly finished testing the new camera (5, Funny)

Max_W (812974) | about a year and a half ago | (#42171587)

on Curiosity and are just about ready to go... http://imgur.com/VWcAU [imgur.com]

:o)

Re:NASA have nearly finished testing the new camer (4, Funny)

jamstar7 (694492) | about a year and a half ago | (#42171913)

on Curiosity and are just about ready to go... http://imgur.com/VWcAU [imgur.com] :o)

That doesn't look like Jimmy Hoffa to me...

Re:NASA have nearly finished testing the new camer (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42171955)

I only got a 3 on the AP Chemistry test many years ago, but even I know that perchlorate [wikipedia.org] is not "an intriguing compound", but an ion that forms a variety of salts.

Re:NASA have nearly finished testing the new camer (5, Informative)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172141)

Perchlorate is intriguing for a number of reasons that are tangental to the compound's intrinsic character.

First, it is a potentially biologically useful compound as an oxygen source for single cellular respiration in autochemotrophs.

Second, if concentrations are high enough, the salt lowers the melting point of water sufficiently that martian soil could be "moist" at sufficient depths.

Also, the compound usually only forms in nature from UV irridation of aqueous saline solutions. A high abundance of the mineral is very suggestive of a very different mars from what we see now.

Previous rovers have detected gypsum, and perchlorates at other locations. Additional samplings of perchlorates increases the probability that the mineral is very prevelent in the crust, which greatly increases the chances of finding microbiotic life.

The fact that perchlorate salts are about as "interesting" as O2, salt, silicon dioxide, and other inorganic substances here on earth does not mean that they are uninteresting in an environment that is radically different from our own.

Re:NASA have nearly finished testing the new camer (2)

Muad'Dave (255648) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172497)

I thought the discovery of perchlorates dashed their hopes of finding microbial life - something about it being a wicked oxidizer?

Re:NASA have nearly finished testing the new camer (5, Interesting)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172589)

It is a wicked oxydizer, and it does kill most terrestrial microbes almost instantly. (Its basically bleach.)

However, the degree of lethality is deprendent on concentration of the perchlorate salt (my understanding was that it was under 1% of the sample, suggesting it was a low yeild, but omnipresent mineral), as a small qualtity would be tolerable to extremophiles, which is what you would expect in the extreme conditions on mars.

Life on mars appears more and more to fall into a very narrow band of habitablility, like the photosynthetic soil microbes of antarctica, assuming it exists at all.

Missions like this one give us a better understanding of martian environmental conditions, and allow us to make better guesses about what areas of mars might potentially harbor life.

Re:NASA have nearly finished testing the new camer (2, Informative)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172669)

Oxygen is, wait for it, a wicked oxidizer. Current life forms have evolved multiple processes to mitigate damage caused by having such a reactive chemical in the atmosphere.

But it's an energy source. Gotta have those electrons.

Re:NASA have nearly finished testing the new camer (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42172733)

Well it sure prevents entire classes of organisms to develop there, but life might be based on different reactions and elements. As long as it grows, multiplies, and adapts itself to a changing environment it can be classified as life (according to genesis chapter 9, I mean :D)

Re:NASA have nearly finished testing the new camer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42172609)

Perchlorate is NOT a compound, you moron. How could this ever be modded up!?

Re:NASA have nearly finished testing the new camer (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172719)

chemistry fail AC. [about.com]

Try again after you learn the differences between compounds, molecular elemental quantities, mixtures, solutions, and coloids.

The perchlorate ion is a covalently bound molecule of oxygen, chlorine, and hydrogen. It is therefor a compound. It forms ionic associations with metals, and decomposes organic compounds via oxidation reactions.

*raspberry*

Re:NASA have nearly finished testing the new camer (0)

FuegoFuerte (247200) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172767)

Actually, Perchlorate isn't a compound, and it's certainly not a mineral. Perchlorates are a family of salts, and you need a word in front of "Perchlorate" for it to be useful. Something like Ammonium Percholorate or Sodium Perchlorate, etc. So, I want to know, what kind of perchlorates did they find?

