• 12,444,708 visits

Posts Tagged ‘JPL’

Credit: NASA/JPL

Credit: NASA/JPL

Yesterday was a good day for those proposing that extraterrestrial life currently exists on Mars. In a Dec. 16 paper published in the journal Science, NASA says that significant methane levels were detected by the Curiosity Rover over a two month period suggesting that “Mars is episodically producing methane from an … unknown source.” The “unknown source”, as a number of mainstream media articles were quick to point out given what is known about the creation of methane, may be extraterrestrial life, The New York Times published an article titled, “’A Great Moment’: Rover finds Clue that Mars May Harbor Life,” The Guardian wrote “Methane ‘spikes’ fuel speculation of life on Mars.”  ScientificAmerican used as its subtitle: “New results suggest evidence for extraterrestrial life could be near at hand.”  This is not the first time that NASA has released scientific data pointing to life on Mars. On previous occasions, NASA scientists argued over the results. Judging from the number of authors to the Dec. 16 paper, there appears to be rare unanimity. Are we on the verge of a major NASA announcement that reveals life has been found on Mars?

The New York Times pointed out that NASA’s announcement is a major reversal on the position it reached only a year earlier :

“the new findings … are a 180-degree flip from a year ago, when mission scientists said that Curiosity had found no signs of methane,”

The Curiosity Rover also found carbon-based organic molecules the significance of which the New York Times explained from comments given at a News Conference by NASA scientists at the American Geophysical Union:

The scientists also reported that for the first time, they had confirmed the presence of carbon-based organic molecules in a rock sample. The so-called organics are not direct signs of life, past or present, but they lend weight to the possibility that Mars had the ingredients required for life, and may even still have them.

NASA’s announcement is good news for scientists that have claimed that previous scientific data from Mars suggested that life exists there in the form of microbes. The most famous was the “Labeled Release” experiment from the 1976 Viking mission that obtained positive results for evidence of Martian life. The experiment’s designer, Dr Gilbert Levin, thought the results clearly indicated Martian life, but he was not supported by the NASA administration. In a 2012 reassessment of Gilbert’s experiment, he was finally supported by an independent team of scientists who concluded:

The only extraterrestrial life detection experiments ever conducted were the three which were components of the 1976 Viking Mission to Mars. Of these, only the Labeled Release experiment obtained a clearly positive response…. We have applied complexity analysis to the Viking LR data….We conclude that the complexity pattern seen in active experiments strongly suggests biology while the different pattern in the control responses is more likely to be non-biological….These analyses support the interpretation that the Viking LR experiment did detect extant microbial life on Mars.

More controversial are the claims by Richard Hoover, a former NASA senior scientist who claims that in 2004, the Mars Rover, Opportunity photographed what clearly looked like the fossilized remains of a crinoid, a marine animal that looks like a sea lily. Hoover showed it to colleagues who immediately recognized the object as a crinoid. However, rather than examine the exciting possibility that Opportunity had photographed the fossilized remains of a living organism, Hoover said that less than four hours after taking the photo, Opportunity’s rock abrasion tool ground the area where the possible fossil lay into dust. He asked David McKay, the former chief astrobiologist at the Johnson Space Center, why this had been done. The response Hoover received was less than satisfactory.

Gilbert’s and Hoover’s experiences suggest that there are those at a senior level in the NASA administration that have in the past deliberately prevented evidence of extraterrestrial life on Mars being accepted, and even destroyed. This makes NASA’s reversal of its previous conclusions of methane levels on Mars significant, as is the emphasis that the New York Times gives to NASA’s recent backtracking. Has NASA changed its policy on releasing evidence of life of Mars?

Possible support for a recent policy shift can be construed from no less than NASA administrator Charles Bolden who made a surprising statement about life on Mars in an Oct. 9 interview in London:

People always ask the question ‘Why Mars?’ Several reasons: One, Mars is very Earth-like, or least used to be Earth-like. It is a planet, a sister planet to Earth. It is the most likely planet in our solar system, um, that had life at one time… may have life now, and we feel can definitely sustain life.

Was this merely a coincidence, or was Bolden preparing the world public for some surprising future announcement regarding life on Mars? NASA may be simply driven by new scientific data gained by the Curiosity Rover as the Dec. 16 Science article suggests. Alternatively, it may be that there has been a recent policy shift in the higher echelons of NASA, and it is poised to release data finally confirming that life, at least in the form of primitive microbes, does currently exist on Mars.

 © Michael E. Salla, Ph.D. Copyright Notice

Further Reading

This image was taken by Navcam: Right B (NAV_RIGHT_B) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 613 (2014-04-28 04:48:22 UTC). Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This image was taken by Navcam: Right B (NAV_RIGHT_B) onboard NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 613 (2014-04-28 04:48:22 UTC).
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The latest images released by Mars Curiosity Rover show what appears to be a very large cylindrical shaped UFO traveling in the Martian night sky. The UFO appears in a sequence of five images over a ten minute period with the time stamp of April 28, 2014. The images were uploaded on April 30 by NASA, and immediately aroused the attention of UFO researchers monitoring the Curiosity Rover camera feeds which are regularly released on a website owned by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, located at the California Institute of Technology. Scott Waring from UFO Sightings Daily today wrote that the images are not a result of time lapse photography and appear to show a huge self-propelled craft traveling in a uniform direction. While he considers the possibility that the images are a result of a small moon or asteroid, the shape suggests otherwise. One cause for concern is that NASA only released thumbnail sized versions of the images rather than the full resolution versions which is customary. This may be because NASA is trying to minimize the significance of the UFO images which may be clear evidence of an intelligently controlled space craft flying over Mars.

