Are we alone in this universe? Is Earth so unique that out of the trillions upon trillions of planets in the universe, we are the only one that harbors life? What if the nearest life to us wasn't orbiting Alpha Centauri but was on our nearest celestial neighbor? That is what scientist are saying after reviewing data collected from the 1976 Mars Viking rovers.
Scientists have recently started to reexamine the data that the Viking probes sent back from Mars 36 years ago. They have come to the conclusion that there was bacteria on Mars. Further, NASA doesn't need a human expedition to Mars to nail down the claim, neuropharmacologist and biologist Joseph Miller, with the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, told Discovery News.
"The ultimate proof is to take a video of a Martian bacteria. They should send a microscope -- watch the bacteria move," Miller said. "On the basis of what we've done so far, I'd say I'm 99 percent sure there's life there!"
Researchers crunched raw data collected during runs of the Labeled Release experiment, which looked for signs of microbial metabolism in soil samples scooped up and processed by the two Viking landers. General consensus of scientists has been that the experiment didn't find any biological activity. They took a different approach this time by crunching raw numbers looking for the complexities caused by bacteria.
Critics counter that the method has not yet been proven effective for differentiating between biological and non-biological processes on Earth so it's premature to draw any conclusions.
"Ideally to use a technique on data from Mars one would want to show that the technique has been well calibrated and well established on Earth. The need to do so is clear; on Mars we have no way to test the method, while on Earth we can," planetary scientist and astrobiologist Christopher McKay, with NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.
The research is published online in the International Journal of Aeronautical and Space Sciences.