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Gilbert V. Levin commentary on the book MARS: THE LIVING PLANET

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Published on Sep 3, 2010

It was in this historic book (published on 07/23/97) that Dr. Gilbert V. Levin first announced his new conclusion that his 1976 Viking Labeled Release (LR) life detection experiment found living microorganisms in the soil of Mars.

Levin then later presented this result in a scientific paper to the Annual Meeting of the International Society for Optical Engineering in San Diego.

A new paper being published in the Journal of Geophysical Research with the title "Reanalysis of the Viking results suggests perchlorate and organics at mid-latitudes on Mars" by Rafael Navarro-González et al shows that the Viking gas chromatograph mass spectrometer (GCMS) actually found a surprisingly significant amount of organic material in Martian soil at both the Viking 1 and Viking 2 landing sites on Mars. This now reopens the door to the results obtained by the Viking biology experiments - a door that has been largely closed for 34 years due to the misinterpretation of the Viking organic analysis by the GCMS. The new findings by Navarro-González et al explain that the Viking GCMS instrument on Viking Lander 1 reported that only water at 0.1-1.0 wt% and traces of chloromethane at 15 ppb were found, while water at 0.05-1.0 wt% and carbon dioxide at 50-700 ppm with traces of dichloromethane at 0.04-40 ppb were found at Viking Landing site 2. The authors state in their paper "These chlorohydrocarbons were considered to be terrestrial contaminants (pre-flight to Mars cleaning fluids) although they had not been detected at those levels in the blank runs." However, the discovery of perchlorate salts in the Martian soil by the 2008 Phoenix lander has cast a new re-interpretation of the Viking GCMS results in the new paper suggesting that 0.1% perchlorate and 1.5-6.5 ppm organic carbon was found at Viking landing site 1, and 0.1% perchlorate and 0.7-2.6 ppm organic carbon at Viking landing site 2. The authors of the new paper conclude sending a life detection instrument to Mars on a future mission should be a high priority.

A NASA news conference announced the findings on September 3rd 2010.

citation:

Navarro-Gonzalez, R., E. Vargas, J. de la Rosa, A. C. Raga, and C. P. McKay (2010), Reanalysis of the Viking results suggests perchlorate and organics at mid-latitudes on Mars, J. Geophys. Res., doi:10.1029/2010JE003599, in press. (accepted 19 August 2010)

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