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Proceedings Paper

Progress in the search for organic matter on Mars: implications for the interpretation of the Viking Labeled Release data
Author(s): David M. Warmflash; Simon John Clemett; David S. McKay
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Paper Abstract

The possibility that the positive outcome of the Viking Labeled Release Experiment (LR) had resulted from the presence of extant Martian microorganisms in samples examined on Mars was dismissed based largely on the failure of the Viking Gas Chromatograph-Mass Spectrometer (GCMS) to demonstrate the presence of organic mole-cules. More recent findings suggesting that the Viking GCMS would have missed such molecules if present necessitates a re-evaluation of the Viking LR data as well as a continued search for organic material and life at the Martian surface. In addition to advanced mass spectrometers to look for organic signatures of biological processes, future lander missions may use biological techniques, such as immunoassay, to directly detect bio-organic molecules. Meanwhile, several decades in advance of any planned sample return missions, the examination of Mars samples already present on Earth in the form of the SNC meteorites indicates that organic matter has existed in the Martian upper crust. It is concluded that a biological interpretation of the LR on Mars cannot be dismissed and should now be considered at least as plausible as a non-biological interpretation until more complete studies of the Martian sur-face are carried out.

Paper Details

Date Published: 5 February 2002
PDF: 7 pages
Proc. SPIE 4495, Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology IV, (5 February 2002); doi: 10.1117/12.454747
Show Author Affiliations
David M. Warmflash, NASA Johnson Space Ctr. (United States)
Simon John Clemett, Lockheed Martin Space Operations (United States)
David S. McKay, NASA Johnson Space Ctr. (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 4495:
Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology IV
Richard B. Hoover; Gilbert V. Levin; Roland R. Paepe; Alexei Yu. Rozanov, Editor(s)

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