NASA may have discovered (and destroyed), organic elements on Mars in 1976

Some 40 years ago, a NASA mission to Mars might have accidentally destroyed what would have been the first discoveries of organic molecules on Mars, according to a report in New Scientist magazine. Until recently, there was a commotion about the announcement that Curiosity had discovered organic molecules on the red planet, which are those that form life as we know it. This was the first confirmation of a study in Mars 2014. But as there are an endless number of small meteorites that collide with the surface of mars, rich in carbon, the scientists now think that for decades there have been organic molecules in our neighboring stellar.

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Interestingly, in the NASA were amazed some 40 years ago when you are not found organic molecules, which occurred when the Viking 2 arrived to do studies on the surface of the red planet. The scientists of that time could not understand this. “It was totally unexpected and inconsistent with what we knew,” says Chris McKay, a scientist at the planetary in the Ames Research Center of NASA.

A technician checked the samples of soil in the Viking Lander in 1971, before the ship to travel to Mars. Some scientists think that organic molecules in the samples collected by the probes is burned accidentally.

A possible explanation came to light when the probe Phoenix found perchlorate on Mars in 2008. This salt that is used on Earth to make fireworks, it becomes very explosive at high temperatures, and although the surface of the red planet is not very hot, the main instrument of the Viking, the chromatógrafo and mass spectrometer (GCMS), have to heat up samples of the martian soil to find organic molecules. And due to the perchlorate in the soil of the planet, the instrument could have burned up any traces of organic molecules during the process.

The discovery of perchlorate restarted the conviction of the scientists on the possibility that the Viking had found organic molecules in Matt. “All of a sudden you have a new vision and you realize that everything you thought was wrong,” said McKay. However, the discovery of perchlorate does not give a concrete proof that the probes Viking found organic molecules, and that the destroyed accidentally, so the research continues.

The variety of organic molecules that Curiosity recently discovered on the red planet, which include chlorobenzene. This molecule is created when the molecules of coal are burned with perchlorate, so the scientists suspect that this could have been created when soil samples were burnt, according to the article from New Scientist.

The researchers have been inspired by indirect evidence to look more deeply and find more evidence of what might have found the probe Viking (and destroyed). In a new study, published in June of this year in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, Melissa Guzman, LATOS Research Center of France, along with McKay and other partners, reviewed the data from the probe Viking to see if they are missing something. This was the team that, in fact, found that Viking detected chlorobenzene and where the researchers make it clear that it could be formed by the ignition of the organic material in the samples of the martian soil.

Even so, there is strong evidence that the probes Viking found organic molecules, and that burned these accidentally. Even the scientists who completed the investigation did not agree in their conclusions.

Guzman, for example, said that he was not completely convinced that the chlorobenzene detected was formed when burned the organic samples in the instruments of the probe. He said that even the molecule could have come from Earth, on-board computer of NASA.

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