THEY CAME FROM MARS – WE ALL DID
We're not alone, and we're not from here!
Astonishing results from the first soil samples returned from Mars indicate that there was once ‘life’ on the red planet – and that it was similar in structure and probably pre-dated our planet’s evolution by billions of years.
This has led scientists to postulate that in fact early pre-historic organisms may have travelled to Earth from Mars, attached to comets or meteor-strike debris. Finding suitable conditions here, these organisms could have flourished and evolved, even as Mars died.
Although the traces of fossilized carbon in the Martian rock samples are barely detectable, new nano-microscopy techniques reveal that they did indeed exist.
Materials from Mars as well as all throughout the universe have constantly bombarded the Earth since its creation, the most famous being Martian meteorite ALH84001.
With the results of exploration over the past decade it is clear that life has evolved in parallel on many sister planets across the Universe. Today’s announcement has shown that we specifically evolved from simple life forms that originated on Mars.
ANALYSIS >> SYNTHESIS: How this scenario came to be
Was Mars a ‘pre-Earth’ billions of years ago?
Scientists have long believed that the materials that led to life on Earth also exist, or previously existed, on Mars. These ingredients include carbon, certain minerals, liquid water and energy.
This 4.5 billion-year-old rock, labeled meteorite ALH84001, is believed to have once been a part of Mars and to contain fossil evidence that primitive life may have existed on Mars more than 3.6 billion years ago. The rock is a portion of a meteorite that was dislodged from Mars by a huge impact about 16 million years ago and that fell to Earth in Antarctica 13,000 years ago. The meteorite was found in Allan Hills ice field, Antarctica, by an annual expedition of the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Meteorite Program in 1984. It is preserved for study at the Johnson Space Center’s Meteorite Processing Laboratory in Houston.
Electron microscope images of sections of the meteorite show tubular structures of likely Martian origin. These structures are very similar in size and shape to extremely tiny microfossils found in some Earth rocks. These images are part of a report by a NASA research team published in the journal ‘Science’ in August 1996. A two-year investigation by the team found organic molecules, mineral features characteristic of biological activity and possible microscopic fossils inside of the ancient Martian rock that fell to Earth as a meteorite. The largest possible fossils are less than 1/100th the diameter of a human hair in size while most are ten times smaller.
30 October 1938: The War of the Worlds
A Halloween special radio broadcast, directed by Orson Welles, the episode is an adaptation of HG Wells’ classic novel ‘The War of the Worlds’ (1898), which depicted a Martian invasion of Earth. The live, 60-minute broadcast, presented mostly as a series of news bulletins, frightens many listeners into believing that an actual Martian invasion is in progress. There is a public outcry against the episode, but it launches Welles to great fame. Welles’s adaptation is possibly the most successful radio dramatic production in history.
4 July 1997: First Martian Rover
The Mars Pathfinder mission successfully lands on Mars and deploys the Sojourner rover, Earth’s first active ‘invasion’ of Mars. From its landing until the final data transmission on 27 September 1997, Mars Pathfinder returned 16,500 images from the lander and 550 images from the rover, as well as more than 15 chemical analyses of rocks and soil and extensive data on winds and other weather factors. Findings from the investigations carried out by scientific instruments on both the lander and the rover suggest that Mars was at one time in its past warm and wet, with water existing in its liquid state and a thicker atmosphere.
4 January 2004: Spirit and Opportunity
The Mars Exploration Rover Spirit lands in Gusev crater on 4 January 2004. Opportunity lands in the Meridiani Planum on the opposite side of Mars from Spirit, on 25 January 2004. In the week following Spirit’s landing, NASA’s website records 1.7 billion hits and 34.6 terabytes of data transferred, eclipsing records set by previous NASA missions.
As of 24 January 2007, both Spirit and Opportunity have lasted for more than three years on Mars – when they were intended to last only three months. On 6 February 2007, Opportunity becomes the first spacecraft to traverse 10,000 meters – or 10 kilometers – on the surface of Mars.
