WASHINGTON – NASA is downplaying reports that a major discovery was made by the Mars rover Curiosity.
The speculation began after John Grotzinger, the principal investigator for the Curiosity mission, told NPR that data from the rover’s sensors “is gonna be one for the history books.”
Grotzinger didn’t go into details of the discovery, but many immediately jumped to the conclusion that Curiosity found organic molecules – the building blocks of life – on the surface of Mars. NASA knocked that rumor down with a press release.
“Rumors and speculation that there are major new findings from the mission at this early stage are incorrect,” says the release.
The release continues to say, “the instruments on the rover have not detected any definitive evidence of Martian organics.”
The Twitter account for the Curiosity rover even responded to the rumors:
Turn that frown upside down: We’re fewer than four months into a multi-year mission. We’ve only just begun!
Findings from the rover’s soil-sampling instruments are scheduled to be announced during a press conference on Monday, Dec. 3 at 9 a.m. PST at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco.
Greg Redfern, a NASA Solar System ambassador and space columnist for WTOP, says that even if the rover hasn’t found any major discoveries yet, it doesn’t mean that it won’t.
“They still have scientific results that are truly amazing to send back to Earth. They are going to tell us about weather, radiation, what they have been founding out with the soil sampling,” says Redfern.
He adds that Curiosity’s mission is still in its early stage. The rover landed on Mars in August for a two-year mission to search for signs if the landing site once had conditions that could support microbial life.
“We may still get that Earth-shaking or that history-making announcement somewhere down the line,” says Redfern. “We are learning more about the Red Planet and we are laying the groundwork for maybe going there ourselves someday and we have to patient.”