ICAMSR - International Committee Against Mars Sample Return


DR. GILBERT V. LEVIN (April 24, 1924-July 26, 2021)
DR. GILBERT V. LEVIN (April 24, 1924-July 26, 2021)

It is with great sadness that on July 26, 2021, Gilbert Victor Levin, NASA Viking Lander 1 and 2 astrobiologist and ICAMSR Scientific Advisor, passed away at the age of 97. Dr. Levin was in good health until Saturday morning July 24th when according to his son Ron Levin, he suffered a dissection in his aorta. He never regained consciousness.

I first interviewed Gil for Final Frontier magazine back in 1993. That interview was a revelation to me because NASA had kept his work so quiet and in the background. From here I studied all the Viking scientific reports and then came to the same realization he did - that he and Dr. Patricia Ann discovered strong evidence for microbial metabolism coming out of the Martian soil in samples they obtained using the Viking Lander robotic arm and then examined in Dr. Levin's instrument called he the Labeled Release experiment which was placed on both Viking Landers. Oddly, NASA never followed up on the greater meaning of their discovery and no other extant life detection instruments have been sent to Mars in the intervening 45 years since Viking. Because of the significance and the gravity of their experiments on the surface of Mars it led me to write my 1997 book MARS THE LIVING PLANET in which Gil first rendered his conclusion that it could only be indigenous microbial life from Mars causing his experiments to react the way they were. And in 2010 I wrote the book - THE MICROBES OF MARS, an addendum to MARS THE LIVIING PLANET.

I was always impressed with Gil's integrity as a scientist and I do feel strongly that all the Mars spacecraft data gleaned over the years that I have been able to study point to his conclusion that Microbial life exists in some form just under the Martian soil. Gil and Pat felt strongly that the astrobiology community demand that a series of life detection instruments be sent to the surface of Mars before any attempts to return Martian soil and rock samples are brought directly to Earth. Both Gil and Pat thought this step was necessary to protect Earth's biosphere from any harmful back contamination from Mars. This inspired the creation of ICAMSR and both Gil and Pat agreed to become scientific advisors and consultants. It was Gil Levin who as my mentor, that I went from being a science writer and investigator to my becoming an astrobiologist myself working with both Cardiff University in Wales and later with my Fellowship at Buckingham University in the UK. All of my work on rock varnish, the work on biogenic dissolution cavities and with my latest book DISCOVERY ON VERA RUBIN RIDGE: TRACE FOSSILS ON MARS all directly or indirectly support his Viking Labeled Release experiment conclusions.

Having lost Gil and Patricia Ann Straat as a scientific advisors the International Committee Against Mars Sample Return (www.icamsr.org) is proud to announce that Gilbert's son, Dr. Ron L. Levin will take his father's place as an ICAMSR science advisor and consultant. Dr. Ron Levin has a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University and is currently an Engineering Fellow at Raytheon in El Segundo, California where he works on signal processing software. During the NASA Viking Lander missions Ron spent the summer of 1976 with his father Gilbert at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California where he witnessed many of the important moments of the Viking Mission. Ron has traveled to twenty Mars science conferences in support of his father Gilbert's astrobiology work and often built PowerPoint presentations for him as well as providing few talks about life on Mars of his own.

Above: The late Dr. Patricia Ann Straat stands next to Dr. Ron Levin at the 2020 Viking 40th Anniversary Symposium held at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

Barry E. DiGregorio - Director for ICAMSR (www.icamsr.org)

Last updated August 16, 2021.
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