So, on the surface of Mars, inside Gale Crater on a plain called Aeolis Palus, our tenacious six-wheeled Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) is doing cutting-edge laboratory work on an alien world and mission scientists are itching to announce a "historic" discovery.
"This data is gonna be one for the history books. It's looking really good," John Grotzinger, lead scientist of the MSL mission, said in an interview with NPR.
But what is he referring to and why all the secrecy?
For the past few weeks, rover Curiosity has been busily scooping dirt from a sandy ridge in a geologically interesting location called "Rocknest." Using a little scooper attached to its instrument-laden robotic arm, Curiosity has been carefully digging, shaking and dumping the fine soil grains into its Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) and Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instruments.
Recently, NASA announced some results from SAM after analyzing samples of Mars air. Interestingly, clues as to Martian atmospheric history were uncovered. Also, mission scientists announced an apparent dearth of methane in the air -- a result that undoubtedly frustrated many hoping for the detection of the gas that may, ultimately, reveal the presence of sub-surface microbial life.