NASA has announced that one of the instruments on the Curiosity Rover has sent back some extraordinary data, but the transmission is still being checked to make certain that it is not a fluke, and so far the space agency has not made an official statement about what the instrument has detected. Curiosity Team Leader John Grotzinger told National Public Radio, "We're getting data from SAM as we sit here and speak, and the data looks really interesting." SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars)--NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to this show--is a sampling device that can determine the composition of soils and rocks. Grotzinger has described the data as "earthshaking" if it holds up.
The soil samples that are in question were dug up from an area Jet Propulsion Lab scientists have nicknamed "rocknest." The illustration is of the SAM unit as it now appears on the Rover. SAM consists of three instruments, a gas chromatograph, a quadrupole mass spectrometer, and a tunable laser spectrometer. They search for carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen, which are the major gasses associated with life.
Unknowncountry will publish further information as it becomes available. It is expected that analysis may continue for a few weeks before a final determination can be made, but it does appear that the Curiosity team has building evidence of life on Mars. Recently, an initial finding of the presence of methane, which is a byproduct of living organisms, was found to be gas that had gone with the Rover from Earth.