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Big News From Mars? Rover Scientists Mum For Now (npr.org)
171 points by whyenot on Nov 20, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 88 comments



Can I just for a moment question their PR strategy here?

Them saying they have found something big leads to speculation, speculation that might paint the image of an discovery much bigger than what was actually discovered. Scientists are understandably enthusiastic about this, but they also have to keep in mind that when they just use words to describe the importance of the discovery without naming the discovery itself, it’s easy for them to get it very, very wrong. Something for the history books for them might well be something most people really couldn’t care less about.

I think the adult thing of saying that it is possible you discovered x but you still need confirmation may well work, if you know how to frame it correctly. But whatever you do, don’t say anything about history books, not before you are really sure.

Alternatively you shut up and say nothing to the public until you are sure.

This whole “We have discovered something huge but we can’t tell you what until we are really sure!” seems very misguided to me.

I think this is just a case of bad PR, not bad science reporting or anything like that.


This kind of thing happens often, where you've got "news", but can't disclose until it's final.

In these situations it can be helpful to use some kind of scale or domain reference.

"We've got some pretty exciting news coming up, and we think it could change the world"

vs

"We've got some pretty exciting news coming up, that should really fire up geologists"

vs

"We've got some pretty exciting news coming up, that gets us closer to understanding the history of Mars"

Set a level of expectation.


From the article:

"This data is gonna be one for the history books. It's looking really good..."


The existence of any kind of life (past or present) would be something for the history books. Only Curiosity pretty much cannot find life, only hints that life exists or existed. Maybe this is about something else, but if this is only about hints that life exists or existed, then it isn’t really something for the history books. Most people would be bored by news like that. (I personally would find it very exciting, but I’m far from typical.)


SPOILER WARNING

There's life everywhere... we just haven't found it yet.


re: Only Curiosity pretty much cannot find life

What? A martian running in front of the camera would work. A rover not sent by earth. A little house on the... sand. Big ol skeleton of a unicorn... Seriously, you have no imagination.


It cannot find any kind of life we can realistically expect to find (given past data).

You hurt me. Don’t be so mean.


I think we've all recognized the lack of context this actually provides. Something for a scientist's history books could mean jack to the general public.


"This just in -- exciting news about the Mars Rover -- more at 11"


Well, if you have news, but can't talk about it, you don't have any news. So why say anything about it at all - unless you want some PR?


I agree, big news to most people from mars would be the discovery of non-microbial life or a big ass monolith with strange writing on it. Big news to a scientist is that some rock formation shows evidence that there probably was water on the planet in the distant past.


Right. By making this fuss on NPR they encourage pseudo-scientific predictions by laypersons of what this big discover is, that are almost always fantastical and far in excess of anything that is really likely to be discovered by such a mission. This mis-setting of expectations then undermines the actual discovery, particularly as the overall level of scientific ignorance in the media is pathetically high.


Totally agree. The PR team is usually much more careful than this. This reads like a case of an excited scientist over indulging a friendly journalist.


They've pulled this headline baiting before. Remember the 'upcoming announcement with big implications for extraterrestrial life' that turned out to be a methane-breathing lifeform that then ended up maybe not breathing methane? It's hard not to let some hope and excitement in when reading these, but their PR strategy has made a daily bread of raising expectations.


NASA need to justify each of their missions and the money they spend as they are already on a tight budget and being closely monitored by congress.

The 'results' from missions are stories such as this one and other discoveries.

It is in NASA's interest to overplay and overvalue the importance of discoveries from each of these missions.

It is sad that NASA has to play this game, since discovering nothing with Mars Pathfinder would be just as interesting to science as discovering something, but it wouldn't make the mission easy to justify the next time they go and ask for a billion dollars.


> as they are already on a tight budget

They are NOT on a tight budget - even with the entire shuttle fleet shut down, they're spending more than they have in all but a few years since 1970.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budget_of_NASA

$17 BILLION may not sound like much in the insane scale of other federal spending, but it's a vast amount by any other scale.



Sometimes with collaborations like these, there's a leak. When the leak makes it to the press, then the press calls up the collaboration.

If the spokesman for the collaboration can't say, "Nope, we haven't seen anything interesting. It's all boring, please go home.", then the journalists know that something's up and the hoopla starts.

Scientists like to talk. It's our job. Collaborations are only partially optimized to contain leaks. I sincerely doubt that any part of the rover team would like to stir up hoopla when they aren't certain about results.