15 March 2007: Surveys of Mars’ polar region indicate extensive frozen water
Radar scans reveal large frozen water deposits in the southern polar ice-cap. According to new measurements, the south polar region contains enough frozen water to cover the whole planet in a liquid layer approximately 11 meters deep. This is considered the most positive proof yet that conditions to support life may have existed.
What remains to be found is conclusive proof that organic life existed on the red planet. The incredible rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, have explored the surface and taken countless pictures and readings, but have not uncovered proof of life. A mission to Mars that brings back an actual sample for analysis could well do so.
25 April 2007: ‘Sister Earth’ discovered
Astronomers find the most Earth-like planet outside our Solar System to date, a world which could have water running on its surface. The planet orbits the faint star Gliese 581, which is 20.5 light-years away in the constellation Libra. “We have estimated that the mean temperature of this ‘super-Earth’ lies between 0 and 40 degrees Celsius, and water would thus be liquid,” explained Stephane Udry of the Geneva Observatory, lead author of the scientific paper reporting the result.
Billions of years ago, as our Solar System was forming, Earth was probably too young and hot to support life. But Mars, with a much thicker atmosphere than today, could have been the perfect breeding ground for primitive life, with liquid water and temperatures ranging between -20 and 90 degrees C. Both the Earth and Mars should have been frozen in their early history because the Sun was weak at first, but both planets show that water was flowing, which suggests that they both must have had thick atmospheres in place to keep the surface warm.
In this environment life may have once thrived. Mars is small, and so cooled off very rapidly, with large amounts of liquid water freezing permanently into the ground about 2.8 billion years ago. Some of the oldest Earth fossils of Archaea date from 3 billion years ago, and Stromatolite fossils (a kind of algae) have been dated to 3.4 billion years.
17 April 2010: Return to the Moon
Following the vision and goals outlined by George W Bush, NASA lands a manned spacecraft on the Moon. The astronauts drive around the craters in an electric vehicle and set up a base camp for further missions.
On 8 October 2010 the Mars Science Laboratory rover makes a successful landing. Mars Science Laboratory has six wheels and cameras mounted on a mast. Unlike the twin rovers, it carries a laser for vaporizing a thin layer from the surface of a rock and analyzing the elemental composition of the underlying materials. It collects rock and soil samples and distributes them to on-board test chambers for chemical analysis.
The rover includes a suite of scientific instruments for identifying organic compounds such as proteins, amino acids, and other acids and bases that attach themselves to carbon backbones and are essential to life as we know it – bio-signatures. It can also identify features such as atmospheric gases that may be associated with biological activity. The data floods in.
5 August 2012: Mars ‘within our reach’
An unmanned space probe successfully reaches Mars, orbiting the planet several times and taking detailed photos, before beginning the long journey home. New nanotech fuel cells have made it possible for the on-board ‘fuel factory’ to produce sufficient fuel for the return journey. The biggest effort required is the engine boost to escape Mars orbit, but the fuel factories have been hard at work all the way to Mars, and enough thrust is produced to send the probe away from Mars and on an elliptical loop toward Earth.
NASA rocket scientists are ecstatic, proclaiming success even before the craft has returned. “We now know that Mars is within our reach, for a sample return [mission], or even a manned mission,” announces the project leader.
21 March 2014: The Origin of Life?
The latest mission to Mars has returned with samples. Nano-microscopy has unlocked its secrets. Besides obvious Earth-like bio-signatures, the soil and rock samples contain micro fossils which bear an uncanny resemblance to the oldest bacteria and microbe fossils found on Earth. More importantly, the Martian Archaea and Stromatolites are dated to 4.3 billion years, almost a billion years before Earth supported these life forms. Are these our paleontological precursors? Judging by the age of the samples, and the fact that, being further from the Sun, Mars should have supported life billions of years before Earth, the answer is: very possibly.
The jubilant NASA scientists are less cautious: “The sample report is in. Life came from Mars. We all did.”
Warning: Hazardous thinking at work
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