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The MECA story, A place for speculation
Stu
post Jul 31 2008, 10:22 PM
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Seriously, hasn't anyone else got any thoughts (dismissive or otherwise) on the "Have you briefed the President's Science Advisor?" (re MECA) question by C Covault? I am NOT going all woo-woo here, don't worry, I just thought it was an odd thing to ask... To my ears it sounded like C C was suggesting, subtly, to the panel that he had heard "something" about the MECA analysis and wanted them to comment. The question was brushed aside - rather uncomfortably I thought - and the discussion quickly moved on, but it seemed like a bit of a Moment to me. He actually began, if I remember correctly, by asking where the "MECA guys" were, asking if they had "been hidden under the table"... cue uncomfortable laughs from the panel...

Again, I have to stress, in case anyone thinks I'm 'suggesting' anything, I'm not getting all Muldur here, I was just struck by how out of the blue the question was, and wondered if anyone has any thoughts on it...


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elakdawalla
post Jul 31 2008, 10:31 PM
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I've heard some very vague rumor to the effect that the MECA guys have found something interesting -- but that's all I know. The answer to Couvault's question (given by Michael Meyer -- the Headquarters guy, which was interesting in itself) was basically that the results so far have been "unexpected" and they are waiting for more TEGA results to say more. I'd sure like to know what it is they think they see -- but I am glad they are managing to keep their mouths shut until they get a confirmation of whatever it is from another instrument, or until they've done another measurement that tells them that whatever sensational idea they had in their heads was some kind of hiccup.

--Emily


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dmg
post Jul 31 2008, 10:34 PM
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A) My take on Craig Covault's question about MECA, and informing the President's Science advisor was that there may have been rumors of a major find in the MECA data that warranted notification to the top, but that the science team was playing very cool about it. This means that either i) there was no such find and the rumors were just that; or ii) there might have been a major find, but they are doing many checks, tests, and consideration of alternative explanations, and they weren't going to talk about it TODAY. I will be curious to see what CC puts in print in the next week or so. It was certainly a provocative question.

cool.gif What I didn't hear asked or answered very well was what steps they plan to take to deal with the problem of soils with a high ice content (up to near pure ice) not wanting to exit the scoop. Among the many subquestions of this would be what kind of testing in near-martian environmental conditions (not counting 1/3g) was run in the development of the spacecraft. And, what kinds of approaches are they testing now both on Earth and on Mars to try to allow delivery of ice-rich soils to TEGA.

Perhaps those with contacts in the program can find out more about these issues??
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ElkGroveDan
post Jul 31 2008, 10:36 PM
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QUOTE (Stu @ Jul 31 2008, 02:22 PM) *
He actually began, if I remember correctly, by asking where the "MECA guys" were, asking if they had "been hidden under the table"... cue uncomfortable laughs from the panel...


I think that was more a reference to the difficult time the MECA team has been having and the bad rap they are getting publicly.


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Stu
post Jul 31 2008, 10:39 PM
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Thanks Emily, that's very interesting. I can't help thinking that once this "gets out" all sorts of wild theories will start floating about.

Something to keep an eye on, definitely.

cool.gif


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Stu
post Jul 31 2008, 10:40 PM
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QUOTE (ElkGroveDan @ Jul 31 2008, 11:36 PM) *
I think that was more a reference to the difficult time the MECA team has been having and the bad rap they are getting publicly.


Ah, I hadn't thought of that. Good answer.


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Guest_Sunspot_*
post Jul 31 2008, 11:16 PM
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Guests






Presidential advisor's eh??? All very mysterious !!
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jmjawors
post Jul 31 2008, 11:31 PM
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Alright... stupid question time. What difficulties have the MECA teams had? Only thing I remember reading was problems focusing the AFM.

