MarsNews.com
October 15th, 2019

Op/Ed : I’m Convinced We Found Evidence of Life on Mars in the 1970s

Viking 2 lander image looking back across the craft. Dark boulders are prominent against the reddish soil. The landing site, Utopia Plantia, is a region of fractured plains. The lander is about 200 km south of Mie crater, and may be on top of one of the crater’s ejecta blankets. The largest rocks are about half a meter in size. The view is approximately to the southwest. (Viking 2 Lander, 22A158)

We humans can now peer back into the virtual origin of our universe. We have learned much about the laws of nature that control its seemingly infinite celestial bodies, their evolution, motions and possible fate. Yet, equally remarkable, we have no generally accepted information as to whether other life exists beyond us, or whether we are, as was Samuel Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, “alone, alone, all, all alone, alone on a wide wide sea!” We have made only one exploration to solve that primal mystery. I was fortunate to have participated in that historic adventure as experimenter of the Labeled Release (LR) life detection experiment on NASA’s spectacular Viking mission to Mars in 1976.

On July 30, 1976, 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 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.

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. Inexplicably, over the 43 years since Viking, none of NASA’s subsequent Mars landers has carried a life detection instrument to follow up on these exciting results. Instead the agency launched a series of missions to Mars to determine whether there was ever a habitat suitable for life and, if so, eventually to bring samples to Earth for biological examination.

July 7th, 2016

NASA to Host Media Events Marking 40th Anniversary of First Mars Landing

NASA is celebrating the first successful landing on Mars by a U.S. spacecraft – Viking 1 — with a history discussion from 2 to 3:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday, July 19, and a Viking 40th anniversary symposium 8 a.m. to 5:10 p.m. Wednesday, July 20 at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

Portions of these events that highlight the initial steps on the Journey to Mars will air live on NASA Television and stream on the agency’s website.

Media interested in attending the talk and/or all or parts of the symposium should contact Sasha Ellis at sasha.c.ellis@nasa.gov or 757-272-9859 no later than noon July 19.

The July 19 history talk will include a panel of NASA historians and Roger Launius of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, who will speak about the history of NASA’s Viking missions.

The symposium on July 20, called From NASA’s First Soft Landing to Humans on Mars, will include a lineup of about 20 speakers, including former Viking program scientists and engineers, The Martian author Andy Weir, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Space Technology Steve Jurczyk, and other key members contributing to past, present and future Mars missions.

December 18th, 2013

An Updated Mars Exploration Family Portrait The Planetary Society

The Mars Exploration Family Portrait shows every dedicated spacecraft mission to Mars, and now includes India’s Mars Orbiter Mission and NASA’s MAVEN. The dates listed are for launch.

June 13th, 2013

Toxic Mars: Astronauts Must Deal with Perchlorate on the Red Planet Space.com

The pervading carpet of perchlorate chemicals found on Mars may boost the chances that microbial life exists on the Red Planet — but perchlorates are also perilous to the health of future crews destined to explore that way-off world.
Perchlorates are reactive chemicals first detected in arctic Martian soil by NASA’s Phoenix lander that plopped down on Mars over five years ago in May 2008.

April 12th, 2012

Mars Viking Robots ‘Found Life’ Discovery News

New analysis of 36-year-old data, resuscitated from printouts, shows NASA found life on Mars, an international team of mathematicians and scientists conclude in a paper published this week.
Further, NASA doesn’t need a human expedition to Mars to nail down the claim, neuropharmacologist and biologist Joseph Miller, with the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, told Discovery News.
“The ultimate proof is to take a video of a Martian bacteria. They should send a microscope — watch the bacteria move,” Miller said.
“On the basis of what we’ve done so far, I’d say I’m 99 percent sure there’s life there,” he added.

January 7th, 2011

Viking Found Organics on Mars, Experiment Confirms Discovery News

More than 30 years after NASA’s Viking landers found no evidence for organic materials on Mars, scientists say a new experiment on Mars-like soil shows Viking did, in fact, hit pay dirt.
The new study was prompted by the August 2008 discovery of powerful oxygen-busting compounds known as perchlorates at the landing site of another Mars probe called Phoenix.
Scientists repeated a key Viking experiment using perchlorate-enhanced soil from Chile’s Atacama Desert, which is considered one of the driest and most Mars-like places on Earth, and found telltale fingerprints of combusted organics — the same chemicals Viking scientists dismissed as contaminants from Earth.
“Contrary to 30 years of perceived wisdom, Viking did detect organic materials on Mars,” planetary scientist Christopher McKay, with NASA’s Ames Research Center in California, told Discovery News. “It’s like a 30-year-old cold case suddenly solved with new facts.”

September 14th, 2010

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

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.

August 20th, 2010

History-Making Mars Mission Launched 35 Years Ago NASA

Thrust from a Titan 3/Centaur rocket launched NASA’s Viking 1 spacecraft on a 505-million-mile journey to Mars on Aug. 20, 1975. Viking 2 followed three weeks later.
Each mission included both an orbiter and a lander, and all four components accomplished successes. On July 20, 1976, the Viking 1 lander returned the first photograph taken on the surface of Mars. That lander in a region called Chryse Planitia operated until Nov. 13, 1982. The Viking 2 lander operated in the Utopia Planitia region from Sept. 3, 1976 to April 11, 1980. The orbiters sent home images of the entire planet at resolutions of 300 meters or less per pixel.

May 20th, 2010

Mars Rover surpasses Viking -1 record Jason Rhian

There is a new champion on the red planet, in terms of longevity that is, the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has surpassed the endurance record of Viking 1. The lander held the record for decades, (the lander was accidentally turned off in 1982 and contact could not be reestablished) until this week when Opportunity surpassed it. The Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity have been on Mars since 2004 and have provided countless new discoveries about our next door, (celestially speaking) neighbor.
The rovers were only expected to last 90 days – and have gone on to last some six years, (Spirit has not communicated with ground controllers and is thought to be in hibernation mode). Spirit may yet wake up and yank the duration-prize from her sister – but until then the prize goes to Opportunity. Much of the twin rovers’ missions successes have gone to this particular rover.

September 28th, 2009

Viking 2 Likely Came Close to Finding H2O Discovery News

NASA’s Viking probes landed on Mars in 1976 to look for water and signs of life. Finding neither, Mars was abandoned for the next two decades.
But if Viking 2, which touched down in an equatorial region known as Utopia Planitia, had just dug down into the soil a few more inches, scientists now think it would have hit nearly pure frozen water.