- (Photo: HANDOUT / REUTERS)
Scientists are buzzing over rumors that the Mars Rover Curiosity has uncovered something historic, but confirmation will not be available for a few weeks while researchers confirm the discovery.
Word of the discovery was first reported by NPR on Tuesday and stated that the rover's Sample Analysis at Mars instrument (SAM), which acts as the Rover's onboard chemistry lab and is able to sort out and analyze organic compounds. Those types of compounds are considered essential for the development of life.
"Think of it like a Swiss Army knife," SAM co-investigator Laurie Leshin told The Los Angeles Times. "It's a beautifully integrated set of tools that can do many jobs ... and of course it's right there in Curiosity's pocket."
Researchers indicate that SAM recovered several samples of Mars' soil and sent results to Earth-bound researchers who were waiting for confirmation before making any announcement.
"This data is gonna be one for the history books," John Grotzinger, Curiosity's chief scientist, told NPR. "It's looking really good."
Grotzinger explained that an official announcement would not be available for several weeks because scientists need to check and double check the results so as to be absolutely sure of what they may have potentially found.
The mission began last Nov. 26 when the rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida and was put on course to travel through space for more than eight months, covering more than 352 million miles.
"It's an enormous step forward in planetary exploration. Nobody has ever done anything like this," John Holdren, senior science advisor to President Obama, told Reuters. "It was an incredible performance."
The $2.5 billion project also known as the Mars Science Laboratory, is the first astrobiology mission for NASA since the 1970s, when the space agency sent the Viking probes into space.