NASA Lowers Expectations for its ‘Earth-Shaking’ Mars Announcement But Another Planet Has News

NASA teased us last week saying they would soon have a historic, “earth-shaking” announcement regarding a discovery from the Mars rover Curiosity. Although the agency recently seems to be downplaying the upcoming announcement, it did release some exciting finds from another planet.

On Thursday, NASA held a press conference to share that it had found new evidence to support that Mercury might have water ice.

“The new data indicate the water ice in Mercury’s polar regions, if spread over an area the size of Washington, D.C., would be more than 2 miles thick,” said David Lawrence with NASA’s MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft program in a statement regarding the find.

Red are areas indicate Mercury’s north polar region that are in shadow in all images acquired by MESSENGER to date. Polar deposits are imaged in yellow. (Image: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington/National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, Arecibo Observatory)

Although it might be hard to imagine ice on the planet closest to the sun, there are parts that never are exposed to sunlight given its axis’ tilt. As with any planet with evidence of water, scientists are interested in learning more about how 1) the water came to be on the planet and 2) if there are building blocks for life present.

The fact that the press conference was about the first planet from the sun and not the fourth had some disappointed though.

Last week, NPR’s  Joe Palca was in Curiosity’s principal investigator John Grotzinger’s office when exciting information from an instrument on the rover that could detect organic matter began to come in. The word Palca used to describe the news at the time, as reported by Popular Science, was “earth-shaking.” In his post, Palca reported Grotzinger saying it would be “one for the history books.”

The news conference that will officially unveil what was discovered on Mars is scheduled for Monday, but NASA has already said that it wasn’t organic matter that was discovered.

Curiosity has been on the red planet collecting data since August. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems)

“Rumors and speculation that there are major new findings from the mission at this early stage are incorrect,” officials at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., which manages Curiosity’s mission, wrote in a mission update, according to “At this point in the mission, the instruments on the rover have not detected any definitive evidence of Martian organics.”

Watch this video from for a little bit more about the discovery:

Even with NASA scaling back some of the excitement about its upcoming announcement, we’ll still be watching to see what comes of it.