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Guest: Dr. Gil Levin; Topics: Searching for life on Mars, Viking Labeled Release Experiments, NASA on life on Mars, sample return, & more. Please direct all comments and questions regarding specific Space Show programs & guest(s) to the Space Show blog which is part of archived program on our website, www.thespaceshow.com. Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See www.onegiantleapfoundation.org/amazon.htm.
We welcomed back Dr. Gil Levin to discuss the continuing analysis of the Viking Mars landers and Gil's famous Labeled Release (LR) life detection experiments. Gil started out telling us he had given a talk on LR on the 40th anniversary of Viking at NASA Langley plus he has an article with his co-author Patricia Ann. Straat in the October issue of Astrobiology regarding the probable success of the labeled release experiments in term of finding molecular life on Mars. Check out the article, "The Case for Extant Life on Mars and Its Possible Detection by the Viking Labeled Release Experiment" at http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/ast.2015.1464?journalCode=ast. Gil then told us about the testing of the labeled release experiment here on Earth before sending it to Mars on both Viking 1 and Viking 2 in 1976. After telling us about false positives and false negatives and organics, it is hard to imagine that the LR on Mars was not successful.
Much time was spent during this segment is speculating why NASA won't do a new life detection experiment, why they won't go back to the Viking sites for further analysis, and the probable concerns for finding life on Mars. Planetary protection was listed as a possible reason but Gill suggested disclosing life on Mars might be a spoiler for NASA's plans to get humans to Mars as it would mean exhaustive testing of the Martian molecular life to determine safety before sending humans there. Such exhaustive testing would be time consuming and very costly so perhaps it might just be better to go and find out what is there, even with the risk. There were several listener emails on this subject. Note that the first segment of the program was a very comprehensive discussion on life detection on Mars, life detection instruments for Mars, and Mars policy. Before the segment ended, I mentioned there were lots of places now being proposed for human space flight including Titan for example. Dr. Levin said he would address this subject in the next segment.
For segment 2, Gil picked up on going to other places in the solar system. He suggested it was not a good use of resources given what we already know from the Viking LR experiments. He said we should go back to the Viking lander sites and make a finite determination for life, one way or the other. Don't miss this discussion.
Again, there were several listener email questions. One asked Gil what an astronaut could do at the LR sites that had not yet been done. Gil thought that this exploration could be robotic but he did have some suggestions for what an astronaut would want to do at those locations. Tim sent in a note about Richard Hoover and his work on multicelled microbes on Mars. Gil was supportive of Hoover's work but were you to research it on the net, you would find lots of articles dismissing his work about fossils on Mars. Gil told us a great story about a Mars photograph that suddenly disappeared a few hours after it was downloaded from NASA. Don't miss what Gil had to say about this.
In both segments, the suggestion was made to Gil to see if SpaceX would fly the updated modified LR experiment on a Red Dragon to Mars. Gil asked for connections to the right person at SpaceX. If any of you reading this or listening to the show can make a credible introduction to the right SpaceX person for Gil, please contact at the email address he gave out on air or through his website, www.gillevin.com. In fact, please visit his website for much more information about microbial life on Mars, the Viking experiments, plus the latest analysis of data supporting the LR experiments.
Gil talked about an updated LR experiment that was planned for EXOMARS 2 but since the first EXOMARS mission failed, it appears that the second one has been scrubbed or is on hold. Also in this segment, Gil mentioned new results put out the by the UK Space Agency for the failed Beagle mission. In addition, Mars methane was discussed as was the Trace Gas Orbiter now collecting methane information about Mars.
As the show was nearing its end, the subject of the sample return mission came up. Gil does not support bringing a Mars sample back to Earth. Don't miss what he said about this. He does believe such a sample should go to the ISS or a lab on the Moon for analysis but not back to Earth. Gil then told us exactly what the LR experiment was all about. He said it was the test used to discover various molecules in drinking water and was used around the world. He said it was a widely used, straight forward very simple test. They designed it to work faster on Mars than it takes to run the test here on Earth. Do not miss how explained the LR experiment.
As the program was about to end, we took a call from author Barry DiGregorio, author of "Mars:" The Living Planet." Don't miss what both Gil and Barry had to say and the independent work done by Barry to test out and validate Gil's theory re the LR experiment. I believe Barry will soon be a Space Show guest so we can explore his work regarding Mars life detection in more detail.
The final topic was about the next NASA Administrator. The choice of the administrator could prove very important for doing real life detection experiments on Mars. Again, don't miss what Gil had to say about this.
Please post your comments/questions on TSS site for this program. You can reach Dr. Levin through me, his website, or the address he gave out on air.