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Guest: Dr. Gil Levin & Barry DiGregorio; Topics: UK Space Agency approved but NASA rejected Mars life detection experiment, Viking 1 & 2 data analysis, life on Mars, NASA and more.
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We welcomed back to the program Dr. Gil Levin and Barry DiGregorio for what was planned as a one segment 60 minute discussion though our program ended up being a one segment 85 minute discussion. We started our discussion with Barry telling us the story from 2015 of how the life detection experiment Barry, Gil and others proposed as part of the Mars Science Laboratory Participating Scientist Program. Their project, which they described in full during this early part of our discussion, was endorsed with promised funding by the UK Space Agency, even to the point of their having a Letter of Recommendation for the project from the UK agency. During the early stages of the application process, Barry, Gil and the others received promising and encouraging support from NASA but in the end, their project was rejected. Both Barry and Gil speculated as to the cause of the rejection, even going so far as to suspect rejection due to Gil's participation in the project. Barry read the official NASA rejection letter on air so you can listen and decide for yourself about the rejection of the plan. It is an interesting story and as you will hear toward the end of the program, Barry is planning a book about the experience. The NASA press release for the program is here: https://mars.nasa.gov/news/nasa-selects-scientists-for-mars-rover-research-projects/. Barry spent some time describing and reading most of the UK Space Agency endorsement letter plus the replies Barry got from NASA's Michael Meyers regarding proceeding to Phase 2 of the proposal. Barry then read the full NASA rejection letter.
Following the documentation part of our discussion, and after both Barry and Gil speculated as to the nature of the rejection, both suggested that NASA does not, in their opinion, want to search for life on Mars. In addition, they strongly suggested there might be a potential bias for a project including Gil. Don't miss all of what our two guests had to say and then post your comments about it on our blog.
After discussing their Mars life detection experiment rejection, Gil talked about his certainty that the Viking 1 & 2 labeled release experiments did find life on Mars. He provided us with his very thorough analysis and then once again suggested, as he has for years, that the only way to resolve the controversy was to have an objective, highly qualified panel of experts go over all the data, evaluate it and report their findings. I mentioned to Gil that he had been suggesting this from his very first Space Show appearance back on June 23, 2013. I noted that almost seven years later there was no movement with NASA or others to form such a panel. Don't miss what Gil said in response to my comment.
Other topics discussed included a Mars sample return mission, planetary protection, sample return dangers in bringing it back to Earth rather than to a gateway type of lab for safety and analysis off Earth. I mentioned the recent Hotel Mars program with Dr. Zubrin regarding planetary protection, the idea that there might be water eating microbes on Mars that would consume all of Earth water, an idea express by Dr. Simon who Bob talked about during the Hotel Mars program, plus human factors issues for people to Mars by SpaceX or others, including NASA. I asked Gil if he had finally made contact with folks at SpaceX but the answer was not yet. In fact if listeners have SpaceX connections and would like to introduce Gil to them, please fee free to do so. Send me a note and I will forward it to Gil.
In addition to multiple email questions and comments, we had a call from Martial inquiring about the possibility of different species being found on Mars, Later we had a call from Ft. Worth John about Mars meteorites, panspermia and related topics. Adrian sent in two emails during the latter part of the program. One of his emails dealt with photosynthesis with the second note inquiring about Mars bioforms. I read both emails on air plus Gil spent time discussing each one with a detailed response.
As we were concluding the program, Barry told us about a new book he was writing which would soon be published regarding his UK Space Agency project experience and the NASA rejection. We took a last minute question from Beverly asking about advances with amateur astronomy and possible life detection experiments that could bypass NASA using new advanced amateur or at least affordable scientific tools and programs. Don't miss what Barry and Gil said in response to what Beverly asked. It might surprise you.
Please post your comments/questions for our guests on TSS blog for this program. You can reach Gil and Barry through me via email.