back to article Curiosity finds organics on Mars, but possibly not of Mars

NASA says that no, it hasn't found definite proof that Mars has its own organic compounds, but that it has found some very interesting indications that need to be checked. Curiosity analysis Everyone just hold your horses (click to enlarge) At a press conference on Monday morning at a meeting of the American Geophysical …

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  1. Petrea Mitchell
    WTF?

    "Curiosity's middle name is patience"

    So, is Curiosity its first or last name? Inquiring space junkies want to know!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      First...

      @Petrea Mitchell

      "So, is Curiosity its first or last name?"

      First.

      It's full name is

      Curiosity Patience Rodriguez.

      1. Arthur 1

        Re: First...

        Mandatory upvote for Futurama reference.

        1. Katie Saucey
          Thumb Up

          Re: First...

          1-up for the Futurama reference reference.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Curiosity's middle name is patience"

      Not much in the news from Curiosity at the moment, is this because Mars is so barren that there is not much of anything to find?

      Except for dirt and rocks that is.....

      1. boltar Silver badge

        Re: "Curiosity's middle name is patience"

        While the science is certainly interesting , I can't help thinking Nasa are missing a trick by not sending rovers to the obvious "tourist" locations such as Olymous Mons or the huge canyon system on mars. If you want to keep the general public interested (and hence keep the money coming in) you need something a bit more interesting than maybe possibly some chemicals in some dirt. And before anyone shouts me down as some lightweight luddite may I remind them that the public fascination with the Pioneer and Voyager probes didn't come from the raw science, it came from the pictures.

  2. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Viking

    Remember the Viking life chemistry experiment was also sort of "did it or didn't it?" in the end. I'm hoping Curiosity can trundle around and if it gets different results or the same results at a lot of sites will be interesting in itself.

    1. Beachrider

      Viking perhaps confirmed...

      In 1976, Viking's results hinted of organics, but gave no direct evidence, nor explained why there was no direct evidence. The hits were exciting because that was a predicted scenario for organics. It was also criticized because Mars organics weren't the ONLY thing that would give Viking's result.

      This conflict caused estimates to balloon for pre-landing Mars work. The USA probably would have never gone to the Moon at all IF they used this same approach for the Apollo activity.

      In 2008, Phoenix explained Viking's results. Phoenix confirmed a substantial presence of perchlorate (Chlorine/Oxygen salts) that would have caused Viking's analysis to destroy organics. Curiousity was tweaked to make next-steps with the perchlorate issue.

      We really need to find organic Carbon-based results. I would expect NASA to tread carefully if they get close to a key result.

      Curiousity has already spent a month at this location. Perhaps there are 'better' next-locations.

  3. Alistair Silver badge

    fixing it for him

    "We're doing science at the speed of science and the world's moving at the speed of a twit ... ter."

  4. Joerg
    FAIL

    NASA bulls and lies as usual..talking molecules while alien spaceships all around Curiosity...

    Despite the censoring on images that NASA/JPL as well other military space agencies perform there has been plenty of pictures in which alien lifeforms, alien spaceships and alien buildings could be seen.

    It's kinda silly that the scientists on Earth are so ignorant to follow like a bunch of sheep with no brain at all whatever pathetic lie NASA can come up with.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Go

      Re: NASA bulls and lies as usual..talking molecules while alien spaceships all around Curiosity...

      With "plenty of pictures" surely you could oblige us with one little link as an amuse-bouche?

      1. boltar Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: NASA bulls and lies as usual..talking molecules while alien spaceships all around Curiosity...

        >With "plenty of pictures" surely you could oblige us with one little link as an amuse-bouche?

        Careful, you're using French. They don't do none of that goddarn cheese eatin' surrender monkey talk in the midwest! In fact they barely do English....

        1. dotdavid
          Black Helicopters

          Re: NASA bulls and lies as usual..talking molecules while alien spaceships all around Curiosity...

