NASA Might Have Destroyed Evidence Of Organic Matter on Mars
A paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets claims that NASA may have inadvertently destroyed the first evidence of organic material it found on Mars. The paper hints at the possibility that NASA either covered up the incident or didn’t know it found the ancient matter, before accidentally destroying it with the Viking probes in 1976.
NASA recently announced that its Curiosity rover discovered organic matter – the precursor to life – in complex carbon chains found on Mars’ Gale Crater and methane gas found in the planet’s atmosphere. Though both findings do not definitively prove the planet’s previous capability of harboring life, they are potential indicators.
But the recent discovery was exactly what scientists expected to find 40 years ago when the Viking 1 and Viking 2 landers made it to the planet’s dusty surface. Instead, NASA said it found nothing.
Mars’ atmospheric density is a fraction of Earth’s, allowing carbon-rich micro-meteorites and space dust to constantly bombard its surface. This space debris often contains organic compounds, as their existence has been confirmed in the past.
When the Viking probes collected rock samples from the planet’s surface, it heated them in an instrument called a gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer, in an attempt to find organic molecules. Unfortunately, a chemical reaction with a salt-like material may have occurred, burning any traces of organic matter collected in the samples. Whoops!
This was confirmed by scientists involved in the recent paper, through the presence of chlorobenzene, a byproduct of the combustion of carbon molecules and flammable salt. Perchlorate, often used for rocket fuel, fireworks, and other propellants, was found to occur naturally in small concentrations on Mars’ surface by NASA’s Phoenix lander in 2008. Ignition of perchlorate collected with the samples likely caused the chemical reaction that burned up organic material collected in the rock.
Whether NASA will admit it’s faux pas remains to be seen, though it wouldn’t necessarily mean it destroyed definitive evidence of alien life like tabloids have claimed. The organic matter collected recently isn’t considered alien life, rather it is simply a precursor to it.
But now that Curiosity has discovered these organic compounds, NASA may be frantically trying to cover up its mistake, seeing that the Viking missions cost billions of taxpayer dollars to fund, while potentially committing an egregious and avoidable error.
This wouldn’t be the first time the space agency has attempted to cover up some of its shady history…
Watch this episode of Deep Space where we explore the possibility that NASA may be a front to cover up the existence of a highly advanced Secret Space Program: