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No. 48: Nov-Dec 1986

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Is there life on mars after all?

G. Levin and P. Straat, who designed one of the three life-detection experiments on the Mars Viking landers, have always maintained that the positive results obtained with their experiment were unreasonably overruled by the negative data from the other two experiments. At a recent scientific meeting in Washington, they stated:

"It is more likely than not that our experiment detected life on Mars."

Their research in the decade following the Mars landings has only strengthened their belief. Further, they have demonstrated that one of the other life-detection experiments producing negative results was not sensitive enough to detect low population levels of microorganisms. Realizing that the no-life-on-Mars dogma is well-entrenched, they looked for other kinds of evidence for life.

"In support of their claims, the two researchers presented two photographs of a Martian rock taken years apart by a camera on one of the landers. The photographs show greenish patches which had changed over time. Spectral analysis of the photographs compared favorably with the spectra given out by lichen-bearing rocks on Earth, as seen through a replica of the lander's camera."

(Anonymous; "Is There Life on Mars After All?" New Scientist, p. 19, July 31, 1986.)

From Science Frontiers #48, NOV-DEC 1986. 1986-2000 William R. Corliss