Re:NASA have nearly finished testing the new camer (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172857)

Entry: "chemical compound" [wikipedia.org]

Entry: "chemical compound" [sciencedaily.com]

Entry:"chemical compound" [britannica.com]

What definition of "chemical compound" are you using exactly, that perchlorate ion would not be a chemical compound?

As for the question: calcium perchlorate.

Re:NASA have nearly finished testing the new camer (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172941)

Oh, as for it not being a mineral [google.com] , you fail again. It is not produced by an organic process, does not contain carbon, and forms natural crystalline associations in soils. Perchlorates are minerals.

Eg, did you know that rock salt is a mineral? Geologists call it "halite". ;) perchlorate complexes are indeed minerals my friend.

Can't keep this up (5, Insightful)

mws1066 (1057218) | about a year and a half ago | (#42171597)

NASA can't keep up being the "boy who cried wolf." People will just stop listening if every little thing is "breakthrough" and something "earth-shattering!" My goodness.

Re:Can't keep this up (5, Insightful)

GodInHell (258915) | about a year and a half ago | (#42171661)

My assumption: It's one of those "if you know what you're talking about this is BIG new" stories I think. Means a lot to people who are deeply invested in the material, everyone else just stands around and says "so what does that mean?" Of course, a presentation aimed at an audience that is supposed to /know/ what they're talking about already assumes you know what it means.

Re:Can't keep this up (4, Insightful)

Jeremi (14640) | about a year and a half ago | (#42171695)

Did NASA refer to this as "earth-shattering" or a "breakthrough"? Since you use quote marks, I assume you can point to the quote where they said that, and aren't just using exaggerated paraphrasing so you can then criticize your straw man.

Re:Can't keep this up (1)

mws1066 (1057218) | about a year and a half ago | (#42171737)

Re:Can't keep this up (5, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about a year and a half ago | (#42171821)

Please point out in that story where anyone who actually works for NASA used the phrases "earth-shattering," "earth-shaking," or even "breakthrough."

Re:Can't keep this up (-1)

mws1066 (1057218) | about a year and a half ago | (#42171847)

Well, you know what I mean, right? Semantics.

Re:Can't keep this up (4, Insightful)

Digicaf (48857) | about a year and a half ago | (#42171935)

The point the GP is making is that reporters outside of NASA blew this up, not NASA themselves. That's not semantics, that's just really bad reporting.

As far as I've seen, NASA didn't make this out to be more than it was. In fact, I saw a couple of NASA releases stating that people shouldn't get too excited about it.

Re:Can't keep this up (4, Insightful)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172243)

Yeah, but the act of saying you have some results, but you're not telling anyone yet... eh... just release the results when you have them. And NASA guy *did* say it was going to be the one for the history books. People hear than and don't assume he means "History Of Martian Soil Chemistry, Volume 3".

Re:Can't keep this up (1)

drerwk (695572) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172421)

And NASA guy *did* say it was going to be the one for the history books. People hear than and don't assume he means "History Of Martian Soil Chemistry, Volume 3".

Not NASA guy. Caltech professor, lead investigator, not a NASA spokesman!

Re:Can't keep this up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42172479)

The media portrays an event where a group of highly paid individuals defeats another group of highly paid individuals at a competition that consists of more-or-less adhering to completely arbitrary rules, scored in a consistent but arbitrary fashion to be an incredible, awesome achievement. They provide these competitions with vast amounts of free advertising so that those highly paid individuals and their employers can continue to fund these competitions, indeed, the advertising is beyond free, in many cases the media pays extremely large amounts of money to provide this advertising (granted, they can then re-sell the privilege of advertising profitably).

About all the media does these days is hype press releases without making any real effort to understand them. It's what they're best at. Investigation, contextualizing or re-framing the world we live in is largely something from the past, or left to a few dinosaurs on the internet.

The fact that they hyped up something that they didn't know details of, that they really couldn't put in context had they known the details of, isn't too surprising. When you consider that this "thing" being presented, had the wildest hopes been met, would have had philosophical implications that would take decades to work through, it's pretty predictable.

Re:Can't keep this up (3, Informative)

mws1066 (1057218) | about a year and a half ago | (#42171911)

"Grotzinger says they recently put a soil sample in SAM, and the analysis shows something Earth-shaking. 'This data is gonna be one for the history books. It's looking really good,' he says.""

