The surface zones where samples have been excavated by Phoenix (NASA)

The White House is Briefed: Phoenix About to Announce “Potential For Life” on Mars

Article Updated: 26 Apr , 2016

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It would appear that the US President has been briefed by Phoenix scientists about the discovery of something more “provocative” than the discovery of water existing on the Martian surface. This news comes just as the Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyzer (TEGA) confirmed experimental evidence for the existence of water in the Mars regolith on Thursday. Whilst NASA scientists are not claiming that life once existed on the Red Planet’s surface, new data appears to indicate the “potential for life” more conclusively than the TEGA water results. Apparently these new results are being kept under wraps until further, more detailed analysis can be carried out, but we are assured that this announcement will be huge

So why is there all this secrecy? According to scientists in communication with Aviation Week & Space Technology, the next big discovery will need to be mulled over for a while before it is announced to the world. In fact, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory science team for the MECA wet-chemistry instrument that made these undisclosed findings were kept out of the July 31st news conference (confirming water) so additional analysis could be carried out, avoiding any questions that may have revealed their preliminary results. They have also made the decision to discuss the results with the Bush Administration’s Presidential Science Advisor’s office before a press conference between mid-August and early September.

Although good news, Thursday’s announcement of the discovery of water on Mars comes as no surprise to mission scientists and some are amused by the media’s reaction to the TEGA results. “They have discovered water on Mars for the third or fourth time,” one senior Mars scientist joked. These new MECA results are, according to the Phoenix team, a little more complex than the water “discovery.” Scientists are keen to point out however, that this secretive news will in no way indicate the existence of life (past or present) on Mars; Phoenix simply is not equipped make this discovery. What it can do is test the Mars soil for compounds suitable to support life. The MECA instrument does have microscopes capable of resolving bacterial-scale life forms however, but this is not the focus of the forthcoming announcement, sources say.

This new MECA discovery, combined with TEGA data will probably expose something more compelling, completing another piece of the puzzle in the search for the correct conditions for life as we know it to survive on Mars. Critical to this search is to understand how the recently confirmed water and Mars regolith behave together under the Phoenix lander in the cold Martian arctic.

The MECA instrument had already made the landmark discovery that Mars “soil” was much like the soil more familiar on Earth. This finding prompted scientists to indicate that the minerals and pH levels in the regolith could support some terrestrial plants, indicating this would be useful for future Mars settlers.

What with the discovery of water, and the discovery that Mars soil is very much like the stuff we find on Earth, it is hard to guess as to what the MECA’s second soil test has discovered. What ever it is, it sounds pretty significant, especially as NASA and the University of Arizona are taking extraordinary steps to avoid any more details being leaked to the outside world. I just hope were not getting excited over something benign…

So what will this compelling discovery be? Leave your guess below…

Source: Aviation Week

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Mark Thomas
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Mark Thomas
August 2, 2008 1:35 AM

Looking forward to this announcement!

Pete
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Pete
August 2, 2008 7:25 AM
It’s great that these robotic probes allow us to get science news from the robot’s mouth so quickly – I suppose the normal process of research, article, find publisher, publish[, get flamed] would be incredibly tedious with the amount of new information coming from these probes. Who wants to write articles when you have this cool toy to play with Still, I have to wonder at what could be so ‘big’ that it requires the white-house to be briefed. Were they briefed before the water was revealed? I have several hypothetical cases forming in my mind, things like seismic activity, discovery of an organic or other interesting compound in ice (perhaps oxygen, or something like sulphur dioxide which… Read more »
Astrofiend
Member
Astrofiend
August 2, 2008 1:21 AM

Everyone needs to just chill out and maintain low expectations until it comes out – then there will be no disappointment if it turns out to be a little more mundane than some seem to anticipate… Of course it could be more major, which would be great!

BlueAmberol
Member
BlueAmberol
August 2, 2008 1:41 AM

Why not high expectations? Perhaps they found a dead mouse.
Seriously, it’s a strange story.

Kevin F.
Member
August 2, 2008 1:42 AM

THERE’S OIL ON THET THAR RED PLANET! grin

Chris Farmer - Adelaide, South Australia
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Chris Farmer - Adelaide, South Australia
August 2, 2008 1:52 AM

Maybe he’s going to announce the “War on Mars” is overwink

Kayin W
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Kayin W
August 2, 2008 1:54 AM

Nah. Just that WE were from Mars.

Kronos
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Kronos
August 2, 2008 9:20 AM

Maybe they found Jimmy Hoffa’s Body

Kronos
Guest
Kronos
August 2, 2008 9:23 AM

Note to self – Refresh the page before adding a comment = Beat me by 12 minutes.

Ben Seymour
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Ben Seymour
August 2, 2008 2:26 AM

i cannot help but get the sense some big shifts are currently underway, something big happening… mainly why does the vatican feel it has to tell its followers believeing in aliens doesnt contradict their faith? future insurance perhaps? dont wanna get caught with their pants down?

Skunkwaffle
Guest
Skunkwaffle
August 2, 2008 2:52 AM

maybe it’s something organic.

Not living organisms, but maybe something that can only have come from a some form of life.

hydrazine
Member
hydrazine
August 2, 2008 3:56 AM
@Ben Seymour *Vatican* didn’t announce anything about aliens, it’s not their jurisdiction, so to speak. The question was asked in an interview with the manager of the Vatican Observatory a few months ago to which he replied, basically, that *he* doesn’t see any contradiction there. The question pops up every once in a while and the answer is always the same but the Vatican has no official position on this matter. It’s up to the faithful to make up there own minds. As to the impending announcement, it is in my opinion most likely that they found some interesting minerals, like say nitrogen bearing compounds and other stuff that are useful for growing plants. But like with everybody… Read more »
ChrisD
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ChrisD
August 2, 2008 4:54 AM

Reading the first paragraph through RSS feed, I got the impression Ian was pulling another one of the conspiracy debunking post like the 2012 or asteroid stories posted this past month.or so smile

However I’m not holding my breath and keep my expectations low not to be disappointed, like the media hyped supernova announcement back in May, so I’ll go with Adam on the minerals/indicators. I doubt they took a picture of a Jack rabbit running circles around Phoenix eek)

reciprocum
Member
reciprocum
August 2, 2008 4:56 AM

The president should consider preempitve nuclear strike against martian microbes before they become inteligent and later develop nuclear capabilities themselves… wink

Davin
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Davin
August 2, 2008 8:08 AM

Now how did Saddam hide his WMDs all the way up there?

BlueAmberol
Member
BlueAmberol
August 2, 2008 5:30 AM

The cartoonists are going to have a field day with this.

Robbo
Guest
August 2, 2008 12:47 PM

What did they find?

My guess: Jimmy Hoffa

MrSquirrel
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MrSquirrel
August 2, 2008 8:50 AM

I’m with Jim and SilverThread on this one… What possible reason would we entrust any important discovery to Bush’s “Science” people? He has likely done more to purposefully ignore and suppress science than any president in modern times.

MrSquirrel
Guest
MrSquirrel
August 2, 2008 8:54 AM

“So why is there all this secrecy? According to scientists in communication with Aviation Week & Space Technology, the next big discovery will need to be mulled over for a while before it is announced to the world.”

How does that make any sense? The “world” has no right to know, but George Bush does? That and the whole second paragraph of this article should make anybody uncomfortable about this.

JLawson
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JLawson
August 2, 2008 6:00 AM

Attention, site owner…

You might want to remove your sitemeter code – it’s causing your page to fail when loading in IE7.

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