A Short and Quick History of NASA Finding Life on the Martian Planet.
The red planet has held a special place in humanity’s collective imagination for centuries. However, since the Viking landers actually travelled to the red planet, the question of whether there is life on Mars has taken several sharp turns. Just in the past few years, there has been some major controversies and developments. We’ll explore the major ones, from most recent all the way back to the ‘Martian Face’ that NASA photographed in the 90’s.
July 2018: NASA Accused of Burning Evidence of Life on Mars
This controversy comes from an actual NASA report, but it has been wildly misinterpreted. Here’s how it goes: researchers discovered data from an old test of Martian soil done by the Viking landers back in the 1970’s. The Viking landers found no evidence of organic molecules, which was puzzling since we did find evidence of them when the two Martian rovers sampled Martian soil.
Now, the soil contained a compound called perchlorate, which is very flammable. There’s very little oxygen or heat on Mars, so it normally doesn’t burn. But the NASA report suggests that the Landers accidentally burned evidence of the Martian organic compounds by burning it with the perchlorate.
The controversy is a whole lot of nothing. We know now that organic compounds do exist on Mars, so whether the Viking landers messed up the first tests doesn’t really matter.
Remember that these are organic compounds, which are the building blocks of life, but aren’t evidence of life itself.
June 2018: Organic Matter Found on Mars
NASA announced that they had discovered organic matter preserved in mudstones that are over 3 billion years old (Earth is 4.5 billion years old, for reference). The announcement also mentioned the fact that …