NASA may have accidentally killed evidence of alien life on Mars in its first-ever experiment on the Red Planet, an expert has claimed.

The delicate forms of life that could have easily been over-watered or over-heated, according to Dirk Schulze-Makuch, a professor at the Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Technical University Berlin and adjunct professor at the School of [the Environment]  Washington State University,

The US space agency sent two Viking landers to the surface of Mars in the 1970s with the hope of finding life on another planet. An experiment found trace amounts of chlorinated organics, which was written off as contamination from Earth at the time.

Writing in BigThink, Makuch believes these organic compounds – while chlorinated – could have been misunderstood forms of life. While we now know that organic matter, such as methane, does exist on Mars – human understanding was very different 50 years ago. During the Viking landings, scientists didn’t understand the Martian environment like they do today.

Makuch explained: “Since Earth is a water planet, it seemed reasonable that adding water might coax life to show itself in the extremely dry Martian environment.

“In hindsight, it is possible that approach was too much of a good thing.”

For example, microbes living inside salt rocks in the Atacama Desert, Chile – which has been likened to the Martian environment – do not need any rain at all, just a little moisture from the atmosphere, survive.

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