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Patricia Straat looks back on the Viking lander experiment that aimed to find microbes

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posted on Apr, 2 2019 @ 06:04 PM
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The Labeled Release experiment started on sol 10 [Viking’s 10th Martian day on the planet]. The first data came in around 7:30 in the evening. I was at the computer surrounded by Gil Levin and several other team members. I worked the keyboard and hit the print button. Then the computer printed the data points from the first nine hours of data. I looked at it and said, “Oh my God, it’s positive.” Not only was the instrument working, but the results were positive.

Patricia Ann Straat working with the flight components of the Labeled Release instrument prior to the 1976 Viking Mission. Credit: Patricia Ann Straat and Bruce Connor


Looking for Life on Mars: Viking Experiment Team Member Reflects on Divisive Findings



NASA has not repeated this experiment or an updated experiment to test for life on Mars. Why do you think that is? There have been many chances to run a test like this or a new and improved test for life on Mars and it has not been done.

Could a test for life have been done again and it was classified? A Mars lander or rover could have hidden instruments and/or experiments. There are many things the government does that are classified that the public never learns about. That could explain when this test for life on Mars was dismissed and never repeated.

Viking Lander Arm (170938835).jpg

edit on 2-4-2019 by LookingAtMars because: pic desc




posted on Apr, 2 2019 @ 06:49 PM
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a reply to: LookingAtMars

There's no life on Mars, especially where this test was done. After researching the experiment you have to want it to be true to conclude it found life.

The idea NASA has done nothing regarding life on Mars is ludicrous.



posted on Apr, 2 2019 @ 07:22 PM
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originally posted by: OccamsRazor04
a reply to: LookingAtMars

There's no life on Mars, especially where this test was done. After researching the experiment you have to want it to be true to conclude it found life.

The idea NASA has done nothing regarding life on Mars is ludicrous.


I agree "The idea NASA has done nothing regarding life on Mars is ludicrous."

They have not looked for life since that Viking test. There has been no NASA mission to look for life on Mars, it is a fact. First it was "follow the water". After finding evidence of water many times on many missions they moved on to look for a habitat for life.

Finally a mission to Mars will look for life. The 2020 rover has the mission to look for past life. So still no repeating the Viking test.



posted on Apr, 2 2019 @ 09:15 PM
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a reply to: LookingAtMars

I totally agree. NASA is run by the DoD and every single thing they do is first subject to military review. And looking at exactly how the military "review" things, and how they have proceeded in the past, like with project blue book, project sign, grudge, and so many more.

The pattern of how they maneuver the public, (and even their own scientists), and how they treat our astronauts when it comes to "certain questions" is very well established. Just like the Air Force maneuvering their own enlisted and officers without a "need to know", will be done in exactly this same proven manner.

That there are NASA groupies who even attempt to carry water for them in regards to all of that public persuasion is quite humorous and even a little embarrassing. It's like being in a CIA/NSA school where they're showing you example snippets of their past public psy-ops. This lady Patricia Straat is also not the first scientist who has worked with NASA to speak about similar past tests on the other landers/rovers, and those scientists were publicly flogged in different ways by NASA public relations.




posted on Apr, 2 2019 @ 10:30 PM
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originally posted by: LookingAtMars
Finally a mission to Mars will look for life. The 2020 rover has the mission to look for past life. So still no repeating the Viking test.
The Viking probe had three life experiments, two were negative and one was positive. Apparently some thinking was if life was there why did two of the life experiments show negative? So the results were not clear and thus one could say even though the experiments were based on the best science at the time, it was somewhat flawed to give such inconclusive results.

spaceflightnow.com...

Viking found no clear yes/no answer to the life question, Boston said.

“The conclusion by the principal experimenters (was that) a biological interpretation of the results was unlikely,” said Joel Levine, a professor of applied science at the College of William and Mary, and a former member of the Viking science team at NASA’s Langley Research Center.

“One of the criticisms that one could level at the biological package is that, in retrospect, there were clear logical gaps that were left hanging,” Boston said.




originally posted by: NoCorruptionAllowed
NASA is run by the DoD and every single thing they do is first subject to military review.

