As the European spacecraft the Beagle (named after Darwin's ship) heads for Mars, scientists are looking at the results of an earlier search for life on Mars, by the NASA Viking landings in 1976. Former mission scientist Gil Levin says he has evidence proving that we really did find signs of life on Mars during that mission.
Biology experiments during the Viking mission detected strange signs of activity in the Martian soil, that could have been made by microbes giving off gas. NASA found this hard to believe, so they carried out a search for the organic matter that could be producing the gas, but never found it, so they announced there's no life on Mars.
Levin was one of the three scientists taking part in the experiments, and he believes Viking did find living organisms in Martian soil. He continued the experiments on his own, in what he called LR (labeled release) work. He says, "The (NASA) organic analysis instrument was shown to be very insensitive, requiring millions of micro-organisms to detect any organic matter, versus the LR's demonstrated ability to detect as few as 50 micro-organisms." He says he has a new experiment that "could unambiguously settle the argument." However, both NASA and the European Space Agency refuse to do it.
The goal of the Beagle mission is to search for life on Mars but, Levin says, "Strangely, despite its billing, Beagle 2 carries no life detection experiment! Neither its GCMS (organic detector), which is claimed to be more sensitive than Viking's, nor its isotopic analysis instrument can provide evidence for living organisms."
NASA plans to send two identical rovers to Mars. Deputy mission manager Mark Adler says the goal is to find out if there's water on Mars, not to search for life. He says, "What we learned from Viking is that it is very difficult to come up with specific experiments to look for something (when) you don't really know what to look for."
There's history right here on Earth that scientists refuse to look at.
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