It could be strategic PR. NPR appears to have an exclusive on the story for the moment. That's good for NPR and serves the purpose of working the rest of the press into a froth.

It would be exactly what you want when you know what you know is true, and might leak anyways, but you are stuck doing the work to add a sigma to the results.


> NPR appears to have an exclusive on the story for the moment.

Unlikely. Scientists don't normally work this way (not to say "never"). If true it would in essence grant an exclusive right to follow a non-story. But I doubt that NPR actually has any kind of exclusive. It's more likely that only NPR is willing to publish what is in essence a background on a story, not a story per se.

For comparison, consider what happened before the Higgs announcement last summer. Because the circumstances were very different and the stakes much higher, everyone was publishing speculations about what would be announced, in advance of knowing anything at all. In that case also, there was no exclusive, but the level of publishing enthusiasm was higher.


I heard this on the way in this morning, pretty much the only conclusion I have now is that they found life.


Not with SAM. The best its 2 spectrometers and chromatographer will do is tell you chemical makeup.


It's probably traces of certain elements that mean something about the possibility for past life on Mars (but not proof of life)...which won't be too exciting for the general public.


Which has the best resolution of all the Rover's tools? Obviously we didn't send a tunneling electron microscope to Mars, so what scale of objects can we detect? Bacteria-sized objects?


It's not like that. The rover has several imagers including a microscopic(ish) imager, but it can't see things as small as cells. Almost all of the instruments are designed around determining the mineral composition of rocks or the chemical composition of samples.

If there are signs of life on Mars it's unlikely that we'll be able to see it with any imager on the rover, but we might be able to detect its chemical signature. The sample analysis instrument is a gas chromatograph connected to a laser spectrometer and a mass spectrometer. What happens is that a sample will be vaporized and then pushed through a long column. The column is designed so that different molecules will have a different speed through the column and thus will come out at different times. Then each of those parts of the sample (which should be comprised primarily of one molecule) is passed into the spectrometers, which can identify its molecular structure. This can determine the chemical makeup of minerals, but it can also identify complex organic molecules such as the components of cells or perhaps things like cellulose or lignin and so forth.


One of SAM's gas chromatograph columns is chiral: it can separate left-handed molecules from right-handed ones. Terrestrial life uses amino acids that almost all one handedness, while Earthly sugars are mostly the other. Finding a similar pattern on Mars would be a smoking gun demonstration of extraterrestrial life.

http://msl-scicorner.jpl.nasa.gov/Instruments/SAM/


Exactly this. We'd expect for random abiotic organic chemistry to yield racemic mixtures of chiralities. Detection of one enantimer at higher levels than another typically calls for enzymes.


<RANT>

I find this very frustrating. As someone steeped in engineering and the sciences, I am used to working with unusual, unexpected and/or exciting results and I am used to those results being confirmed, revised, denied, etc.

My frustration is not with the scientists; I'm sure I'd do the same thing given a possibly groundbreaking discovery and an inability to discuss much about it. My frustration is with us, the public, and with the fact that we can't be trusted as part of the broader team in this exploration. And I guess I'm frustrated with the media for feeding us with hyped-up-everything, since, even though we seem to demand it, it keeps us from being able to be involved in these conversations/discoveries.

</RANT>

edit: added tags...


I agree with your conclusion.

As an example of early disclosure of unconfirmed results, I am fairly confident many members of the public still think we have evidence that neutrinos travel faster than light..


I think in that case the scientists involved did everything they could think of to explain their data before going public. So I wouldn't call it an early disclosure of an unconfirmed result, more like "Hey everyone, this is really weird, and we we can't explain it"

Historically, this is where one of 2 things would happen, either it would have some mundane explanation that the original investigator missed, or it's one of those anomalies that leads to new scientific discoveries.

So I think they handled it correctly, and got the right kind o f attention.


> So I think they handled it correctly, and got the right kind o f attention.

I also think they handled it correctly, but I believe the head of that org was relieved of command.

Not cool. He was very explicit about the how's and why's of what they were publishing, but many media outlets took it far away from context.


Wait, didn't the principal scientist resign as a result of the media hype storm?

Yes... http://news.discovery.com/space/opera-leaders-resign-after-n...


