Lagrange 5

waypoint to the past, present, and future of space

Friday, February 18, 2005

Mars life claims incorrect, says NASA

A press release issued by NASA today refutes claims that Mars may currently host life.

The claims, attributed to two of NASA's Ames facility scientists, became the source of an exclusive article made public on Wednesday by The article was written by Brian Berger, a staff writer.

NASA's press release is certainly an effort to quell the story and prevent what it deems to be a premature conclusion.

The body of the press release reads as follows:
News reports 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.

NASA 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.

MSNBC also carries an informative story following up on the article, the work of the scientists cited in their article, and NASA's press release.

According to the MSNBC report, stands by its story.

So what went wrong? Was overzealous, or is NASA overreacting?

One thing is certain: the title of's original article, "NASA Researchers Claim Evidence of Present Life on Mars," is misleading, and arguably draws an inference that the scientists did not intend to make. The body of the article does point out that the NASA scientists were careful not to characterize their findings as direct evidence, but rather indications that could lead to clearer answers later on.

Also, what about's claim that the scientists submitted a paper for peer review of their findings? Did they or did they not submit a paper to a scientific journal?

Well, NASA's wording in their press release is careful -- "No research paper has been submitted by them to any scientific journal asserting martian life" (emphasis mine). So NASA isn't exactly saying a paper was not submitted. It could be that the scientists have indeed submitted their findings for peer review, but that the paper makes no claims of direct evidence of martian life.

We'll see what comes of's article in the days ahead.


Post a Comment

<< Home