WASHINGTON (AP) – Two NASA space probes that visited Mars 30 years ago may have stumbled upon alien microbes on the Red Planet and inadvertently killed them, a scientist theorized in a paper released yesterday.

The problem was the Viking space probes of 1976-77 were looking for the wrong kind of life and didn’t recognize it, the researcher said in a paper presented at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle.

In the ’70s, the Viking mission found no signs of life. But it was looking for Earth-like life, in which salt water is the internal liquid of living cells. Given the cold dry conditions of Mars, that life could have evolved on Mars with the key internal fluid consisting of a mix of water and hydrogen peroxide, said Dirk Schulze-Makuch, author of the new research.

A water-hydrogen peroxide mix stays liquid at very low temperatures (-68 degrees Fahrenheit), doesn’t destroy cells when it freezes, and can suck scarce water vapor out of the air.

The Viking experiments of the ’70s wouldn’t have noticed alien hydrogen peroxide-based life and, in fact, would have killed it by drowning and overheating the microbes, said Schulze-Makuch, a geology professor at Washington State University.

“The problem was that they didn’t have any clue about the environment on Mars at that time,” Schulze-Makuch said.

Schulze-Makuch acknowledges he can’t prove that Martian microbes exist, but given the Martian environment and how evolution works, “it makes sense.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.