Re:Can't keep this up (2)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about a year and a half ago | (#42171993)

The only place where that line about "Earth-shaking" appears, AFAICT, is in the Slashdot summary. It's not even in reporter's words in the linked story, much less in any direct quote from Grotzinger. And contrary to your previous post, the difference between "This data is gonna be one for the history books. It's looking really good" and "the analysis shows something Earth-shaking" is far more than one of semantics. It's about as serious as the difference between "mws1066 got arrested" and "mws1066 is a serial killer."

Re:Can't keep this up (1)

mws1066 (1057218) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172011)

Is there really a significant difference if NASA blew this out of proportion or if the media did? The end result is the same. They look bad when they have to backpedal and release underwhelming findings.

Re:Can't keep this up (4, Insightful)

Squidlips (1206004) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172131)

No, the press looks bad, not NASA. When Grotz said it was gonna be one for the history books, he meant the mission as a whole not the latest SAM findings. Unfortunately, this means that Grotz or any other MSL project scientists will be very very disinclined to talk to the press, alas.

Re:Can't keep this up (1)

mug funky (910186) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172317)

the only thing they could have done better is control their staff. i'm sure there's group emails going round there to that effect now.

the problem is, when they have a big robot looking for life on Mars, everyone's going to assume that when they call a press conference, they'll announce that they've found life on Mars.

Re:Can't keep this up (2)

drerwk (695572) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172475)

the only thing they could have done better is control their staff. i'm sure there's group emails going round there to that effect now.

the problem is, when they have a big robot looking for life on Mars, everyone's going to assume that when they call a press conference, they'll announce that they've found life on Mars.

Grotzinger is not NASA staff - he is a Caltech professor. And Curiosity is equipped to look for organic chemistry, not current life.

Re:Can't keep this up (3, Insightful)

meglon (1001833) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172519)

Yes, there is.

This is a historic finding, which could very well repaint the landscape of Mars as we know it. That is a big deal. The problem is, we have a bunch of barely educated morons in this country who jump to the conclusion of little green men in flying saucers whenever someone looks up and sees a bird fly overhead, or who think there's ghosts everywhere because some dipshit on Ghost Hunters says "what was that!!?" every fucking episode.

Real science suffers in the US because our citizens are being bred to be stupider than shit. NASA hasn't one anything wrong, it's just there's too few people with actually brains in this country to understand basic language, much less basic science.

soil sifting != earth shaking (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172107)

I can't believe Grotzinger would be so sloppy with his terminology when discussing sifting Martian soil samples into the SAM.

Re:Can't keep this up (1)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172059)

Please point out in that story

The news media put those words into NASA's mouth, but Grotzinger* made it sound like a bigger deal. He should have been a little more reserved but it's understandable, from a geek perspective, that he was excited over something geeky. Which most people will not understand.

Footnote: Interesting.. NPR has apparently since edited the original version of their story and changed "earthshaking" to "remarkable".

"Grotzinger says they recently put a soil sample in SAM, and the
analysis shows something earthshaking. "This data is gonna be one for the history books. It's looking really good," he says."

[*] - http://www.npr.org/2012/11/20/165513016/big-news-from-mars-rover-scientists-mum-for-now [npr.org]

Re:Can't keep this up (1)

DragonTHC (208439) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172249)

the term used by one of the JPL guys was "one for the history books"

Re:Can't keep this up (4, Informative)

skelly33 (891182) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172293)

It's all over the fricken Internet. It was in the NPR report and it looks like the report has since been edited to remove the comment, perhaps out of embarrassment. The transcript from the same report however still includes the quote...

"PALCA: Put a sample of Martian soil or rock or even air inside SAM and it will tell you what the sample's made of. Right now, SAM is working on a Mars soil sample, and [John] Grotzinger says the results are earth-shaking."

From NPR Transcript [npr.org]

Grotzinger is the "principal investigator for the rover mission".

