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NASA Mars exploration: Proof of life on the Red Planet found 43 years ago, scientist claims

Seen in the photo is the Viking 1 Lander designed to collect samples of Martian soil in the 1970s. | Photo credit: NASA via Wikimedia Commons

Scientists are usually very careful when answering questions on the long-running mystery of whether or not extraterrestrial life exists in space, especially on Mars. But a former scientist of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has recently written a piece detailing why he believes earlier works of the agency can prove there is life on Mars.

NASA’s Mars program in the ‘70s may have found evidence of extraterrestrial life

It has been decades since NASA started missions to Mars. Most of the time, Mars programs’ objective is to collect scientific samples from the Red Planet and determine through biological experiments whether there is any evidence of living creatures existing in other planets.

It was the same objective that NASA’s Viking program in the ‘70s had, and it involved several experiments, including the Labeled Release (LR) led by engineer and principal investigator Gilbert Levin. LR was one of the promising experiments of the Viking program because it reportedly detected metabolism when Mars soil samples were combined with a radioactive carbon compound. In a 2012 paper, Levin concluded that the LR experiment ultimately found evidence that microbial life exists on Mars.

Last Oct. 10, Levin wrote on the Scientific American that such results seemingly answered the “ultimate question” on life on Mars. However, a follow-up Viking Molecular Analysis Experiment was not as successful and failed to detect organic matter leading to NASA’s conclusion, per Levin’s article, “The LR had found a substance mimicking life, but not life.”

NASA’s future Mars mission won’t look for existing alien life

Levin further noted that there had not been substantial follow-up efforts of life detection experiments on Mars. And based on Mars 2020 Mission’s objectives posted on NASA’s website, it does not aim to follow up on the work done on the Viking program. The agency states that instead of looking for existing microbial metabolism like Levin and his colleagues did, next year’s mission will be searching for biosignatures or mere signs of ancient life.

“What is the evidence against the possibility of life on Mars? The astonishing fact is that there is none,” Levin added. The former NASA scientist also argued that lab tests confirmed microorganisms have the potential to survive the Martian environment. He then called on the agency to continue the efforts of life detection in its future missions on Mars.

By Jess Ferrera
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