Big day tomorrow…

…or rather, “not a very big day tomorrow at all”, because NASA has *finally* put out a statement clarifying the position re the “Earth-shaking” data being collected by Curiosity. The “thunk! thunk! thunk!” sounds you will hear whilst reading this are the final, rusty nails being driven with a mixture of relief and glee by NASA’s press office into the coffin of the story of the ‘historic discovery’ of organics on Mars…

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November 29, 2012

PASADENA, Calif. — The next news conference about the NASA Mars rover Curiosity will be held at 9 a.m. PST(12 p.m. EST) 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.

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

For more information about the mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mars and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl .

Veronica McGregor/Guy Webster 818-354-9452/ 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
veronica.c.mcgregor@jpl.nasa.gov/ guy.webster@jpl.nasa.gov

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Well, that’s pretty clear isn’t it? No organics have been discovered by Curiosity yet, so there’s no “life on Mars” angle here, just a fairly standard operational report. Curiosity is driving well, all her instruments have checked out, she’s doing great science, and the best is yet to come! But if you’re wanting the MSL team to stand up at the AGU conference tomorrow and announce to the world, with tears of pride and joy streaming down their faces, that their nuclear-powered Barsoomian behemoth has found evidence of past life on Mars, well, you’re going to be disappointed. Nope.  Nothing to see here, move on, move on…

BUT…

That’s still pretty amazing, isn’t it? Curiosity is working GREAT, sending back hundreds of new images every day for us to drool over, and sending back enough data to keep planetary scientists busy and usefully occupied for many yearsto come. And she’s just got started on her adventure, don’t forget. Where she is now is really just the car park outside the martian mall. There’s a huge geologists’ toy store over there, in all those lovely layers up the slope of Mt Sharp, and soon she’ll turn towards the mountain and start driving towards it.

So, everyone, be not downhearted! This beast of a story ran away with itself a bit, and then took on a life of its own. It’s now safely back in its cage tho, and sleeping, so we can all catch our breaths and just enjoy the reality of the situation – which is that Curiosity is seeing spectacular views like these… click to enlarge, as usual…

pano3 dec2b

pano2 dec 2csh

(LOVE that one, just look at all the different shapes, textures and colours of the rocks!!!)

pano4 dec2b2

REALLY pleased with that one. I’m NOT claiming it’s accurate or realistic, cos frankly I’ve played about with it a lot, unil I made a view which just struck me as beautiful. So, take that image as you will – it’s my portrait of a tiny, tiny part of a crater on a world millions of miles away…

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