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New Evidence For Ancient Life On Mars

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the martian-overlords dept.

Mars 186

siddesu writes in with "compelling" new data that chemical and fossil evidence of ancient microbial life on Mars was carried to Earth in a Martian meteorite. The finding is being highlighted by the same NASA team who made the initial discovery 13 years ago. Spaceflight Now has more details of the analysis.

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Panspermia (5, Interesting)

jpmorgan (517966) | more than 4 years ago | (#30250180)

I'm rooting for panspermia. There's something kind of cool at looking at Mars and thinking: that's where we came from, and the rovers are just us coming home.

Re:Panspermia (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30250454)

Yes but I can't help thinking:

How can we fit Jebus into this equation?

Re:Panspermia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30250624)

Who cares about jesus? I just want unfettered access to the email of these "scientists" so I can judge whether Mars exists at all.

Re:Panspermia (1)

Sam36 (1065410) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251380)

I don't believe in mars at all.

Re:Panspermia (5, Insightful)

danlip (737336) | more than 4 years ago | (#30250492)

I'm rooting for independent evolution. It would make it far more likely that the universe is teaming with life. But unless we find current life on Mars, it may be hard to tell the difference.

Re:Panspermia (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30250556)

Either case means the same thing, that life can travel and spread. It takes millions of years for a rock from mars to reach earth, and vice versa. If life can survive that journey, why couldn't it survive in some small way between stars, over billions of years.

If life once existed on Mars, it will exist now. It is highly unlikely the entire planet became 100% sterile. There will be pockets of life surviving the harsh climate.

The big question is exploration of Mars. If life evolved independently, we will have a much harder time mucking around there, especially colonizing it. Folks will want to leave it alone to its own devices. It life on Mars and life on Earth share a common history, it makes it much easier to muck around on Mars, because it'll just be another extension of life here so no worry about contamination.

Re:Panspermia (5, Insightful)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251598)

Either case means the same thing, that life can travel and spread

No, they don't mean the same thing. If life began once and was seeded via meteorites, then it's a giant crap-shoot, and the vast majority of solar-systems are probably sterile. On the other hand, if abiogenesis took place twice in a single solar system, then the universe is probably teeming with life.

If life evolved independently, we will have a much harder time mucking around there, especially colonizing it. Folks will want to leave it alone to its own devices.

Hardly. It might raise some ethical conundrums, but it certainly won't make colonization any more difficult.

If we ever colonize mars, we're going to start by building habitats. We'll have hundreds of years to live on a planet which we haven't even begun to terraform. That will give us plenty of time to have the People for the Ethical Treatment of Martian Lifeforms present a convincing case for why we should abandon an entire planet to a bunch of alien microbes. If they fail in convincing the rest of humanity, then we'll carry on with our terraforming effort, and the Martian bacteria will be relegated to sample jars, museums, and computer databases.

Re:Panspermia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30252138)

Or we could send them blankets with smallpox, in the spirit of Thanksgiving.

Re:Panspermia (1, Interesting)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251396)

In reading about the formation of our solar system, I bet that the building blocks of life in this solar system and anything else that formed out of the nebula we probably came from, are all the same.

My money is on the DNA from whatever is on Mars, Europa, Titan...are all going to be the same as Earth.

Re:Panspermia (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251622)

I'll take that bet!

You seem to be saying that if I kick over a bunch of paint cans, I'm going to get the same result every time. I'm not sure how you justify such an assumption, but I'm more than willing to take your money!

Re:Panspermia (1)

i_ate_god (899684) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251838)

I'll take that bet!

You seem to be saying that if I kick over a bunch of paint cans, I'm going to get the same result every time. I'm not sure how you justify such an assumption, but I'm more than willing to take your money!

Uh, no. He's saying that if you kick over a bunch of paint cans, then draw separations in the resulting puddle, each separate puddle will be made up of the same stuff.

Re:Panspermia (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251936)

Well, if by same stuff you mean "paint" then, yeah ok. Or if you mean "atoms", then you'll be even closer to the truth. But as for the patterns created by the paint ... you couldn't be farther from the truth.

To put it in less figurative language: the likelihood that alien lifeforms will have a genetic coding that is structured the same way as DNA or RNA is slim, but possible. The likelihood that their DNA/RNA will slightly resemble that of Earth life is more remote, but still not impossible. The likelihood of their DNA/RNA being "the same as Earth", on the other hand, is so remote as to be completely impossible.

