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June 14, 2013

In Hawaii, as on Mars, Lava Tubes Hide Secrets Beneath the Surface Discover
Thanks to satellite imagery, we now know that both Mars and the moon also have lava tubes and skylights. These caves and holes likely formed the same way they do on Earth. As a channel of molten lava flows, its top layer, exposed to air, cools and forms a crust. Below, the hotter lava continues to course until it empties out, leaving behind a tube-like cave. Skylights form when parts of the lava tube ceiling collapse. Sometimes these ceilings crumble and completely block access to the cave. Other times, they fall away clean, leaving pits with dangerous, potentially unstable overhangs. But once in a while, the rocks fall in such a way to give unfettered access to a lava-carved tunnel.

March 28, 2013

Why a Mars Comet Impact Would be Awesome Discovery News
When Jupiter’s tides ripped Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 to shreds, only for the icy chunks to succumb to the intense Jovian gravity, ultimately slamming into the gas giant’s atmosphere, mankind was treated to a rare cosmic spectacle (in human timescales at least). That was the first time in modern history that we saw a comet do battle with a planet… and lose. But next year, astronomers think there’s a chance — albeit a small one — of a neighboring planet getting punched by an icy interplanetary interloper. However, this planet doesn’t have a generously thick atmosphere to soften the blow. Rather than causing bruises in a dense, molecular hydrogen atmosphere, this comet will pass through the atmosphere like it wasn’t even there and hit the planetary surface like a cosmic pile-driver, ripping into the crust. What’s more, we’d have robotic eyes on the ground and in orbit should the worst happen.

March 12, 2013

NASA Rover Finds Conditions Once Suited for Ancient Life on Mars
An analysis of a rock sample collected by NASA's Curiosity rover shows ancient Mars could have supported living microbes. Scientists identified sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon -- some of the key chemical ingredients for life -- in the powder Curiosity drilled out of a sedimentary rock near an ancient stream bed in Gale Crater on the Red Planet last month. "A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment," said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "From what we know now, the answer is yes."

December 4, 2012

Opportunity Rover Finds Mars Minerals That Formed in Life-Friendly Water Wired
While attention has been focused on the Mars rover Curiosity, NASA’s other active Mars rover, Opportunity, has quietly been going about its business and may have stumbled across an intriguing new geologic puzzle. Opportunity has begun examining ancient clays on Mars that would have formed in the presence of water with neutral acidity, a condition favorable for life as we know it. “This is our first glimpse ever at an ancient Mars where conditions would be suitable for life,” said astronomer Steve Squyres of Cornell University, the lead scientist for Opportunity’s mission, here at the American Geophysical Union conference on December 4, 2012

December 3, 2012

Mars rover finds simple organics, but results not yet conclusive CNET
Despite widespread speculation about a potentially significant discovery on Mars, the Curiosity rover's first detailed look at a Martian soil sample with an instrument capable of detecting organic compounds hasn't found any "definitive" signs of materials that play key roles in biological processes on Earth, scientists said Monday. While the rover's Sample Analysis at Mars, or SAM, instrument detected signs of an oxygen-chlorine compound -- perchlorate -- and trace amounts of chlorinated methane compounds, which contain carbon, researchers say more tests are needed to make sure the carbon originated with the sample and was not brought to Mars aboard Curiosity.

October 29, 2012

Manned mission to Mars could threaten life on the Red planet The Economic Times
It could be decades before man steps foot on Mars, but scientists have warned that if he ever does, he'll bring with him trillions of tiny invaders that pose danger of contaminating the Red planet. Scientists say a swarming mass of 100 trillion microbes will travel with every astronaut who may land on Mars. While these microbes have evolved over thousands of years to help humans do everything from digesting their food to keeping bacteria from killing them, there's no telling how they might interact with the Martian environment, the Daily Mail reported.

October 18, 2012

‘Biological Teleporter’ Will Find Martian DNA, Beam It Back to Earth TechNewsDaily
Scientific maverick J. Craig Venter says he is confident there is life on Mars and this week announced plans to send a "biological teleporter" to the Red Planet to find Martian DNA and beam it back to Earth. “There will be life forms there,” Venter, who is best known for helping to sequence the human genome, said at a Wired Health conference held in New York this week. According to the Los Angeles Times, Venter said he plans to send a machine to Mars to seek out Martian life and sequence its DNA. The alien genome could then be beamed back to Earth, where it could be reassembled in a super-secure space lab. "People are worried about the Andromeda strain," Venter said. "We can rebuild the Martians in a P-4 spacesuit lab instead of having them land in the ocean."

