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NASA Announces First Full Mars Soil Analysis






“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. What happened to the "big" historic announcement NASA promised?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, including water and sulfur and chlorine-containing substances.

The rover’s laboratory includes the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) suite and the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument. SAM used three methods to analyze gases given off from the dusty sand when it was heated in a tiny oven. One class of substances SAM checks for is organic compounds — carbon-containing chemicals that can be ingredients for life.

The samples’ composition is about half common volcanic minerals and half non-crystalline materials such as glass. SAM added information about ingredients present in much lower concentrations and about ratios of isotopes. Isotopes are different forms of the same element and can provide clues about environmental changes. The water seen by SAM does not mean the drift was wet. Water molecules bound to grains of sand or dust are not unusual, but the quantity seen was higher than anticipated.

SAM tentatively identified the oxygen and chlorine compound perchlorate. This is a reactive chemical previously found in arctic Martian soil by NASA’s Phoenix Lander. Reactions with other chemicals heated in SAM formed chlorinated methane compounds — one-carbon organics that were detected by the instrument. The chlorine is of Martian origin, but it is possible the carbon may be of Earth origin, carried by Curiosity and detected by SAM’s high sensitivity design.

The Daily Galaxy via

Image credit: NASA artist's impression of Gale Crater search area


Limited information. Only samples from mars brought back to earth will be able to provide the details re. carbon, sulphur and chlorine compounds that exist there. Besides one needs to look at the oxides too in order see both oxygen imbeded there as also present in the atmosphere in trace amount. Life forms in microbial form also will hint at the stage of evolution of life forms on Mars.


Leave it to the mass-media to tell us something later proven to be an over-exaggeration

Well the next time NASA announces it has history making news people will take that lightly. Paul Mahaffy must lead a boring life.

Was this the history making discovery?? or is that still yet to come?? I would not call "more than anticipated" water molecules to be a history making discovery..

I'm underwhelmed.

There is microbial life of Mars! (Search-Jupiter conceives Earth)

A multibillion dollar experiment and they can't decontaminate for carbon ahead of time so the experiment was basically useless? WTF? Then why even bother if they Knew it would be useless? This is the same naysaying we got on the last mission.

And how is this earth shaking? There is something funny going on here - we need to look a little deeper. Maybe it was earth shaking but the govt decided we didn't need to know.

And if they're looking for life why No life scientists? How are geologists supposed to look for life? It's baloney. And why not a simple DNA sequencer? They can make them very small. NASA is acting to idiotic on this they need to get their funding pulled until they get their head straight.

So this is the 'one for history books'?

NASA seems to have developed a pattern of overhype: remember when they announced that they had found an arsenic-based life form?

I understand they have concerns about funding, but this kind of hyping certainly does not help.

I'm surprised that after so much time and money has been spent, that the equipment and personnel can't tell if the sample was contaminated!!! What was the point of it all?

The point of it all was to get answers but not for the public. At least that's what it seems...

NASA is the public underfunded side of the United States space program. The Air Force has its own space program funded by the black budget. They have better technology (50 to 100 years ahead of what the public side uses) and better people. NASA is more of a public relations front group to keep the people happy, thinking they are accomplishing something with all those billions. While the military side does the real work. Proof? We'll just recently as a gift the NSA gave NASA a decommissioned space based telescope used for spying, that apparently had equal or better optics than Hubble. Which means they now have something way better and simply didn't need it. This is just one example of the military and intelligence communities superiority and budget priority over NASA.

Actually my mistake it was the NRO National Reconnaissance Office who gave the telescopes. The revelations leads to questions over how long the NRO has had the satellites - which are said to have 100 times the field of view of Hubble - and what exactly they were planning to use them for.

Actually my mistake it was the NRO National Reconnaissance Office who gave the telescopes. The revelations leads to questions over how long the NRO has had the satellites - which are said to have 100 times the field of view of Hubble - and what exactly they were planning to use them for.

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