Life Found on Mars — In 1976?

A photograph of the Viking mission from NASA in 1976.

A paper was published this week by an international team of researchers who say that a rehashing of data from the Viking landing on Mars 36 years ago shows that NASA did indeed find life on Mars.

Back in 1976, scientists were very excited about soil samples taken from the Mars surface that showed evidence of life.  The idea behind the sampling process was to look for evidence of life through compounds we know on Earth to be consistent with excretion from living things.  Basically, they were looking for poop as proof that something was there.  They found things that did indicate life, but after further analysis, decided that results were inconclusive because they couldn’t be certain that the process was not contaminated by life on Earth that piggybacked a ride to Mars.  However, the team of scientists and mathematicians that took a new look saw it differently.

Mathematicians tend to look at things a little differently than your average physicist or biologist.  They took the data and refined it into statistical data.  They found that the complexity of the situation was consistent with research done on similar situations here on Earth.  This leads them to believe that NASA did strike gold on the Viking mission after all.

As exciting as such a declaration may be, it is far from conclusive.  After all, this is based on statistics and not hard evidence.  But one of the researchers says it won’t be hard to find out the truth.  A manned mission to Mars is unnecessary.  They believe that simply sending a microscope to Mars would tell the tale.  They believe that a microscope with video capabilities would clearly show microbes moving about in the soil, ending the debate.

But for now, the debate continues.  NASA has not responded to the claims of the research team as of yet.