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The MECA story, A place for speculation
ilbasso
post Aug 2 2008, 02:19 AM
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QUOTE (nprev @ Aug 1 2008, 05:35 PM) *
Can I call you by your decimal equivalent, "105"? tongue.gif (Cool username, BTW!)


I think you should think in hexadecimal for the solution to the nickname. His avatar then makes sense too.

Edit: Sorry, I was slow on the uptake that you already got it. It has been a long week and I'm tired!!


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vjkane
post Aug 2 2008, 02:35 AM
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Check out http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewnews.html?id=1297

"The White House has been alerted by NASA about plans to make an announcement soon on major new Phoenix lander discoveries concerning the "potential for life" on Mars, scientists tell Aviation Week & Space Technology...."


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Aussie
post Aug 2 2008, 02:43 AM
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QUOTE (ilbasso @ Aug 2 2008, 03:19 AM) *
His avatar then makes sense too.


Hey, I had missed that. laugh.gif

Trouble is that this smart alec technique by Covault has already stirred up some expectations (and led to some some startling revelations on some of the more speculative forums). Dissatisfaction exists where outcomes don't meet expectations and I don't think Covault has done anyone any favours, particularly not the mission team.
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Paul Fjeld
post Aug 2 2008, 03:32 AM
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Covault is a real professional who has earned some very deep connections. He has a rep. He's not going to throw it away on some silly speculation.

I also know he is really keen on Mars and loved his time "embedded" with the MER team. I suspect his perhaps mischievous question at the press conference might have been a little tweak, but how should one ask that question knowing now what Craig was preparing for publication? (Personally, I thought Smith slapped him down a bit during one of the earlier conferences - and it sure didn't look like he enjoyed this question.)

As for the White House - of course NASA doesn't want them to read about really great discoveries in the newspapers. I thought, in government, your masters are >always< in the loop. Griffin should know what's coming down the pike, no? He'd need to tell his boss, just like he got told by his subordinates. Naiveté?? Ho, Ho! (yes)

I'm betting the news will be better than expected from this mission. Maybe the best news from any Mars mission so far. I'll say a 4 on a scale from 0 (ruddy dead moonlike) to 10 (there is a fossil). Water is a 3, actual real life: 500. Make your own scale!

EDIT: and by 4 I mean Mars can support Earth life at a chemical level. Still thinking about 5-9...
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nprev
post Aug 2 2008, 03:46 AM
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Mmm...seems like a pretty good analysis from here, Paul. Didn't know how tight Mr. C. was with the JPL/Mars exploration community--but I'm gonna bet that those relations are a bit strained right now.

Gotta remember (which I didn't know near the beginning of this thread; thought we were talking TEGA) that MECA isn't designed for anything but physical and inorganic chemical studies. I am frankly confounded by the idea of any major discoveries that might have been made by this instrument suite with respect to (as stated) "habitability". Just can't see anything world-shaking. Did they find some compounds suitable for use by terrestrial plants? If so, interesting, but not worth the buzz.


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Pavel
post Aug 2 2008, 03:56 AM
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I guess it's a nitrogen compound. Ammonia perhaps, which would explain why the soil is so basic. Nitrogen is one of the basic blocks of life. And ammonia is a fertilizer.
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nprev
post Aug 2 2008, 04:11 AM
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That sure sounds like a good guess, Pavel. AFAIK, we've never identified a nitrogen compound on Mars before, so scientifically and to the members of this community that would be big news indeed!


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Paul Fjeld
post Aug 2 2008, 04:14 AM
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QUOTE (nprev @ Aug 1 2008, 11:46 PM) *
Didn't know how tight Mr. C. was with the JPL/Mars exploration community--but I'm gonna bet that those relations are a bit strained right now.

Very interesting point. I don't know how Av Week can be both bęte noir and bible to the same community, but they seem to be.
QUOTE
Just can't see anything world-shaking. Did they find some compounds suitable for use by terrestrial plants? If so, interesting, but not worth the buzz.