NASA claims they report directly to the White House, not to the DoD:

www.hq.nasa.gov...

Is NASA a part of the Department of Defense?
NASA is not a part of the Department of Defense, nor of any other Cabinet-level department. NASA's administrator reports directly to the White House.



posted on Apr, 2 2019 @ 11:13 PM
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a reply to: Arbitrageur



The Viking probe had three life experiments, two were negative and one was positive. Apparently some thinking was if life was there why did two of the life experiments show negative? So the results were not clear and thus one could say even though the experiments were based on the best science at the time, it was somewhat flawed to give such inconclusive results.


Seems like a good reason to repeat the experiment, or try a new / improved version of the experiment.



posted on Apr, 3 2019 @ 12:14 AM
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originally posted by: LookingAtMars
Seems like a good reason to repeat the experiment, or try a new / improved version of the experiment.
Maybe but given we may have contaminated Mars with life from Earth, now if it's a positive there is an additional hurdle to answer, is the life detected originally from Mars or from contamination introduced by Earth probes?

The level of analysis required to determine this may be difficult to perform on a remote probe, it may require something like DNA analysis to see if the life has DNA consistent with earth.

NASA's Mars Rover Curiosity Had Planetary Protection Slip-Up


All NASA spacecraft sent to other planets must undergo meticulous procedures to make sure they don't carry biological contamination from Earth to their destinations.

However, a step in these planetary protection measures wasn't adhered to for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity, now en route to the Red Planet, SPACE.com has learned.

The incident has become a lessons-learned example of miscommunication in assuring that planetary protection procedures are strictly adhered to.
That's not the only possible source of contamination from Earth, there are others.

edit on 201943 by Arbitrageur because: clarification



posted on Apr, 3 2019 @ 12:11 PM
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originally posted by: OccamsRazor04
a reply to: LookingAtMars

There's no life on Mars, especially where this test was done. After researching the experiment you have to want it to be true to conclude it found life.

The idea NASA has done nothing regarding life on Mars is ludicrous.


Let's hear it from the man who conceived the labeled release experiment:



And that was a long time ago. There have been no further life detection instruments aboard the four rovers that touched down on Mars since 1997. That's over four decades of Mars exploration with at least four missed opportunities to find life.

That, to me, signals: we're not interested in life on Mars.
edit on 3-4-2019 by jeep3r because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 3 2019 @ 05:38 PM
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The thing about life is that if it starts anywhere, it gets everywhere. It's very persistent and if it finds a decent environment in which to live, will spread into every available nook and cranny it can as fast as it can.

So I think it's unlikely that there's much chance of life on Mars, because if there was, we would have found it or traces of it already. And we haven't. It's not like there are going to be "pockets" of life. I've looked at the images for years and never seen anything that would conclusively indicate life.

I suppose there's always a chance, but so far it looks like we're the only tiny rock in our solar system that has life on it. And maybe the only one anywhere.



posted on Apr, 3 2019 @ 07:53 PM
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originally posted by: jeep3r

originally posted by: OccamsRazor04
a reply to: LookingAtMars

There's no life on Mars, especially where this test was done. After researching the experiment you have to want it to be true to conclude it found life.

The idea NASA has done nothing regarding life on Mars is ludicrous.


Let's hear it from the man who conceived the labeled release experiment:



And that was a long time ago. There have been no further life detection instruments aboard the four rovers that touched down on Mars since 1997. That's over four decades of Mars exploration with at least four missed opportunities to find life.

That, to me, signals: we're not interested in life on Mars.


And two landers! This is 6 chances to test for life on Mars and it was not done? What would be one of the biggest discoveries ever and NASA passed on it six times?

Even if it turns out to be life from Earth, it still would be a very big discovery and I don't buy NASA is not looking for life because it might not be a new genesis.

Life could be flourishing underground on Mars. Extremophiles could even be living on the surface in special places.

We have pictures of only a small area of Mars so life cannot be discounted just because life, as we know it, has not been seen in pictures from Mars.

