Just in on Mars Curiosity

I just received this email from AAS press office Dr. Rick Feinberg on the findings of Mars Curiosity. The gist of it is speculations of a major find on Mars are incorrect. Full email below:

“The next news conference about the NASA Mars rover Curiosity will be held at 9 a.m. Monday, Dec. 3, in San Francisco at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU).

Rumors and speculation that there are major new findings from the mission at this early stage are incorrect. The news conference will be an update about first use of the rover’s full array of analytical instruments to investigate a drift of sandy soil. One class of substances Curiosity is checking for is organic compounds — carbon-containing chemicals that can be ingredients for life. At this point in the mission, the instruments on the rover have not detected any definitive evidence of Martian organics.

The Mars Science Laboratory Project and its Curiosity rover are less than four months into a two-year prime mission to investigate whether conditions in Mars’ Gale Crater may have been favorable for microbial life. Curiosity is exceeding all expectations for a new mission with all of the instruments and measurement systems performing well. This is spectacular for such a complex system, and one that is operated so far away on Mars by people here on planet Earth. The mission already has found an ancient riverbed on the Red Planet, and there is every expectation for remarkable discoveries still to come.

Monday’s news conference will be in Rooms 134 and 135 of Hall E of Moscone Center North, located in the 700 block of Howard Street between Third and Fourth streets. Information about news media registration with AGU is available at http://fallmeeting.agu.org/2012/media-center/

Audio and visuals from the briefing also will be streamed online at http://www.ustream.tv/nasajpl”


  1. says

    No teleportation pad used by the CIA to whisk Obama and his fellow operatives to the Red Planet?


    I claim cover up. Why do they continue to deny this? I want an investigation!11eleventy!11!

    Of course, the weirder parts of the interwebs are already buzzing about an announcement of aliens or Nibiru or anything else that might strike their fevered fancy.

    Sorry for the snark. I have been totally sucked into the Nibiru/Mayan calender/celestial procession(?)/reptilian-gray war/Illuminati conspiracies. It’s a black hole. Once you get started, impossible to resist. Hours and hours of entertainment. Better than Tosh.0.

  2. Stevarious, Public Health Problem says

    I have been totally sucked into the Nibiru/Mayan calender/celestial procession(?)/reptilian-gray war/Illuminati conspiracies. It’s a black hole. Once you get started, impossible to resist.

    Yeah it’s hilarious.

  3. jakc says

    A straightfoward statement like that can only mean one thing: NASA has found something huge and is covering up

  4. F [disappearing] says

    @ Kevin, Stevarious

    I haven’t paid much attention to that particular web of weird, but I do collect crank sites. They are highly entertaining, aren’t they? Especially when two or more cranks are at war with each other. Strictly bonus.

  5. says

    I am rather dubious of this explination, personally. Not for conspiratorial reasons, like they found ET’s skeleton or some such nonsense. But rather, there was the initial announcement that said that they were verifying the results but that if it turned out to be accurate it would be “one for the history books”.

    I just have a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that it would take them this long to hold a news conference to say “Nothing to see here, thanks for coming.” If that were the case, why make the initial statement of finding something but double-checking the results?

  6. anubisprime says

    If they are trying to dampen down frenzied t’inta’nets speculation, they are a bit bloody late, if Grotzzy’ had made a rather over enthusiastic assessment of the data stream then surely either he or NASA would have corrected it immediately like the next day at least.

    No one lives in a bubble where the cyber highway is concerned they must be fully aware of the rampant speculation such a statement would make.
    Or not aware of the speculation ever since!

    This is just bizarro world on steroids.

    So what were they all being so damned secretive about?
    And yes what indeed were they cross checking to keep it so under wraps?

    Because that was the seemingly the fully endorsed POV of the team, and it would require a couple of weeks work to check the analysis, but a statement would be made at the Geo conference in early December.

    Cos it was not only Grotzzy’ it was the whole team that had sealed lips on this aspect.

    Just a status report and some in-house advertisement for systems and software does not sound right at all.
    That has more of a PR stunt about it then ‘one for the history books’

    They could have done that at the usual telecom phone-in fandango.
    You do not arrange ‘a reveal’ at a conference bash unless you have something really special and unique to impart, otherwise they get accused of posing!

    Most aspects of Curiosity operations are fairly well documented, and detailed analysis of the data so far collected will no doubt be available in a flurry of papers that get released when written and indeed peer reviewed.