So that's a 1 on your scale? For this mission, not finding any water would have been news, I think. Don't know what else but the chemistry is worth the buzz. (Of course they are doing science. This is knowledge. Just maybe not news.)
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bcory
post Aug 2 2008, 04:20 AM
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maybe they found an amino acid..

Or just an amine for you ammonia/nitrogen fans

just saying
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nprev
post Aug 2 2008, 04:26 AM
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QUOTE (Paul Fjeld @ Aug 1 2008, 09:14 PM) *
So that's a 1 on your scale?


Yeah, I'll sign off on that. My bet is that they found some interesting inorganic compounds (we always, always find something unexpected, after all...that's why we go!).

But...it's just another piece of the puzzle...not an epiphany. (Not to denigrate puzzle pieces at all; we need them badly.)

Of course, always happy to be proven wrong! smile.gif Let's wait & see what they say.


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jmjawors
post Aug 2 2008, 04:28 AM
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Nitrogen was my thought as well. They specifically "called it out" as something that was missing from their first WCL analysis... though I also believe they said it would be really hard to detect if it were there.

Methane (as someone suggested) would really be provocative, wouldn't it?

After these two, my next best guess is they found the elusive chupacabra. Hey... it's gotta be somewhere! wacko.gif


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Paul Fjeld
post Aug 2 2008, 04:41 AM
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One other point re: the press conference. Personally, I don't like being manipulated, and if the MECA guys had the real >potential< news, they should have been there and said we >think< there is Holy X! BUT we need to confirm it. Now that flies in the face of the saving your stuff for the big reveal and being risk averse, but at that press conference, that would have been honest (assuming of course that there is some big thing they know about and would warn the White House about). Save great news for later so it doesn't step on the toes of good news? That may very well be smart current practice, but it is PR.

EDIT: removed last gratuitous bit about NASA PR.
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nprev
post Aug 2 2008, 04:47 AM
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Hmm. Your comment kicked my brain, Jim.

How do N compounds form in our terrestrial experience? I am shamefully ignorant, but what I know is that nitrogen oxides are generated during high-energy events like lightning. The only other mechanism I personally know of is the "nitrogen fixing" process employed by symbiotic bacteria for legumes.

I know that there have to be many other pathways, but I just expended all the knowledge I have right there. If they've found N compounds, that certainly would be of major interest.


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Stu
post Aug 2 2008, 05:57 AM
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QUOTE (nprev @ Aug 2 2008, 02:28 AM) *
This concerns me, because the build-up & subsequent let-down sure don't help the scientific credibilty of UMSF, nor does it foster public support.


I think that's the wrong way to look at this story, to be honest. I actually think this is a perfect and excellent example of what UMSF does - i.e. takes a story into a bare room, locks the door, sits it in a hard chair, shines a lamp in its face and interrogates it until the truth comes out. It's taken just three pages to sift some nuggets of truth out of this story, thanks to great input from some very knowledgeable members, and now we're all a lot clearer about what's possibly going on. So I think this kind of thing - as was the case with that "pools of water found in Endurance Crater" story - actually enhances UMSF's scientific credibility. It shows we think for ourselves here, are open to debate and discussion, and let the science, not the spooks, do the talking.

As for fostering public support, this isn't that big a story "Out There" yet, but when it becomes one, as it will as rumours spread, we're all better placed now to put it into perspective.

So don't feel too concerned Nick, these are all good things, I think. smile.gif




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Reed
post Aug 2 2008, 07:02 AM
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QUOTE (Pavel @ Aug 1 2008, 08:56 PM) *
I guess it's a nitrogen compound. Ammonia perhaps, which would explain why the soil is so basic.

Ammonia was expected as a byproduct of the thruster plumes. IIRC it was not found (at least not in significant quantities in the initial analysis) in the first MECA WCL run. I'm pretty sure that was discussed in the press conference for the first WCL sample, but I can't seem to find the transcript. Of course that was very preliminary, but I'd expect them to be very cautious about claiming to have found native ammonia.

As to what the story is, I don't even have a guess.
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