Life On Mars
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Basic Information

Life On Mars has been an exciting topic of debate for several centuries now.

The Ongoing Debate

Despite these notions and developments, scientists remain divided about life on Mars. The planet has a very weak magnetic field. As a result, it's atmosphere has been blasted off by billions of years of coronal mass ejections from the Sun. Such a thin atmosphere means next to no pressure, and liquid surface water. The planet is cold, and has no plate tectonics. None of these conditions favors the survival or evolution of life as we know it.

However, those objections and difficulties are far from being a nail in Mars' coffin. The Viking Labeled Release Experiment produced results consistent with microbial life in soil samples. Levin, the experiment's designer, maintains firm belief that there is life on Mars, and his experiment detected it. Of the 3 other test types that were conducted by the Viking probes, 1 tested positive for life, and the other 2 didn't. One of the two that didn't detect life (the GCMS experiment) also had a malfunction that kept it from registering soil samples were even gathered. Just sayin'. Scientific papers released in 2006 reveal that the GCMS experiment equipment was also significantly less sensitive than it was promoted to be at the time - even if it wasn't malfunctioning, it might have just been too insensitive to detect a small sample of life. Other scientific minds who've looked over Levin's viking data have found a cycle to the gas release in his results. This cycle is the same length as the Martian day, which is exactly what you'd expect if the chemical changes were being caused by photosensitive life making use of the sun's energy.

Add the recent subsurface water and atmospheric methane discoveries to Levin's test, and you may want to conclude that life definitively exists on Mars. However, the scientific consensus is that we just don't know. The mixed results of the Viking Biological Experiments could be explained by a large amount of Hydrogen Peroxide in the soil. This is the official NASA position today - that naturally-occurring hydrogen peroxide in the soil prevents any possible life on Mars, and was also responsible for the Viking test results. 30 years later, though, NASA still hasn't detected any actual hydrogen peroxide on the planet either.

Recent work by biologists suggests that life on Mars might use or produce Hydrogen Peroxide. In this way, both camps can be satisfied - life on Mars may have been detected by Levin, and at the same time Hydrogen Peroxide may be behind the test results. Peroxide may end working as a biological solvent, and may also be a byproduct of an alien form of photosynthesis. See Hydrogen Peroxide as Biological Solvent for more information.

Regions of Interest

Places on Mars that might harbor life:


2. Non-Fiction Book: 13 Things That Don't Make Sense by Michael Brooks

Game and Story Use

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