NASA To Make Big Announcement On Mars Curiosity Rover Discovery This Week

The Mars Curiosity Rover has found something new and exciting on the Red Planet, but we’ll have to wait until Thursday to learn what it is. NASA has scheduled a press conference on June 7 and will let us know then what the “new science results” of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission are.

For now, everything is strictly hush-hush.

“The results are embargoed by the journal Science until then,” NASA officials wrote in a news release.

This means no further details are to be released until the press conference, which will be hosted by Michelle Thaller, assistant director of science for communications at NASA’s Planetary Science Division.

The “live discussion” starts at 2 p.m. EDT and will be broadcast on NASA Live and NASA Television.

Among the researchers invited to share the new Curiosity rover discovery with the public are two scientists from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and two representatives from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The Goddard pair includes Paul Mahaffy, director of the Solar System Exploration Division, and research scientist Jen Eigenbrode. At the same time, the JPL team — which designed and built the Mars rover and is now managing the MSL project — will be sending in senior research fellow Chris Webster and MSL project scientist Ashwin Vasavada, states the news release from NASA.

The public is encouraged to send questions on social media by using #askNASA and can tune in to watch the press conference on all the major social media platforms, including Facebook Live, Twitch TV, Ustream, YouTube, and Twitter/Periscope.

Although the agency is staying tight-lipped about the Curiosity rover’s latest discovery, a separate news release issued by NASA on the same day announced that the Curiosity team has made progress with transferring the newly-retrieved Martian rock sample into the robot’s mineralogy laboratory.

The media is already speculating that Thursday’s big reveal might be connected to NASA’s ongoing quest of finding signs of (past or present) microbial life on Mars.

For instance, the Daily Star has been talking with Dr. Barry DiGregorio, a research fellow at the University of Buckingham in the U.K., who is adamant that the Curiosity rover has stumbled upon proof of alien life.

At the same time, British journalist and media commentator Nick Pope voiced his opinion on the new MSL discovery on Twitter.

“Has NASA found life on Mars? The media advisory on Thursday’s press conference on ‘new science results’ from Curiosity rover states that results are embargoed by Science Magazine — and Eigenbrode’s bio is suggestive.”

As the Inquisitr previously reported, the Mars Curiosity Rover, which is a big part of the MSL mission, recently snagged its first Martian rock sample in 18 months, all thanks to the new percussion drilling technique that has revived the robot’s broken drill. The new technique, called “feed extended drilling” (FED), yielded a powdered sample on May 20, to the delight of the Curiosity team.

However, the rover had to pass one more hurdle and move the rock powder from its drill into its internal lab. But the resourceful Curiosity team came up with a new way to move the samples — a technique dubbed “feed extended sample transfer,” which is more compatible with the FED than the previously used method, CHIMRA (Collection and Handling for In-Situ Martian Rock Analysis).

And, sure enough, on May 31, the rover successfully transferred the sample — taken from a Martian sedimentary rock that has been given the name “Duluth,” the Inquisitr reported last month — into its mineralogy lab and will move it into the chemistry lab later during the week.

“This was no small feat. It represents months and months of work by our team to pull this off,” said Jim Erickson, MSL project manager.

“JPL’s engineers had to improvise a new way for the rover to drill rocks on Mars after a mechanical problem took the drill offline in December 2016,” Erickson noted.

But, despite the challenges, the Curiosity scientists had no doubt that JPL engineers would work their magic and come up with a fix for the drill’s problems, says Vasavada.

“The science team was confident that the engineers would deliver — so confident that we drove back to a site that we missed drilling before. The gambit paid off, and we now have a key sample we might have never gotten,” Vasavada pointed out.

“It’s quite remarkable to have a moment like this, five years into the mission. It means we can resume studying Mount Sharp, which Curiosity is climbing, with our full range of scientific tools.”