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Post-Viking Mars biology exploration (1977)

26 Sep 2009, 00:35 UTC
Post-Viking Mars biology exploration (1977)
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On July 20, 1976, the Viking 1 lander became the first spacecraft to land softly on Mars. On July 28, amid the dust dunes and pitted rocks of Chryse Planitia (top image above), Viking 1 extended its three-meter-long robot arm and scooped up a heaping spoonful of martian surface material. It then shook the mixture of dust, sand, and pebbles into a funnel-shaped receptacle on the lander's top deck. The smaller particles passed through a sieve into a metering device which distributed precise, minute quantities to three compact biology experiments. The scientists who designed these automated laboratories had assumed that martian microbes would function as do their terrestrial counterparts; that is, that they would take in matter from their environment and convert it into waste and hungry and thirsty copies of themselves.Project Viking's biology focus had led the National Academy of Science Space Science Board (SSB) to establish an Ad Hoc Exobiology Panel in 1973. This became the SSB's permanent Committee on Planetary Biology and Chemical Evolution (CPBCE) two years later. One of the Committee's tasks was to evaluate the Viking biology results and recommend a post-Viking strategy for martian biological exploration. The six-member CPBCE met with the Viking Biology ...

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