Copyright 2008 Aviation Week & Space Technology
NASA will announce today that new data from the Phoenix Mars lander indicate that it is looking less conclusive that soil analyzed by the lander's soil chemistry experiment is Earth-like and can support life.
AviationWeek.com reported Aug. 1 and Aviation Week & Space Technology reports today that the new information involves the "potential for life" on Mars. That potential can either be positive or negative, and the new data indicate the new soil tests are at best inconclusive, according to the information being released on the soil chemistry experiment.
An initial soil test by the Microscopy, Electrochemistry, and Conductivity Analyzer (MECA) instrument indicated that the soil is highly Earth-like. The second test, however, is leading scientists to view the data as more inconclusive.
Other media outlets and websites around the world incorrectly reported that the "potential for life" meant that actual life on Mars had been detected. Coverage by Aviation Week states that the wet chemistry experiment can not detect life, nor can any other Phoenix instrument suchas the Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyzer (TEGA) organics experiment.
NASA disputes that any of the information was provided to the White House in advance. But such data are routinely passed between NASA and White House science staff when briefings are planned, as is the case with the new MECA data. A briefing is set for Aug. 5.