According to a report in Discovery News, NASA made this announcement to deflate misconceptions, mistakes and outright lies circulating about a discovery made by the team operating the Mars Phoenix science probe."Unfortunately, there's been this story out that we're hiding something and of course as soon as that story goes out, then people speculate and speculation leads to all kinds of wonderful discoveries that I wish we'd made, but we haven't," said Peter Smith, the head of the Phoenix science team.
The furor began when a aviation and space journalist, wrote an article, subsequently synopsized on his magazine's Web site, that played up his scoop of an impending announcement by the Phoenix science team with the provocative headline 'White House Briefed on Potential for Mars Life.' Within two days, bloggers and some media outlets were reporting that not only had NASA had found life on Mars, but that a move was afoot to hide the news from the public.
Space agency managers made a stab at rumor control by putting out text messages to 32,000 Phoenix followers signed up to receive project updates via the Twitter.com networking site. "Heard about the recent news reports implying I may have found Martian life. Those reports are incorrect," wrote Veronica McGregor, the mission's lead press officer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, in her text message.
"Reports claiming there was a White House briefing are also untrue and incorrect," she added. According to Michael Hecht, who heads a team of scientists working on soil analysis experiments on Phoenix, "We don't want to come to you in the media and say we found chocolate on Mars and two weeks later flip-flop and say we made a mistake, it was strawberry."
"That hurts our reputation. That hurts your reputation. So we want to make sure we get it right," he added. "When we see something on the Internet that is in fact a speculation, that is attributed to us, and that is wrong that does indeed change the equation a little bit," he said.