As far as the mysterious question goes, all I can think of is that "Beagle 2" reference in the Transformers movie. cool.gif


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nprev
post Aug 1 2008, 12:09 AM
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QUOTE (jmjawors @ Jul 31 2008, 02:04 PM) *


Thanks VERY much, Matt; I am now spun up! smile.gif

Re Mr. Covault's enigmatic reply: My best guess still is a probable organic compound detection, which was a prime mission objective (that is, to determine whether they found any or not). Based on what little I know, doubt that TEGA is capable of more startling revelations.

To put it in perspective: Nobody's ever found organics on Mars, and conventional wisdom says that they are destroyed upon exposure to the surface UV and/or possible hyperoxides. On the other hand, organics are exceedingly common in the outer Solar System due to a lack of antagonistic environmental influences, but nobody makes a big deal about that fact.

So, detection of organic compounds on Mars would certainly be interesting (and amply fulfill a prime mission objective), but not completely unexpected at all, and not necessarily indicative of any need for any further extrapolations from anyone. Could well be carbonaceous meteoritic al a Allende material for all we know.

(Am I a buzzkill, or what? tongue.gif )


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mars loon
post Aug 1 2008, 12:15 AM
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QUOTE (ElkGroveDan @ Jul 31 2008, 10:36 PM) *
I think that was more a reference to the difficult time the MECA team has been having and the bad rap they are getting publicly.


there haven't been any difficult times for MECA or bad raps. you may be thinking of TEGA. criticism of TEGA has been excessive in the popular press and some others. the science being attempted is not easy or straight forward. it will take time.
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fredk
post Aug 1 2008, 12:40 AM
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QUOTE (nprev @ Aug 1 2008, 12:09 AM) *
Re Mr. Covault's enigmatic reply: My best guess still is a probable organic compound detection... Based on what little I know, doubt that TEGA is capable of more startling revelations.

As I recall, the "question" by Covault was in reference to MECA, not TEGA. Also, Smith actually made a blunt statement that "no organic compounds have been detected yet", or words to that effect.

As far as the reference to the science advisor, I'd say that was clearly facetious, not at all meant to be serious.
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belleraphon1
post Aug 1 2008, 01:37 AM
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Agree the MECA team has not had serious problems.

Craig Covault's comment took me completely by surprise. It came totally outta left field. He had to have some kind of basis for that weird question. (And the basis could be a totally false rumor). Or maybe it was an inside reporter-scientist joke. But jokes like that can make you lose credentials (respect from the team to take your questions seriously).

Craig


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01101001
post Aug 1 2008, 08:34 PM
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I put a notice of this in the MECA topic, but Covault's intriguing question in the briefing is prominent here:

Covault's article:

Aviation Week: White House Briefed On Potential For Mars Life

QUOTE
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.

Sources say the new data do not indicate the discovery of existing or past life on Mars. Rather the data relate to habitability--the "potential" for Mars to support life--at the Phoenix arctic landing site, sources say.


What could make the second sample more interesting on the issue of habitability than the first?

QUOTE
The MECA instrument, in its first of four wet chemistry runs a month ago, found soil chemistry that is "Earth-like" and capable of supporting life, researchers said then.

It is intriguing that MECA could have found anything more positive than that, but NASA and the University of Arizona are taking steps to prevent word from leaking out on the nature of the discovery made during MECA's second soil test, in which water from Earth was automatically stirred with Martian soil.


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Stu
post Aug 1 2008, 09:26 PM
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Thanks 01 (is it ok if I call you "01"? wink.gif ) that's a very interesting read indeed. Sheds a little more light on that "huh? what?" question at last night's media conference.

There's an elephant right in the middle of the room now, isn't there..? smile.gif


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TheChemist
post Aug 1 2008, 09:33 PM
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Hmm, the plot thickens...

Did they found indications some polar organic molecules from the soil dissolved in the water ?
They have to be polar to be water soluble, i.e. have -OH, -COOH, -NH2 functionalities.

However ... This begs the question what happened to the superoxides supposedly eating up the organics ?
I mentioned in the WCL thread that some scientists from the team claimed the alkaline pH is compatible with the presence of superoxides.

It sure will be a hot August this year rolleyes.gif

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