          Don't worry, I did a little Googling and found the image the OP was on about. It really is quite amazing why this hasn't been widely reported by anyone other than zany conspiracy theorists.

    2. The Aussie Paradox
      Go

      Re: NASA bulls and lies as usual..talking molecules while alien spaceships all around Curiosity...

      You forgot your </sarcasm> tags. People are getting confused and cannot see you are, or should be, joking!

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: NASA bulls and lies as usual..talking molecules while alien spaceships all around Curiosity...

        This was a letdown.

        I'm making a note here: SLIGHT SUCCESS.

        We found chlorine organics in the Rocknest.

        JPL Science

        We do what we must

        because we can.

        At the pace we deem correct.

        Except if someone talks fast.

        But there's no sense crying over every mistake.

        You must keep on sampling even if there's debate.

        And the Science gets done.

        And you use the lasgun

        On the rocks that might harbour live.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: NASA bulls and lies as usual..talking molecules while alien spaceships all around Curiosity...

          Actually "On the next rock that might harbour live" sounds better.

          No Jonathan Coulton, me.

        2. Avatar of They Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: NASA bulls and lies as usual..talking molecules while alien spaceships all around Curiosity...

          Very good. Nuff said.

        3. deadlockvictim Silver badge

          Re: NASA bulls and lies as usual..talking molecules while alien spaceships all around Curiosity...

          @Destroy All Monsters: have you considered the iambic pentameter?

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. Arthur 1
      Meh

      Re: NASA bulls and lies as usual..talking molecules while alien spaceships all around Curiosity...

      Unsure if joke...

      Or rather, quite sure there's a joke. Just unsure if it's the post or the guy posting.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Alien

    And now for the Hoagland interpretation

    If that's the best cover story NASA can cook up in two weeks of desperate trying then it clearly shows they've stumbled across something so big that they're more scared than confused, desperately scrabbling to keep the free people of Earth from accessing the god like powers now enjoyed only by the Moon Nazis

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_C._Hoagland#The_Norwegian_spiral for loads of stuff that makes "normal" Mars conspiracy theories seem very humdrum. I'd have taken Romney's space supremacy claims a lot more seriously if only I'd realised then that "Obama had clearly accepted that any attempt to return to the Moon would be thwarted by the superior technology of the Nazis in space."

    1. NomNomNom

      Re: And now for the Hoagland interpretation

      I for one haven't seen obama's Earth certificate

    2. linear a
      Mushroom

      Re: And now for the Hoagland interpretation

      Commies not Nazis! Why do you think they call it the "Red Planet"?

    3. Graham Dawson

      Re: And now for the Hoagland interpretation

      Seems like he took Iron Sky to be a documentary...

  6. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Where's the Smoking Man!?

    I bet he has Groetzinger's daughter or something, and he's going to inject her with that black oily stuff unless he keeps quiet about the sentient chlorine-based alien ooze on the surface of Mars!!

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Where's the Smoking Man!?

      Ah, the old X-Files black oozy stuff, not the District 9 black oozy stuff or the Prometheus black oozy stuff.

      1. John 62

        Re: Where's the Smoking Man!?

        What about the Star Trek TNG black oozy stuff that Commander Riker nearly drowned in?

  7. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Alien

    So what's the airspeed of an unladen Instagram?

    And more important, WHO SHOT THE PHOTO OF CURIOSITY? Hmmm? HMMM??

    1. Alexandicity
      WTF?

      Re: So what's the airspeed of an unladen Instagram?

      You say that, but I am genuinely confused as to how they managed to take this photo. I can't see any way they could get this angle. Hell, the mast on which the camera is mounted is clearly in the photo some distance away! It's as if they came across a huge mirror on a stick.

      I'm guessing it's a mix of surface photos and some very good 'rover CGI that someone has painstakingly stitched together for some purpose... can anyone enlighten me?

      1. Geoff Johnson
        Black Helicopters

        Re: So what's the airspeed of an unladen Instagram?

