If the Mars rover Curiosity finds carbon-based molecules in the Martian soil, researcher Gilbert Levin will feel vindicated, since he promulgated the theory that life on Earth was seeded by an asteroid from Mars 36 years ago.
A Titan/Centaur vehicle was sent to Mars on August 20, 1975 and picked up a soil sample there. Levin mixed the Martian soil with a nutrient containing radioactive carbon.
In New Scientist, Michael Brooks writes: "The idea was simple: if bacteria were present in the soil, and metabolized the nutrient, they would emit some of the digested molecules as carbon dioxide. The experiment did indeed find that carbon dioxide was released from the soil, and that it contained radioactive carbon atoms.
"He even took a congratulatory phone call from Carl Sagan. However, the party was ruined by a sister experiment. Viking's Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer (GCMS) was looking for carbon-based molecules and found none." NASA claimed that Levin's result was not valid.
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