Is life possible on Mars?

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      In July, 1996, it was announced that Dr. David McKay, along with a team of scientists at Johnson Space Center (a division of NASA), had discovered possible fossils of bacteria in a meteorite named ALH84001 that came from Mars. It was found in the Allen Hills in Antarctica in 1984 after having landed there 12,000 years ago. While many scientists were excited at first, much of the proof offered fell apart. NASA said that after two years of study “a number of lines of evidence have gone away”.

      Several different chemicals and molecular structures were exciting because they looked similar to byproducts of life on Earth. However, these chemicals and structures can also be created without life. Some are even present in deep space on comets, and scientists do not think that they came from Martian life anymore.

      Small spheres were observed in the meteorite which the scientists in 1996 claimed were the fossilized remains of bacteria. However, they are roughly 1000 times smaller than the smallest bacteria on Earth, so don’t resemble any life thought to be possible. Organic (carbon containing) compounds were found with the spheres, but it turned out that the organic compounds became a part of the meteorite after it landed on Earth (possibly when water seeped in a couple times over the 12,000 years the rock laid in Antarctica). Carbon 14, an isotope found on Earth is present in the organic compounds, but not in the spheres.

      As part of a more thorough search, the Mars Surveyor Program was put in place. Five spacecraft in all were to be sent to Mars between 1996 and 2005. Those spacecraft were to include the Mars Global Surveyor, and the Mars Climate Orbiter and Polar Lander. Unfortunately, the Mars Climate Orbiter and Polar Lander have been lost. Scientists still hope that after all the information is gathered, they might know more about the evolution of Mars and its potential to harbor life.

      Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction

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