        It's a montage of shots from the arm. Kind of myspace style. Careful stitching of shots with the arm in different positions to remove the majority of the arm its self.

    2. VinceH Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: So what's the airspeed of an unladen Instagram?

      " WHO SHOT THE PHOTO OF CURIOSITY?"

      I can't see any bullet holes in the photo of Curiosity.

      (Nor any obvious signs of the photo having been shot by Martian molecular disruptor beams.)

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: So what's the airspeed of an unladen Instagram?

        You probably didn't see the sniper on the grassy knoll either.

  8. Cucumber C Face
    FAIL

    Organic != Produced only by organisms

    These are the simplest kinds of 'organic' chemicals - a single carbon atom with a variety of covalently bound functional groups. These can easily be (and have almost certainly have been) produced by mundane physical processes.

    If they find polypeptides, chains of nucleic acids be impressed. Even an effing long chain fatty acid would cause one to raise an eyebrow - but this? Nothing to see here - move on.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Organic != Produced only by organisms

      Well, it shows that cleaning ladies might be active up there.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Not cleaning ladies. Telephone sanitisers

        Seems that the B-Ark made a grazing collision with Mars en route to the prehistoric Earth

    2. Grikath Silver badge

      Re: Organic != Produced only by organisms

      Actually, finding these molecules is very significant, as, if verified, it is proof that basic "biological" precursor molecules are created in-situ in a non-terrestrial environment, giving validity to quite a number of "how did things get started" hypotheses.

      Yes, there are molecules that in and of themselves are much more indicative to life as *we* know it than this stuff, but it is a great find nonetheless, and not something to sneeze at.

      1. Mako

        Re: Organic != Produced only by organisms

        ...not something to sneeze at.

        Though if you did, whatever bacteria you're carrying around might find they have something to eat. Unchallenged by any other organism, they would multiply explosively.

        Next thing you know, you've got an entire gelatinous civilization pulsating away, all born from your nosegold.

  9. Matthew Anderson

    So they have found something of interest which may or not be of interest which may or not be from Mars and may or may not be organic compounds but which is most certainly not groundbreaking, awe inspiring, eye opening, mouth wateringly good. Well woohoo! Still, we got a robot on Mars and that's the main thing.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wow, that announcement changed history! possible organic material found on mars!

    They recently discovered ICE on Mercury, and in that ice was.........Organic materials!

    Nothing "Earth shattering" or history making there.

    Honestly, I think these scientist get too excited about some of the simplest things.

    All they have done is confirmed what one of the first probes (back in the 70's was it?) had found.

    Look, if you find a fossil, maybe even something that resembles that thing they found in the martian rock back in the 90's, let me know.

  11. Khaptain Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    One or two questions

    For such a dry, dusty planet it's a little surprising at how clean the Curiosity is, apart from the wheels.

    Why would the dust stick to the wheels if the climate is dry anyway ?

    This is obviously a very wide angle lens which must be sitting on a pole about 2m above ground level. ( Slightly lower than the height of Curiosity itself) Otherwise we would be able to see the top of the squarish box on top of the shaft on the left hand side.

    Judging by the tire tracks on the bottom right hand side, it may have been Curiosity the planted the camera on a pole, drove back a little then did a little modeling for itself.

    How was that camera fired, remote control ? What kind of camera was it ? How did they retrieve the images from the camera ? How do they manage to keep the camera batteries charged for so long ?

    The whole thing seems to be pretty evenly lit up. Judging by the shadows of the wheels the Sun must be almost at 12:00. There is no lens flare, does the camera/lens have a hood. How do they manage to calibrate fstops and exposure on Mars ? Does the camera transmit all of that data in real time or is everything on fully automatic.

    How did they manage to get the Curiosity bang in line with the Camera lens. Or is this a video camera instead of a stills camera....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Boffin

      Re: One or two questions

      Dust comes and goes on Mars: big dust storms deposit it, other winds remove it again - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleaning_event and the photos of the Spirit rover.

