NASA found evidence of life on Mars during an experiment in the 1970s, says a former scientist with the space agency, but his superiors deemed the results inconclusive and didn’t publicize the findings.
As CNN reports, back in the 1970s, the Americans and the Soviets sent up multiple craft to the red planet hoping to, among other things, find evidence of life. And Gilbert V. Levin, a scientist with the agency at the time, says that one of those missions did, indeed, find proof of life up there, but the agency discounted it.
At the time, just as it is now, it’s impossible to directly test for life on Mars. Short of actually looking at a living organism (which would likely be a primitive, single-cell organism such as a bacterium) under a microscope, there’s no confirming life up there through direct observation. Rather, scientists look for evidence of organic compounds, such as methane, that would be produced by decaying organisms.
And find such evidence they did, 40 years ago, says Levin.
Back in 1976, NASA sent up the Viking lander. Among the experiments performed by the craft was the Labeled Release (LR), which was designed to test Martian soil for organic matter. The device would place nutrients in samples of the soil; if there were organisms in the soil, they would consume the nutrients and leave gaseous traces of metabolism, which would be detected by the equipment.
It worked, says Levin.
Unfortunately, the space agency was unable to replicate the results of the experiment and concluded that the equipment had turned up a false positive.
That was a mistake, Levin writes. Not only did the agency discount the experiment’s findings, but it has failed to follow up on them.
“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,” Levin says.
Recently, NASA found some tantalizing evidence that there may be life on Mars, although how they came to that conclusion differs from results of the Viking experiments. As reported at the time by The Inquisitr, back in June, NASA published findings indicating that the Curiosity rover had detected methane on Mars; the gas would be produced from the decay of living organisms. However, at the time, the results were far too preliminary for the space agency to conclusively say that life had been detected on Mars.