Re:Can't keep this up (4, Insightful)

ChronoFish (948067) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172671)

From the MarsCuriosity Twitter account - which I assume to be targeting a more "social" audience to include scientist, space-fans, back-yard astronomers, and people who may or may not know or get "soil science".

Oct. 9: Shiny Object Update: My team continues to assess a small object on ground, likely a shred of benign plastic
Oct 12: All Shook Up: Dusted off my sampling system this week & investigated a mysterious "FOD"
Oct 15: Time for a third scoop... and a second look. Investigating newfound bright material on Mars
Oct 18: Distinctly Martian: Just had my 1st taste of Red Planet regolith. Mineral analysis underway
Nov 2: I found clues to changes in Mars' atmosphere, but no methane... yet. More observations planned
Nov 21: What did I discover on Mars? That rumors spread fast online. My team considers this whole mission "one for the history books" .
Nov 29: Everybody, chill. After careful analysis, there are no Martian organics in recent samples. Update Dec 3

The whole twitter account is there to make mundane rock observation sound interesting to someone (anyone) who is not a (astro-) geologist. If "Curiosity" is excited, so should be everyone who follows. 128 characters is barely enough to convey a message, much less "tone" - but readers will inject their own tone - which is dangerous for an agency that wishes not to release any data with less than 5 9s of precession.

-CF

Re:Can't keep this up (1)

miltonw (892065) | about a year and a half ago | (#42171891)

Nope. No "earth-shaking" there. Yes, the Slashdot headline written by I-don't-know-who has that phrase, but I don't see NASA saying it. If you are going to make a big point of criticizing NASA for saying "earth-shaking" and "breakthrough" you just might want to find out if they actually said it. Just an idea.

Re:Can't keep this up (1)

hakey (1227664) | about a year and a half ago | (#42171971)

Go to the linked article, it uses "something remarkable" where Slashdot used "Earth-shaking" in the summary. Not sure if Slashdot changed the word, or if NPR revised the article. Either way, the over-hype is as much the fault of the media as it is NASA.

Re:Can't keep this up (5, Informative)

crazyjj (2598719) | about a year and a half ago | (#42171885)

The quote comes from rover lead John Grotzinger, in a recent NPR interview [npr.org] :

Here are the relevant quotes from the interview:

"We're getting data from SAM as we sit here and speak, and the data looks really interesting,"

"The science team is busily chewing away on it as it comes down."

"This data is gonna be one for the history books. It's looking really good."

Re:Can't keep this up (1, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172447)

So, no... NASA didn't refer to this as "earth-shattering" or "a breakthrough", and the original poster is talking out of his ass.

Re:Can't keep this up (1)

DragonTHC (208439) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172261)

didn't you hear, they discovered mardi-gras beads on mars.

Re:Can't keep this up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42172369)

Since when has the media ever downplayed new announcements, from anyone?

Re:Can't keep this up (3, Insightful)

codewarren (927270) | about a year and a half ago | (#42171701)

Is it NASA that is crying wolf? TFS suggests only "rumors" of "major findings" and that NASA was downplaying those expectations.

Re:Can't keep this up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42172375)

Is it NASA that is crying wolf? TFS suggests only "rumors" of "major findings" and that NASA was downplaying those expectations.

I can't find anything anywhere about these alleged packs of wolves roaming Mars... just a few links describing a legend about a couple of italian twins sired by Mars, who where subsequently adopted and raised by a wolf.

Re:Can't keep this up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42172549)

Congratulations, you know something about Rome.

Now get out.

the Martian who cried wolf (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172551)

I bet Martian wolves would have to be pretty bad-ass, surviving on rocks and stuff, given the dearth of children to carry off on Mars.

Re:Can't keep this up (1)

crazyjj (2598719) | about a year and a half ago | (#42171757)

I suspect it's a case of NASA *THINKING* they *MAY* have found something like organic compounds, and one of their loud-mouths shooting off to the press about it. When follow-up tests confirmed that it wasn't organic compounds, they saved face by pulling this "Oh, the press just misinterpreted what he was saying" stuff.

Re:Can't keep this up (3, Interesting)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about a year and a half ago | (#42171889)

When follow-up tests confirmed that it wasn't organic compounds, they saved face by pulling this "Oh, the press just misinterpreted what he was saying" stuff.

