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In early 1961, Lovelock was engaged by NASA to develop sensitive instruments for the analysis of extraterrestrial atmospheres and planetary surfaces. The Viking program that visited Mars in the late-1970s was motivated in part to determining whether Mars supported life, and many of the sensors and experiments that were ultimately deployed aimed to resolve this issue. During work on a precursor of this program, Lovelock became interested in the composition of the Martian atmosphere, reasoning that many life forms on Mars would be obliged to make use of it (and, thus, alter it). However, the atmosphere was found to be in a stable condition close to its chemical equilibrium, with very little oxygen, methane, or hydrogen, but with an overwhelming abundance of carbon dioxide. To Lovelock, the stark contrast between the Martian atmosphere and chemically-dynamic mixture of that of our Earth's biosphere was strongly indicative of the absence of life on the planet.
would the atmosphere just evaporate away then ?
...hmmmm...surely a rudimentary atmosphere was around for the first life to live !..how did that happen ?