Environment & Science

NASA downplays news about discovery by Curiosity rover on Mars (Poll)

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity dug up five scoops of sand from a patch nicknamed
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity dug up five scoops of sand from a patch nicknamed "Rocknest." Officials announced that findings will be presented on Monday.

Like proud parents, NASA scientists have rhapsodized about each of the Mars rover Curiosity's accomplishments. But some say their baby's newest step isn't as monumental as the people back at mission control made it out to be.

A little over a week ago, National Public Radio reported that the Curiosity mission's principal investigator John Grotzinger  said recent analysis of a scoop of Red Planet soil could yield historic results. Grotzinger's refusal to reveal specifics unleashed a wave of excitement, which led to rampant speculation, including that it may be organic compounds.

The New York Times reported that since then, NASA has remained tacit about findings, but scaled down its expectations from "earthshattering" to "interesting." According to science daily io9, the supposed exaggeration ignited much ire on the web.

But were vocal space enthusiasts too harsh?

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory clarified Grotzinger's quote via Curiosity's Twitter account:

"What did I discover on Mars? That rumors spread fast online. My team considers this whole mission 'one for the history books'"

Mashable wrote that it was a miscommunication between NPR's science correspondent Joe Palca and Grotzinger that led to the hype:

"After just a few months on Mars, the Curiosity rover had made, in the NPR reporter’s words, an “earth-shaking” discovery. One so big that NASA had to quadruple-check the results..."

"What Grotzinger was actually trying to convey is that Curiosity’s data over her entire two-year mission will further our knowledge of Mars more than ever before, making it a historical mission."

On Wednesday, NASA spokesman Guy Webster told CBS News that the results will be presented Monday at the American Geophysical Union's fall meeting in San Francisco.

Until then, how do you feel about the latest Curiosity news?