War of the Worlds?

On October 31, 1938 Orson Welles made his famous "War of the Worlds" broadcast. Pandemonium raged as people actually believed that the Earth was being invaded by Martians.

Since then, we've grown accustomed to believing that Mars is a cold, desolate, lifeless planet. That point of view was slightly modified when we began investigating Mars and found terrain sculpted by the action of water. It then became the norm to think that life may have existed on Mars in the distant past. This suspicion was then bolstered when NASA announced that they had found fossils of microbes in a meteorite that had originated on the surface of the red planet. There's also been some tantalizing images from the Spirit and Opportunity rovers now exploring the planet's surface which might depict fossils of more evolved Martian organisms (Image 1 & Image 2) .

Well our views may soon be changing again. In 1976 the Viking landers carried a life detection experiment called, the "Labeled Release Experiment". In this experiment samples of Martian soil were exposed to conditions that would be conducive to the growth of microbes, then instruments attempted to detect the gases that these microbes would "exhale". Much to everyone's amazement, the results initially returned a positive reading. NASA however dismissed the results as "spurious" (much to the inventer's dismay I might add). That assessment may have been a bit too hasty.

Scientists are now beginning to believe that there might indeed be current microbial life on Mars (Article 1, Article 2 & Article 3). These beliefs are being fostered by intriguing photos returned from the surface of Mars by the twin rovers and the results of experiments performed on orbiting satellites.

While it is quite unlikely that any life that now exists on Mars would have the ability to board a spaceship and invade this planet as in Orson Welles radio broadcast, its discovery would non-the-less challenge some of our long-held views and beliefs.
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