The Viking Labeled Release Experiment and Life on Mars. Lost civilizations

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Lost civilizations The Viking Labeled Release Experiment and Life on Mars, page 9 from


The microorganisms might adapt to or become lyophilized by the surface conditions. Either way, they might still respond in the manner detected in the LR instrument upon being moistened with liquid nutrient under benign conditions. Regardless, the meteorites provide a now plausible vehicle for ejection into space, lyophilization by the space environment, survival of re-entry, and thus, interplanetary transportation of living microorganisms. The independent origin of life on Mars is no longer a barrier to acceptance of the LR data as evidence for life.

Many hypotheses have been advanced and tested in attempts to account for the well-characterized activity detected in the surface material of Mars by the LR experiment. As shown above, these hypotheses have themselves been found wanting. The demonstrated success of the LR and the exquisite sensitivity with which it has detected microorganisms during its extensive test program with its record of no false positives can no longer be denied. No non-biological approach published, or known to the author, has duplicated the LR Mars data. Some laboratory experiments have produced positive responses, but the detailed thermal sensitivity exhibited by the variety of controls conducted on Mars has remained elusive in all such tests compatible with martian conditions. On the other hand, a combination of known properties of microorganisms, perhaps even those possessed by single species, could reproduce all aspects of the LR data. The biological interpretation of the Mars LR results is left standing alone. Recent discoveries of life forms thriving in extraordinarily severe environments on Earth strongly indicate that any alien organisms arriving on Mars might well and widely adapt to their new home. Application of the scientific principle leads to a conclusion: the Viking LR experiment detected living microorganisms in the soil of Mars.

1. Add Life Detection Tests to Planned Missions. The above conclusion will require independent experimental confirmation before achieving general acceptance. No life detection experiments are planned for the NASA's 10 Mars landers scheduled over the next decade. However, it is still possible to add life detection capability to them within the new NASA paradigm of "cheaper, smaller, faster." Even without a dedicated life detection experiment, it is possible that confirmation of extant life may be achieved. Pathfinder is now enroute to Mars for a July 4, 1997 landing. Its lander is equipped with a camera having better color and spatial resolutions than did Viking's. It is possible that a close-up picture of a rock might show clear evidence of biological colonies. A search for such evidence should be a Pathfinder priority.

2. Use Hubble Telescope. The Hubble Telescope should be used to seek evidence of large areal changes in the color and patterns of the martian surface and seek to correlate them with atmospheric water vapor and climatic seasons. Useful images that already may exist in the Hubble files should be compared.

3. Seek Chirality in Mars Samples. Perhaps the surest robotic means for unequivocal distinction of biological from chemical reactions is a test for chiral activity. For some yet unknown reason, or by chance, when the first living cells came into existence their enzymes were chiral specific. They catalyzed protein-building reactions with L-amino acids only. They had a similar preference for L-carbohydrates over D-forms. Throughout the evolution of all living forms, these preferences have been genetically transmitted. This peculiarity of living systems provides a ready means of distinguishing them from chemical reactions. Chemical reactions, without the intervention of man, cannot distinguish between L- and D-isomers. On the other hand, all known life forms utilize and make virtually only the L-form of amino acids.

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