Yes he was sacked, but here's the important quote from that article:

Even Ereditato never claimed that their work had overturned Einstein. "I would never say that," he told Science last September. "We are forced to say something. We could not sweep it under the carpet, because that would be dishonest."


Agreed.

Interestingly, the blowback from early disclosure of unconfirmed [and bad] results can overwhelm subsequent disclosure of confirmed results. See: cold fusion. Cold fusion exists in a variety of forms, but, even in the face of continuing positive results, most in the public think that cold fusion is busted.

Note: I'm not claiming that cold fusion is a viable energy production technology, just that it certainly exists and that interesting results have been published about it over the last 20 years.


Cold fusion doesn't actually exist. There might be evidence that there's some reaction with the materials used, but there's no reason to suspect its fusion at all. I think the CF crowd keeps redefining itself. Now this is all an interesting chemical reaction that's difficult to reproduce or requires some really specific parameters.


Citations? (to a credible source)


I think Discover had an article about the status of it gaining more mainstream acceptability - here it is: http://discovermagazine.com/2012/nov/27-big-idea-bring-back-... A more skeptical article from Forbes in Jan: http://onforb.es/ysGcVF


Thanks for the links. Neither of those articles say anything about cold fusion. They discuss the possibility of a cold fission.

From the Discover article: "A growing cadre of scientists now suspect that Pons and Fleischmann’s [1989] observations were the result not of fusion but of more plausible physical processes." "Fusion requires enormous temperatures and pressures, which is why it occurs only in stars and bombs." The first section is even titled, "Cold, Yes, But Not Fusion."

What I get from reading those articles, is that scientists think there might have been something to the 1989 experiments, but that it's not fusion. Instead, they believe it's a clean, low-energy form of fission. While interesting, this does not confirm the existence of cold fusion.

From the Forbes article, it appears that scientists are now referring to it as "low-energy nuclear reactions" (LENR). Consistent with the Discover article, this is described as a clean form a fission that scientists are currently researching. That's a far cry from saying that LENR exists in the wild, let alone cold fusion.

Thank you for providing the links. I was actually unaware of the research in LENR before, and I'm happy to have learned about it.


Thanks for the references. It is as you say: Science in general is getting over it's somewhat childish dislike for anything that has to do with "Cold Fusion" and there is some earnest research going on. And why not? If there is a chance cold fusion may work it is sensible to find out if it is indeed so. Or if not. So far they have a few interesting ideas and some unexplained experiments. But not more. No hard evidence. Just because scientists are taking it seriously again does not mean there really is something there. Compare it to MythBusters: "We've heard about this cool thing - let's see if there is something to it."


If you actually read those references, it's clear that they're not talking about cold fusion. It's rather a cold form of fission.

The difference is important, because our current understanding of fusion is that it can only occur at extremely high temperature and pressure (because that's what it takes to fuse two atoms into a larger atom). Fission (the splitting of atoms), on the other hand, happens to atoms without added energy or pressure.

If cold fusion were real, it would overturn our understanding of fusion. Cold fission does not, as far as I know, contradict our understanding of fission. That's why it's not surprising that scientists are taking cold fission seriously. But they are not taking cold fusion seriously.


This is a bit unfair to the public. With any science, in my experience there are naturally different levels of disclosure. It is natural to share first with current collaborators, then with friendly recent collaborators, then with colleagues in related areas, then in informal seminar discussions, and so on.

One of the reasons for this is trustworthiness, as you say, but there is much more to it. Trustworthiness isn't the main parameter at all. A larger part of it is how much you trust the results. At each level of disclosure, by social convention there is a rough level of implied confidence that can also be spelled out more carefully. It is embarrassing to be wrong, and the higher your implied confidence was the more embarrassing it is! The rationale behind this social convention might once have been trust, but it is now free-standing.

Some incentives for layered disclosure are obvious; for example, for PR it might be useful to build a buzz within your research community. Other incentives are less obvious. For example, you might disclose early results to a colleague to hopefully get them interested and involved in the research. But if you disclose the results too broadly, too soon, then they will probably be less enthusiastic. They want the inside track on a cool problem, so that there is some time and freedom to explore it, and it isn't a race. (Races for results are stressful and also unfulfilling and wasteful; there's usually no point having multiple teams competing to do the same stuff, just trying to beat the others out for priority.)


Grotzinger says they recently put a soil sample in SAM, and the analysis shows something earthshaking. "This data is gonna be one for the history books. It's looking really good," he says.

