There is life on Mars, a researcher has announced at a conference - unfortunately it is just spaceship-borne contamination.
"I believe there is life on Mars, and it's unequivocally there, because we sent it," Andrew Schuerger of the University of Florida told the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, Texas, recently. He has been granted funding from NASA's planetary protection office to help develop better sterilisation techniques for future missions.
Schuerger says that of all the space probes sent to Mars, only the two Viking craft in 1976 were adequately heat sterilised. The procedures used for all missions since then, including NASA's twin rovers and Europe's Beagle 2, would have left some microbes aboard.
After testing whether terrestrial organisms can survive simulated Martian conditions and the procedures used to sterilise spacecraft, he reckons there is a good chance ...