Phoenix LanderNASA has denied media and internet speculation that the Phoenix Lander has found life on the ‘Red Planet’, Mars and has also denied that the White House in the United States has been briefed on such matters that would lead up to an announcement by NASA later this week. This comes just after NASA stated on July 31, that Phoenix confirmed the presence of water-ice on Mars.Rumors began to spread on the internet Saturday after an unnamed scientist working on the Phoenix Mission stated to Aviation Week & Space Technology, the White House had been briefed on “provocative and complex” information that NASA has yet to disclose to the public regarding the “potential for life on Mars.” The scientist said that the announcement will be regarding the habitability of Mars rather than finding actual life. The scientist also said that the information had been excluded from the July 31 press conference.

NASA immediately denied those claims sending out a message on Twitter, a social networking and micro-blogging website which is used by NASA to communicate to the public in a style pretending that the Lander itself is talking to its readers, stating, “Heard about the recent news reports implying I may have found Martian life. Those reports are incorrect. Reports claiming there was a White House briefing are also untrue and incorrect.” The Phoenix Lander, according to NASA, does not have the ability to detect life, past or present, but the Lander’s ‘MECA’ microscopy station can ‘see’ bacteria, which NASA states has not been discovered.

“[The report of a White House briefing is] not true [and is] bogus”. MECA results have not been discussed at the White House. There is no one who knows either on the [Phoenix] project in Tucson or at [NASA] HQ who knows where this information came from,” said Peter Smith, the top investigator for the Phoenix Mission. Smith also added that MECA has “nothing new to report.”

The MECA or Microscopy, Electrochemistry and Conductivity Analyzer, is designed to analyze soil samples as small as 16 μm to determine the chemical composition of the sample. It is said that MECA is able to detect bacteria in the soil, but NASA states that no such discovery has been made. However, Phoenix’s MECA did detect potassium, magnesium and chloride, minerals that are necessary to create or sustain life. MECA also determined that the soil was acidic, which means it could support the growing of some plants from Earth like asparagus.

“We are attempting to assess the chemicals and minerals that make up the soil composition. We are now about half way through the process and there are several conflicting points of view. This is not a good time to go public with half the story,” added Smith who also stated that “we are committed to following a rigorous scientific process. While we have not completed our process on these soil samples, we have very interesting intermediate results. Initial MECA analyses suggested Earth-like soil. Further analysis has revealed un-Earthlike aspects of the soil chemistry.”

Despite the denials by NASA, some Internet observers maintain that NASA is still preparing for a major announcement.

“The reason that all this seems so hush-hush is due to a future paper and press release that appears likely to pop out of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and its Science magazine. Whatever the poop is from the scoop that’s been studied by Phoenix, that information is purportedly going through peer-review”, said David Leonard for LifeScience.com.

NASA will hold a media teleconference today August 5, at 2:00 p.m. EDT, to discuss these recent science activities.

Source : wikinews


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The United States House of Representatives adjourned at 11:23AM today for its annual summer recess, but some of the members refused to go home.

Minutes after the House adjourned, John Shadegg (R-AZ) began typing in random access codes to the House speaker system until he found one that worked. He then began talking about the urgent need for a new energy policy. The microphones were turned off again, but Shadegg called other Republicans onto the floor to initiate what C-SPAN called a “post-adjournment session.” Some representatives were already going home when they received notice of the “session” and returned to the floor to speak about an offshore drilling bill which Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had blocked from the schedule. There was no Speaker of the House or parliamentary procedure for the “session”; Republican speakers were cheered on and Democrats were booed down, and Devin Nunes (R-CA) mocked the Democratic energy plan by parading an image of a Volkswagen Beetle with a sail on the top around the chambers. Republicans sent pages back to the House office buildings to look for a megaphone.

Democratic leaders expelled journalists from the Hall of the House, first from the Speaker’s Lobby, then from the third floor press gallery in order to minimize coverage of the political theater. In response, Republican representatives walked into the quickly filling visitors’ galleries, shaking hands and talking with tourists and interns. Democrats twice turned off the lights, eliciting cheers. The sound system and official cameras were also shut off early in the afternoon.

At 4:29PM Wikinews correspondent Shii arrived on the House floor but quickly discovered that no cameras were allowed inside the visitors’ galleries, and the galleries were being closed by the Capitol Police. The scene was orderly but noisy, as scores of visitors cheered and applauded the Republicans before being escorted out of the galleries by the police. The only people remaining on the floor at that point were the Republicans, who left the room to speak to reporters, and the visitors and staff they had invited onto the floor as guests.

John Culberson (R-TX) circumvented the ban on cameras inside the House by using his Blackberry to send Twitter messages to his microblog and recording brief snippets of video with his digital camera. (One Twitter user noted that this was a violation of House communications rules.) At a press conference outside the House floor, Culberson showed off his Blackberry and camera, accompanied by brief, improvised speeches by other House Republicans.

“Nancy Pelosi, we want a vote!” demanded Wally Herger (R-CA). The Republicans then returned to the floor, even though all the galleries were closed.