Pretty exciting language from a lead investigator at NASA. Cross all those fingers..


It's either a lot of water or some sign of life or both. crosses fingers


I'm still holding out for tiny 1 millimeter tall people who run on photosynthesis.


I got 9 points for this. What is happening to this site! ;-)


We already know that Mars is lousy with water. For most of the surface all you have to do is dig down maybe a meter or so and you'll find permafrost everywhere.

I suspect it's some sort of sign of complex organics, which would be a strong sign of past life.


Maybe the Higgs Boson? (Ok; jokes belong to Reddit.)

Big news for scientists may end up being unnoticeable small developments to the general public. Earthshaking may be key here, like an organic compound unexpected there.


The question here is, is "earthshaking" something NPR is describing it as, or is it actually how the NASA scientist is describing it? The quote says it's something for the history books, the "earthshaking" remark is made outside of the quote.


Just fantasizing here about potential fodder for the next decade of science fiction, but what would be even cooler than finding complex organics would be finding complex artificial materials (plastics, refined metals, glass, etc.).


The thing about finding complex artificial materials is the the likely explanation would be "it came come the rover."

While finding complex materials would be earth shattering, the threshold of accepting a martian source for a reading like is much higher than it would be for accepting the same for organic findings.


Could also be a lot of some other important element or molecule.

Or could be a scientific whiff. Looks like they're keeping their mouths shut until they can scientifically confirm the data.


what would they detect in the raw data if they scooped up a colony of extremophiles?


Excrement or remains, likely.


The audio version gives a bit more context. It sounded like the reporter was there already doing another story, and the NASA folks were very distracted by this but wouldn't yet say more than what's quoted in the story.

Could be that it wasn't much of a calculated PR stunt by either side, but rather just human nature at work. If you're the NASA people, and you're getting exciting data, you're going to be excited about it. If you're a reporter, and everyone's excited, you're going to write about it even if you have no good details.


There is "scientist" exciting, and there is "general public" exciting. "General public" exciting is sign of life. "Scientist" exciting can be a bunch of other things. I'm hoping for "general public" exciting, but am afraid I'll be disappointed. fingers crossed


Organic Chemist here engaging in some speculation.

My best guess: Curiosity's SAM module has discovered significant levels of small organic molecules in the Martian soil. Not just any organic molecules, but either byproducts of life - or more exciting, the actual building blocks of life.

This would be strong evidence for present or past life, but would be far from an observation of life itself.

Some commenters have made the point that 'something for the history books' (the quote from the missions's PI) means different things for scientists and the public.

I'm pretty sure the discovery falls into the category of exciting for scientists, not exciting for the general public.

The data in question are coming from SAM, Curiosity's sample analysis tool. It's equipped with six gas chromatography (GC) columns. The output of these columns can be fed into either a mass detector (QMS) or spectrometer (TLS). IMO, none of these tools can detect life itself:

http://ssed.gsfc.nasa.gov/sam/samiam.html

SAM's purpose is specifically to find evidence for organic molecules - molecules based on carbon. The announcement will have something to do with discovery of organic molecules of some kind:

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/news/msl20110118.html

So direct observation of microbes or any other life form will not be the announcement. I'm pretty sure that's the only discovery that would be 'earthshaking' for the public.

What would be earthshaking for me as an organic chemist?

One possibility would be that SAM has discovered known byproducts of life, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), as was found in the Martian Meteorite studied by the Zare group:

http://www.news.cornell.edu/chronicle/97/4.3.97/Mars_rock.ht...

PAHs can be made through a variety of inanimate processes, so I'd view this discovery as more ho-hum.

Still, it should be remembered that Viking failed to detect the presence of any organic molecules at all. Finding any organic molecules would be a big change in how we view Mars - but not in my view 'one for the history books'.

However, if familiar building blocks of life such as amino acids or carbohydrates were detected, that would indeed fall into the earthshaking category.

Life on Earth uses a selection of about 20 different amino acids. I would consider observation of a similar assortment of amino acids as strong evidence pointing to past or present life on Mars.

Observation of five- and six-carbon carbohydrates, which are generally much more difficult to synthesize than amino acids, would be even stronger evidence for life. It's hard to overestimate how important that discovery would be.

