In 1976, the Viking program’s orbiter and lander reached Mars, and the lander’s life experiments returned data that the scientists who had designed them had expected to see if living organisms were present in the soil. However, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, fearing that a positive finding about life on the red planet would cause their Mars funding to be diverted to the manned spaceflight program, issued various denials and succeeded in clouding the picture sufficiently to insure that robotic programs would continue.
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