News reports originally reported by Space.com on February 16, 2005, that NASA scientists from Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., have found strong evidence that life may exist on Mars are incorrect.
This report was then subsquentely reported by various news wire services such as UPI, and in turn newswire customers of such services including SpaceDaily and many others.
In a statement from NASA last Friday, the space agency stated that is does "not have any observational data from any current Mars missions that supports this claim.
"The work by the scientists mentioned in the reports cannot be used to directly infer anything about life on Mars, but may help formulate the strategy for how to search for martian life.
"Their research concerns extreme environments on Earth as analogs of possible environments on Mars. No research paper has been submitted by them to any scientific journal asserting martian life," the statement read.
Since then lively discussions have taken place in all manner of forums, including the popular Bad Astronomy forum. Among the many posts to this forum was the following statement that was originally sourced from this message posting.
Separate Internet Statement
A story has appeared in Space.com which quotes us inaccurately and without permission. The story is based on hearsay and is factually incorrect.
Here are the facts:
1. On Sunday night we were attending a private party of space exploration enthusiasts in which there was a discussion about the possible meaning of the results from recent Mars missions. We engaged in the discussion and expressed thoughts and opinions as individual scientists on our own time and did not represent ourselves as speaking for NASA.
2. No one at the party identified themselves as a reporter, and in fact no reporters were present. This article is based on hearsay about what somebody at the party thought they heard us say. We think this represents extremely poor journalistic standards.
3. No Nature paper has been submitted with Rio Tinto results. This claim is simply wrong and we did not make this claim. The MARTE project has several papers in preparation that describe the work we are doing at Rio Tinto and the first results of that work, but nothing has been submitted yet. Preliminary results have been published in abstract form at various scientific meetings. If you want to see what the MARTE team has actually said about results from Rio Tinto drilling and its relevance to life on Mars, go to www.marteproject.com and click on publications. All our REAL publications are posted there.
4. The work at Rio Tinto is relevant to finding life in a subsurface terrestrial environment and can't be used to infer anything about life on Mars, directly. The Rio Tinto work by its very nature can't tell us if there is life on Mars, but certainly helps formulate the strategy for how to search for life on Mars. One approach to searching for extant life on Mars is by drilling. Partly for this reason, the MARTE project was selected for funding by NASA's ASTEP program, out of the Science Mission Directorate and is a joint project between NASA and Spain's Center for Astrobiology.
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NASA Scientists Say Mars May Have Life
Washington (UPI) Feb 16, 2005
NASA scientists said there is a possibility that Mars may harbor living organisms, Space.com reported Wednesday.
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