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Martian update

The TRUTH is out there. I WANT to believe …

I’m sorry there is no update. Just lots of speculation. Because of the way it was initially presented to the media and subsequent backtracking by NASA it’s impossible to know if we should be hopeful or cynical:

MarsDaily — The news follows on the heels of what scientists earlier thought was the discovery of methane – typically a sign of living organisms – on Mars, Grotzinger said, only to determine later that the air likely accompanied the spacecraft from its Florida Launchpad. He added that NASA would convene a press conference in early December to reveal the results of Curiosity’s research.

Scientists, meanwhile, have let their imaginations run wild as to what Curiosity might beam back to earth. “If it’s going in the history books, organic material is what I expect,” Peter Smith, a University of Arizona researcher who served on a 2008 Mars mission for the Phoenix Lander, told online tech website Wired on Tuesday.

Maybe it’s methane. But if it’s just a whiff of methane, I would hope there’s more to it. Some solid reason[s] to suspect a biochemical origin or something like that. My guess is the researchers who so excitedly told the press it was earth shaking, may have been suffering from scientific tunnel vision; it was exciting to them, it might not be as exciting to a non-Curiosity non-astrobiologist non-planetery biochemist. There are of course conspiracy Area 51 stories popping up, the Face-on-Mars people are excited at the prospect of fleecing more dough out of their victims, some of the anti-science Big Gubmint haters are convinced it’s all a ploy to drain more money out of hard-working trust fund kids for NASA to dribble away on moonbat projects.

That being said, while I understand the need to be careful, it’s not as clear why the raw data wouldn’t be available in real time just like the images and readings Curiosity sends back and NASA posts online every day. Conspiracy nuts will always be with us, withholding data does nothing to stop them. Quite the contrary, it’s like trying to put out a fire with napalm. Sober, careful scientists and reputable science writers, who could crowd source the findings and accurately convey the discussion to a wider audience, are stonewalled by silence. We’re held hostage by our respect for hard data and expert analysis while our less grounded counterparts are dreaming and scheming their little hearts out. The course NASA has chosen, which is to wait until Dec 3, seems counter productive in that light. Unless the announcement really is historic.

Comments

  1. jamessweet says

    Martian Update

    I’m sorry there is no update. Just lots of speculation.

    You’re a dick :p I clicked on this link as soon as I saw it, because I know you have a couple of connections that might possibly be able to give some hint as to what will be announced. And you’ve got nada :p Heh, ah well..

  2. RickR says

    the discovery of methane – typically a sign of living organisms – on Mars, Grotzinger said, only to determine later that the air likely accompanied the spacecraft from its Florida Launchpad.

    Which immediately made me think of the famous coke bottle in “Allegro non Troppo”.

  3. says

    There’s no doubt that the “teaser” announcement was a really bad idea.
    Given the history, it’s hard to imagine such a lack of skepticism over a mere whiff of methane.
    Let’s just hope that if it goes into the history books, it’s not under a section headed Public Relations Disasters.

  4. lochaber says

    Wasn’t there something a year or two back where they had detected methane on Mars?

    I was under the impression that we were pretty sure methane was there, we just didn’t know whether it was geological or biological in origin.

  5. anubisprime says

    I think the Methane debacle was a bad and unnecessary decision by NASA.
    It is true that they never promised us a roze garden and did not hype any numbers, but the way they reacted before they finally released the results was extremely misleading for what was a simple ‘NO DETECTION YET’!
    The blackout on atmospheric preliminary results was ill considered, all it achieved was a turn off from the Curiosity mission by a populace that were teased for upwards of 8 weeks by an obvious NASA D-Notice slapped on results..

    It was badly thought through and it backfired by creating the present skepticism and dismissive disdain for such soap opera theatrics.
    Whatever they announce now will be tinged with a wary disinterested nonchalance by the public who will remember the non-event of the methane spectacle.
    If a negative for any aspect of the mission was preliminary data…then a simple

    “so far as we are aware we have no data confirming or dismissing premise X, further analysis will continue”

    Simple and it still works for them and calms the inevitable t’internet frenzy when they give an impression through omission they have something but actually don’t!
    That blatant refusal to discuss the SAM atmospheric analysis experiments…not a winning strategy methinks, and seems to have nothing to do with preserving scientific accuracy and detachment.

    But the only glimmer of hope is that NASA is highly unlikely to play silly buggers by reporting a negative again at a high profile symposium…they would have a hard time now of doing a no-show punchline after such a build up on their own time let alone a conference organized by someone else.

    If they did that they would be deserving of righteous fury by public and the purse holders that decide budget allocations, surely they would not be quite that clueless?

    I am giving them the benefit on this one…I will be damned fuming if they pull another non-event tag line, but somehow I have a hope that this is not the case and that Dec 3rd will indeed go down in the history books, for the right reason not for the perfidy which NASA will be forever tagged with if they are jerking a non-existent bell rope on this one…again!

  6. anubisprime says

    lochaber @ 6

    Wasn’t there something a year or two back where they had detected methane on Mars?
    I was under the impression that we were pretty sure methane was there, we just didn’t know whether it was geological or biological in origin.

    Yes from three different sources two orbiters and an earth based observations.
    All data seemingly in good agreement and all reporting literally tonnes of the stuff, whether biological or geological was the question!…Curiosity can answer that…it it gets a whiff of CH^4

    It appears the Methane occurs in discrete blooms and seems cyclic, maybe seasonal.

    That was why the methane debacle from NASA really was not a great move. Everyone expected a result but not a negative one and NASA strung folks along for nearly two months regardless.

    It does not mean there is no methane , just that there was none in the vicinity of Curiosity at the time the sample was taken.

    Maybe we are in the wrong season, see what happens in another month or three!

  7. reynoldhall says

    Oh shit…they’ve found the sandkings!

    Welp, so much for having colonies there! At least we know that life can evolve elsewhere other than on earth.

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