Schulze-Makuch contends that Viking was looking for Earth-like life, in which salt water is the internal liquid of living cells. However with the cold dry conditions of Mars, life could have evolved with the key internal fluid consisting of a mix of water and hydrogen peroxide-based life peroxide.
“Dirk may have the right idea [at looking at] alternative metabolic strategies,” said Pamela Conrad, investigation scientist for sample analysis on Mars Science Laboratory that will be launched in 2009.
Conrad said the problem with releasing a paper like this is that it’s a theory based on hypothetical Martian life. “Dirk is a college professor that comes up with novel ideas first of all, there is no evidence that there is life on Mars now or in the past,” she said.
Last month scientists from NASA/JPL held a press conference sharing photographs that showed geologic changes that suggest a flow that could have been carried by liquid water.
Schulze-Makuch’s paper focuses on Viking experiments like one seeking life on Mars where water was poured on soil. That, according to his theory, would have essentially drowned hydrogen peroxide-based life.
Conrad welcomes the debate however worries that the impression that Schulze-Makuch is speaking for NASA/JPL.
“These assertions can be misleading,” Conrad said.
The role of public opinion plays a very important role in American space exploration and science, Conrad said.
“The public is the greatest advocate for science,” she said. “The present way science is conducted is not a military assault on the planet surface. We do not just toss things up willy-nilly.”
Conrad’s opinion is that if life is to be found on Mars it would be unlikely that it would be found on the immediate surface. Because of the cosmic radiation of the planet, life if it were to survive would have to go deep into the surface, perhaps inside rocks.