Scientists '99 percent' certain they have found life on Mars
Reevaluation of Viking 2 data reveals evidence of microbial life.
An international team of scientists says they have found evidence for life on Mars by re-reviewing results from the 1976 Viking 2 experiments. According to the scientists, a mathematical second look at the data reveals the presence of microbial life on the red planet.
A an image of Mars taken from the Viking 2 Lander in 1976.
However, armed with new understandings, scientists have been challenging these results as they reexamine the original data. Now, according to a paper published by an international team of scientists and mathematicians, they believe the evidence in favor of life is substantial.
How substantial? About 99 percent.
Joseph Miller, biologist from the University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine said, "On the basis of what we've done so far, I'd say I'm 99 percent sure there's life there."
This a bold statement for any scientist, and a bolder conclusion still for a team of them.
The new study evaluated the original data, but with a different mathematical perspective. Researchers say the original results were declared negative because scientists did not yet understand some of the complex chemical processes that were occurring. However, with new understandings available, they believe the original results match similar experiments done on Earth that show positive.
Planetary scientist Christopher McKay from NASA's Ames Research Center said, "Contrary to 30 years of perceived wisdom, Viking did detect organic materials on Mars. It's like a 30-year-old cold case suddenly solved with new facts."
Critics of course, warn the results are preliminary and that it is premature to make any formal announcement. However, the team's findings have been published in the International Journal of Aeronautical and Space Sciences.
They also caution that evidence of organics is not evidence for life, but the results of the new study suggest there was more activity in the soil than the mere presence of organics. Organics in this case are carbon-based molecules that form the basis of all life as we know it.
With the new research published, other scientists will have an opportunity to pick it apart and validate the integrity of the research. If they find the research methods to be sound, it will probably provoke another follow-up mission to Mars that will be designed to specifically answer the question once and for all.
However, even in the best case, that mission will be several years in the planning and likely take a year of travel to reach Mars. In that case, final word on the question may still be a decade away.
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Viking 2, Mars, life, red planet, evidence, research, study, data, NASA, Ames Research Center, USC
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