      It isn't immediately surprising that dust will stick to the wheels more than elsewhere - dry powders do clump, especially with compression (try playing with flour or baking powder) - and of course the different materials on the rover will have different "stickability" (probably the solar panels are as low-stick as possible with coatings or electrostatic charge, etc)

      The self-portrait is described by Nasa: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/multimedia/pia16239.html

      In essence it's a photo stitch from a camera at the tip of the sampling arm. So no problems with power, data, etc. The uniformity of lighting probably comes from (a) Mars has a lot of light scattering from the large amount of suspended dust (also a pretty pink-ish sky) and (b) this is a heavily manipulated image - as well as selecting, aligning, and cropping the photos it's safe to assume that effort was put into correcting exposure and dynamic range (that's using "manipulation" in a very positive sense: removing artifacts from the raw data to enable the useful info to shine, (c) as with any pre-eminent science gear that camera is being driven by a team of very bright very experienced people who think carefully about every action (c.f. me with a camera - just blaze away and hope that some of the shots aren't too duff)

      1. Khaptain Silver badge

        Re: One or two questions

        Cheers Mongo, sounds quite plausable.

        NASA really don't need to make the same mistakes as the moon photos this time. For their own credibility, it is very very important that everything remains above board.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
          Paris Hilton

          Capricorn One, come in!

          There were "mistakes" regarding the moon photos?

    2. Rattus Rattus

      Re: One or two questions

      "Why would the dust stick to the wheels if the climate is dry anyway ?"

      Elecrostatic attraction?

  12. STGM

    Call this news?

    Who cares about this when Wills and Kate are going to be parents?!

  13. Steven Roper
    Stop

    Hang on a minute

    How was that second photograph, the one of Curiosity showing the scoops from nearby the rover, taken? Who or what is holding the camera? Is there a second robot with a camera following Curiosity around taking pictures of it, or have NASA contracted with some Martian cameraman to take pictures? Inquiring minds want to know.

    1. Dan 10
      Coat

      Re: Hang on a minute

      David Bailey-n? (Try saying it)

      Sorry.

  14. graeme leggett

    on Mars, not necessarily of Mars

    So John Carter rather than a Thark then?

  15. resoldab
    Happy

    I for one welcome our Chlorine compound overlords!

    And any molecules that look threatening...

  16. Dark Horse
    Joke

    terrestrial or martian carbon?

    In the "graph" picture, it mentions that it's indeterminate that the carbon from the chlorinated carbons could be martian or terrestrial and that further analysis is required.

    I thought carbon is carbon. How would you tell if it was from Earth or not? "Made in China" labels on the protons?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: terrestrial or martian carbon?

      The only protons that decay!

    2. graeme leggett

      Re: terrestrial or martian carbon?

      12C/13C ratio might be a pointer.

  17. Winkypop Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Where's the life?

    There was supposed to be earth shattering news about life!

    1. xyz
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Where's the life?

      It's life Jim...but not as Nasa* knows it.

      *We'd like to say yes, but the bad men in the shadows made us say no.

    2. MahFL22

      Re: Where's the life?

      That was just media hype, and a misunderstanding of what John was actually talking about. If they do find life organics they won't wait 2 weeks to announce it.

  18. Avatar of They Silver badge
    Happy

    All is good.

    I am still happy that a nuclear powered, laser wielding tank is performing A level grade Chemistry, half a billion miles from home, via remote control. Who cares if they take extra time to be cautious.

  19. Paul_Murphy

    They're NASA and they know it

    Obligatory link to an amusing video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=QFvNhsWMU0c&list=UUqNqlriXbMUGGI5Sc0WYm3g

    enjoy - or don't it's a free* country

    ttfn

    *Unless you read the EULA upon entry, in which case you know it isn't really....

  20. MahFL22
    FAIL

    John Grotzinger

    John Grotzinger is the Project Scientist, not mission director. Richard Cook is the Project Manager.

    Also the landing system is not gentle, it's brutal raw rocket power thats is used in the last part of the landing.

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