Last month, scientists excitedly reported that new photographs of Mars showed geologic changes that suggest water occasionally flows there -- the most tantalizing sign that Mars is hospitable to life.
In the 1970s, the Viking mission found no signs of life.
But it was looking for Earth-like life, in which salt water is the internal liquid of living cells.
Given the cold dry conditions of Mars, life could have evolved on Mars with the key internal fluid consisting of a mix of water and hydrogen peroxide, said Schulze-Makuch.
That's because a water-hydrogen peroxide mix stays liquid at very low temperatures, or -68 degrees Fahrenheit, and doesn't destroy cells when it freezes. It can suck water vapor out of the air.
The Viking experiments of the 1970s wouldn't have noticed hydrogen peroxide-based life and, in fact, would have killed it by drowning and overheating the microbes, said Schulze-Makuch.
Monday, January 08, 2007
An AP article on CNN.com discusses the possibility that the Viking Mars landers, searching for Life As We Know It, inadvertently killed Life As We Don't Know It.