Re:Panspermia (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251768)

My money is on the DNA from whatever is on Mars, Europa, Titan...are all going to be the same as Earth.

I'll go one step further and say that whatever they find on Mars, Europa, TItan, etc. will probably turn out to be from Earth. Do you know how many bacteria we've put on other planets and moons over the years? :-D

Re:Panspermia (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251892)

Do you know how many bacteria we've put on other planets and moons over the years? :-D

Do you have any idea how many bacteria I've put on moons and other planets over the years?

(...ladies...)

Re:Panspermia (1)

danlip (737336) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251890)

DNA is much more complex than the basic building blocks floating around in space, and I bet there are many ways to build something that performs the same function as DNA but is not DNA. Genes are even more complex, there are some genes that are common to all life on earth (with mutations, but still recognizable as the same gene) - life that originated independently, even if it used DNA, would not have the same genes - there is too many solutions to each problem. I'm pretty sure if we had genetic material from another planet we could easily confirm or refute panspermia. Unfortunately we don't, and we may never have it.

Re:Panspermia (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 4 years ago | (#30250788)

    It could be hit and miss. Just because fossil evidence got here doesn't mean anything living made the trip. But, it does open up a lot of questions. If the Mars microbes didn't make it, that doesn't mean something else didn't. We'll figure it out in a few centuries, if/when we get some decent samples from other places that couldn't have originated here. We're an awful long away from retrieving samples from outside of this solar system.

Re:Panspermia (5, Interesting)

jc42 (318812) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251350)

It could be hit and miss. Just because fossil evidence got here doesn't mean anything living made the trip. But, it does open up a lot of questions. If the Mars microbes didn't make it, that doesn't mean something else didn't. We'll figure it out in a few centuries, ...

Actually, astronomers figured it out a few decades ago. They concluded that, while the Mars -> Earth trip is difficult and unlikely, the other direction has happened with probability around 0.999999.... The mechanism is the Earth's "dust tail", a stream of gases and dust much like a comet's tail, but even thinner. It is thick enough to cause a problem for some astronomical observations, though, which is why some astronomers studied it during the 1960s and 70s. They found that the tail includes "dust" as large as bacteria, and since high-altitude airplane and balloon samples had shown bacteria at all altitudes, our default assumption should be that there are bacteria (mostly in spore form) in our planet's dust tail. This wouldn't be a million-year trip. The solar wind blows Earth's dust tail outward along the plane of Earth's orbit. It would sweep over each of the outer planets about once per year, contaminating each planet with bacterial spores in each pass.

So if we find life on any outer planet that is chemically similar to bacteria here, we can't conclude anything about where it originated, except that the most likely source is Earth. It could have reached Earth from the outside, of course, and is just making the return trip.

A fun part of these studies was the conclusion that this thin stream of bacterial spores does eventually get blown out of the solar system. Distances out there are large, of course, but if you look at the numbers, you find that the Earth takes roughly 4 trips around the galaxy every billion years. Since the earliest known bacterial life developed here, we've made 15-20 trips around the galaxy, spewing bacterial spores along our path the whole time. Chances are that they've pervaded the entire galaxy (very, very thinly). If they can survive the millions or billions of years in interstellar space, then we're one of the sources for the panspermia hypothesis.

Of course, the astronomers didn't know anything at all about the survivability of bacterial spores in space. We still don't know much about it. That's the weak link in the whole guessing game.

But it's highly likely that there are bacteria living underground on Mars, and they came from Earth. It would be a lot more fun if we found some there whose biochemistry was different from the micro-organisms on this planet.

(I googled for this topic a couple of years ago, and didn't find much of anything. I wonder if there are any astronomers here who could point us to more details.)

Re:Panspermia (2, Insightful)

Walkingshark (711886) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251568)

If your hypothesis is right, then any other earthlike planets are also spewing bacterial spores into deep space, which means that life all over the galaxy should be pretty similar.

So maybe the aliens really will be coming to eat us.

Re:Panspermia (4, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251878)

Actually, astronomers figured it out a few decades ago. They concluded that, while the Mars -> Earth trip is difficult and unlikely, the other direction has happened with probability around 0.999999....