Opportunity's blueberries could be images that point to life. I have thought it possible since I first saw them and have yet to see anything that proves they could not of been produced organically. There are other images from Mars that also could show past or maybe even present life.


edit on 3-4-2019 by LookingAtMars because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 4 2019 @ 12:55 AM
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originally posted by: Blue Shift
So I think it's unlikely that there's much chance of life on Mars, because if there was, we would have found it or traces of it already. And we haven't.
What I'm hearing is that what we found is inconclusive. Did you watch the video by Dr. Gilbert Levin posted by jeep3r? I don't think he'd agree with you that we haven't found evidence of life.

Given the severe conditions on the surface (intense UV radiation since the martian atmosphere is only something like 1% of Earth's atmosphere), if Mars has life it's likely to be below the surface where there can be liquid water and where the layer of dirt above it shields the life from UV radiation. It wouldn't surprise me at all if someday we confirm subsurface life, maybe in a more advanced experiment like the one Dr. Levin proposes in that video.

He says he doesn't understand why NASA seems so reluctant to conduct more sophisticated life experiments, which is interesting because I think he would want to be the first to know their reasons, and he doesn't know. I can only speculate maybe NASA doesn't want more embarrassment of further inconclusive results, and want to have a more conclusive test available before committing to another such experiment, but that's just speculation. But NASA certainly doesn't say there's no life on Mars, their position is that we still don't know, so I don't see how you can say "we haven't", it's "we don't know".

www.nasa.gov...

“Are there signs of life on Mars?” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program, at NASA Headquarters. “We don’t know, but these results tell us we are on the right track.”



posted on Apr, 4 2019 @ 05:20 AM
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a reply to: jeep3r

Unlike you I do not need to hear it from him, I am perfectly capable of forming my own conclusions based on the evidence without someone telling me what to think. It's clear the Viking experiment can not be considered conclusive, and there are alternative reasons for the results that do not include life. You do realize that the test for organic substances came up negative right? As in no organic substances found.

These are possible reasons for the results. Formate in the soil, which we do not know whether it is present or not. Hypochlorate, which we know is present (2009 Phoenix mission).

What Levin does is make excuses for why the organic sampling portion of the experiment came up negative, and then refuse to even consider reasons for the positive metabolic activity. He wants to be the guy who found life on Mars, and it's creating a huge bias.

Anyone saying NASA is not searching for life on Mars is clueless. They have been testing for water, organic material, and other signs of life. Mars 2020 has the search for life as a big part of it's mission. Seriously, get educated.


“There’s a wide diversity of outcrop and rock types accessible at this site, which the Mars 2020 rover will be able to interrogate to vastly improve our understanding of the ancient Martian surface environment, and whether it might preserve any evidence for past life,”

“When the lake was present, it likely would have provided a habitable environment that life as we know it would have been able to survive in,” says Goudge. “The question of whether or not it actually does preserve evidence for past life is a huge outstanding question that is driving much of the science that will be done by the Mars 2020 rover mission.”

“The rover will have this unparalleled ability to do high-resolution geology and astrobiology,” says Horgan. She’s excited to see instruments like SHERLOC (a raw spectrometer able to detect the presence of organics in rocks) and PIXL (an x-ray spectrometer that can identify individual elements in sample) to look not only for biosignatures and evidence of ancient life, but also tell where those things are located within the rock itself.

www.popsci.com...
edit on 4-4-2019 by OccamsRazor04 because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 4 2019 @ 09:50 AM
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originally posted by: OccamsRazor04
What Levin does is make excuses for why the organic sampling portion of the experiment came up negative

I thought his explanation that the organic sampling test required a much higher concentration of microbes than the much more sensitive test he designed sounded plausible, but even if we accept that we are still left with "I don't know" as the answer. The results could be consistent with a low concentration of microbes, within the capability of one test to detect but beyond the capability of the organic compounds test to detect. Or there could be another cause, which is why the results are not conclusive.


