Life has a pesky way of popping up in the most inconvenient of places: your sock drawer, that forgotten bowl of chili in the fridge, and now, apparently, Mars. Although, according to Gilbert Levin, a former NASA scientist who worked on the Viking program experiment, the US government has had proof of life on the Red Planet for decades.
That could be bad news for Elon Musk.
The Viking program, set up in 1976, probed the surface of Mars for evidence of extraterrestrial life. According to an article penned by Levin, aptly entitled “I’m Convinced We Found Evidence of Life on Mars in the 1970s,” there is more than just dust up there.
The Viking probes were designed to expose any signs of life by tracking carbon waste left behind from the organic consumption of the soil. Primary readings from the Viking landers inexplicably returned positive results each time, detecting what Levin calls “microbial respiration.” In other words, tiny burps.
Unfortunately, due to troubles replicating the results on Earth, these “signs of life” were dismissed as little more than a chemical reaction – or as NASA officially put it, “a substance mimicking life.”Levin disputes this conclusion, stating:
“What is the evidence against the possibility of life on Mars? The astonishing fact is that there is none.”
Subsequent experiments have only bolstered Levin’s case. In 2018, NASA’s Curiosity rover discovered organic matter on Mars.
This could signal one of three things: “a record detailing ancient life, a food source for life or something that exists in the place of life.”
Now, you may be wondering where Elon Musk fits into all of this. Strap in.
Elon Musk’s campaign to nuke Mars has been raging since 2015, and while the notion makes him sound like a bad caricature of a Bond villain, he does make a surprisingly reasonable argument.
Musk, seeming like a man who just bought a dilapidated two-bed flat, referred to the Red Planet as “a fixer-upper.” The issue, according to Musk, is that the level of carbon dioxide currently on Mars would make it nigh on impossible to colonize and settle on the planet, as life cannot thrive without the oxygen produced by the gas of life – a big no-no in Musk’s book.
So what solution does a rational-minded person come up with in the face of such adversity? Nuke it, of course!
Ostensibly, an explosion of that capacity would shift enough carbon dioxide into the Martian atmosphere to allow photosynthesis to occur, thus creating oxygen. Yay, science!
Whether you’re for or against the nuking of Mars, there are some inherent ethical issues to consider before pushing the button. First, the obvious: the plan could inadvertently start a nuclear winter. This would have the effect of literally blocking out all sunlight – scuppering any use for the freshly released CO2.
But Levin’s claim raises another conundrum. It’s one thing to nuke an uninhabited planet; it’s another to knowingly wipe out a fledgling alien race, microbes though they may be. If life truly does exist on Mars, destroying it out could have a drastic effect on the future of the universe.
Imagine if the same had happened to humanity, and instead of crawling from the ocean and thriving, we got blown up by a maniac looking for a home.