Is Mars Poisonous? Tasty? Confusing? Tune In And See

Dwayne Brown: Replays of this telecon will play all week. [Now online here] There were reports over the weekend that NASA was withholding information. This caused lots of rumors. This briefing will set the record straight. Mike Meyer, Michael Hecht, Peter Smith, Bill Boynton on telecon.

Mike Meyer: Media discussion could be significant but research results not conclusive. That is why NASA did not include perchlorate results. More result is needed. Results will be publicised widely once confirmed.

Peter Smith: we are breaking with tradition - we are going to allow the public to have window into our process. We have bypassed tradition due to interest by public. Rather than rampant speculation on the Internet I will offer you insight into the process.

We have substantial evidence that our soil samples contain perchlorate. On Earth these molecules are found in the Atacama desert- an arid place that gets little rain. These compounds do not destroy living organisms. Indeed, on Earth there are perchlorate reducing microorganisms. These findings are neither good nor bad for life.

Slight chance that there may be some contamination from spacecraft propulsion - we have experts checking into this.

Michael Hecht: MECA: starting to get good results from atomic force microscope. Hope to talk bout that in two weeks. Today we are going to focus on chemistry. When we got first soil sample we saw big signal from perchlorate sensor we assumed sensor was not working right. Later found that sensor was working properly. In the second sample that we got we were certain that there was a real perchlorate signal. But still have more tasks to do before claiming a scientific finding. Needed to eliminate more unlikely explanations. TEGA had not "sniffed" sample yet. We do not know what mixture of perchlorate salts we have in our sample.

Bill Boynton: TEGA - find high temp release of Oxygen - thought that this could be due to perchlorate - or other causes as well. During analysis - we did not look for chlorine. Since discovery - er suggestion - by MECA - we changed settings and looked for Chlorine as. Had we seen it - perchlorate finding would be solid. But we did not see it released from second TEGA sample.

Peter Smith - this finding does not preclude life on Mars. Indeed it could be an energy source. We ask that the media be patient with us - and we will share the results as we are confident that they are correct.

Dwayne Brown: neither the WH or the president's science advisor were briefed on this but I assume that they have been briefed now.

NASA lander may have found toxic substance on Mars, Reuters

"A NASA spokeswoman declined to characterize perchlorate as detrimental to life. But perchlorate, an oxidizing substance, is known to be harmful to humans under certain circumstances and its existence in the soil could suggest that Mars is less hospitable to life than the scientists have so far believed."

Phoenix discovery may be bad for Mars life, New Scientist

"But what if both TEGA and MECA are right, and perchlorates are found in some soil samples and not others? That's what another New Scientist colleague started to wonder after reading the NASA news release."

The Dirt on Mars Phoenix Lander Contamination, Wired

"Could the Mars Phoenix lander have been contaminated by bacteria from Earth?
The possibility was raised by rumor-multipliers feasting on an Aviation Week report that the White House had been briefed on "major new Phoenix lander discoveries concerning the 'potential for life' on Mars." The report has since been retracted, but it raised the prospect, if only wildly, that the Phoenix found Martian soil so habitable because transplanted microbes flourished there. But that, say researchers, is highly unlikely."

  • submit to reddit


Join our mailing list

Commercialization: Monthly Archives

Monthly Archives

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on August 5, 2008 4:55 PM.

Lunar Lander Challenge Has Ten Teams was the previous entry in this blog.

Rumor Control is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.