Completion of the Viking labeled release experiment on Mars
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The final Labeled Release (LR) cycle on each Viking lander tested a surface sample that had been stored for several months at approximately 10°C prior to the onset of the active sequence. At each lander site, activity was strongly diminished. This thermal sensitivity of the active agent on the surface of Mars is consistent with a biological explanation of the LR experiment. At the end of one of these cycles, the incubation mixture was heated to 50°C to release any radioactive gas trapped in the sample matrix. The results suggest that more than one carbon substrate is involved in the LR reaction on Mars.
The thermal data from the stored samples, coupled wth data from previous cycles, have formed the basis for evaluation of the thermal decomposition of the Mars active agent. The slope of the resulting Arrhenius plot has been used to test the fit of other flight data and to calculate the activation energy for thermal decomposition of the Mars agent. The results and their interpretation still leave unresolved the question of whether the Mars LR data were generated by biological or chemical activity.
Key wordsViking biology Extraterrestrial life detection Labeled release experiment
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