Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

Mars Curiosity's ‘History Making’ Discovery Revealed, With a Caveat

ARCHIVES
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity used a mechanism on its robotic arm to dig up five scoopfuls of soil, analyzing it with the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) suite of instruments inside the rover. (NASA/JPL-Caltech) NASA's Mars rover Curiosity used a mechanism on its robotic arm to dig up five scoopfuls of soil, analyzing it with the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) suite of instruments inside the rover. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

  

Subscribe:
  Newsletter
  Facebook
  LinkedIn

NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has discovered organic compounds on the surface of Mars. Results from the rover’s first complete soil analysis since arriving on the Red Planet showed “water and sulfur and chlorine-containing substances,” the space agency announced in a statement on Monday.

NASA was unwilling to say definitively whether the organics are the byproduct of chemical processes on Mars itself. There remains a possibility that the compounds, which might indicate Mars once supported life, travelled to Mars with Curiosity or fell to the planet from space. For now, NASA is being careful not to overstate its find.

"We have no definitive detection of Martian organics at this point,” said SAM Principal Investigator Paul Mahaffy “but we will keep looking in the diverse environments of Gale Crater.”

Monday’s announcement came on the first day of the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. Last week, John Grotzinger, the principal investigator for the mission, set off wild anticipation about what the rover team would announce during the conference when he told NPR’s Joe Palca that his team had found something “for the history books.”

According to NBC News, Grotzinger now says that his earlier comments were misunderstood:

"What I've learned from this is that you have to be careful about what you say and even more careful about how you say it. We're doing science at the speed of science [but] we live in a world that's sort of at the pace of Instagrams. The enthusiasm that we had, that I had, that our whole team has about what's going on here ... I think it was just misunderstood."

Curiosity, a 1-ton robotic science laboratory, arrived on Mars Aug 5. It is the first rover capable of scooping and analyzing Martian soil samples. Its two-year mission is to determine whether conditions in Mar’s Gale Crater ever supported microbial life.

Mark Micheli is Special Projects Editor for Government Executive Media Group. He's the editor of Excellence in Government Online and contributes to GovExec, NextGov and Defense One. Previously, he worked on national security and emergency management issues with the US Treasury Department and the Department of Homeland Security. He's a graduate of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs and studied at Drake University.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.