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

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

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

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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Hello! My name is Ian O'Neill and I've been writing for the Universe Today since December 2007. I am a solar physics doctor, but my space interests are wide-ranging. Since becoming a science writer I have been drawn to the more extreme astrophysics concepts (like black hole dynamics), high energy physics (getting excited about the LHC!) and general space colonization efforts. I am also heavily involved with the Mars Homestead project (run by the Mars Foundation), an international organization to advance our settlement concepts on Mars. I also run my own space physics blog: Astroengine.com, be sure to check it out!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • IGBT August 5, 2008, 10:56 PM

    ..it’s been rumored for a few weeks now that they found the remains of a license plate and wheel bearings. NASA should be comming forth with the pic’s any day.

  • Dark Gnat August 6, 2008, 5:55 AM

    I think there’s been enough Bush-bashing and conspiracy talk. It has absolutley nothing to do with the topic, and it is essentially trolling.

    The site operators have every right to “censor” and moderate.

  • Joe August 6, 2008, 6:30 AM

    I do apologize for Bush bashing, this is a great site. I love reading the articles and especially the comments.
    Keep up the good work.


  • Mike Johnson August 6, 2008, 7:35 AM


    “I think there’s been enough Bush-bashing and conspiracy talk. It has absolutley nothing to do with the topic, and it is essentially trolling.”

    That was my thinking also, hence my snarky comment about the BDS comments.
    But guess who Ian decided to “censor”, “delete”, “remove”…guess whose comment “is no longer there”?

    The BDS remains but the anti-BDS had to go.

    “The site operators have every right…”

    True. They certainly have the ability and the ownership. But most website operators, especially science websites, do not so obviously engage in viewpoint discrimination.

  • Winker August 6, 2008, 8:44 AM

    Well just one fact to affirm that god does not exist never has and never will. That or that Martians were really bad and god destroyed them all. However fascinating the story may be, the truth still remains to be discovered. It shall be discovered only when you humans are ready for it. I can say this much, life on earth would be very different had it not been for contaminants from Mars. Ah just kidding you wish there was some truth to that too. My point is anyone can come up with any theory about it. However, let the facts speak, I say. I say god, faith, religion has no place, business or should have any interests in this finding. I am sure we will have to dig a bit more before revealing some truth. I would like to see that there was life and that microbes have been found alive to shut the religious freaks once and for all. Those religious fanatics have kept humanity at a technological stone age for far too long. The benefits to humans can be much greater if evolution was allowed to accelerate and adapt to our new conditions. I think we need to band together and prohibit religious fanatics from existing. We can only do this with education and truth.

  • Winker August 6, 2008, 9:02 AM

    Update on what is really in Mars..

    Here is the WH spin on that. The probe got confused with it’s shadow and will be put out of commission. WH will shortly after announce a space probe to be maned and sent to Mars to build verify the shadows.

  • someone concerned August 6, 2008, 9:04 AM

    Humans have always thought they knew the truth. What difference does it make what we think we know. In the end, there’s no denying the truth.

  • Daverspm August 6, 2008, 6:41 PM

    $50 says they found out the Nazi’s got there out first ^^

    (I can’t help it! I’m obsessed with this conspiracy theory!)

  • Reality Check August 6, 2008, 6:56 PM

    Get your crap straight. Don’t compare orthodox communism with Stalinism they are drastically different.

  • state the oblivious August 12, 2008, 7:44 AM

    note to those speculating about the presence of oil….

    its an organic substance! the presence of oil would also signify the presence of fairly complex life in the distant past, so its unlikely to say the least.

  • Solomon August 14, 2008, 4:47 PM

    Well its probably nothing new really, Imean there are already pictures of a “ribbed” creature or structure on mars, So whats so bad about finding some sort of life?

  • Johnson August 15, 2008, 3:40 PM

    or maybe that the “scientific” faith (religion) of evolution is complete BS, outside of changes within the kinds based on environment. It takes more faith for me to believe in that crap than if someone said that aliens put us here. So many people have faith in scientists who tell us that life went through changes that we dont even see happening today. IE: Changes in horses that brought about different sizes and shapes–believable and provable, changes in horses that make them transform into another creature altogether–fantasy and guessing.

    As far as religious concerns, it wouldn’t effect me, the good book does say that we were made in his image, not that we were the only ones made. Well, maybe if it was a tablet that proved otherwise, but i would still be just as skeptical of the people who delivered any science without proof as would someone who is skeptical of faith in God without proof. Some parts of science are religious, and they require you believe certain things that are not provable, a good bit of it. But in todays scientific world, speculation and relativity count as hard proof. Science is testable and repeatable, and only then do you have proof. For some folks, proof of any life, even a spore is enough “proof of life elsewhere” to give them the greenlight that they are safe from a god altogether, that is why i do believe the search is so fervent. Any Christian who would publically claim to be so would have to say that there probably are aliens out there, and the Bible mentions the Nephilim who came down to earth. Dont believe me, read it for yourself. I too would want to make sure and mull it over before someone came behind and proved all my theories wrong with evidence, see– Neaderthal man and various so called forms of ape man creatures from millions of years ago(translation: long ago, and far far away!).

    Since we are all guessing, I too would think it is something revolving around a source of renewable energy, or just something we haven’t seen before. Otherwise, why would you go to any politician who has anything to gain, which is all of them both democrats and repubs.

    Some of these folks make me laugh, ya need a good sense of humor!

  • john August 17, 2008, 1:53 AM

    Well what was this?

  • johnwayne August 21, 2008, 1:07 PM

    it was a human skull!!! o.0

  • Korb September 8, 2008, 9:21 PM

    If they announced they found life, or the potential for life, wouldnt this create a race to mars? Just a thought. We wouldn’t want anyone beating us to these natural resources we have found… so we’d keep them under wraps. China has already announced plans for a manned mission to mars. We better take dull photos of red rocks and deserted landscapes. Better not show those photos of trees on mars.

    yes this is MARS

  • Jim September 11, 2008, 3:04 PM

    Is it a ring-pull?

  • David September 26, 2008, 1:44 PM

    I’s say a new element or compound not know yet or not found on earth. Perhaps a new type of metal?

  • xuxppxxuxyyy December 25, 2008, 2:19 PM

    hello it is test. WinRAR provides the full RAR and ZIP file support, can decompress CAB, GZIP, ACE and other archive formats.