Life On Mars?

  • Share
  • Read Later
WASHINGTON, D.C.: Tiny golden flecks in a 4.5 pound rock that tumbled out of space into an Antarctic ice field 13,000 years ago have yielded what may be the most significant planetary find in decades. After studying the Martian meteorite for two years, NASA and Stanford University scientists say they have discovered signs of life on Mars. President Clinton immediately announced a "space summit" in November to set strategy for exploring the finding. Said Clinton: "I am determined the American space program will put its full intellectual power and technological prowess behind the search for further evidence of life on Mars." The scientists found that the pinpoint-sized flecks contained hydrocarbons, which may be the fossil remains of Martian bacteria, single-celled life forms that thrived on the red planet 3.5 billion years ago. The meteorite, called Allan Hills 84001, contains organic molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) which in this case are said to be the byproducts of metabolic processes. The PAH molecules were recovered from cracks in the rock, which means they were probably deposited after the rock was formed, and not left behind by heating and cooling. Also present in the samples are magnetite and iron sulfide, which on Earth are associated with bacterial action. "As the number of solar systems and planets we've discovered increases," says TIME's Jeffrey Kluger, "it becomes less and less likely that we are alone in the universe. The major import of this discovery could be the realization that life doesn't have to be an outrageously unlikely assemblage of improbable elements. Perhaps, given light, water and a few rudimentary hydrocarbons life could begin relatively easily." -->