Studying Martian Soil for Evidence of Microbial Life

Posted on August 24, 2007  Comments (0)

Study: Martian soil may contain life

The search for life on Mars appeared to hit a dead end in 1976 when Viking landers touched down on the red planet and failed to detect biological activity. But Joop Houtkooper of the University of Giessen, Germany, said on Friday the spacecraft may in fact have found signs of a weird life form based on hydrogen peroxide on the subfreezing, arid Martian surface.

His analysis of one of the experiments carried out by the Viking spacecraft suggests that 0.1 percent of the Martian soil could be of biological origin. That is roughly comparable to biomass levels found in some Antarctic permafrost, home to a range of hardy bacteria and lichen. “It is interesting because one part per thousand is not a small amount,” Houtkooper said in a telephone interview.

“We will have to find confirmatory evidence and see what kind of microbes these are and whether they are related to terrestrial microbes. It is a possibility that life has been transported from Earth to Mars or vice versa a long time ago.”

Interesting, certainly far from convincing evidence but still fun speculation. Claim of Martian Life Called ‘Bogus’:

Norman Pace, a microbiologist at the University of Colorado, is skeptical of the new claims. “It sounds bogus to me,” Pace told “I don’t consider the chemical results to be particularly credible in light of the harsh conditions that Mars offers.”

Related: Birds Fly EarlyWater flowed ‘recently’ on MarsMars Rover

Leave a Reply