Former NASA Scientist Says Life Was Discovered on Mars During the 1976 Viking Mission

Wednesday, 16 October 2019 - 4:55PM
Mars
Alien Life
Wednesday, 16 October 2019 - 4:55PM
Former NASA Scientist Says Life Was Discovered on Mars During the 1976 Viking Mission
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Gilbert V. Levin, a former NASA scientist who worked on the Labeled Release (LR) Life Detection experiment on the Viking mission to Mars in 1976, is claiming he's "convinced" that the agency detected extraterrestrial life on the red planet. Levin articulated his claims and cited the evidence that supposedly substantiate them in an editorial published last week in Scientific American. 


If you're hoping for angry Martians with death rays, you may be disappointed. The LR project was based on what Outer Places often jokes about: adding nutrients to the Martian soil and testing for a biological response in the form of metabolism. Well, according to Levin, the tests detected something...


"On July 30, 1976," Levin writes, "the LR returned its initial results from Mars. Amazingly, they were positive. As the experiment progressed, a total of four positive results, supported by five varied controls, streamed down [to Earth] from the twin Viking spacecraft landed some 4,000 miles apart. The data curves signaled the detection of microbial respiration on the Red Planet. The curves from Mars were similar to those produced by LR tests of soils on Earth. It seemed we had answered that ultimate question."


Well maybe, maybe not. Whatever caused the appearance – or actual – metabolism in the soil was apparently dismissed by NASA. "When the Viking Molecular Analysis Experiment failed to detect organic matter, the essence of life, however, NASA concluded that the LR had found a substance mimicking life, but not life," Levin explains. 


For what it's worth, NASA has taken notice of Levin's claim and is standing by their original assessment. In an email to FOX News, NASA spokesperson Allard Beutel said that although "One of NASA's key goals is the search for life in the universe," there simply wasn't enough evidence on the Viking Mission to support the claim of discovering life. "The collective general opinion of the large majority of the scientific community," Beutel told FOX, "does not believe the results of the Viking experiments alone rise to the level of extraordinary evidence."


Levin's editorial, however, didn't begin and end with a single experiment. Citing the presence of methane (a byproduct of metabolism), various organic chemicals, and – perhaps most importantly – "surface water sufficient to sustain microorganisms," Levin is calling for NASA to continue its search for life on Mars, which, he notes, ended with the Viking mission in 1976.


"In keeping with well-established scientific protocol," Levin argues, "I believe an effort should be made to put life detection experiments on the next Mars mission possible. I and my co-experimenter have formally and informally proposed that the LR experiment, amended with an ability to detect chiral metabolism, be sent to Mars to confirm the existence of life: non-biological chemical reactions do not distinguish between "left-handed" and "right-handed" organic molecules, but all living things do."


Naturally Outer Places will be happy to donate sugar and yeast nutrient, if that's any help.
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