    This has misdirection all over it!

    If indeed they have nothing tangible, and the mission is only just starting dah de dah de dah, fine!, but the reputation of the Curiosity team and indeed NASA will be in the toilet after this stunt that is for sure, if it is just a ‘aren’t we brilliant bunnies for doing this’ infocommercial.

    I doubt whether the blogger/forum press will ever forgive them for such blatant teasing, and if nothing found is reported on the 3rd – 7th then interest and kudos will drain rapidly away.
    And the recriminations will be bitter indeed.
    This furore will not be ignored by the budget committees which do gauge public attitude to NASA, and the ‘feel good factor’ inherent in space research.
    NASA will be playing a dangerous game, if just a vague publicity stunt, and this could possibly kill any goodwill they have so far received from the on-line community.

    I thought the Martian atmospheric analysis debacle was atrociously handled as well, but this statement by Dr. Rick Feinberg really stinks like taking the piss in a major way if his claim is in anyway accurate.

    Not his fault but surely serious questions will have to be asked about Dr Grotzinger and his interface technique concerning popular journalism.

    I am sure he would have stridently denied vigorously if what he was reported as saying did not in fact happen!

    The overall impression given, and not corrected, to the on-line web both profesional scientist and layman alike was that Organic material might have been found!

    After the last 10 odd days of speculation by everyman and his dog, to come out three days before the anticipated announcement to debunk that idea …in fact to claim no such finds of any significance beyond what is already known at large, that is beyond belief…

    I call smoke & mirrors…somewhere, just cannot decide where!

  7. jamessweet says

    I think it’s similar than all that. I think it goes kinda like this:

    A NASA scientist, with the typical tunnel vision of those who are passionate about their work, blabs to NPR that there is an announcement “for the history books” — and what he really means is that it’s one for esoteric specialist books on the history of remote chemical sensing. Internet speculation runs rampant, but NASA, as the have demonstrated in the past, has an attitude of “We announce when we announce, we publish when we publish, and we don’t deviate from that schedule for anyone, nor do we respect out-of-band responses”. So despite the wanton scientist sparking off speculation, NASA stuffily says, “We aren’t schedule to speak until the 3rd, so we’ll address that on the 3rd.” Meanwhile, shit continues to blow up until it becomes obvious that NASA’s announcement is going to be a big disappointment, and the longer speculation is allowed to grow, the bigger the PR disaster. Finally the NASA bigwigs stubbornly agree to a limited out-of-band statement intended to quell speculation.

    In other words, unguarded comment + bureaucracy = egg on face.

  8. jamessweet says

    The overall impression given, and not corrected, to the on-line web both profesional scientist and layman alike was that Organic material might have been found!

    But this impression was based on process of elimination rather than by any positive clues. What could Curiosity possibly have found that would be “one for the history books”? We already know there is water on Mars, so it seems like the only thing left would be organics. Most of us would not consider it to be “one for the history books” if, e.g. evidence of a fascinating new geological process never seen before on Mars, but really there was no more evidence in favor of organics than for that hypothesis.

    So if we just assume the scientist in question was over-excited, then there is NO remaining evidence to give the impression it was organics. Well, except I guess that it involved the SAM instrument, but that’s a pretty small clue.

  9. anubisprime says

    Could well be as you point out jamessweet!

    And it has precedant in the farcical Methane analysis.
    Where they must realize that many commentators took the way NASA appeared secrative and all buzzy was an indication that Methane was detected.
    They let that speculation build and build…a simple ‘no not yet’ answer at one or two press conferances would have quelled and dissapated the dissapointment that finally came.
    Seems that they did the same here… let the speculation run rife only to pour cold freezing water on it when it was approaching critical mass.

    3 ‘effing days before a touted conferance where the impression was given that ‘one for the history books’ would be revealed and they pull this stunt!
    After at least 10 days of serious rumour mongering and a web frenzy, it is a sick and loathsome stunt.
    And they all participated in it to such a degree it seems deliberate misdirection.

    Grotzinger is not stupid. maybe drivern but surely smart enough to realize that spouting such inane bollix to a NPR reporter would not differentiate such vague nuance of meaning.
    Of course the mission is a fantastic achievement and will go in the history books…but they way they are shaping up it will go in the books for quite the opposite reason then what it should go in for!

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