Spherix Incorporated reported this week that recent data on the Martian surface sent by the Odyssey spacecraft will be interpreted as evidence for liquid water, life's most essential need, in a paper to be presented at the Astrobiology session of the SPIE (International Society for Optical Engineering) meeting in San Diego on August 4.
This is the latest, perhaps most compelling, round in the years'-long fight of the paper's author, Dr. Gilbert V. Levin, a life detection scientist in NASA's 1976 Viking Mission to Mars, to gain support for his conclusion that his experiment had succeeded in detecting microbial life.
In his analysis of the data from Odyssey's Neutron Spectrometer, Levin says that the vast quantities of ice it found close to the surface of Mars mean that life-sustaining liquid water was in the soil sampled by his Viking experiment.
Twenty-seven years after NASA said that its Viking Mission to Mars had found no evidence of life, Levin is battling to prove otherwise. It was not until 1997 that he finally announced that his Viking instrument had detected living microorganisms in 1976. Levin has tackled each of the many counterarguments raised. The most widely accepted one remaining is that liquid water cannot exist on the surface of Mars, making life impossible.
Odyssey scientists say they have found the soil very close to the surface over much of the planet to contain large amounts of ice. Just last week, they confirmed and elaborated on the findings.
However, the Odyssey scientists refer to the water as ice, with no mention of the possibility of its becoming liquid. Thus, they have made no statement as to the significance of their discovery to the long-standing debate over life on Mars.
Levin says that ice near the surface means liquid water in the topsoil. He bases this conclusion on a thermodynamic model applied to Viking and Pathfinder data, which he and his son Ron, a Ph.D. physicist at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, published in 1998.
Locating the Viking test sites on the Odyssey map, he shows that the soil sampled by Viking 1 contains about 2 percent water, and that the water content at the Viking 2 site is about 10 percent. This, he says, adds considerable strength to his case for life on Mars.
Levin says he regrets that, despite NASA and the European Space Agency statements that the search for life on Mars remains their highest priority, none of their three spacecraft currently voyaging to Mars contains a life detection test.
Nonetheless, he predicts these missions will likely advance his cause by finding liquid water and an environment that could support microorganisms.
Mars at JPL
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Berkeley To Explore The Elements Needed To Support Martian Life
Berkeley - Jul 08, 2003
Could life once have existed on planets other than Earth, perhaps on Mars? A team of researchers led by the University of California, Berkeley, has joined the quest to find the answer.
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