12/03/2012 01:22 pm ET Updated Dec 03, 2012

Organics On Mars: Curiosity Rover Finds Evidence Of Organic Compounds On Red Planet

A team of scientists announced on Monday that the Mars Rover Curiosity had found evidence of organic compounds on the Red Planet.

Martian soil samples analyzed aboard the rover revealed "water and sulfur and chlorine-containing substances," the space agency said in press materials.

Scientists will now have to determine whether the compounds are indigenous to Mars. There is a possibility that the organics could have come to Mars from Earth aboard the rover. There is also a chance that they could be materials that had fallen to Mars from space.


Scientists made the announcement on the first day of the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, an annual conference that runs through Friday.

Speculation as to the nature of the announcement was rampant in the days leading up to the conference. John Grotzinger, the principal investigator on the Curiosity mission, recently told NPR the data from an analysis of Martian soil "is gonna be one for the history books."

But NASA last week issued a press release calling "rumors and speculation that there are major new findings" from the Curiosity mission "incorrect."

Curiosity, a 1-ton roving science laboratory, arrived on Mars in August. The 354-million-mile journey to the Red Planet took more than eight months.

This is breaking news. Check back for updates.

12/03/2012 1:12 PM EST

Formal Q&A Over

Thanks for joining us!

12/03/2012 1:09 PM EST

"Martian Life? Not. Learning From A False Alarm"

Time's take:

12/03/2012 1:00 PM EST

Grotzinger On Mercury

Discovery of water and organics on Mercury showed that "essential building blocks" more prevalent in solar system than previously thought.

12/03/2012 12:57 PM EST

@SarcasticRover Weighs In

12/03/2012 12:57 PM EST


Slate (11/28) in defense of Grotzinger's "historic" comment to NPR:

"What Grotzinger was actually trying to convey is that Curiosity’s data over her entire two-year mission will further our knowledge of Mars more than ever before, making it a historical mission."

12/03/2012 12:53 PM EST

Grotzinger on Mars Hype

"We're doing science at the speed of science in a world that goes at the speed of Instagrams."

12/03/2012 12:52 PM EST

Grotzinger on Team's Biggest Finding

"We have a globally representative material that we have analyzed..with all the instruments...these comprehensive investigations are going to be the basis on which we make major discoveries...but we're going to have to be patient."

12/03/2012 12:51 PM EST

Grotzinger on Grotzinger

"You have to be careful about what you say and even more careful about how you say it." I was "Misunderstood."

12/03/2012 12:50 PM EST

Rocknest Photo From Press Release

mars curiosity rocknest

12/03/2012 12:50 PM EST