As Kat mentioned in today’s news, there’s much buzz about the blogosphere regarding an Aviation Week article which suggested that the White House may have been briefed on big news from Mars:
The White House has been alerted by NASA about plans to make an announcement soon on major new Phoenix lander discoveries concerning the “potential for life” on Mars, scientists tell Aviation Week & Space Technology.
Sources say the new data do not indicate the discovery of existing or past life on Mars. Rather the data relate to habitability–the “potential” for Mars to support life–at the Phoenix arctic landing site, sources say.
…the Jet Propulsion Laboratory science team for the MECA wet-chemistry instrument that made the findings was kept out of a July 31 news conference at the University of Arizona Phoenix control center. The goal was to prevent them from being asked any questions that could reveal information before NASA is ready to make an announcement, sources say.
…Phoenix scientists have said from the start that neither the TEGA organic chemistry lab nor the MECA wet chemistry system could detect current or past life. MECA’s two microscopes do, however, have the resolution to detect bacteria–which would be life. Sources, however, say the microscopes have not detected bacteria.
However, Phoenix scientists have denied that a White House briefing has taken place (see this comprehensive story from Wired, and the Mars Phoenix Twitter posts where the denials came to light – very official way of doing it!). The whispers about the MECA team’s discovery (or not!) are also being discussed on the boards at UnmannedSpaceflight.com. Will be interesting to see how this plays out.