April 12, 2012

Mars Viking Robots 'Found Life' Discovery News
New analysis of 36-year-old data, resuscitated from printouts, shows NASA found life on Mars, an international team of mathematicians and scientists conclude in a paper published this week. Further, NASA doesn't need a human expedition to Mars to nail down the claim, neuropharmacologist and biologist Joseph Miller, with the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, told Discovery News. "The ultimate proof is to take a video of a Martian bacteria. They should send a microscope -- watch the bacteria move," Miller said. "On the basis of what we've done so far, I'd say I'm 99 percent sure there's life there," he added.

February 6, 2012

ESA's Mars Express radar gives strong evidence for former Mars ocean
ESA's Mars Express has returned strong evidence for an ocean once covering part of Mars. Using radar, it has detected sediments reminiscent of an ocean floor within the boundaries of previously identified, ancient shorelines on Mars. The MARSIS radar was deployed in 2005 and has been collecting data ever since. Jérémie Mouginot, Institut de Planétologie et d'Astrophysique de Grenoble (IPAG) and the University of California, Irvine, and colleagues have analysed more than two years of data and found that the northern plains are covered in low-density material. "We interpret these as sedimentary deposits, maybe ice-rich," says Dr Mouginot. "It is a strong new indication that there was once an ocean here."

August 4, 2011

NASA Spacecraft Data Suggest Water Flowing on Mars
Observations from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have revealed possible flowing water during the warmest months on Mars. "NASA's Mars Exploration Program keeps bringing us closer to determining whether the Red Planet could harbor life in some form,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said, “and it reaffirms Mars as an important future destination for human exploration." Dark, finger-like features appear and extend down some Martian slopes during late spring through summer, fade in winter, and return during the next spring. Repeated observations have tracked the seasonal changes in these recurring features on several steep slopes in the middle latitudes of Mars' southern hemisphere. "The best explanation for these observations so far is the flow of briny water," said Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona, Tucson. McEwen is the principal investigator for the orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) and lead author of a report about the recurring flows published in Thursday's edition of the journal Science.

April 20, 2011

Black plants 'could grow' on exoplanets with two suns
Plants on distant hospitable planets could have developed black foliage and flowers to survive, according to a new study. Flora that would appear black or grey to human eyes could have evolved on planets orbiting dim "red dwarf" stars, according to unpublished research that is being presented at the National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno, Wales.

January 7, 2011

Viking Found Organics on Mars, Experiment Confirms Discovery News
More than 30 years after NASA's Viking landers found no evidence for organic materials on Mars, scientists say a new experiment on Mars-like soil shows Viking did, in fact, hit pay dirt. The new study was prompted by the August 2008 discovery of powerful oxygen-busting compounds known as perchlorates at the landing site of another Mars probe called Phoenix. Scientists repeated a key Viking experiment using perchlorate-enhanced soil from Chile's Atacama Desert, which is considered one of the driest and most Mars-like places on Earth, and found telltale fingerprints of combusted organics -- the same chemicals Viking scientists dismissed as contaminants from Earth. "Contrary to 30 years of perceived wisdom, Viking did detect organic materials on Mars," planetary scientist Christopher McKay, with NASA's Ames Research Center in California, told Discovery News. "It's like a 30-year-old cold case suddenly solved with new facts."

September 14, 2010

Building Blocks for Life on Mars Possibly Seen By Viking Probes, Study Suggests
Samples of Mars dirt collected by NASA's Viking Mars landers back in the 1970s may have contained carbon-based chemical building blocks of life as we know it, a new study suggests. During their missions, the two Viking landers vaporized Martian dirt and scrutinized the samples for signs of organic - or carbon-based - molecules that could serve as the raw ingredients for life. At the time, all they found were chlorine compounds attributed to contamination, but the new research suggests the Viking probes' heat-treatment may have generated these chlorine compounds from naturally occurring Martian organics, destroying them in the process. "This doesn't say anything about the question of whether or not life has existed on Mars, but it could make a big difference in how we look for evidence to answer that question," study co-author Chris McKay, of NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., said in a statement.

August 12, 2010

Argentine lake may offer clues to life on Mars
A lake in Argentina's remote, inhospitable northwest may offer clues on how life got started on Earth and how it could survive on other planets, scientists say. Researchers have found millions of "super" bacteria thriving inside the oxygen-starved Lake Diamante, in the center of a giant volcanic crater located over 15,400 feet above sea level. The bacteria's habitat is similar to primitive earth, before living and breathing organisms began wrapping a protective atmosphere of oxygen around the planet. The conditions -- which include high arsenic and alkaline levels -- could also shed light on life beyond Earth.