Or maybe ... the press just misinterpreted what he was saying. Because that's usually the way to bet when it comes to sensationalist science reporting. But you know, if you'd rather believe the worst about NASA scientists, go ahead. They'll keep doing good, professional work regardless of what you think.

Re:Can't keep this up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42171973)

if you'd rather believe the worst about NASA scientists, go ahead.

Have you ever worked with them?

Re:Can't keep this up (3, Informative)

Squidlips (1206004) | about a year and a half ago | (#42171783)

Get your facts straight before you fly off the handle. Neither NASA or JPL said anything about earth-shattering or breakthrough. Nothing. There was no official announcement of the kind. There were just a few off-the-cuff remarks by the chief scientist (Grotzinger) made to Joe Palca of NPR about MSL being a landmark missions and how the mission would re-write the history books. But then it was the press and bloggers who blew this way out of proportion.

Re:Can't keep this up (0)

mws1066 (1057218) | about a year and a half ago | (#42171835)

My facts were mostly straight. Yes, it wasn't an official statement, but the chief scientist dude had to have known how his comments would have whipped people into a frenzy. I mean, c'mon.

Re:Can't keep this up (3, Insightful)

drerwk (695572) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172103)

Facts mostly straight:

NASA can't keep up being the "boy who cried wolf." People will just stop listening if every little thing is "breakthrough" and something "earth-shattering!" My goodness.

You know that Grotzinger probably does not even work for NASA right? He is a Caltech professor, likely that Caltech pays his salary. He is not a NASA employee or spokesman.
You really have not gotten your facts straight, but do not fret you might have an excellent career as a science reporter :-).

Re:Can't keep this up (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42171785)

Is this your alternate account

by Thud457 (234763) on Thursday November 29, @05:10PM (#42135287) Homepage Journal
What about the promised " earthshaking news" from the Mars Curiosity rover mission?!!!

NASA's been playing the boy that cried wolf a little too much the last couple years. Serves them right when their funding gets cut.

Eek! the Rocknest Monster (1)

CrowdedBrainzzzsand9 (2000224) | about a year and a half ago | (#42171843)

There they will find the Rocknest Monster and the end of the rover. (Warning: not funny unless you actually read TFA.)

Re:Can't keep this up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42171979)

I'm afraid you are seeing sensationalized press in the working, NOT those from NASA. When these reports are released from JPL, they do not contain any of the words you quote.

If you don't like this sort of exaggeration (and I certainly don't either) demand better reporting, not better scientists.

Re:Can't keep this up (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42171983)

You are not the target audience for such announcements is my guess.

Re:Can't keep this up (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42172077)

"Where's the kaboom? There's supposed to be an Earth-shattering kaboom!" --Marvin the Martian

Re:Can't keep this up (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172215)

I knew it would just be dirt. On, sorry, *complex* dirt. And this is from a big space fan.

Re:Can't keep this up (1)

N0Man74 (1620447) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172289)

There are large gaps between what different groups find to be a big deal. For some it's complex chemicals. For some it's proof of Bejebus. For others, it's 3 boob martian pr0n.

Re:Can't keep this up (1)

joocemann (1273720) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172407)

Not only that, but this 'big finding' directly contradicts last week's 'big finding'...

Last week: ."we found plastic".... plastic is based on Carbon --- Plastic is an Organic compound. If you're not a chemist and don't know what scientists call Organic, please don't vote me down or bother criticizing this point. Organic in science means carbon-based; organic in common dialogue means 'natural'.

This week: "we found complex chems, but no organic compounds"....

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO THE PLASTIC FROM LAST WEEK?

As a cell biologist involved in cell reprogramming, I can't help but wonder how much of the scientific journalism is focused on Space even though biomedical research is making huge leaps nearly every day. There are findings that hit the journals that would blow the minds of the public, every single day, and yet things found in Space that are unique but not really awe-inspiring are reported because they have pretty pictures. FIGHT THE BIAS! Demand more interesting science!

Re:Can't keep this up (2)

FrankSchwab (675585) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172491)

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO THE PLASTIC FROM LAST WEEK?