Mars-to-Earth is 100% because we found a dozen or so meteorites from Mars, proving it happens. (Kudos to Viking Landers for the chem analysis to compare.)

Because of Earth's size compared to Mars, Earth was still a hot coal when Mars was almost like Earth today, with mild temperatures, relatively thick atmosphere, and lakes, possibly even oceans. Thus, life is more likely to have had evolved on Mars early in the solar system's history than Earth, if it was around then. Mars was the happening club in town back in the days.
   

Re:Panspermia (1)

turkeyfish (950384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30252040)

And you were able to deduce all this from the presence of a "worm-like" object associated with a meteorite?

This looks a lot more like someone from inside NASA desperately searching for a way to save imploding budgets than evidence. Yes it is possible, but its also possible that its just a piece of spaghetti left behind by an alien rushing from that famous Italian take-out joint at the edge of our galaxy, you know, the one we all KNOW is out there somewhere, must be there are just so many places we haven't looked yet. Its also possible that a meteorite from elsewhere, but with a gas signature similar to that expected from Mars is the source.

If this is what passes for Exobiology these days, I think we are wasting a lot of taxpayer's money.

Re:Panspermia (2, Insightful)

Hammer79 (1163799) | more than 4 years ago | (#30252030)

If the Earth is leaving a dust & bacteria trail behind, the dust would still be caught in orbit around the Sun. The dust would orbit the galaxies core at the same speed as the Sun unless it was forced out the Sun's orbit by something else.

Re:Panspermia (5, Funny)

Tibia1 (1615959) | more than 4 years ago | (#30250920)

It's going to be funny when they find a fossil of an ancient rover on mars.

Re:Panspermia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30251296)

Don't you mean Earth?

Re:Panspermia (1)

Urza9814 (883915) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251498)

The life was on Mars first though - so they'd be more likely to find an ancient rover on Earth...

Re:Panspermia (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251650)

The life was on Mars first though - so they'd be more likely to find an ancient rover on Earth...

Do you have evidence of that, or are you just one of those "pyramids on mars" wackos?

Re:Panspermia (1)

Urza9814 (883915) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251686)

Umm, TFA?

ancient microbial life on Mars was carried to Earth in a Martian meteorite.

Re:Panspermia (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251704)

Umm, TFA?

ancient microbial life on Mars was carried to Earth in a Martian meteorite.

I don't think you actually read TFA. Here's a quote:

It showed that microscopic worm-like structures found in a Martian meteorite that hit the Earth 13,000 years ago are almost certainly fossilised bacteria.

FYI, life on Earth has existed for more than 13,000 years. Even given a few million years in orbit before hitting the earth, these meteorites would post-date the emergence of life on earth.

Of course, if you're a YEC, just forget I said anything ;)

Re:Panspermia (1)

Urza9814 (883915) | more than 4 years ago | (#30252132)

This is slashdot! Who RTFA? :)

But damn, if only that meteorite was a few million years earlier. That woulda been cool.

Re:Panspermia (1)

Tibia1 (1615959) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251964)

I was saying that maybe life on earth was intelligent before humans, mostly as a joke, and that millions of years ago this species sent a rover to mars, only to be wiped out by an ice age or something.

Re:Panspermia (2, Funny)

cheesecake23 (1110663) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251158)

I'm rooting for panspermia.

Naw, too messy.

On a side note, can someone tell me the best way to clean my monitor?

Of course there is. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30250194)

There is actual life on mars and other civilizations. Nasa's black space program hides this and the fact that the aryan race actually originated from Mars.

Nasa and its illuminati controllers want to keep religion central to humanity so we can never be free.

Re:Of course there is. (1)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 4 years ago | (#30252122)

There is actual life on mars and other civilizations. Nasa's black space program hides this and the fact that the aryan race actually originated from Mars. Nasa and its illuminati controllers want to keep religion central to humanity so we can never be free.

Silly. You think posting as an Anonymous Coward prevents us from getting your IP address? We run Slashdot. The black helicopters will be with you shortly.

I've seen this movie (3, Funny)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30250230)

FTFA:

According to scientists, the meteorite was broken off the surface of Mars by the impact of an asteroid, and reached Earth after floating through space for about 16 million years. It landed in Allan Hills in Antarctica.

