No methane on Mars? Say it isn’t so!

Cat astronauts? Snake robots on rockets? What the ....
September 20, 2013 by Amara D. Angelica

No methane on Mars, according to the Tunable Laser Spectrometer on NASA’s Curiosity rover (credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

“In findings that are as scientifically significant as they are crushing to the popular imagination, NASA reported Thursday that its Curiosity Mars rover has deflated hopes that life could be thriving on Mars today.”

So say the kill-joys at The New York Times.

Deftly side-stepping the blow, Michael Meyer, NASA’s lead scientist for Mars exploration, explained: “This important result will help direct our efforts to examine the possibility of life on Mars. It reduces the probability of current methane-producing Martian microbes, but this addresses only one type of microbial metabolism. As we know, there are many types of terrestrial microbes that don’t generate methane.

“This is a surprise to researchers because previous data reported by U.S. and international scientists indicated positive detections,” the NASA JPL press release pointed out.

Huge colonies of methane-eating microbes!

Mars Attacks: turns out it’s just a movie! (Credit: Warner Bros.)

But one of the scientists who found the methane plumes in 2003, Michael J. Mumma, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., suggested, half-jokingly, that there could be huge colonies of methane-eating microbes on Mars that eliminated the gas from the air, the Times reported.

Guess we can also pretty much rule out cows on Mars too.

On the plus side, viewers of Mars Attacks can finally relax.

Speaking of methane, top climate scientists working on a landmark UN report on global warming were urged to cover up the fact that the world’s temperature has not risen for 15 years, despite rising greenhouse gas emissions, The Telegraph reports.

“The leaked documents, obtained by the Associated Press, show political leaders in Belgium, Germany, Hungary and the US have deep concerns over how to address the issue ahead of next week’s meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).”

Paging Al Gore: update your slide show.

“I’m going where?!”

Curiouser and curiouser….

Meanwhile, just to outdo Curiosity, the European Space Agency wants to send a snake robot to Mars, according to ABC.

On the topic of wacky EU projects, researchers at Bielefeld University in Germany have are trying to create more socially intelligent robots by teaching a robot called James to recognize people waiting to be served a drink at a bar, the BBC says. I’d go with random-waving-arms sensors, doh “The tactic with the greatest success was standing squarely to the bar and looking directly at the barman as they moved around.” — The Telegraph. (Clearly, I need a robot to buy drinks for me.)

And Iran just announced it wants a Persian cat to be its next astronaut, the country’s state agency reported, according to Seriously.

Warning: expect a whole new spate of astronaut-cat YouTube videos. And snake robot videos too, for that matter.