“Oops,” of course, is a word that means science is going about its job correctly, because by discovering mistakes we learn what works and what doesn’t. So, um, it’s really good news when New Scientist reports that the robotic Mars landers may have burned up the evidence they were sent to find:
The Phoenix and Viking landers looked for organic molecules by heating soil samples to similarly high temperatures to evaporate them and analyse them in gas form. When Douglas Ming of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and colleagues tried heating organics and perchlorates like this on Earth, the resulting combustion left no trace of organics behind. Ming’s team presented their results at the recent Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston.
So, um, sorry, Martians. We’ll do better from now on.