NASA May Have Discovered and Then Destroyed Organics on Mars in 1976 | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED


NASA May Have Discovered and Then Destroyed Organics on Mars in 1976

A possible explanation arose when NASA's Phoenix lander found perchlorate on Mars in 2008. This is a salt used to make fireworks on Earth; it becomes highly explosive under high temperatures. And while the surface of Mars isn't too warm, the main instrument aboard the Viking landers, the gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer (GCMS), had to heat the Martian soil samples to find organic molecules. And because perchlorate is in the soil, the instrument would have burned up any organics in the samples during this process.

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 thought was wrong," McKay said.

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

The variety of organic molecules that Curiosity recently discovered on the Red Planet included chlorobenzene. This molecule is created when carbon molecules burn with perchlorate, so scientists suspect that it could have been created when the soil samples were burnt, according to New Scientist.

Researchers were inspired by this indirect evidence to dig a little deeper and find more evidence that the Viking landers could have found and then destroyed organics. In a new study, published in June in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, Melissa Guzman of the LATMOS research center in France, McKay and a handful of collaborators revisited the Viking lander data to see if anything was missed.

This team found that the Viking landers also detected chlorobenzene, which the researchers said could have formed from burning organic material in the soil samples.

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