Life may have started on Mars before arriving on Earth, a major scientific conference has heard.
New research supports an idea that the Red Planet was a better place to kick-start biology billions of years ago than the early Earth was.
The evidence is based on how the first molecules necessary for life were assembled.
Details of the theory were outlined by Prof Steven Benner at the Goldschmidt Meeting in Florence, Italy.
Scientists have long wondered how atoms first came together to make up the three crucial molecular components of living organisms: RNA, DNA and proteins.
The molecules that combined to form genetic material are far more complex than the primordial “pre-biotic” soup of organic (carbon-based) chemicals thought to have existed on the Earth more than three billion years ago, and RNA (ribonucleic acid) is thought to have been the first of them to appear.
Simply adding energy such as heat or light to the more basic organic molecules in the “soup” does not generate RNA. Instead, it generates tar.
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RNA needs to be coaxed into shape by “templating” atoms at the crystalline surfaces of minerals.
The minerals most effective at templating RNA would have dissolved in the oceans of the early Earth, but would have been more abundant on Mars, according to Prof Benner.
This could suggest that life started on the Red Planet before being transported to Earth on meteorites, argues Prof Benner, of the Westheimer Institute of Science and Technology in Gainesville, US.
The idea that life originated on Mars and was then transported to our planet has been mooted before. But Prof Benner’s ideas add another twist to the theory of a Martian origin for the terrestrial biosphere.
engadget.com | By James Trew
Is there life on Mars? NASA’s latest mission to the red planet might well answer that question, or perhaps the more pertinent question, was there life on Mars. At 10:02 AM EST on November 26th last year, the space agency’s Mars Science Laboratory (to give the mission its full name) set off on its eight-month journey to the red planet. The most advanced equipment ever sent to the planet — and the biggest-ever rover — should allow exploration of some of the most interesting regions, over far larger distances than ever previously covered. On arrival, after negotiating a tricky landing, the mobile laboratory (that’s Curiosity) will spend a Martian year (687 Earth days) analyzing rock samples and seeking evidence of conditions suitable for microbial life or — we can live in hope — actual evidence of the same. After the break, we take a look at some of the key events over the first seven days on the planet’s surface.
The Mars Descent Imager Instrument (MARDI) shows the heat shield after separation from the craft.The descentAt 01:32 AM EDT on August 6th, the rover Curiosity successfully negotiates its descent to the surface of Mars, landing at the foot of a mountain within Gale Crater. Just a few minutes after landing, the first tantalizing images start to make their way back to earth.
“Today, the wheels of Curiosity have begun to blaze the trail for human footprints on Mars. Curiosity, the most sophisticated rover ever built, is now on the surface of the Red Planet, where it will seek to answer age-old questions about whether life ever existed on Mars” –NASA Administrator Charles Bolden
Curiosity on its descent to the planet’s surface.
Leer más “Life on Mars: One week of Curiosity”