Saturday, August 05, 2006
It was a science fiction fantasy come true: Ten years ago this summer, NASA announced the discovery of life on Mars.
At a Washington, D.C., news conference, scientists showed magnified pictures of a four-pound Martian meteorite riddled with wormy blobs that looked like bacterial colonies. The researchers explained how they had pried numerous clues from the rock, all strongly supporting their contention that microscopic creatures once occupied its nooks and crannies.
It was arguably the space agency's most imagination-gripping moment since Apollo. Space buffs and NASA officials said that it just might be the scientific discovery of the century.
'If the results are verified,' the late Carl Sagan pronounced, 'it is a turning point in human history.'
Ten years later, the results have not been verified. Skeptics have found non-biological explanations for every piece of evidence that was presented on Aug. 6, 1996. And though they still vigorously defend their claim, the NASA scientists who advanced it now stand alone in their belief.