What happened is that you got trolled. Go look at the link in the original story - a photo of Mardi Gras beads badly photoshopped onto the martian surface, and an accompanying story written at about a 10th grade level.

Re:Can't keep this up (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172793)

Funny, your post works better if you read in your sig at the end. Makes sense that way.

Re:Can't keep this up (1)

timeOday (582209) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172545)

Your statement is so consistent with how people view scientific progress in general - by dreaming up some arbitrary vision of how the future will be, then feeling cheated when the universe doesn't turn out to be what they vaguely imagined.

As far as I am concerned the Curiosity mission is accountable for this: to gather the data they got funded to gather. This includes developing the sensors, getting them to the right spot on Mars, collecting the data, and transmitting it home. Whether that data confirms or disproves 1950's sci-fi (or blogosphere buzz) is really beside the point.

You can't handle the truth (1)

frovingslosh (582462) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172651)

Don't worry, the guy that let the "earth shattering" leak get out had been dealt with. Which in government speak means that he was promoted, given a big fat raise, and now sits alone in an office all day and fears losing his income if he ever tells the truth about this. The perchlorate story is the story that people can handle, just as Roswell's weather balloons were last century. Nothing to see here, move on.

Re:Can't keep this up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42172727)

NASA didn't report it anything like you claim. A reporter took a remark from an interview and ran with it, utterly misunderstanding what was said or deliberately hyping it into something it wasn't.

Re:Can't keep this up (1)

ThorGod (456163) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172801)

You can't totally blame NASA for crying wolf. Last week some yahoo pulled a prank on everyone, and that yahoo had nothing to do with NASA. That got everyone's hopes up and had, again, nothing to do with NASA.

Re:Can't keep this up (1)

bhartman34 (886109) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172899)

I don't think this is NASA's fault. Not entirely, anyway.

NASA has never announced, "OMG, you guys! Life on Mars!!! We think we found it!" What they've done is release significantly lower-key findings that got themexcited (much like GodInHell says).

It looks like people want the one, big, "Holy crap! Little green men!" announcement. That's not going to happen. What'll happen (if it turns out that there's microbial life on Mars, or even was microbial life on Mars) is that the evidence will amass slowly. Even if they were to find a green, pulsing mass of Andromeda Strain goodness, scientists would still have to argue for a long time about just what it means.

Is it plastic? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42171667)

In bead form?

So no Mardi Gras beads... (3, Funny)

hawks5999 (588198) | about a year and a half ago | (#42171683)

What a let down.

Much Ado About Nothing? (2)

clm1970 (1728766) | about a year and a half ago | (#42171707)

Seems like they wanted to try to build some excitement when there was nothing to be excited about.

Re:Much Ado About Nothing? (1)

Anon-Admin (443764) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172035)

It just sounded better than "We spent XXX Billions of dollars to send the rover to mars and discover that there is dirt there."

Re:Much Ado About Nothing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42172323)

But didn't sanzenpus post a story about them finding Mardi Gras beads?

...aliens or not aliens? (5, Funny)

stepdown (1352479) | about a year and a half ago | (#42171715)

Reminds me of this recent SMBC comic [smbc-comics.com] .

Re:...aliens or not aliens? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42173117)

Perfect. Not just for the "aliens or GTFO" sentiment, but also for the "All we have is a shapeless mass of raw data, and we're not even positive the instruments were calibrated, but we assure you: It's very important."

Shocker! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42171775)

But then, anyone with a bit of common sense could have told you that.

Now that we have all sobered up.... (3, Interesting)

Squidlips (1206004) | about a year and a half ago | (#42171833)

There is some good science being done and the Good Stuff will be when Curiosity reaches the clay layers at the base of Mt Sharp, so be patient. There is also the minor mystery of the chlorinated methane products...

So what? (0)

glrotate (300695) | about a year and a half ago | (#42171857)

Seriously.

Let's just stipulate that there's some sort of proton-bacteria amino acid whatever on Mars. Can we stop wasting money on NASA welfare now?

Sooo.. No aliens? (1)

cod3r_ (2031620) | about a year and a half ago | (#42171899)

Or aliens?

Re:Sooo.. No aliens? (0)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172217)

Or vagina?

