The Washington Post

Curiosity rover completes full analysis of soil samples, finds no sign of ‘organics’ on Mars

View Photo Gallery: View the NASA rover’s images, including self-portraits, from the Red Planet.

Correction: An original version of this post reported that the rover had failed to find organics. However, the rover has found organic compounds, it has yet to be determined that they are of Martian origin .

Read the full report on the Mars rover’s findings from the Post’s Brian Vastag.

This Curiosity has completed full analysis of its first soil samples, the space agency announced Monday. The samples have been scooped, shaken and heated, passing through the rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) and Chemistry and Minerology (CheMin) instruments.

"We have no definitive detection of Martian organics at this point, but we will keep looking in the diverse environments of Gale Crater," said NASA’s Paul Mahaffy, the SAM principal investigator, via a release.

"The synergies of the instruments and richness of the data sets give us great promise for using them at the mission's main science destination on Mount Sharp," said John Grotzinger, Curiosity Project Scientist.

National Public Radio’s Morning Edition reported late November that the rover team had “some exciting new results,” that could not be made public at the time. In the report, Grotzinger said the findings would be “one for the history books.” He also told that the news would be released during the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting between Dec. 3-7.

NASA confirmed that the findings released Monday — far from earth-shattering — were the ones Grotzinger alluded to in his November remarks.

Speculation about the rover’s findings reached such a fever pitch that the space agency issued a Nov. 29 release, which read in part, “Rumors and speculation that there are major new findings from the mission at this early stage are incorrect.”

Frenzy aside, the rover has discovered a number of ingredients in the martian soil, including “water, sulfur and chlorine-containing components,” glass and volcanic minerals. The tests also served to test the rover’s many instruments.

Curiosity may not have discovered proof of little green men, or deep acquifers full or organic life, but the rover is only four months into its two-year mission. The hunt for the building blocks of life on the Red Planet continues.

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Emi Kolawole is the editor-in-residence at Stanford University's, where she works on media experimentation and design.



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