Calling the Curiosity Rover a "CSI laboratory on wheels," NASA scientist Michael Meyers led a press conference today reporting recent discoveries found by scientists/geologists working on the Curiosity Mars Rover project.
Rumors that a big discovery was going to be unveiled started a couple weeks ago when chief Curiosity scientist John Grotzinger was quoted by NPR as saying it would be something "for the history books."
At today's press conference, however, Grotzinger said organic compound discoveries could not be definitively attributed to Mars and added, "Curiosity is middle name is patience."
“I've learned you to be careful of what you say and even more careful about how you say it,” Grotzinger said. "I think our enthusiasm was misunderstood."
He said the next step for the Rover will be to start drilling on the surface of Mars "sometime before the holidays."
Wheeler said the bigger discovery made was the ancient riverbed found by Rover.
NASA has been downplaying Grotzinger's statement and said today that "there is more work to do." It released the following statement today before the news conference at noon:
Rumors and speculation that there are major new findings from the mission at this early stage are incorrect. The news conference will be an update about first use of the rover's full array of analytical instruments to investigate a drift of sandy soil. 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.
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. Curiosity is exceeding all expectations for a new mission with all of the instruments and measurement systems performing well. This is spectacular for such a complex system, and one that is operated so far away on Mars by people here on planet Earth. The mission already has found an ancient riverbed on the Red Planet, and there is every expectation for remarkable discoveries still to come.
For more information about NASA's Curiosity mission, visit: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl