The conclusions of a test carried out almost 50 years ago are still being debated, as some scientists believe that NASA’s testing methods may have been responsible for the death of Martian life within its rocks.
2 pictures in the GALLERY.
Dirk Schulze-Makuch, an astrobiologist from Technical University Berlin, has renewed the debate about the test results in a recent article in Big Think. The article discussed how NASA’s landers may have accidentally discovered and killed Martian microbes, which could be why they did not do it.
The ongoing debate centers around the question of whether or not Viking landers were correct in their assumptions about the essential elements of Martian soil for life. Despite this consensus, some scientists have cast doubt on the use of water in these tests. Schulze-Makuch suggests that the inclusion of Water was a presumption intended to see if life would manifest as Earth became essentially waterless, while there are certain microbes that perish when exposed to too much water.
At the end of the process, there are salt rocks that house microbes. These organisms use a process called hygroscopicity to attract water from specific salts and retain their moisture.
A study conducted in 2018 revealed that an indigenous microbe from the Atacama Desert died 85% of the time after being flooded due to their inability to adapt to the wet conditions. Schulze-Makuch suggests that this microorganism could have been present in Martian soil but could not have survived without water exposure from Viking landers.
Although the Viking results are intriguing, not all researchers are convinced. Chris McKay, an astrobiologist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California, stated in an email to Live Science that current researchers were simply wasting their time and needed to consider a “new type of life” for these results.
Schulze-Makuch suggested that if we were to pour water over dry-adapted microbes, could they be overwhelmed? While technically this would be hyperhydrating, it is more like drowning.
The ongoing debate about whether or not past microbial life on Mars is due to these findings and similar research, which are the primary reason for scientific efforts to uncover evidence of this type of life.
Despite the passage of almost 50 years, scientists have discovered dry on the life front and concluded that liquid water was once present on Mars. They used evidence from rock samples and the Martian surface to arrive at this conclusion.
The significant moment for NASA is when they return Martian rock samples to Earth, where they will undergo a thorough analysis using equipment that is much more powerful than the instruments used by landers and rovers.