The twin Viking landers were NASA’s ambitious project which, in 1976, managed to touch Mars’s surface. They were used to answer one of the most difficult questions in the Universe: is there life on Mars?
The principal investigator of the Vikings’ Labeled Release (LR) life-detection experiment, Gilbert Levin concluded in 1997 that the machines indeed detected life on the red planet. The instrument got results at both landing locales, however, this didn’t prevent scientists from disagreeing about whether the results were, in fact, proof of life.
The 1997 conclusion was championed by Levin ever since. Now that more than 40 years have passed since the Viking landings and in the meantime, we gathered more information about Mars, Levin feels that NASA didn’t completely follow through with the Viking landers’ results. While being present on David Livingston’s popular online program ‘The Space Show’ this July, Mr. Levin stated that he is certain NASA knows that there is life on Mars.
Furthermore, he asked for an objective panel to re-examine the Viking LR data. According to him, these past 40 years had a succession of orbiters, rovers and landers gather evidence of life on Mars. “Substantial and circumstantial evidence for extant microbial life on Mars,” is currently on NASA’s hands, Mr. Levin feels.
To prove his point, the former NASA scientist took the findings of the Curiosity rover as evidence. The rover found cyclical and seasonal spikes in Mars methane. On our planet, more than 90% of this gas is generated by microbes and other organisms. To Levin, this represents hard proof that life on Mars isn’t a myth.
However, it is not really persuasive evidence of life, as the chemistry that happens between water and rocks can also lead to methane production.