What Has NASA Found On Mars? Space Agency To Make A Major Announcement About Life On The Red Planet

NASA will
hold a press conference to reveal its latest findings from Mars this week. Few
details have leaked about the mysterious new announcement, which will be
streamed online from 7pm BST (2pm EDT) on Thursday 7 June. NASA is staying
tight-lipped about what it has discovered on the red planet, but it has
confirmed the announcement will feature ‘new science results from NASA's Mars Curiosity

NASA's Mars
Curiosity rover was sent to planet Mars in August 2012 to study its climate and
geology as well as investigate whether the planet could sustain life or has
liquid water. It is possible the new 'science results' from the rover could
relate to Martian life.

NASA has not
announced where the event will be held, but it is likely the agency will host
it at its headquarters in Washington, DC. Given that Curiosity rover recently started
to drill into the Martian surface for the first time in 18 months, it is also
possible the announcement relates to something unearthed by the rover.

was forced to abandon plans to take samples from the surface of the planet
after mechanical issues took its drill offline back in October 2016.

NASA engineers developed a new technique to restore the robotic explorer’s
drilling ability, using its robotic arm to push the drill bit forward as it
spins, much like a human might operate a drill.

The new
drilling technique, dubbed Feed Extended Drilling (FED), keeps the drill bit
extended beyond the stabilizer posts, which were previously used to steady the
drill against the rocks. Engineers developed the technique using an exact
duplicate of the Curiosity rover on Earth. It took almost a year to devise the
method, which was successfully used on Mars on 20 May.

Vasavada, project scientist at Nasa’s Mars Science Laboratory at JPL — the
official title for the Curiosity rover's £1.9 billion ($2.5 billion) mission,
is scheduled to take part in the press conference later this week, further fueling
speculation the announcement relates to something uncovered by Curiosity.

Thaller, assistant director of science for communications in NASA’s Planetary
Science Division, based at its headquarters in Washington DC, will host the

Also on the
bill is Paul Mahaffy, Solar System Exploration Division Director at NASA’s
Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and Jen Eigenbrode, a
research scientist at Goddard. Chris Webster, a senior research fellow at NASA’s
Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, will also be on the panel on

NASA will
live stream the event on its Nasa TV channel, as well as Facebook Live, Twitch
TV, Ustream, YouTube and Twitter. Viewers will be able to put questions to the
panel by using the social media hashtag #askNASA. The Mars Curiosity rover was
initially launched from Cape Canaveral, an American Air Force station in
Florida, on November 26, 2011.

The rover
was initially intended to be a two-year mission to gather information to help
answer if the planet could support life or has liquid water, as well as study
the climate and the geology of Mars.

However, due
to its success, the mission has been extended indefinitely and has now been
active for over 2,000 days, sending back thousands of pictures during its
lonely mission. The £1.8 billion ($2.5 billion) rover has since travelled about
11 miles (18 km) on the Martian surface.

will be superseded by a new NASA rover in 2020, which will collect Martian soil
in up to 31 pen-sized canisters which will be sent back to Earth for analysis.
The ambitious plan also involves a rover developed by the European Space Agency
(ESA) called ExoMars, which is set to reach the red planet in 2021 and will
simultaneously drill deep into the surface to look for evidence of life.

ExoMars rover will be capable of drilling as far down as 6.5 feet or two meters.
The second step of the joint NASA-ESA mission will launch a ‘fetch rover,’
which will retrieve the samples from the other rovers.

Then, it
would return to its lander and place the samples in a small rocket dubbed a
Mars Ascent Vehicle. This will launch the container holding the samples to Mars
orbit, where it will be collected by a spacecraft – which would require its own
separate launch from Earth.

gathering the samples and loading them to an Earth entry vehicle, the craft
would return to Earth with the Martian soil. The opportunity to analyse Martian
soil would provide unprecedented access to the red planet’s history and its
potential to host life.

Mars missions’ revealed ancient streambeds and the right chemistry that could
have supported microbial life on the red planet,’ said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s
Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate. ‘A sample would
provide a critical leap forward in our understanding of Mars’ potential to
harbor life.’