In 1996, NASA stunned the world by announcing evidence of life found within a meteorite recovered in Antarctica. They found evidence of organic chemicals, microfossils, and mineral waste products in close proximity to each other within the meteorite, leading to their conclusion that life existed in the cracks within the rock. But questions still remain: Are these materials evidence of life or some other process? And if they are by products of bacteria, could they merely be the remains of terrestrial microbes infiltrating the meteorite? All in all, questions remain before a definitive answer can be found.
But this new announcement could the valuable corroboration. The UQ team identified microscopic, magnetic crystals within the meteorite that matched crystals contained in the structures of common terrestrial bacteria collected on a golf course.
Dr Taylor, who now works for the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation in Sydney, said this research seriously challenges doubts of skeptical scientists by discovering that many bacteria match the features found in the Martian meteorite.
“Our research shows that the structures found in the NASA meteorite were more than likely made by bacteria present on Mars four billion years ago, before life even started on Earth,” said Dr Taylor.
How cool is that? Did life once exist on Mars? Even more tantalizing; did life on Mars provide the seed for life on our planet billions of years ago? People wonder why we send probe after probe to Mars, looking for evidence of water and life – well here’s a pretty good reason. The discovery of extra-terrestrial life ought to be a worthy subject of scientific research. And those two rovers putting around on the red planet right now are helping to answer these questions.