NASA’s recent discoveries of organic molecules on Mars might be old news if we’re to talk about a recent study published in the New Scientist. The study found that NASA might have discovered organic molecules in Mars soil samples 40 years ago, but they accidentally destroyed them.
Ancient Organic Matter on Mars
If Mars has ancient organic matter, then it’s a proof that it could have supported life and it might have some sort of life forms today.
But here’s where it gets interesting. When the Viking landers were sent by NASA to discover organic matter, they were the ones to do it and destroy it at once. There is no other explanation for why the Viking mission failed to provide proof of organic matter on the Red Planet.
Chris McKay is a scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center (Silicon Valley) and the lead author of the study. He thinks that, when the Viking landers heated the soil to analyze vapors from it, the landers might have ignited a flammable salt in the soil – perchlorate.
McKay said in the paper that there was chlorobenzene in some soil samples, a compound that is produced when the flammable salts burn with carbon molecules.
On their website, the agency reported that:
“NASA’s Viking Project found a place in history when it became the first U.S. mission to land a spacecraft safely on the surface of Mars and return images of the surface. Two identical spacecraft, each consisting of a lander and an orbiter, were built. Each orbiter-lander pair flew together and entered Mars orbit; the landers then separated and descended to the planet’s surface.”
Viking 2 sent the last data to Earth in April 1980, and Viking 1 made its final transmission in November 1982.
The paper was published after a month since NASA’s announcement that Curiosity rover found evidence of the Red Planet’s ability to support ancient life. Until now, NASA hasn’t found the source of the organic molecules Curiosity rover discovered.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.