Observation of peptides - amino acids strung together as is done by all known life would probably be the most mind-blowing thing I could imagine SAM discovering. Depending on what specifically was found, it could remove any doubt - Mars has or had life. Very long peptide chains can be synthesized without life, but it's not easy. The exact composition of amino acids in the peptide chain would be critical for the interpretation and would be more time consuming than just, for example, observing a PAH.

The fact that amino acids, peptides, or carbohydrates themselves were detectable today, given that they do degrade over time, could point in the direction of life having been present recently.


I feel like the detection of e.g. amino acids on mars is just wishful thinking. That either points to panspermia (either mars->earth or earth->mars or, uhh, alien-> both?) or concurrent development of extremely similar forms of life. Both scenarios strike me (irrationally) as extremely unlikely.

I'm guessing it will discover a biproduct of biological processes, e.g. high levels of methane.


Intra-solar-system panspermia is far more mundane than the galactic-sized versions. It is well known that pieces of all the planets end up on other planets due to being ejected during meteor impacts and eventually landing on the other ones. We know this, because we have found some of the ones that have landed on Earth. It is a reasonable hypothesis that certain hardy bacteria could conceivably survive the trip. If Mars was ever hospitable to live, there is a plausible path for simple Earth life to get there.

So in the event Martian life is discovered, there's still some work to be done; is it "just" Earth life that got there, albeit presumably heavily-adapted, or can it be established that it is not from the same line as Earth? The second one is the real jackpot question that has profound implications for our place in the universe. The first one, less so. Not zero, but definitely less so. And if it is the first one, it's going to be a real bear trying to explain that it isn't the second one to a press that is mostly incapable of understanding the difference, let alone explaining it to the public....


It seems to me that the probability of life independently developing along similar routes is hard to really peg a probability on. We only have one example of abiogenesis to study right now, but evolution of earth-life could give us some basis to reason about independent instances of abiogenesis.

Certain "features" just make sense for life on Earth, and have evolved numerous times independently. Flight is a classic example, having evolved four completely separate times (bugs, (extinct) pterosaurs, birds, and bats). Complex eyes also seem to have independently developed many times.

Similarly, it seems fairly reasonable that certain "life chemistries" "make more sense" than others. The extent to which that may be the case could also be up in the air I think. Maybe 'carbon with a water solvent' is particularly common, but amino acid based is less so. Or maybe amino acid based life tends to naturally follow from an also likely carbon based chemistry.

It will be exciting to see what we uncover in the future. I think either two cases of abiogenesis or a solid case of panspermia would be pretty wild, for their own reasons.


Speak to a(n astro)biologist. It is exceedingly likely that independently developed extraterrestrial life will use amino acids in some way, shape, or form. It is exceedingly unlikely that it would use the exact same 20 amino acids, however, which would give a way of detecting panspermia. For that matter, any chemically unlikely preponderance of a subset of amino acids would be very strong evidence for life.



Wikipedia has two videos explaining what SAM is for http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sample_Analysis_at_Mars

It seems that it is related to the question of is/was there life on Mars. It can detect organic products that are most likely produced by life, and if it has, it means we will be able to follow these products to something more conclusive.


During the Viking program in the 70's, Levin's Labeled Release experiments seemed to show life in the martian soil. Two other experiments, also on Viking, failed to collaborate this finding, although there were issues with both of them which made their negative findings less meaningful.

Ever since Viking, there have been no biological experiments sent to Mars. The issue has been tabled for 30 years.

I'm hoping Dr. Levin finally gets his confirmation. If that's the case, it would explain why they're double and triple checking things.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viking_program#Biological_exper...


That would suck if they scooped up fried the last (or first!) living organism on Mars.


Very Douglas Adams.


Heard this report on NPR this morning, and the impression I got was of a reporter managing to successfully salvage an interesting piece about the nature of scientific caution, the pressures on scientists to take care in announcing their results and even the restrictions placed on them by journals, from a visit to JPL where he learned about nothing specific, but did happen to be in the office with a scientist who got quite excited about an email he was reading, but then wasn't prepared to divulge any more details. I wouldn't read too much into it.


To SUM it up I hope we found evidence of one of the following.

  - Evidence of Oceans on Mars
  - Nitrogen in the soil, needed for plants to grow on mars
  - Amino Acids
  - Fossils
It could be something that is a play on words, 'Earth Shattering' could mean volcanic activity

I also wonder if they are finding rare minerals or metals.

