Without notice and without explanation, NASA Headquarters suddenly this afternoon cancelled its previously scheduled May 30th  Science Update” on the latest Mars Odyssey Gamma Ray Spectrometer (GRS) survey of Martian water reservoirs.  The formal press conference, originally planned for May 30th at 12:00 Noon EDT, at NASA Headquarters, has been removed from NASA TV’s posted schedule on the official NASA Website, as well as in all links to the academic institutions under contract on the Odyssey Mars Mission.

According to sources reached this afternoon close to Dr. William Boynton (top) -- Principle Investigator of the GRS Odyssey team, and a geologist attached to the University of Arizona’s Department of Planetary Science -- the press conference was eliminated “because of leaks of essentially all the salient information over the past two days.  NASA no longer felt a press conference on this subject was required.”

Unmentioned in this ad hoc “explanation” was precisely how the official NASA posting of graphics detailing the latest GRS discoveries on the official NASA Website, over the last two days, could constitute a “leak.”  Did someone “hack in” to NASA’s Website, and post the documentation of Boynton’s Team’s discovery without permission?!

Dr. Boynton and other members of the GRS Team are in Washington DC this week to attend the 2002 Spring Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU).  There, on Thursday afternoon, May 30th, they are still scheduled (at this writing!) to deliver a series of papers detailing their Team’s startling Martian water discoveries.

By abruptly canceling its official “Water Briefing,” NASA has deftly avoided any direct questions from the press or others, regarding what this discovery now portends for NASA’s future exploration of Mars.  Specifically: what this now means in terms of potential microbial life on Mars … Arthur C. Clarke’s celebrated “bushes” (which appear directly over the largest concentration of southern hemisphere sub-surface ice detected!) … or, the nagging, increasingly relevant question (in light of the amount and distribution of water detected) … “what about past or present intelligent life evolving on the planet?”

The Agency has also avoided this key question--

“What does this stunning discovery do for the costs …if not the timetable … of a future human expedition to the Red Planet!?”

By unceremoniously canceling Dr. Boynton’s briefing, NASA has once again avoided all these “sticky” questions … at least, for now.