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

Nasa's Viking landers were sent to Mars to search for possible signs of life and study the physical and magnetic properties of the soil and atmosphere

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NASA Photographs Mars InSight Lander From Space. Flickr
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It may sound a bit bizarre but a NASA probe may have accidentally destroyed organic molecules found on the surface of Mars more that 40 years ago, according to a report from New Scientist.

The US space agency in June announced that its robot explorer Curiosity found organic molecules in rocks formed three billion years ago — a discovery that could indicate that there was life on the Red Planet at that time.

However, in 1976, NASA’s twin Viking landers conducted the first experiments that searched for organic matter on the Red Planet.

“Because small, carbon-rich meteorites so frequently pelt the Red Planet, scientists have suspected for decades that organics exist on Mars.

“But researchers were stunned in 1976, when NASA sent two Viking landers to Mars to search for organics for the first time and found absolutely none,” the report said late on Wednesday.

“It was just completely unexpected and inconsistent with what we knew,” Chris McKay, Planetary Scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, was quoted as saying.

NASA’s Phoenix lander found perchlorate, a type of salt mainly used for propellants and in making fireworks, on Mars in 2008.

“The discovery of perchlorate reignited scientists’ convictions that the Viking landers could have found organics on Mars,” the report noted.

Mars
Representational Image, Pixabay

Among organic molecules that Curiosity recently found included chlorobenzene.

“This molecule is created when carbon molecules burn with perchlorate, so scientists suspect that it could have been created when the soil samples were burnt during Viking exploration,” said the report.

In a separate study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, a team from LATMOS research centre in France revisited the Viking lander data.

They found that the Viking landers also detected chlorobenzene.

According to Melissa Guzman, a scientist at LATMOS research centre, while the findings are interesting, the chlorobenzene may have come from material carried on the probe from Earth.

But some researchers are convinced.

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“This paper really seals the deal,” Daniel Glavin, astrobiologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre who was not involved in the study, was quoted as saying.

Nasa’s Viking landers were sent to Mars to search for possible signs of life and study the physical and magnetic properties of the soil and atmosphere.

The probes continued their mission until the final transmission to Earth on November 11, 1982 (Viking 1) and April 11, 1980 (Viking 2). (IANS)

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NASA Seeks US Partners to Develop Reusable Systems For Moon Mission

This process, known as in-situ resource utilization or ISRU, will make the third element also refuellable and reusable, it said

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NASA Seeks Partnership With US Industry to Develop First Gateway Element
NASA seeks US partners to develop reusable systems for Moon mission, Pixabay

NASA is set to work with American companies to design and develop new reusable systems, in a major step to land astronauts on the surface of the Moon.

NASA is planning to test new human-class landers on the Moon beginning in 2024, with the goal of sending crew to the surface in 2028, the US space agency said in a statement on Thursday.

Through upcoming multi-phased lunar exploration partnerships, NASA will ask American companies to study the best approach to landing astronauts on the Moon and start the development as quickly as possible with current and future anticipated technologies.

“Building on our model in low-Earth orbit, we’ll expand our partnerships with industry and other nations to explore the Moon and advance our missions to farther destinations such as Mars, with America leading the way,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

“When we send astronauts to the surface of the Moon in the next decade, it will be in a sustainable fashion.”

To develop lunar robotic landers, NASA in November collaborated with nine commercial American companies namely Astrobotic, Deep Space Systems, Firefly Aerospace, Intuitive Machines, Lockheed Martin, Mastern Space Systems, Moon Express, Draper and Orbit Beyond.

UAE, Moon
The International Space Station, center, passes in front of the Moon in its Earth orbit as photographed from Salgotarjan, Hungary, July 5, 2018. (VOA)

These companies are eligible for competing for NASA’s contracts valued at $2.6 billion, according to the US-based space agency.

The agency plans to send humans to the Moon using a system of three separate elements that will provide transfer, landing, and safe return.

Using the Gateway to land astronauts on the Moon allows the first building blocks for fully reusable lunar landers. Initially NASA expects two of the lander elements to be reusable and refuelled by cargo ships carrying fuel from Earth to the Gateway.

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The agency is also working on technologies to make rocket propellants using water ice and regolith from the Moon. Once the ability to harness resources from the Moon for propellant becomes viable, NASA plans to refuel these elements with the Moon’s own resources.

This process, known as in-situ resource utilization or ISRU, will make the third element also refuellable and reusable, it said. (IANS)