It could also have to do with Isotope ratios, as much of our history currently depends on Carbon Dating and other Radioactive Isotope decay rates. Different Atmospheric conditions could have different isotope ratios, this would be a pretty big shake up and it does not necessarily require the rover to find a specific chemical or a complex thing like DNA or organism remnants.

My mind would be blown, if NASA found one of the following.

  - living plants
  - living microbes
  - manufactured materials not of human/ earth origin.
  - tons of precious metals.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curiosity_rover#Goals_and_objec...

Curiosity has 8 core objectives, it's probably related to one or two of theses:

  Biological
    (1) Determine the nature and inventory of organic
        carbon compounds

    (2) Investigate the chemical building blocks of life
        (carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen,
        phosphorus, and sulfur)

    (3) Identify features that may represent the effects
        of biological processes (biosignatures)

  Geological and geochemical
    (4) Investigate the chemical, isotopic, and 
        mineralogical composition of the Martian surface
        and near-surface geological materials

    (5) Interpret the processes that have formed and
        modified rocks and soils

  Planetary process
    (6) Assess long-timescale (i.e., 4-billion-year) 
        Martian atmospheric evolution processes

    (7) Determine present state, distribution, and
        cycling of water and carbon dioxide

  Surface radiation
    (8) Characterize the broad spectrum of surface 
        radiation, including galactic radiation, cosmic
        radiation, solar proton events and 
        secondary neutrons
We have heard some reports on (8), but other objectives seem like they might take a while. Plus the rover is not in the richest part of the ... theoretical river delta so I would suspect that NASA would hold their tongue on confirming (2) and or (3) until they are deeper into the mission, but (4) still seems likely, unless (2) and (3) are plentiful at this point.


NPR are probably just being sensationalist. Give a reporter a line like that about anything from earthquakes to organics in the soil and you'll find the reporter files about Martians.

I'll wait for an actual announcement before getting excited...


NPR are probably just being sensationalist

NPR is one of the least sensationalist news outlets out there. It's not like they're in a mad dash for ratings during sweeps week or something.


"Least sensationalist" can still be sensationalist. And they do need to keep the donations rolling in...

That said, I have no opinion on whether they're sensationalizing this story or not.


Absolutely, but they do tread a fine line. Many public radio fans (of which I am one) would be turned-off by the sort of rampant sensationalism and would stop listening and/or donating.

Humorous Example of the non-sensational image NPR has managed to cultivate: http://www.npr.org/2012/10/01/162075221/jack-white-disappoin...


A few things that would get me excited:

A geological proof that earth and Mars was the same body x million years ago.

High concentration of oxygen or water in the soil.

Fertile soil?

I guess anything that would make human's visit to Mars less hostile would be a big story.


We're announcing that we can't announce what we've found.

Seriously, though, I hope the results of whatever are confirmed. Not just for science but for justification for more funding to flow into space exploration.


How exciting! Can't wait to find out what it is.

On a side note, what are y'all's thoughts on the finding that radiation levels are livable? I'd love to live on Mars.


From what I understood, the radiation levels were survivable, not necessarily livable. I think I remember them saying a 6 month exposure would be pushing career limits for an astronaut, which is a two-fold improvement over unprotected space. Still bodes well for the chances of having a sealed base on Mars that allows people to travel outside occasionally.


This could make more frequent trips outside possible: http://www.nasa.gov/offices/oct/stp/niac/2012_phaseII_fellow...

And you could do it with a smaller system on a Mars buggy.


I'm so tired of reading ambiguous news about mars and space in general. Not once have I been able to read a headline from a space-exploration article and say "Wow!". I always find myself scanning through the article, trying to see what progress they've made and why it's significant.


Whatever it is I hope it's significant enough to initiate a human mission to Mars


Since Congress is working on deals to avoid the January 1st "fiscal cliff", are the Rover guys just trying to prevent any cuts to their budget?


As long as they didn't find oil.


Probably worried the Italians will throw them in jail if not 100% accurate.


what do sam instructments do?


Found: one discarded fixed-gear warp drive. Damn. Hipster. Jedis.


I am very very curious to see what they will announce. Maybe they found the birth certificate of Obama or the tax returns of Romney...Mars seems to be the perfect place to hide such things ;-)


I think you forgot to include "trolololo" in your comment.


Because he is clearly a troll?

EDIT: too much internet for the day, I've now started responding to myself.


The article is interesting, but how you managed to do this even more so.




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