The first researcher to identify the cylindrical UFO was Waring who in his May 1 blog post dismissed the idea that the object was due to time lapse:

The shape of the UFO is just as we see it, long cigar shaped. At first a person will assume the exposure (shutter) was open allowing the photo to record for a few seconds, but no. The shutter speed is normal. This object was moving slow, which is proven by the time stamps on the photos on the NASA site. That means since it was moving slowly, the shape we see before us is the correct shape of the object.

One possible explanation is that the object is of one of Mars’ two moons, Phobos or Deimos. They are respectively 22 and 13 kilometers in diameter, and have respective orbits of 9,400 and 23,460 kilometers. They are thought to be captured asteroids and are irregular in shape. This is significant since as Waring points out, the objects in the Curiosity Rover image is not irregular:

Then again, could this be a moon or micro moon orbiting Mars? Yes, it could be possible, however a moon of this shape would have a high probability of flipping end over end. This object has slow, balanced movement like a ship in water…having the appearance of an object that is self propelled.

The object could also be one of the known terrestrial spacecraft orbiting Mars. Currently both NASA and the European Space Agency have orbiters flying around Mars. The European Space Agency placed the Mars Express in orbit in early 2004, and NASA currently has two orbiters, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (2006) and the Mars Science Laboratory (2011). Yet none of the Mars orbiters are cylindrical in shape or very large. If time lapse photography was not used in generating the NASA JPL images showing cylindrical UFO, then that would rule out any of the Mars orbiters.

 

 

What is of great concern is that NASA’s JPL only released thumbnail sized versions of the UFO images. Normally, JPL provides full sized versions, along with thumbnail versions. In the case of the sequence of five images showing the cylindrical UFO, along with a companion image that shows the night sky just after the UFO disappears over the horizon, these are only 192×256 pixels in size. The first of this sequence of six images has the time stamp of 2014-04-28 04:48:22 UTC. The image appearing just before the sequence of six has a timestamp of 2014-04-28 04:47:55 UTC and was released in the full version of 1024×1024 pixels. That means that the Curiosity Rover image taken just 27 seconds before the sequence of UFO pictures, was released in full size, rather than thumbnail size. The full scale image versions have yet to be released and are being studied by NASA. Why? This only fuels speculation that the sequence of five Curiosity Rover images did capture an intelligently guided cylindrical shaped UFO of tremendous size flying over Mars.

© Copyright 2014. Michael E. Salla, Ph.D.

This article is copyright © and should not be added in its entirety on other websites or email lists. Permission is granted to include an extract (e.g., introductory paragraph) of this article on website or email lists with a link to the original.

 

Yesterday, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) took the extraordinary step of dampening speculation over comments made by one of the leaders of the Mars Curiosity Mission. Just before Thanksgiving, on November 20, John Grotzinger, principal investigator of the Surface At Mars instrument on the Curiosity Rover, was quoted on NPR radio that a discovery had been made that would be “one for the history books.”  Many scientific observers took that to mean that he was about to announce that Curiosity had discovered organic compounds on Mars – the building blocks of life. In an interview with US News, JPL spokesperson Veronica McGregor says that Grotinsky had been “misinterpreted”. She said that there were definitely nothing significant about organic compounds in the results to be announced at a scientific conference next week being hosted by the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. Rather than an earthshaking announcement, it appears that Grotzinger will be presenting much more mundane data and results about the Curiosity Mission – its working fine after a long flight from Earth! Did Grozinger simply overreach himself in commenting about the data and results from a soil analysis by the Curiosity Rover, or is he being muzzled by more senior NASA figures over what was exactly found on Mars?

Here is what McGregor said about Grotzinger interview on NPR radio that has created much media interest and internet speculation over the last week:

He was extremely excited and continues to be extremely excited that we had the first data coming back from our first sample and the machine is operating beautifully… This was the science team's equivalent of the landing moment. It was a key moment after years of work.

McGregor is saying that Grotzinger was merely excited that the Mars SAM instrument was working fine after the long trip to Mars, and that it was sending back good data. That was the history making element that Grotzinger was referring to, according to McGregor:

I think there was a misinterpretation of what he said. This is a scientist who was so excited his instrument was sending back data … John was extremely excited about having the first data back from SAM…. It’s very interesting data and the scientists are chewing on this—he does believe this mission will be one for the history books. But knowing these rumors [of organic compounds on Mars] were floating out there and knowing we didn’t yet have the results, we wanted to let people know that they’re definitely not in these initial samples…

Yet in the NPR interview Grotzinger focused on the data itself as being history in the making, not the transmission of the data. This is what he actually said to the NPR interviewer:

We're getting data from SAM as we sit here and speak, and the data looks really interesting. The science team is busily chewing away on it as it comes down…. This data is gonna be one for the history books. It's looking really good.

What’s clear from Grotzinger’s own comments is that the data itself is “one for the history books,” not the Curiosity mission or the scientific process by which the data is being transmitted.


In claiming that Grotzinger’s comments were being misinterpreted and that he meant that it was the “mission”, not the “data” that was one for the history books, McGregor is being disingenuous. Did Grotzinger simply misspeak, setting off much speculation about the data results from one of the Mars Curiosity soil analysis experiments? Or is Grotzinger and his data being muzzled by NASA? One thing now appears certain. Nothing extraordinary will be announced at next week’s American Geophyiscal Union conference in San Francisco where Grotzinger will announce the results of a soil analysis by the SAM Rover instrument. Maybe there was nothing extraordinary to be announced all along; or, perhaps, NASA is muzzling something extraordinary that Curiosity has discovered on Mars.

[poll id=”3″]

© Copyright 2012. Michael E. Salla. Exopolitics.org

Permission is granted to include extracts of this article on websites and email lists with a link to the original. This article is copyright © and should not be added in its entirety on other websites or email lists without author's permission.

Further Reading