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NASA may have accidentally destroyed life on Mars 50 years ago, claims German scientist

A scientist in Germany has claimed that the US space agency NASA had discovered life on the Mars planet 50 years ago but accidentally destroyed it. Dirk Schulze-Makuch, astrobiology professor and faculty member at the Technical University Berlin said NASA’s Viking programme, which started in the mid-1970s, unintentionally destroyed that opportunity. Under the Viking programme, NASA sent two landers to the Martian surface which showed the world the first glimpse of Mars’s surface and also performed the biological analysis of its soil and rocks.

The mission revealed details about volcanoes and their slopes bore close resemblances to those in Hawaii -hinting at their previous exposure to rain.
The German professor said as per the initial Viking experiments, water was infused with nutrients and radioactive carbon was introduced to the red Martian soil. If there were potential microorganisms on Mars they would use the nutrients and release radioactive carbon as a gas.

According to Schulze-Makuch, NASA’s exercise might have overwhelmed these potential microbes, leading to their demise.

The German professor said that the Viking landers also included an instrument to detect organic compounds. It saw trace amounts of chlorinated organics, which were interpreted at the time to be the result of contamination from Earth. However, project scientist Gerald Soffen concluded that the Viking project was negative.

But later 2008 Phoenix lander and Curiosity and Perseverance rovers confirmed that indigenous organic compounds do, in fact, exist on Mars in a chlorinated form.


Key takeqways by Dirk Schulze-Makuch

-Life may have been discovered on Mars almost 50 years ago, but it could have been unintentionally destroyed. This theory arises from the ambiguous results of life detection experiments conducted by NASA’s Viking landers in the mid-1970s.

-The Viking landers identified small amounts of chlorinated organics, initially believed to be contaminated from Earth. However, subsequent missions have verified the presence of native organic compounds on Mars, although in a chlorinated form.

-Life on Mars could have adapted to the arid environment by existing within salt rocks and absorbing water directly from the atmosphere. The Viking experiments, which involved adding water to soil samples, might have overwhelmed these potential microbes, leading to their demise.

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