Modern Myths Concerning Life on Mars
by Gilbert V. Levin
BioSpherix Division, Spherix Incorporated, Annapolis, MD 21401, USA
Electroneurobiología 2006; 14 (5), pp. 3-25. Open Access Article.
July 30, 2006 was the 30th anniversary of the Viking Mission’s first Labeled Release (LR) life detection experiment on Mars. The strong response, together with supporting results from eight additional LR tests of Martian soil, established the presence of an active agent that was inhibited by heating. The data satisfied the pre-mission criteria for the detection of living microorganisms. However, the scientific community reacted cautiously, generally concluding that the activity in the soil was caused by chemistry or physics.
Over the last three decades, investigation of Mars has greatly increased. Soil, rock, and atmospheric analyses have been made. Multi-spectral observations have been made from Mars and Earth orbits and from Earth-based telescopes. Knowledge of extreme habitats on Earth and bizarre life forms that populate them has increased dramatically. However, this vast amount of new astrobiological information has yet to be integrated into an objective scientific evaluation of the LR results and the possibilities for life on Mars. Indeed, in part upon misinterpretations of the new findings, myths have been embedded into the scientific literature of Mars.
Based on these myths as key ingredients, a false “standard model” of Martian life potential has been developed. It has been accepted by much of the astrobiological community, and, through its endorsement, the world at large. This paper attempts to bring the supportable facts together in calling for a revision of the current consensus regarding life on Mars. It recommends actions to facilitate the paradigm change.
Key words: Life on Mars, astrobiology, extreme habitats, Viking mission Labeled Release experiment, Martian environment, water on Mars