I instantly thought of John Carpenter's "The Thing"

Oh wow (5, Interesting)

Dartz-IRL (1640117) | more than 4 years ago | (#30250286)

It's life.

Or was life.

If this is true. It's just staggering to me. If there was life on Mars.... there may still be. If there was life on Mars, then how common is life elsewhere in the galaxy? If it can exist on ancient Mars, there's no reason it can't exist on any of the other millions of planets scattered through the billions of stars in our Galaxy.

If life is found on Mars... or found to have existed.... then it can be anywhere.

Under the ice of Europa aswell?

While we may never meet our neighbours..... it would still be nice to know that yes, they may well be out there.... somewhere. The Galaxy may well be teeming. I sure hope it is. I mean, if it becomes clear that rather than being just blacks, whites.... whatevers.... on a cosmological scale where there is actual non-terrestrial life.... shouldn't it be clear that we all are just the one race?

Re:Oh wow (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30250502)

Thank you for a most boring and unoriginal post.

Re:Oh wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30250660)

You are such a dick.... if your fossilized cells were found in another part of the galaxy they could be certain that there is no intelligent life in our part of the galaxy.

Asshole

Re:Oh wow (1)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 4 years ago | (#30250672)

Says the AC with nothing better to do than be a boring unoriginal troll.

Re:Oh wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30251298)

Of course we've never before seen a comment such as yours here on slashdot. Mod parent +1: Highly Original.

Oh wait...

Re:Oh wow (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30251040)

shouldn't it be clear that we all are just the one race?

No. [erectuswalksamongst.us]

Re:Oh wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30251912)

The author Richard D. Fuerle is a classic antisemite. One should take anything that he writes about human races with a spoonfull of salt.

But recent genetic research does seem to imply that it is possible to classify humans (pre-15th century ones, anyway) into a small number of races.

Re:Oh wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30251140)

Judging from how quickly life originated on Earth the galaxy would indeed be expected to be teeming with life. It is mind-blowing to think about, but it is no longer considered to be unlikely that we will find life on other bodies in the solar system and that we will get spectroscopic evidence of life on exoplanets.

With that said, we know that it took over 3 billion years to produce the complex organisms of the Cambrian explosion. There is a possibility that the galaxy is full of bacterias, but nearly empty of complex life life. There are even some who think that we are the most intelligent species in the galaxy, or in the whole universe.

Re:Oh wow (1)

Dartz-IRL (1640117) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251210)

That'd be sad.

I know that sounds silly, but I really can't think of a better way to put it.

It seems though, with the Cambrian explosion, all it takes is for life to reach a critical mass, then away it goes.

The Internet has been around in some form since the 70's, but it only really hit big in the 90's... and now it's everywhere.

Life on Mars never got to that point.

The BBC ended it after 2 seasons.

Re:Oh wow (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251824)

There are even some who think that we are the most intelligent species in the galaxy, or in the whole universe.

Accidentally, they are the members of the same "most intelligent" species.

Re:Oh wow (1)

turkeyfish (950384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30252056)

"If this is true." Yes, thats the catchword.

Re:Oh wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30252060)

Hey, your not being selfish enough! In fact, I've come up with a new theory: our sun is the only source of energy in the universe that can support life. No arguements please, we rule the universe.

Well (2, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#30250288)

This would certainly widen the belt for what we consider to be the "habitable" range, in our search for habitable exoplanets.

Re:Well (4, Interesting)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#30250378)

As a iochemist, it was my understanding that the habitable zone was already known to extend out toward Mars. Although really, I'd say that the concept of a habitable zone needs to be expanded anyway considering the possibility of life in the Jupiter system. I believe that it is becoming increasingly clear that there isn't just a single habitable zone around a star like our sun but also pockets of habitable space underneath the surface of various moons and terrestrial planets like Mars.

Re:Well (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30250602)

TFA talks about two other Martian meteorites which may have the same evidence inside. If this is shown to be the case we would have to assume that bacterial life on Mars is pervasive. This for me is evidence that low order life will be pervasive elsewhere, which makes me wonder why we haven't heard from the high order life forms?

Re:Well (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#30250698)

This for me is evidence that low order life will be pervasive elsewhere, which makes me wonder why we haven't heard from the high order life forms?

