Source: National Geographic
New analysis suggests robots discovered microbes in 1976.
A fresh look at NASA data suggests that a robotic mission uncovered microbial life on Mars—more than 30 years ago.
In 1976 NASA sent two space probes, Vikings 1 and 2, to Mars to determine whether life exists on the red planet. The probes carried three experiments specially designed for the task, one of which was called the Labeled Release (LR) apparatus.
The LR experiment worked by scooping up a bit of Martian soil and mixing it with a drop of water that contained nutrients and radioactive carbon atoms.
In his previous work, Miller noticed that the LR experiment's radiation measurements varied with the time of day on Mars.
"If you look closely, you could see that the [radioactive-gas measurement] was going up during the day and coming down at night. ... The oscillations had a period of 24.66 hours just about on the nose," Miller said. "That is basically a circadian rhythm, and we think circadian rhythms are a good signal for life."
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