(New Scientist Space)
The results from Vikings’ onboard experiments are confusing because some tests suggested the presence of organisms capable of digesting organic molecules. But heating the soil with a gas-chromatograph mass spectrometer (GCMS) to release these organic molecules found nothing, causing most scientists to rule out life. Instead they put the soil reactivity down to the presence of peroxides or other reactive substances.
Now, a paper by Rafael Navarro-Gonzalez of the University of Mexico and others demonstrates that the GCMS instrument was incapable of detecting organic compounds even in Mars-like soils from various locations on Earth. This includes Chile’s Atacama Desert, where other tests prove that living microbes are indeed present.