The conditions under which primitive life can exist are numerous. The same can't really be said of intelligent life. Bacteria can live in cracks over a km under the surface; animals and the like can't. Space is huge. 4.26 light years to Alpha Centauri alone. Signals degrade, civilizations collapse. There's a lot of things that likely make contact with extraterrestrial intelligent life a very rare occurrence.

Re:Well (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251076)

We have to find life on Mars first. The current evidence is still the weak evidence of a decade ago.

Re:Well (1)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#30250608)

What's the quote from "Jurassic Park"? - Life will find a way.

Re:Well (3, Interesting)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#30250654)

As a iochemist, it was my understanding that the habitable zone was already known to extend out toward Mars.

Well. there's a difference between being potentially habitable for a species, and finding remnants of actual life. Either life appear on both Earth and Mars independently, meaning there's actually a quite wide band of possible conditions - or life really transports across space. Either way is much more compelling arguments for the habitable zone actually being habitable than a theoretical zone based on temperature.

Re:Well (3, Interesting)

lena_10326 (1100441) | more than 4 years ago | (#30252078)

or life really transports across space

Humans are generally considered a form of advanced life and we've transported ourselves and microbes across space. The thing I don't understand is why it's such a wild and crazy concept to consider the possibility of advanced life traversing space from Mars to Earth millions or billions of years ago.

Either way is much more compelling arguments for the habitable zone actually being habitable than a theoretical zone based on temperature.

If it isn't already, the habitable zone should be stratified into layers indicating habitable for humans down to microbes. Some people are only interested in discussing habitable for humans while others think more expansively. Thinking in layers would clear up any confusion.

I propose using alphabetical labels. An "A" class for single cell organisms, "M" class for humans, "Z" class for .. hmm.. not sure yet.. maybe beings requiring hot conditions under high pressure [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Well (1)

fph il quozientatore (971015) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251530)

As a iochemist,

Hey, we're talking about Mars here, not Io [wikipedia.org]

Re:Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30251696)

Mar's problem with habitability is that its atmosphere is constantly being eroded by the Solar wind. This is due to the magnetic fields and magnetosphere of Mars. If Mars had a core and thus magnetic fields protecting it that were the same as Earth's then the story could be quite different.

References:
http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2001/ast31jan_1.htm
http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2008/21nov_plasmoids.htm

This also means that it will not be possible to change Mars into a planet that can be inhabited by humans in a fashion similar to what occurs here on Earth.

The gradual removal of the planet's atmosphere may be what meant that extremely primitive life is all that has had the chance - and will have the chance - to evolve naturally on Mars.

Re:Well (2, Interesting)

danlip (737336) | more than 4 years ago | (#30250520)

I think Mars was already considered habitable range. We know that billions of years ago Mars was warmer and wetter, and if it was a little more massive, so it could better hold an atmosphere, it might still be. All this is true regardless of whether or not Mars once had life.

Re:Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30250708)

Habitable in OUR sense of life. We only know life based on what happened on our planet. Maybe, there is another form of life out there that is build upon a few compounds common on that planet.

...maybe, from a probe.... (1)

gadget junkie (618542) | more than 4 years ago | (#30250296)

...NASA saw this!!! [wordpress.com]

Mars origin (2, Interesting)

Velox_SwiftFox (57902) | more than 4 years ago | (#30250312)

Can someone explain to me why the set of meteorites are considered more likely to have originated on Mars than from an impact on Earth itself?

Are there Earth-origin ones known to distinguish them from, since debris from such an earth impact would more likely have orbits intersecting earth's, or is some other evidence used? I'm having trouble finding it.

Re:Mars origin (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30250406)

A Giant asteroid or Meteor supposedly Hit mars with such force that it sent Meteorites of Mars... umm... Rock? (I want to call it Mars Earth but that sounds ridiculous) hurtling towards Earth. The meteorites properties remain consistant with those of rocks we've observed on Mars, hence why we predict their origin.

The Bacteria is INSIDE the rock, not so much on the rock, so its believed the Bacteria was there before it hit Earth.

Re:Mars origin (1)

tzot (834456) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251402)

The word you were looking for is "soil": Mars soil. So, your native language has "earth" and "soil" as synonyms, and some strange capitalization rules?

