NASA confirms rumors about Mars discovery 'incorrect'

No 'definitive evidence of Martian organics' has been found so far, NASA says, crushing the hopes of billions of Earthlings.

Has Curiosity found hints of microbial life? Not yet, according to NASA. NASA/JPL-Caltech

What were you hoping for with the big juicy Mars discovery that a NASA researcher hinted at? Aliens? Kuato? Jimmy Hoffa?

As you'll no doubt recall, NASA investigator John Grotzinger was quoted as saying that data from the Curiosity rover suggested a discovery of epic significance. Well, here's your official oven-fresh serving of disappointment.

Today NASA confirmed there's no earth-shaking finding from the soil samples analyzed with Curiosity's on-board chemistry lab.

"Rumors and speculation that there are major new findings from the mission at this early stage are incorrect," NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced in a release.

"One class of substances Curiosity is checking for is organic compounds -- carbon-containing chemicals that can be ingredients for life. At this point in the mission, the instruments on the rover have not detected any definitive evidence of Martian organics."

Discovering organic compounds in the Martian dirt, as the NPR report suggested last week, would have bolstered views that the planet once harbored life -- or still does.

The JPL added that the next Curiosity news conference will be on Monday at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union, and was rather chipper about what the rover could dig up.

"The Mars Science Laboratory Project and its Curiosity rover are less than four months into a two-year prime mission to investigate whether conditions in Mars' Gale Crater may have been favorable for microbial life," the JPL noted.

"The mission already has found an ancient riverbed on the Red Planet, and there is every expectation for remarkable discoveries still to come."

Grotzinger's statement that "This data is gonna be one for the history books. It's looking really good" was apparently taken out of context, and referred to the entire Mars mission.

As Mashable has pointed out, Curiosity itself (or at least its human handlers) tweeted last week: "What did I discover on Mars? That rumors spread fast online. My team considers this whole mission 'one for the history books.'"

So was it all a misunderstanding? Apparently. But "this data" is certainly an odd way to refer to the mission in general.

If you've got conspiracy theories, let 'em rip. I think the robot dug up Kuato's skull, but I'll keep an open mind.

 

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