NASA Probe May Have Burnt Organic Molecules On Mars 40 Years Ago

An illustration of the relative tilts in the orbits of Mars and Earth

More recently, the Curiosity rover discovered traces of chlorobenzene in some soil samples.

NASA announced last month that it found complex organic molecules on Mars, but that announcement should have been made 40 years ago.

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 Curiosity team also reported levels of methane, the simplest organic molecule, that varied by season, further evidence for the potential of living things on Mars.

"NASA's Viking Project found a place in history when it became the first USA mission to land a spacecraft safely on the surface of Mars and return images of the surface".

NASA has kept the June discovery of organic material rather quiet, primarily because they still are not sure of the origin of the organic materials and don't want to jump to conclusions that it is conclusive proof of life. This chlorine-oxygen salt is used in the production of fireworks and propellants because it's a powerful oxidizing agent that can be explosive under the right conditions.

In order to test the Martian soil, the Viking landers used gas instruments to heat their samples into releasing vapors that they could then examine for the presence of organic material.

Nevertheless, the final conclusion of the paper said the salt might have chlorinated any organics inside the Viking instruments after it performed its sample acquisition from Mars.

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The discovery of perchlorate reignited scientists' convictions that the Viking landers could have found organics on Mars. "You get some new insight, and you realize that everything you knew was wrong".

However, finding perchlorate didn't provide concrete proof that the Viking landers found and accidentally destroyed organic molecules, so the investigation continued.

The first USA mission to land a spacecraft safely on the surface of Mars was the Viking Program in 1976.

This is the first time that ghost dune pits have been uncovered on Mars, reveals a new study, published by Day and Catling in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Another theory from McKay's colleague, Melissa Guzman of the LATMOS research center, is that the chlorobenzene hitched a ride to Mars aboard the Viking landers.

Guzman said she still isn't completely convinced that the chlorobenzene they detected formed when organics in Martian soil were burned. "But when you put them all together, they have so many commonalities with dunes on Mars and on Earth that you have to employ some kind of fantastic explanation to explain them as anything other than dunes", Day said.

But Dr. Daniel Glavin, from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, declared that the paper finally proves that the probes found evidence for life on the planet.

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