Any Unicorn Lairs? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42171903)

Where did the unicorns go?

This is the question of the century.

Rocket fuel (3, Interesting)

gr8_phk (621180) | about a year and a half ago | (#42171919)

They mention that the Calcium Perchlorate may be an energy source. How about using it to manufacture rocket fuel on mars? It's similar to other oxidizers used in solid fuel rockets. Wouldn't it be strange if the fuel for a return-to-earth trip could be manufactured right there from materials lying right there on the planet surface? Or am I totally smoking something?

Where's Phil Plait? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42171927)

You won't find him here looking over the comments and adding insights to the conversation. I'm sure he would have loved to have this linked to his blog but since it's too late for that we won't here anything from him. He's all about the dollars. He's all about the page hits. He doesn't care what you think or how informed you are unless he can make cash from your desire to understand science.
 
A third rate hack who pimps his blogs... that's all Phil Plait is.

Re:Where's Phil Plait? (2)

FrankSchwab (675585) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172527)

A third rate hack who pimps his blogs... that's all Phil Plait is.

Well, as a regular reader, I'd say he's more "A first-rate hack who pimps his informative, entertaining (though over-focussed on AGW zealotry) blogs."

If you don't learn anything from his blog, and aren't simply blown away by the galactic imagery he links to, then you're simply dead inside.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy.html [slate.com]

/frank

Re:Where's Phil Plait? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42172771)

Shill.

I'm sure K'Breel had something to do with it. (2)

sconeu (64226) | about a year and a half ago | (#42171939)

Probably had some flunkies hide all the plastics and mess up some sand. I'm also willing to bet that those brave volunteers willingly had their gelsacs pierced to preserve the secret.

Seriously (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42172061)

From what the public expects and what we all here expect NASA should just do this http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2810#comic

perchlorate = rocket fuel (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42172161)

I am only an expert on this because it contaminated all our drinking water around Las Vegas valley. It is a very important component in rocket fuel as I recall (like makes it go bang).

So, yea, I can see that being kind of important if you ever want to go home from mars.

Where's the Kaboom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42172173)

There's supposed to be an Earth shattering kaboom!

Perchlorate (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172467)

Isn't perchlorate a component of some fuels? Perhaps it comes from the hover stage during the lowering phase....

Re:Perchlorate (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172539)

Perchlorate is a powerful oxydizer, yes. It has 4 bound oxygen atoms per molar quantity. That's a lot of oxygen. Further, it sheds the oxygen when heated, making it useful for a wide assortment of purposes, not just limited to propellants.

For instance, heating it in an oven will release breathable oxygen. If we ever establish martian habitats, perchlorate salts in the crust would be invaluable to maintaning a breathable atmosphere inside the enclosure.

Re:Perchlorate (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172869)

Now we know what Arnie set in motion when he slapped his hand down on that plate.

A giant perchlorate heater.

Get your ass to Mars, indeed....

Re:Perchlorate (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172639)

Some fuels. Not the fuels used in the descent thrusters.

Video (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42172553)

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/27478475

Better to just watch the press conference than to read something that has gone through people who most likely do not understand a thing about it...

Speaking of crappy reporting... (2)

strangeintp (892348) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172617)

I'm surprised nobody else has pointed out yet, the headline for the first-linked article says "Curiosity rover finds organic compounds...", directly refuting the statement in the first sentence of the article: "Curiosity rover hasn't yet confirmed the detection of organic compounds on Mars"... geez, what a flub. Who's editing at cosmiclog.nbcnews.com?

My high school chemistry is rusty... (1)

pongo000 (97357) | about a year and a half ago | (#42172621)

...but isn't perchlorate an ion? The article reads:

including signs of an intriguing compound called perchlorate

Did they detect perchlorate ions? Or perchlorate compounds? Or perchlorates perhaps? I'm sorry, but this just struck me as a rather in-your-face mistake if that is indeed how it was reported. Or maybe I'm just being pedantic and should find a better use of my time?

Re:My high school chemistry is rusty... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42172705)

Yes, I think you are just being pedantic.

Re:My high school chemistry is rusty... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42173019)

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