Re:Mars origin (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251674)

The word you were looking for is "soil": Mars soil.

No. Soil, by definition, is rock and minerals mixed with organic matter. Mars doesn't have soil. The proper word is "regolith", the same as the surface of the moon.

Re:Mars origin (5, Informative)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#30250422)

Can someone explain to me why the set of meteorites are considered more likely to have originated on Mars than from an impact on Earth itself?

Gas bubbles found in the meteorite have a composition that is very much like the atmosphere on Mars. The gas inclusions don't resemble those of Earth.

Re:Mars origin (4, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30250460)

TFA:

Scientists were able to trace the meteorite back to Mars, as its chemical composition matched the relative proportions of various gases measured in observations of the atmosphere of Mars made by the Viking spacecraft in the 1970s.

Re:Mars origin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30251358)

This unfortunately proves nothing really, and seems to be leading to further wild speculation based on past wild speculation.

Re:Mars origin (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30250500)

Can someone explain to me why the set of meteorites are considered more likely to have originated on Mars than from an impact on Earth itself?

Are there Earth-origin ones known to distinguish them from, since debris from such an earth impact would more likely have orbits intersecting earth's, or is some other evidence used? I'm having trouble finding it.

Got to actually read the articles. They explain the traces of atmosphere match Mars not the Earth. A number of other Mars meteors have been identified. The article even mentions two others with the same structures. Lots of good info if you read the articles. Once people throw in the towel and accept that there was or is life on Mars then the argument will be did it evolve there and is it part of the same evolutionary cycle as Earth? Those are the fights that will likely take decades and there may never be a clear answer. It's a massive question because if it did evolve independently then anywhere life could evolve it probably has evolved meaning there are millions of planets with life just in our Galaxy. I think within the next 20 years there will be a resolution to the question of life based on direct sampling but the second question of it's source will be a fight to the bitter end.

In Other News: The United States (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30250334)

landed on the moon.

When will the propaganda stop?

Yours In Yasnogorsk,
K. Trout

Fuck you, Kilgore (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30250396)

Suck my American cock, you commie faggot.

Yours In World Domination,
G. W. Bush

Damn.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30250382)

So how long till we get over there to dig up ancient temples that unleash hell!
I think I'll just get my chainsaw prepped.

So here we have spent huge amount of resources... (1, Interesting)

bumby (589283) | more than 4 years ago | (#30250384)

So here we have spent huge amount of resources constructing advanced technology to send robots to mars to investigate if there's life there, only to have the evidence flown to us with a piece of rock.

Re:So here we have spent huge amount of resources. (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#30250488)

This is what we get for not sending the proper equipment necessary to excavate material from beneath the surface. An asteroid can dredge up material that is buried and send it out of the martian system; our simple robots can't yet.

Re:So here we have spent huge amount of resources. (4, Insightful)

ianare (1132971) | more than 4 years ago | (#30250830)

If it wasn't for the spacecrafts sent to Mars, it would not have been possible to identify the meteorite as coming from Mars. From the article : "Scientists were able to trace the meteorite back to Mars, as its chemical composition matched the relative proportions of various gases measured in observations of the atmosphere of Mars made by the Viking spacecraft in the 1970s."

As for the rovers sent later, they were not sent to investigate life but mainly to study the geology and climate.

Only one way to find out for sure (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30250424)

Send a bunch of scientists to Mars for at least ten years. Give them vehicles for mobility and drilling equipment. Of course it is possible that bacteria were in samples collected by Phoenix, but it is more likely the answers will be in the rocks.

Re:Only one way to find out for sure (1)

tzot (834456) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251414)

> Send a bunch of scientists to Mars for at least ten years.
Sit back and enjoy the ensuing war with the multinationals.

Re:Only one way to find out for sure (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251584)

> Send a bunch of scientists to Mars for at least ten years.
Sit back and enjoy the ensuing war with the multinationals.

I want to be Coyote. The guy who takes care of himself regardless of what the others are up to.

That would be the worst way to do it (1)

turkeyfish (950384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30252130)

Humans carry microbes with them. Humans would likely contaminate Mars by bringing Earth bacteria with them. We already made that mistake on the moon and now may never know for sure. Better to send totally sterilized robots capable of doing TEM and STEM and beaming back the "evidence".

