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View Diary: Life (sort of) on Mars (120 comments)

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  •  NASA: No Organics (2+ / 0-)
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    bontemps2012, Notreadytobenice

    This diary is overhyped. Neither life, nor sort of, nor precursors.

    Complex Chemistry Within the Martian Soil: No Definitive Detection of Organics Yet

    ScienceDaily (Dec. 3, 2012) — NASA's Mars Curiosity rover has used its full array of instruments to analyze Martian soil for the first time, and found a complex chemistry within the Martian soil. Water and sulfur and chlorine-containing substances, among other ingredients, showed up in samples Curiosity's arm delivered to an analytical laboratory inside the rover.

    ... "We have no definitive detection of Martian organics at this point, but we will keep looking in the diverse environments of Gale Crater," said SAM Principal Investigator Paul Mahaffy of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

    •  Note the weasel words (3+ / 0-)

      "We have no definitive detection of Martian organics"

      They did detect organic molecules--specifically chloromethanes. The indefiniteness is whether the carbon is indigenous to Mars or hitchhiked in on meteorites or the rover itself.

      Interestingly, two of the organics detected, chloromethane and dichloromethane, were also detected by the Viking-1 and Viking-2 landers, respectively, back in the 1970s. At the time the detections were written off as due to traces of cleaning compounds in the instrument (GCMS).

      A couple of years ago the Phoenix lander discovered perchlorate in its soil samples, which led to the Viking results being revisited.  In 2010, McKay and Navarro-Gonzalez did experiments showing that interactions with perchlorate could have produced the chloromethanes seen in the Viking GCMS.

      This result was disputed by others as is often the case in these fields:

      Klaus Biemann, leader for the Viking GC-MS experiment, has sharply criticized the perchlorate theory. In a published comment on the Navarro-Gonzalez and McKay paper, he and Jeffrey Bada of the Scripps Institution wrote that the theory is based on faulty data and unfounded extrapolations, and that it ignores the known presence of several cleaning compounds found in the GC-MS during the Viking experiments.


      Biemann says that the GC-MS instrument used by Curiosity is, in some ways, an advance over the ones on the Viking landers. That’s why, he said, if Curiosity is not able to detect organics, then it becomes ever more apparent that those compounds can’t survive on the Martian surface.

      "It’s end of story," he said.

      Maybe he is wearing a little egg this morning?

      The story continues...

    •  Not overhyped (1+ / 0-)
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      They did find organics. Whether they are of Martian origin or not, which the update elucidates, is the question. Real science moves in increments, this is one piece of what is an evolving picture of Martian soil chemistry and perhaps life.

      "No one has the right to spend their life without being offended." Philip Pullman

      by zaynabou on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 07:06:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  and I suppose (0+ / 0-)

        whether you think it's hype or not given what they found depends on how much of a astronomy geek you are. I find it really exciting, if for no other reason that it may indicate at the very least that organics are much more widespread throughout the solar system than previously thought. Even if this proves to be irrelevant for Mars it may have profound implications for the possibility of organics, or even possibly biotics, on other bodies, such as the aforementioned Europa.

        "No one has the right to spend their life without being offended." Philip Pullman

        by zaynabou on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 07:10:27 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

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