June 9, 2010

Geological map points to ancient seas on Mars Astronomy Now
A geological map, created using data from a plethora of orbiting spacecraft, presents new evidence that lakes persisted early in Mars' history. The map focuses on Hellas Planitia, an area located in the planet's southern hemisphere that is well known for its giant impact basin – the Hellas basin – which spans over 2,000 kilometres in diameter and plunges to a depth of eight kilometres.
Extreme Life on Earth Could Survive on Mars, Too
A new discovery of bacterial life in a Martian-like environment on Earth suggests our neighboring red planet could also be hospitable to some form of microbial life. Researchers found methane-eating bacteria that appear to be thriving in a unique spring called Lost Hammer on Axel Heiberg Island in the extreme north of Canada. This spring is similar to possible past or present springs on Mars, the scientists say, so it hints that microbial life could potentially exist there, too. There is no firm evidence that Mars does or ever did host life, however.

June 4, 2010

NASA Rover Finds Clue to Mars' Past And Environment for Life
Rocks examined by NASA's Spirit Mars Rover hold evidence of a wet, non-acidic ancient environment that may have been favorable for life. Confirming this mineral clue took four years of analysis by several scientists. An outcrop that Spirit examined in late 2005 revealed high concentrations of carbonate, which originates in wet, near-neutral conditions, but dissolves in acid. The ancient water indicated by this find was not acidic. NASA's rovers have found other evidence of formerly wet Martian environments. However the data for those environments indicate conditions that may have been acidic. In other cases, the conditions were definitely acidic, and therefore less favorable as habitats for life. Laboratory tests helped confirm the carbonate identification. The findings were published online Thursday, June 3 by the journal Science.

May 11, 2010

Planet Mars: Searching for Life Continues The Voice of Russia
Any proof that there’s life on Mars is still non-existent. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) agency of the U.S. government has made a statement to that effect in answer to the sensational article in the British tabloid newspaper “The Sun”, saying that the Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, have allegedly found a biological substance similar to a bog. It is really not very important whether purposefully or simply wrongly interpreting the NASA reports, the author of the publication in the daily tabloid newspaper “The Sun” deceived its readers. In any case, everybody, as before, is interested to know whether there is life on Mars. New arguments have appeared in the dispute over the presence of primitive life on Mars. Scientists have proved that there’re bacteria on the Earth, which can live under extreme conditions, similar to the conditions existing on Planet Mars. This provides us sufficient grounds to reconsider the results of the experiments, which denied the existence of life on Mars.

April 29, 2010

Broadcast 1352 (Special Edition) - Guest: Dr. Robert Zubrin The Space Show
Topics: Human spaceflight, US space policy, Mars. Dr. Robert Zubrin was our guest for this non-stop two hour program to discuss the proposed changes in US space policy and why having a destination is so important for our national space program. For more information, visit The Mars Society website at Note the coming Mars Society Conference which Dr. Zubrin told us about, scheduled for Dayton, Ohio from August 5-8, 2010. Dr. Zubrin started our discussion saying that we could go to Mars in about ten years as technology was not the issue. I then asked why even have a human spaceflight program and why Mars. Bob provided us with a comprehensive response and discussion to both of these questions. In fact, this nearly two hour discussion was action packed, covered lots of aspects of space policy, was very comprehensive, and while he was critical of administration policy, he also offered solutions to the problems he described. During our discussion, Dr. Zubrin had much to say about the Augustine Commission findings, Science Advisor John Holdren, the budget expenses earmarked for the ISS when the US will not be visiting the ISS except using the Soyuz, and more. Listeners asked him about nuclear rockets, specifically Vasimr. Dr. Zubrin who has his doctorate in nuclear engineering, had much to say about nuclear rocket propulsion including Vasimr and nuclear thermal which is quite different. Listen to what he had to say about these different types of propulsion and why one is doable and one is extremely hard and costly since it requires so much added power, the latter being VASIMIR. Dr. Zubrin dissected the administration plan, especially the part about heavy lift. Listeners suggested that the research called for in the administration plan for heavy lift was about getting affordable heavy lift. Listen carefully to what Dr. Zubrin had to say about this and the entire research program suggested in the administration plan. Bob went to great lengths to talk about why policy needs a destination and time line, be it the Moon, a NEO, or Mars. He offered us many insights about programs without destination goals and timelines. Do you agree with him? Other listeners asked him many questions about Mars Direct including a potential test flight program, tethers, artificial gravity, and needed milestones. He was asked about a Mars fly by mission or landing on Phobos, he talked about orbital propellant depots, the differences in radiation for an ISS crew as compared to a Mars Direct crew. Toward the end of the program, Bob explained the old but important political doctrine of Thomas Malthus known as Malthusianism and why this is the opposite of what space development is all about. Listen to what Dr. Zubrin had to say about this and its influence in the current administration. At the end of the program, I asked him for his thoughts on the use of commercial launch providers and he said he was supportive of that as long as they can meet the requirements and do it. He indirectly referenced the GAP in this discussion but again said a program without destinations and time frames is a flawed or no program at all.
NASA scientist discusses life on Mars in Bozeman lecture May 5
A visiting scientist from NASA will discuss the evidence of life on Mars at a free community lecture on Wednesday, May 5, in Bozeman. Dave Des Marais of NASA's Ames Research Center in California will discuss why researchers believe that habitable environments probably existed on Mars more than three billion years ago. The Opportunity rover found evidence of saline lakes and groundwater on Mars, while the Spirit rover discovered rocks altered by liquid water and pure silica formed by hydrothermal activity. Orbiters have discovered widespread additional mineralogical evidence of ancient watery environments. The free public lecture begins at 7 p.m. at the Emerson Center for the Arts and Culture, 111 S. Grand Avenue in Bozeman. Light refreshments will be served. The presentation is part of the Community Lecture Series sponsored by Montana State University's Thermal Biology Institute, Astrobiology Biogeocatalysis Research Center and NSF-EPSCoR.