But first, I would like to see EVIDENCE that the "worm-like structures" really ARE bacteria. Even if they are on the inside of the rock, there is no reason necessarily to suppose that they got there when on Mars. Asserting this is so, is hardly evidence. No evidence, whatsoever of the lattice around the "worm" was presented or mentioned. The meteorite could have been relatively porous and earthlike bacteria evidently 13,000 years to get in. Also need to see some evidence that the "worms" are dividing. If they are bacteria they would likely have to "bud" or conjugate at some point. If that can be found, then maybe we are talking about something interesting here.

Funding (1)

cameigons (1617181) | more than 4 years ago | (#30250458)

I wonder if these reports will get them the government funding they've been dying for so their engineering department can work towards the mars trip. If it doesn't I don't know what else will.

marsgate? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30250798)

Until I see their internal emails, I won't even believe them if they tell me what they had for lunch. All Scientists are lowlife scum who just want to suck at the teat of the taxpayer.

Re:marsgate? (1)

cameigons (1617181) | more than 4 years ago | (#30250868)

You must be a troll, a very sad one. Cause if you're not I would object what are you even doing on this website.

Re:marsgate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30251896)

I am not a troll. You people who push this bullshit are.

Global warming has been PROVEN to be a hoax, and it just makes me wonder what other entire branches of science are hoaxes as well, with conspirator scientists forging data to guarantee themselves HUGE sums of funding. Space "science" is almost certainly a good candidate for another area where fraud is rampant. All of science needs an enema.

Re:Funding (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251846)

That might also depend whether or not the ones deciding, at that particular time, about the funding actually don't mind such discovery...

Methodical Research Trumps Tantalizing Evidence (1)

reporter (666905) | more than 4 years ago | (#30250490)

The persistent reports [timesonline.co.uk] of tantalizing evidence does not substitute for methodical research. It would involve going to Mars, collecting samples from various locations on the surface of the planet, and bringing the samples back to earth for analysis.

Under the present circumstances, such methodical research is not possible. A nuclear-powered spaceship, like the one [yahoo.com] proposed by Russia, would still take months to make the round-trip to and from Mars.

Humankind's only hope is the development of a hyper-drive (a. k. a. warp-drive) engine based on the science discovered by Burkhard Heim. The Pentagon is currently exploring the construction of such an engine [hpcc-space.de] .

Re:Methodical Research Trumps Tantalizing Evidence (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30250700)

Humankind's only hope is the development of a hyper-drive

If so we are truly screwed so its a good thing you are talking crap. How did those pacific islanders get to New Zealand without 747s? Beats me.

You know, humans from Africa colonised the entire world several times over before 50000 years ago.

Re:Methodical Research Trumps Tantalizing Evidence (2, Funny)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251372)

You know, humans from Africa colonised the entire world several times over before 50000 years ago.

Nah, they didn't get to the Americas that long ago.

Re:Methodical Research Trumps Tantalizing Evidence (2, Insightful)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 4 years ago | (#30250748)

It's a 9 month journey to mars, and 9 months back. I don't think we'll need warp drives for that. The only thing that stops us is the will to do it.

Re:Methodical Research Trumps Tantalizing Evidence (2, Insightful)

cameigons (1617181) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251086)

There's a whole lot of people with lots of will and wits to do it. It's just that the 'money people' doesn't seem to be an expressive crowd among them, and the government thinks it's better to spend our taxpayer's money giving it away to banks or killing and starving already dirt-poor people in the middle east. Also, It all sounds very exciting when some promising report such as this one comes out on the media. But there's a few engineering and life-sustaining problems to be overcome so the trip becomes reality, and research in that area is more often than not preceded by years of seemingly(or 'from a business perspective') fruitless research. Imo, that seems to have driven some potential investors away.

Re:Methodical Research Trumps Tantalizing Evidence (2, Insightful)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251268)

Well that's sort of what I meant by the "will to do it". The people that can green light a project like that, won't, because of political fear, and short-sightedness.

Re:Methodical Research Trumps Tantalizing Evidence (2, Interesting)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251060)

Humankind's only hope is the development of a hyper-drive (a. k. a. warp-drive) engine based on the science discovered by Burkhard Heim.

