The quest to find life on Mars has remained one of the top priorities of space agencies on the red planet. However, despite the numerous efforts made by space agencies on the red planet, they have yet to find any evidence of alien life on Mars. In a recent study, a scientist claimed that NASA may have mistakenly discovered alien life on Mars nearly 50 years ago and unknowingly killed it before realizing it.
However, this new claim has raised a lot of debates among scientists as some support the new claim, while others revealed that it is just a far-fetched fantasy.
Why The Scientists Suggest That NASA May Have Accidentally Found and Killed Alien Life On Mars 50 Years Ago
Dirk Schulze-Makuch, an astrobiologist at Technical University Berlin is the scientist behind this unique discovery. NASA’s Viking landers may have conducted experiments involving sampled tiny, dry-resistant life forms hiding inside Martian rocks, the astrobiologist suggested in a June 27 article published on Big Think.
Schulze-Makuch noted that if these extreme life forms exist or continue to exist on Mars, the numerous experiments conducted by the landers may have likely killed them before they were discovered. The scientist claimed that the test conducted would have overwhelmed these potential microbes on Mars.
Schulze-Makuch also said that many people will find his suggestion provocative. However, the astrobiologist reveals that similar microbes on our home planet could hypothetically live on Mars. While Schulze-Makuch has popularized his claims with some scientists on his side, others think that the Viking’s experiments on Mars have not caused harm to any extraterrestrial lifeform on Mars, that is if there is any.
How Vikings Carried Out Experiments on Mars
NASA conducted four experiments during the Viking 1 and Viking 2 mission. These experiments include the gas chromatograph mass spectrometer (GCMS) experiment, which focused on searching for organic or carbon-containing compounds in Martian regolith, the pyrolytic release experiment, which checked for carbon fixation by potential photosynthetic organisms, the labeled release experiment, which searched for metabolism by adding radioactively traced nutrients to the Martian soil, and the gas exchange experiment, which was conducted to find metabolism by monitoring how gases that are known to be key element for life (like oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen).
The last experiment was carried out by changing the surroundings in the isolated soil samples. The outcome of the Viking experiments was not clear to many scientists. However, they have continued to research simplifying the results of these experiments. Based on extensive research carried out from observing these results, scientists discovered that the labeled release and pyrolytic release experiments support the idea of the existence of alien life on Mars.
Both experiments reveal little changes in the concentrations of some gases which suggested that some type of metabolism actually took place. The gas chromatograph mass spectrometer (GCMS) experiment also revealed some evidence of chlorinated organic compounds. However, mission scientists in the 1970s strongly believed that the compounds were contamination that came from cleaning products used on Earth.
But future missions to Mars have proven that these organic compounds naturally occur on the red planet. But the gas exchange experiment which is the most important experiment of the Viking mission, created a negative result. Scientists studied closely the outcome and concluded that the Viking experiments did not spot Martian life. NASA’s Phoenix lander which succeeded the Viking landers discovered evidence of perchlorates in 2007.
More Efforts to Find Alien Life on Mars
Perchlorates is a chemical property that occurs naturally inside some Martian rocks. Scientists studied the perchlorates found on Mars and were able to resolve the gases detected previously by the Viking landers. However, Schulze-Makuch strongly believes that most experiments conducted by the Viking landers produce inaccurate results because of the excess water used during the experiments. NASA added water to all four Viking experiments on the red planet.
“Since Earth is a water planet, it seemed reasonable that adding water might coax life to show itself in the extremely dry Martian environment,” Schulze-Makuch wrote. “In hindsight, it is possible that approach was too much of a good thing.”
Scientists have discovered that extreme microbes can thrive in very dry Earth environments like the Atacama Desert in Chile. These microbes survive by hiding in hygroscopic rocks which are extremely salty and extract small amounts of water from the air surrounding them. Space agencies have also discovered these rocks on Mars with some level of humidity that could hypothetically sustain microbial life.
Schulze-Makuch proposed that if these microbes also contained hydrogen peroxide, which is a chemical compatible with some type of life forms on Earth, it would assist them in drawing moisture and may likely generate some of the gases detected in the labeled release experiment.
However, experiments conducted with excessive amounts can be dangerous to these tiny microbial lifeforms. Scientists published a report in 2018 in the journal Scientific Report, revealing the extreme floods in the Atacama Desert that killed about 85% of indigenous microbes that could survive in wetter environments.
“Therefore, adding water to any potential microbes in the Viking soil samples may have been equivalent to stranding humans in the middle of an ocean: Both need water to survive, but in the wrong concentrations, it can be deadly to them,” Schulze-Makuch wrote.
Other Claims Suggesting Why Vikings Killed Martian Life
Schulze-Makuch is not the first scientist to suggest that Viking experiments may have killed Martian life. A group of scientists conducted a study in 2018 that proposed that heated Mars soil samples produced an unexpected chemical reaction that may have burned and killed any Martian microbes living in those samples.
However, Schulze-Makuch’s claim has recently created room for a new debate about unknowingly elimination of life on Mars during experiments carried out by the Viking landers.
Schulze-Makuch recently proposed that alien life on Mars could have been discovered and killed during Viking experiments nearly 50 years ago. While this claim doesn’t mean that we have discovered life on Mars, it tends to move us closer to advancing our microbial life on the red planet. What do you think about this fascinating scientific discovery made by astrobiologists?