March 13, 2010

Happy Birthday, Percival Lowell, First to Imagine Life on Mars findingDulcinea
A naturally gifted mathematician, Percival Lowell shunned convention to pursue theories that walked the line between science fiction and scientific prophecy. He was compelled to explore uncharted territory, whether it be the Far East or outer space. The first to suggest life on Mars and the existence of a ninth planet, Lowell inspired researchers and writers for generations to come.

March 10, 2010

Gas on Mars Silent But Not Deadly Miller-McCune
Scientists have ruled out the possibility that the presence of methane gas on Mars is due to meteorites or volcanic activity. Recent research in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters highlights the hope that the consistent levels of methane on the Red Planet could be the result of microorganisms in the Martian soil that are producing the gas as a “by-product of their metabolic processes.”

March 8, 2010

Unusual Gullies and Channels on Mars
What could have formed these unusual channels? Inside Newton Basin on Mars, numerous narrow channels run from the top down to the floor. The above picture covers a region spanning about 1500 meters across. These and other gullies have been found on Mars in recent high-resolution pictures taken by the orbiting Mars Global Surveyor robot spacecraft. Similar channels on Earth are formed by flowing water, but on Mars the temperature is normally too cold and the atmosphere too thin to sustain liquid water. Nevertheless, many scientists hypothesize that liquid groundwater can sometimes surface on Mars, erode gullies and channels, and pool at the bottom before freezing and evaporating. If so, life-sustaining ice and water might exist even today below the Martian surface -- water that could potentially support a human mission to Mars. Research into this exciting possibility is sure to continue!

March 2, 2010

Mars's Environment Shown to Be Hostile, but Not Untenable for Earthly Microbes Scientific American
Microbes similar to those on Earth would have a tough time surviving the harsh environment of Mars, but it is not inconceivable that they could persist there given a little protection, according to a new study. The finding supports similar, previous work and lends credence to the theory that if microbial life ever arose on Mars, it could exist below the planet's surface to this day. Mars is in most respects a terrible habitat for life as we know it: winter temperatures can dip below –100 degrees Celsius, the atmosphere contains little oxygen, and without the benefit of a robust ozone layer the Martian surface is bombarded with ultraviolet (UV) solar radiation.

December 9, 2009

Mars methane 'not from meteors'
The methane found on Mars is not brought to the planet by meteor strikes, scientists say. Meteoritic material subjected to high temperatures did not release enough methane to account for the amount believed to be released on Mars. The researchers argue that the methane must therefore be created by geologic or chemical processes, or it is a by-product of microbial life. The work appears in Earth and Planetary Science Letters. The origin of the methane on Mars has remained a mystery since it was first detected in 2004. Because methane has a limited lifetime in the Martian atmosphere before degrading, some process must be pumping hundreds of tonnes of it into the Martian atmosphere annually to keep it at the levels that have been detected.

