Genesis 2: Historic Mars News, December 3rd?

NASA plans to reveal news “for the history books” based on data coming from the Mars rover, Curiosity. A press conference is to be held at an upcoming science conference scheduled for December 3-7. This is at Wired:

“If it’s going in the history books, organic material is what I expect,” says planetary scientist Peter Smith from the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. […]

Simple organic compounds wouldn’t be completely shocking, said Smith, since these probably come from meteorites originating in the asteroid belt and probably are around on present-day Mars. But they would indicate that the building blocks for life are present on Mars and might only need the addition of water, which Mars had in the past, in order to produce organisms.

“If they found signatures of a very complex organic type, that would be astounding,” said Smith, since they would likely be leftovers from complex life forms that once roamed Mars. But the odds of finding such a startling result in a sample of sand scooped from a random dune are “very, very low,” Smith said.

Okay, so an outright announcement in December of life being discovered on Mars is unlikely, but then how does one account for: (1) the heavy secrecy surrounding the details; and (2) the “history books” buzz generated by Cal Tech’s John Grotzinger? Here’s his exact National Public Radio quote in interview on November 20th, as reported by Wired:

This data is gonna be one for the history books. It’s looking really good.

Do you suppose people are prepared, psychologically, for an announcement that signs of life have been discovered on Mars? And what might this mean for the idea of Earth’s specialness–and for religion? I feel unmoored in anticipation. (Why does this make me feel like Ahab?)

Someone toss me an anchor!

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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