The Mars Curiosity rover has found something “interesting.”

Scientists working on NASA’s six-wheeled rover on Mars have a problem. But it’s a good problem.

They have some exciting new results from one of the rover’s instruments. On the one hand, they’d like to tell everybody what they found, but on the other, they have to wait because they want to make sure their results are not just some fluke or error in their instrument.

— Read the whole thing at “Big News From Mars? Rover Scientists Mum For Now.

There’s only that one story found via a Google News search – saw it this morning before work, not long after it had been released and nothing else has been added, apparently, all morning.

That can signify bad facts, but given what’s possibly at stake, it could also mean that a very tight clamp has been placed over information. Yeah, what if . . . ?

Martians?

The big “L” is the only thing I can think of for a story and then silence like this, rather than other neat news that only interests geologists and other folks with a specific interest in the planet.

Whatever it is was apparently found in dune soil, and here on Earth life exists in seemingly barren dunes . . . close to a water source.

Well, we’ll have to wait a couple weeks for this one.

Scientists might have a problem

As the above article points out, the scientists have to check and recheck and just thoroughly make sure of this finding, whatever it is, to confirm that it’s valid and not something Curiosity carried with it to the planet’s surface. Apparently that happened once already with methane testing, as explained in the article.

There was the Teflon issue, which apparently was worked around, but there was also a deviation from standard procedure before launch which conceivably could have introduced microbes that could have been carried to Mars by Curiosity.

That’s quite a problem. Suppose they’ve found microbes (I get lost easily in any sort of chemistry, so am not going into the details here). Can they verify that these are of Martian and not terrestrial origin? What if they can, and they are from Earth? Were they contained in the rover or did they escape into the environment? What happens to your career and your agency’s funding if you have to tell everybody you have just polluted an entire planet?

We can all guess the answer to that last one, but if I were Empress of the World, I’d double the funding and send everybody responsible for the error up there as the first team to visit the planet. That’s not exactly a reward, but in the long run it would work out best for everybody else on Earth, now that we had already messed up the (hopefully lifeless) planet with our having accidentally initiated an eons-long terraforming process – maybe.

Well, speculation gets pretty mindboggling pretty quickly, so I’ll just keep my fingers crossed and focus on the best-case scenario, that they did find life and it is of Martian origin.

Of course, the worst-case scenario develops from that:



Categories: Space

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