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[i]Fossils? Living microbial Martians? Maybe the carbon-based molecules known as organics, which are the building blocks of life? That so much excitement could be set off by a passing hint reflects the enduring fascination of both scientists and nonscientists with Mars.
"It could be all kinds of things," said Peter H. Smith, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona who was the principal investigator for NASA's earlier Phoenix Mars mission but is not involved with Curiosity. "If it's historic, I think it's organics. That would be historic in my book."
Dr. Grotzinger and other Curiosity scientists will announce their latest findings on Monday in San Francisco at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union.
Do not expect pictures of Martians, though.
Guy Webster, a spokesman for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., which operates Curiosity, said the findings would be "interesting" rather than "earthshaking."
Mr. Webster noted that "a really big announcement," if one should occur, would most likely be made at NASA headquarters in Washington and not at an academic conference.[/i]
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