‘It’s 99% certain there is life on Mars’: Shock finding as scientists re-analyse soil samples from Seventies Viking lander

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  • Soil samples from Viking 1 lander which visited Mars in 1976
  • Mathematical analysis shows strong sign of organics
  • Samples had been dismissed as contaminated
  • ‘99% probability of life’ claims one scientist
In July 1976, the Viking 1 probe touched down on Mars and failed to find traces of life – but now, three decades later, scientists think the experiment was flawed.

VIking 1 did find evidence of extraterrestrial microbes in soil samples from the Red Planet.

Mathematical analysis of the samples concluded that salts in the soil on Mars ‘threw off’ initial estimates – and that the soil samples show strong evidence of microbial life.

The new analysis looked for ‘complexity’ in the samples – an indication of life. To the surprise of the scientists, they found it.

 

The Viking 1 lander which arrived on Mars in July 1976: Scientists now believe there is strong evidence of microbial life in the soil samples analysed by Viking 1

Viking 1 launched by a Titan Centaur rocket from Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force StationViking 1 launched by a Titan Centaur rocket from Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

‘This suggests a robust biological response,’ say the researchers, from the University of Siena and California’s Keck Institute.

‘These analyses support the interpretation that the Viking LR experiment did detect extant microbial life on Mars.’

The reassessment was prompted by the discovery of ‘perchlorates’ in the soil at the landing site of another Mars lander, Phoenix, in 2008.

The presence of the chemicals in Viking’s samples had led scientists to conclude the samples were contaminated.

The scientists behind the experiment remain divided over how conclusive the evidence for life on Mars is.

Christopher McKay of Nasa’s Ames Research Centre said, in an interview with Discovery News,Finding organics is not evidence of life or evidence of past life. It’s just evidence for organics.’

‘The ultimate proof is to take a video of a Martian bacteria. They should send a microscope — watch the bacteria move,’ said Josheph Miller of USC’s Keck School of Medicine.

‘On the basis of what we’ve done so far, I’d say I’m 99 percent sure there’s life there.’

Future Mars missions may be able to settle the question.

The Viking 1 lander on display at the National Air and Space museum: Did the craft discover evidence of life on Mars? The Viking 1 lander on display at the National Air and Space museum: Did the craft discover evidence of life on Mars?

 

Mars skyline at sunset, pictured from the Viking landerMars skyline at sunset, pictured from the Viking lander

 

Nasa's Mars Science Laboratory nicknamed Curiosity, a nuclear powered rover vehicleNasa’s Mars Science Laboratory nicknamed Curiosity, a nuclear powered rover vehicle

 

One forthcoming unmanned mission is the new Mars Science Laboratory rover, called Curiosity, scheduled for launch in November.

The $2.5 billion nuclear-powered machine will land on Mars’ surface with a suite of 10 science instruments to try to determine if conditions are favorable for life.

Another key Mars mission is scheduled for 2016. Called the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, it will carry five science instruments and will study gases in Mars’ atmosphere, including methane, for evidence of biological or geological activity.

‘The instruments on that atmospheric mission have a factor of 100 to 1,000 increase in sensitivity over what is currently available from Mars orbiters or from ground observations,’ said Mark Allen, Ph.D., who is the U.S. project scientist for the 2016 Mars mission.
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7 Responses

  1. Tim says:

    Too bad that some have such a negative attitude. I read the original report over 10 years ago, and now its news ?! Its time that we get rid of the stupid NASA tinker-toys of useless fuel rockets and get with the program of some serious space exploration. The technology is already there, but I guess earthly genocide is on the agenda for humankind…such a waste of talent and resources…VERY SAD.

  2. robertsgt40 says:

    “Life on Mars”? Who cares? We’re about to extinguish life here on Earth.

  3. Vince H. says:

    Scientists are getting dumber by the day!

  4. Andyj says:

    After the unusually large and quick reaction from the Viking lab They always said it was contamination or a normal chemical reaction. Never the twain of the two accusations came to meet or argue. The public was denied the data. All I managed to find was a very short bell curve, of what? They sent a mass spectrometer. Lets see the data!

    One NASA scientist at the time said there is life there and proof was unequivicable. Take no notice of the religious nuts. Oddly, a Muslim said to me “Allah has many mansions”.

    The bigger question is, would the human frame be safe against a fast growing, thirsty, opportunistic bacteria that blooms fast like a desert flower.

  5. Andy says:

    Let’s evolve into something other than hating, killing machines before we concern ourselves with life on other planets

  6. dave says:

    This article sounds very much like an appeal for more funds from the scientists who are running this show . 2.5 billion for a machine that has a laser gun /a plutonium battery and God knows what else . I d say they are looking to their future in a science project that has very little benefit for humanity . and for sure they will find micro organisms .why wouldn’t they .they can rehash the original info .which catergorically found no evidence of life then. and suggest that wrong interpretations were made !! . to date there have been several missions to Mars and all the machines will have carried organisms of some sort . so its a safe bet they will find life of some sort . and then what ?? More B/S**t and more money wasted . just to keep a bunch of eggheads in business . and all this by a nation that has debts that are in the trillions .” Jesus” . please return and save us !!!

  7. Michael Cook says:

    Don’t send them to the UK we have enough immigrants.

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