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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, Hubble, Keplar, asteroids
Nasa's Opportunity rover might have 'died' on Mars. Flickr

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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Spacecraft Test Runs into Serious Problems, Smoke All Over SpaceX in Florida

"Ensuring that our systems meet rigorous safety standards and detecting (issues) like this prior to flight are the main reasons why we test"

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space craft
Federal oversight authorities warned NASA last year that more delays could leave US astronauts stranded if the new capsules were not ready to fly in 2019. Pixabay

Thick plumes of smoke rose over a SpaceX facility in Florida during a test fire of a Crew Dragon spacecraft and the issue was serious, it could derail plans to fly astronauts aboard the capsule later this year, the media reported.

SpaceX, which was founded by billionaire businessman Elon Musk in 2002, said the craft was undergoing a “series of engine tests” at a facility in Cape Canaveral on Saturday, and something went wrong during the final stretch, CNN reported.

SpaceX will work with NASA to determine what caused the issue. No injuries were reported.

orbit
The US has not had the technology to fly humans to orbit since the space shuttle programme ended in 2011. Meanwhile, NASA has paid Russia about $80 million per seat to send astronauts to the International Space Station aboard Soyuz capsules. Pixabay

“Ensuring that our systems meet rigorous safety standards and detecting (issues) like this prior to flight are the main reasons why we test,” SpaceX said in a statement.

Crew Dragon is already overdue and more delays could make things tricky for NASA.

It was scheduled to conduct a key test of its emergency abort system in June. And its first crewed mission, which will carry astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, was slated for July, though NASA recently said that timeline was under review.

space craft
Federal oversight authorities warned NASA last year that more delays could leave US astronauts stranded if the new capsules were not ready to fly in 2019. Pixabay

The US has not had the technology to fly humans to orbit since the space shuttle programme ended in 2011. Meanwhile, NASA has paid Russia about $80 million per seat to send astronauts to the International Space Station aboard Soyuz capsules.

NASA has also decided to ask the private sector to design and build a new generation of spacecrafts.

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SpaceX and Boeing, which is building a vehicle called Starliner, were awarded contracts worth up to $2.6 billion and $4.2 billion, respectively, in 2014. Both capsules were supposed to start flying in 2017, but they have been hampered with delays.

Federal oversight authorities warned NASA last year that more delays could leave US astronauts stranded if the new capsules were not ready to fly in 2019. (IANS)