Mars photo by NASA

Mars photo by NASA

NASA’s Mars Rover, Curiosity, has been collecting soil samples on Mars. NASA is preparing an announcement about the results of the sample analysis that will rock both humanity and the science world on Earth. What is it, exactly? For the time being, no one is saying.

Mars Science Laboratory scientists, investigators, and project participants are not disclosing certain results yet. Not until routine established processes and procedures to vet the analysis are completed, will the release of the information then be authorized.

The Curiosity rover collects samples, then provides this input to SAM, an instrument on Curiosity. SAM is a miniature remote chemistry lab. Input Martian soil, rocks, or even the Mars atmosphere (air) to SAM, and it will tell you what the sample is made of. “We’re getting data from SAM as we sit here and speak, and the data looks really interesting,” quoting John Grotzinger, the principal investigator for the rover mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The science team at JPL receives SAM’s results and does further analysis. “This data is gonna be one for the history books. It’s looking really good,” he says. Not so fast say the scientists. Gas from Florida might have been stowed with Curiosity on the trip from Earth, and would corrupt the results.

During the interim wait, let’s speculate the results: the presence of methane gas indicates there was (or is?) life on Mars. What does life on Mars mean to us on Earth? Will we come to understand that there are pockets of life throughout the universe and how will it effect our cosmic perspective?

We can only benefit from better science. Perhaps understanding Mars will help lay to rest doubts about science on Earth, whether that be questions about evolution, environment, or climate change. The good news from Mars will even lift the stock market, astronomically, for at least a day or two before it comes back down to Earth.