Posted: Sat, Feb 19, 2005, 6:06 AM ET (1106 GMT)
NASA on Friday issued a statement denying a report earlier this week that suggested that scientists had found evidence of, or at least a mechanism for supporting, life on Mars. In the statement the agency said that it "does not have any observational data from any current Mars missions that supports this claim." The report also denied that a paper on the topic had been submitted to the journal Nature. That was confirmed by Carol Stoker, one of the researchers mentioned in the original report, who said in a statement posted on the Bad Astronomy web site, adding that her research in the Rio Tinto region of Spain "can't be used to infer anything about life on Mars, directly." SPACE.com, which published the original report Wednesday, said in a followup article late Friday that sources who attended a February 13 meeting in suburban Washington where Stoker and Larry Lemke presented their research gave differing accounts on whether a paper had been submitted. It was at that meeting where Stoker and Lemke said that characteristics of the Martian environment, including methane in the atmosphere and concentrations of the mineral jarosite, could be consistent with a subsurface biosphere in a manner consistent with what the scientists found in Rio Tinto.