Broadcast 3320 Dr.Gil Levin & Dr. Patricia Ann Straat

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Guests:  Dr. Gil Levin, Dr. Patricia Ann Straat;  Topics:  Viking Labeled Release experiment, life detection on Mar, "To Mars With Love" by Dr. Straat and more.

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We welcomed back Dr. Gil Levin and for the first time, his co-investigator on the Viking Landers famed Labeled Release Life Detection Experiment, Dr. Patricia Ann Straat.  During our one segment 64 minute program, we talked with our guests about the latest news on continued Viking Labeled Release (LR) data analysis subject to new evaluation tools and methods.  Dr. Straat introduced us to her new book, "To Mars With Love" which tells the story of the Viking LR experiment which landed on Mars in 176 in two different locations in an effort to find positive signs of microbial life on Mars.  As Dr. Straat said during our discussion, the book tells the story of the six years prior to the landing of building the hardware and the tools to go on the two Viking missions.  Our guest said it was one crisis after another.  Please listen to her short summary of the book and the lead up time happenings to the Viking missions.  You can order the book at You can also request an autographed copy and if you want to contact Pat, you can do so through the website email address,

Both Gil and Pat talked not just about the LR experiment but the effort to find microbial life on Mars.  Gill said that he had a hard time understanding NASA making life detection on Mars a priority but then not doing anything to follow through on that priority.  This subject came up several times during our discussion.  Another topic we spent time discussing was the very grave concern both guests had for bringing a Mars sample return back to Earth.  Their concern was about strange life forms coming back to Earth with a risk for us here on Earth.  In addition, there was an expressed concerns for our going to the likely life spots on Mars and contaminating them with human activity.  Don't miss these discussions which also included the possible use of launch licensing issuance as a way of controlling who, what, when and where humans may land on Mars.  Both or guests called for bringing the Mars samples back to an off-Earth location such as the Moon or an orbiting lab, perhaps the ISS.  We would like your thoughts on this so post away on our blog. 

Both our guests spent time discussing just why the LR experiments have become so controversial over the years.  Gill also suggested an idea as to why NASA does not do life detection experiments.  Listen to his idea and tell us what you think of it.  Hint:  Confirming life of sorts on Mars may delay or prevent humans to Mas which is a big NASA priority.  Other important and interesting topics that were addressed included the color of Mars rocks. Don't miss the story Gill told of seeing the green color on Mars rocks and being the first to report it.  Note what he said about the Mars photos being redone to eliminate the green in favor blue and a pink sky.  We thank Bill for calling in and bringing this subject to our attention.  The subject of the private operators going to Mars came up, especially SpaceX.  Our guests were asked if a private mission could do a Mars life detection experiment.  The answer was yes but so far neither of our guests have reached out to SpaceX or others to such experimentation.  In this context, our guests described what they thought would be a confirming life detection experiment for Mars, how simple and low cost it might be but even so, there would need to be lots of confirmation of positive findings.  Gill described a way to do several tests on the same mission so don't miss this part of the discussion.  Along these lines, a listener sent in a note asking if it was the luck of the draw if they just happened to test in a place with life as opposed to a place with no life. Both our guests rejected that idea.  They said that if there was microbial life on Mars, it would show up everywhere.  They gave several examples of soil analysis from different and randomly selected locations on Earth showing life detection everywhere.  Thus, were there to be microbial life on Mars, it would most likely be everywhere on the planet.  Listen to what our guests said about this and again, let us know what you think by posting on our blog. 

Listeners continued to send in email questions.  Jim wanted to know if the large Earth based telescopes could be used for life detection on Mars.  Our guests did not think so but suggested it an infrared telescope might be able to contribute to the discussion.  This led to a discussion about methane detection on Mars.  Toward the end of the program, our guests were asked if they thought going to the Moon was an essential stepping stone to Mars.  The answer was no but listen to why that was their answer. Gil briefly mentioned his role with EXOMARS 2020 and the "Habitability, Brine Irradiation and Temperature package (HABIT)" on the mission.  Before we ended our discussion, Pat told us more about her new book and the stories that led up to the LR instrumentation on Viking and such instruments working well with both landers.  I suggest ordering her book for more information on LR and be sure to get it autographed!

Please post your questions/comments for Dr. Levin and Dr. Straat on our blog for this show.  You can reach both our guests through me or their websites.  Gil's website is and Pat's is listed above. 




More on Mars Viking, Dr. Straat's new book, "To Mars with Love"

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24 May 2019 Dr. Gilbert Levin, Dr. Patricia Ann Straat
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