Nonsense. Such a drive would still take us too long to get to another world. It would take us minutes perhaps even hours which we don't have. We already know that's too long! We must use the power of sarcasm to move without moving! That way we don't have to consider anything remotely difficult at all.

More seriously, even with chemical propulsion, the worst case, you can get to Mars in about six months. Sure it's a hard problem, but that's all that it is. There's nothing impossible about getting to Mars. It would be nice to have some far faster means of getting there, but it's not necessary.

Re:Methodical Research Trumps Tantalizing Evidence (2, Insightful)

cameigons (1617181) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251274)

More seriously, even with chemical propulsion, the worst case, you can get to Mars in about six months. Sure it's a hard problem, but that's all that it is. There's nothing impossible about getting to Mars. It would be nice to have some far faster means of getting there, but it's not necessary.

But, considering that's the way to go, can you estimate how much would that cost to assemble,test, launch, deploy, etc? Would the astronauts have canned food for a year or would have some sort of greenhouse to grow their own? Can they carry the necessary amount of fuel to be used in the years they'll spent on the trip? How much would the payload be.... How exactly would they avoid the martian windstorms(this might pose a problem specially to the launch back to Earth) and extreme temperature variations.. I'm just saying, we can't overlook the "details".

Re:Methodical Research Trumps Tantalizing Evidence (1)

MoralHazard (447833) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251144)

Heim wasn't exactly a crank, but your cheerleading of him is pretty crank-ish.

Just out of curiousity, what level of formal physics education did you complete?

No wonder we look at Mars. (2, Insightful)

cefek (148764) | more than 4 years ago | (#30250546)

It is our genes that push our kind to the Space, and it is our genes that are calling home. Wonderful thing that somewhere in our DNA strands lies our extraterrestial legacy.

It could be the nature that put us here. It must be our civilizational effort to get outta here... before we shred this planet to pieces.

Re:No wonder we look at Mars. (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30250642)

A DNA sequence from Mars would certainly be something. My bet would be on building a DNA instrument into a probe, rather than on sample return.

Re:No wonder we look at Mars. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30251382)

I agree.

I wonder if it'd be possible in this world to get all nations to give a portion of their wealth to ensuring that an open numbered and nationed group of scientists would get all the support it needs in order to get out of this planet before we run out of resources to do so, and to make it happen as soon as possible in order to avoid certain random extinction events, such a meteors or truly setbackking events, such as massive volcano eruptions. And if it's not possible, then what the hell is happening and how does one make it stop? Anyone?

Ancient Life on Mars? Big Deal. (3, Funny)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#30250986)

I found no shortage of ancient life when I was in Miami last year.

mod dowN (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30251150)

chosen, wh4tever [goat.cx]

Wait a second.. (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251220)

These scientists are dead wrong. Men are from mars- not bacteria. Life probably started and spread from Jupiter, given how the guy loved to sleep around.

Re:Wait a second.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30251276)

Really, if you want to get mythological, Apollo slept around more than Zeus/Jupiter.

Punchline: Apollo is the sun.

Re:Wait a second.. (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 4 years ago | (#30252070)

Men are from mars- not bacteria. Yeah, and some bacteria are definitely venereal.

Contamination Hypothesis (1)

Zobeid (314469) | more than 4 years ago | (#30251746)

This one comment from the bacteria expert set off a red flag with me: "But it turns out that the magnetic bacteria make some very unique shapes of magnetite crystals. And one of the organisms we work with on Earth makes particles that look virtually identical to what we see from Mars in the meteorite."

Virtually identical? What are the odds?

OK, that's a rhetorical question. I have no idea what the odds are. But it would suggest going the extra mile in ruling out terrestrial contamination, before we declare life on Mars.

Re:Contamination Hypothesis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30252034)

So you are arguing that some bacteria were driving a car over Antarctica's icy surface 13000 ya, found a fallen rocky meteorite, assaulted it and inseminated with magnetite. Oh yeah, that sounds likely.

The meteorite came from outer space and had gas concentrations consistent with Mars.

The only alternative explanation for that is that it came from Earth many billion years ago when its atmosphere was presumably similar to Mars'. Only that there is no evidence for that Mars-like atmosphere.

In any case, the chances for an single species remaining unchanged for that long are about the same if life had always stayed on Earth as would be if it had been on Mars.

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