NASA's Viking project resulted in two successful 1976 landings on Mars and was revolutionary in many ways. The spacecraft, the first of the United States to land safely on the red planet, has returned images and data from the surface of the planet, and the two landers have contributed to the design of future missions on Mars.
A scientist deeply involved in the project Viking missions say that if we are looking for life on Mars, we have probably already found it. In a new editorial Gilbert Levin, principal investigator of the Viking Labeled Release experiment, says that the data returned from Mars in the 1970 years is proof that life exists on the planet.
The Relaxation Experience (LR) was one of the many scientific goals of Viking missions. Designed to detect the presence of life on Mars, the tests produced many positive results, suggesting microbial activity in the soil of Mars. The results were staggering, but NASA finally rejected them after later experiments failed.
The LR was specifically designed to study Martian soil for warning signs of microbes. The microbes "breathe" and by detecting these signatures in the soil, the scientists involved in the experiment thought they had made a monumental discovery.
"The data curves signaled the detection of microbial respiration on the red planet," writes Levin. "The curves of Mars were similar to those produced by LR tests of soils on Earth. It seemed that we had answered this ultimate question. "
However, a separate experiment to detect the presence of organic matter was dumped, leaving NASA to conclude that the signatures found in the Mars soil were the result of another process, and that the results of the LR was not proof of life. Levin strongly disagrees and presents his argument and supporting evidence.
In the years following the Viking missions, NASA's rovers and landers returned data that could corroborate the idea of past or present life on Mars. . The presence of water, organic compounds, methane concentrations, which are changing rapidly, and many other discoveries all seem to be moving in this direction, but NASA maintains that there is no compelling evidence ... for the moment ...
Levin argues that NASA should detect microbial life as a top priority for future missions and suggests that the agency's refusal to include life-detection experiments in recent missions is a short-term vision . The Mars 2020 lugger should not include such experiences.
This article appeared first (in English) on BGR