Building Blocks for Life on Mars Possibly Seen By Viking Probes, Study Suggests

Samples of Mars dirt collected by NASA’s Viking Mars landers back in the 1970s may have contained carbon-based chemical building blocks of life as we know it, a new study suggests.
During their missions, the two Viking landers vaporized Martian dirt and scrutinized the samples for signs of organic – or carbon-based – molecules that could serve as the raw ingredients for life. At the time, all they found were chlorine compounds attributed to contamination, but the new research suggests the Viking probes’ heat-treatment may have generated these chlorine compounds from naturally occurring Martian organics, destroying them in the process.
“This doesn’t say anything about the question of whether or not life has existed on Mars, but it could make a big difference in how we look for evidence to answer that question,” study co-author Chris McKay, of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., said in a statement.