NASA Discovered Evidence of Life on Mars 40 Years Ago, Then Set It On Fire

Live Science | 7/12/2018 | Staff
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In the late 1970s, two Viking robots sailed to Mars, pillaged the soil and burnt any traces of life they found.

That was never the plan, of course. When NASA first landed the twin spacecraft named Viking 1 and Viking 2 on the surface of Mars 40 years ago, scientists were ecstatic to finally start studying Martian soil for signs of organic (carbon-based) molecules that could prove the Red Planet was hospitable for life. It should've been a slam-dunk mission. The pockmarked face of Mars was constantly being pelted with tiny, carbon-rich meteorites, after all — detecting signs of that carbon was thought to have been a sure thing.

Decade - Planet - Viking - Landers - Evidence

But it wasn't. After half a decade of studying the planet, neither of the Viking landers could find any evidence of organic matter. Why not? NASA's Curiosity rover confirmed the presence of organic molecules on Mars earlier this year, so what was Viking missing?

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Sunsets - New - York - City - Days

Sunsets in New York City can be spectacular, but during certain days in May and July, the alignment of Earth and the sun creates an unusually striking phenomenon known as "Manhattanhenge," when the setting sun lines up within the grid layout of the city streets.

"A total of four [soil] samples were analyzed, each multiple times, by rapidly heating the sample to one of four temperature steps," researchers from NASA's Ames Research Center in California and the Atmosphere, Media, Spatial Observations Laboratory (LATMOS) in France, wrote in the new study.

Vikings - Soil - Samples - Temperature - Degrees

The Vikings heated up their soil samples to a maximum temperature of 932 degrees Fahrenheit (500 degrees Celsius) to try and release any volatile organic compounds trapped within those samples. If there had been any carbon there, the traces should have been detectable in the soil's vapor. So, why wasn't it? According to the authors of the new study, there...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Live Science
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