Anyone saying NASA is not searching for life on Mars is clueless. They have been testing for water, organic material, and other signs of life. Mars 2020 has the search for life as a big part of it's mission.
Yes but are any of those tests conclusive? Or will they just perpetuate our current "I don't know" answer to whether or not there is life on Mars? The discovery of methane and other organic substances could be indicators of life, or they could arise from natural processes. Yes we found water on Mars and we believe it's necessary for life but finding water doesn't prove there's life.

You mention Mars2020. My take on NASA's PR article for that mission is that it won't really answer the question of whether there is life on Mars, but the article may suggest a reason why it won't be conclusive, because room-sized equipment is needed, and of course a small rover like Mars 2020 doesn't have that.

mars.nasa.gov...

The mission takes the next step by not only seeking signs of habitable conditions on Mars in the ancient past, but also searching for signs of past microbial life itself. The Mars 2020 rover introduces a drill that can collect core samples of the most promising rocks and soils and set them aside in a "cache" on the surface of Mars. A future mission could potentially return these samples to Earth. That would help scientists study the samples in laboratories with special room-sized equipment that would be too large to take to Mars.



posted on Apr, 4 2019 @ 01:00 PM
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originally posted by: OccamsRazor04
a reply to: jeep3r

Unlike you I do not need to hear it from him, I am perfectly capable of forming my own conclusions based on the evidence without someone telling me what to think. It's clear the Viking experiment can not be considered conclusive, and there are alternative reasons for the results that do not include life. You do realize that the test for organic substances came up negative right? As in no organic substances found.


The instrument for testing organics was a thousand-fold less sensitive than the labeled release set up. This means that the soil sample would need to have been literally contaminated with bacteria for a positive result (instead of a subtle distribution of microbial life forms).

The LR outcome was positive and so was the control experiment, positive as in "organic life". Apart from that we today know that organic compounds can be found on Mars, as the MSL mission demonstrated.



posted on Apr, 4 2019 @ 01:41 PM
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a reply to: Arbitrageur

Plausible, yes, but that's it. Nothing is definitive and there are explanations for the positive results that do not require life.

Mars2020 is not going to give definitive answers, but it demonstrates they ARE looking at it. As you say, they just don't have the ability to get what is truly needed for confirmation there.



posted on Apr, 4 2019 @ 01:44 PM
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a reply to: jeep3r

As I explained, positive outcomes have been explained using alternatives to life. So if chemicals we know are on Mars can cause a false positive, then why do you disregard that false positive?



posted on Apr, 5 2019 @ 12:36 PM
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a reply to: OccamsRazor04

Because it seems more likely that the chromatograph and spectrometer results were a false negative when considering that a chemical explanation could not be proven under simulated conditions.

Another reason is that none of the many follow-up missions even attempted to settle this issue. It's not a good story to tell if you're a space agency that used to be interested in life detection (Viking) but suddenly lost interest despite all the opportunities since then.



posted on Apr, 5 2019 @ 01:21 PM
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a reply to: jeep3r

Hypochlorate caused false positives when testing on Earth. Hypochlorate is present on Mars.

Why would you repeat the same test with the same vulnerability? Why would Hypochlorate, which causes false positives and has been found on Mars, not be a likely cause of the positive reading?



posted on Apr, 5 2019 @ 02:06 PM
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a reply to: OccamsRazor04

Because the hypochlorite hypothesis doesn't address two critical aspects of the LR experiment, namely that the active LR agent on Mars is adversely affected by heating at approximately 50°C and that it is destroyed by long-term storage in the dark at 10°C.

Both of these aspects make a biological explanation more likely. Not to mention other findings over the past years which would support the initial assumption, this includes among other things the detection of organic compounds on Mars.



posted on Apr, 5 2019 @ 02:54 PM
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a reply to: jeep3r

Heating does affect Hypochlorate. There is literally zero evidence Hypochlorate is not responsible. Levin dismisses it as an explanation, but has zero evidence and has not conducted any tests to discount it.

What you think is likely is irrelevant, there are alternative explanations. Hypochlorate is only one of them, anyone who claims this is a definitive test that detected life wants it to be true.



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