December 1, 2009

NASA: compelling evidence of life on Mars The Daily Telegraph
A research team at Johnson Space Centre in Houston has been re-examining a meteorite that hit Antarctica 13,000 years ago, and found the most compelling evidence yet that the planet once harboured bacterial life. The team says that microscopic crystals found in the rock are almost certainly fossilised bacteria that have many characteristics in common with bacteria found on Earth. “The evidence supporting the possibility of past life on Mars has been slowly building up during the past decade,” said David McKay, NASA chief scientist for exploration and astrobiology. “This evidence includes signs of past surface water including remains of rivers, lakes and possibly oceans and signs of current water near or at the surface.”

November 29, 2009

Martian meteorite surrenders new secrets of possible life Spaceflight Now
Compelling new data that chemical and fossil evidence of ancient microbial life on Mars was carried to Earth in a Martian meteorite is being elevated to a higher plane by the same NASA team which made the initial discovery 13 years ago. Sources tell Spaceflight Now that the new data are providing a powerful new case for the Allen Hills Meteorite to have carried strong evidence of Martian life to Earth -- evidence that is increasingly standing up to scrutiny as new analytical tools are used to examine the specimen.

November 11, 2009

Extremophiles: Life on the Edge mental_floss
The possibility of life on Mars and other planets and moons has been debated for as long as we have known about those planets. Now that water has been found on the Mars, that possibility is more believable than ever. Sure, conditions are fierce on Mars, but research here on planet Earth reveals that life forms can be tough. In fact, wherever it was once thought that no life could exist, more and more organisms are being found that not only live, but thrive and evolve.

November 8, 2009

US Armed Forces Listened for Messages from Mars io9
In 1924, Earth saw its closest Mars opposition in over a century, and some thought our Martian neighbors might use the event to attempt contact. So for one night, US Naval and Army stations scanned the skies for extraterrestrial transmissions. On August 22, 1924, the Earth was 55,777,566 km from the Red Planet during the Mars opposition, offering ideal conditions for receiving radio signals from Mars — if anyone happened to be sending them. Amherst College professor David Todd persuaded both the US Army and Navy to listen for messages from Mars. In the telegram above, Edward W. Eberle, the Chief of US Naval Operations, informs Naval stations of the possibility of Martian communications, and instructs them to report any unusual phenomena. For three days, the stations listened for unusual transmissions, but came up empty handed.

October 26, 2009

Mars Caves Might Protect Microbes (or Astronauts)
series of newly discovered depressions on the Martian surface could be the entrances to a cave system on the red planet. Hints of subsurface tunnels have been found in images of Mars before, but the new evidence is more suggestive, said Glen Cushing, a physicist with the U.S. Geological Survey who discovered the possible caves. Such a subsurface system could provide shelter to future Mars-visiting astronauts, as well as a protective habitat to any potential past or present Martian microbes, Cushing said.

June 11, 2009

Is there a Life On Mars Conspiracy? Times Online
Some pesky scientists have just pointed out an appalling design error in NASA’s latest attempts to find life on Mars. This is beginning to look like a conspiracy. Does someone not want us to find life on Mars? NASA has tried looking for signs of life on Mars precisely once, in the 1976 Viking mission. The result was positive. The reason nobody says there is life on Mars is that another experiment, part of the same mission, couldn’t find any carbon-based “organic” chemicals in Martian soil. This, NASA decided, overruled the other result: with no carbon present, there could be no microbes living on or under the surface of Mars. Last year, the Phoenix lander repeated the carbon search and failed to find organic molecules. The problem is, we know that there ought to be organic molecules on Mars. Asteroid and comet impacts will have put them there. So what’s going on? Both of the searches for organic molecules, it turns out, have been deeply flawed.

January 15, 2009

Discovery of methane reveals Mars is not a dead planet Spaceflight Now
team of NASA and university scientists has achieved the first definitive detection of methane in the atmosphere of Mars. This discovery indicates the planet is either biologically or geologically active. The team found methane in the Martian atmosphere by carefully observing the planet throughout several Mars years with NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility and the W.M. Keck telescope, both at Mauna Kea, Hawaii. The team used spectrometers on the telescopes to spread the light into its component colors, as a prism separates white light into a rainbow. The team detected three spectral features called absorption lines that together are a definitive signature of methane.

January 14, 2009

Life on Mars - Nasa's historic discovery of methane on Mars The Sun
ALIEN microbes living just below the Martian soil are responsible for a haze of methane around the Red Planet, Nasa scientists believe. The gas, belched in vast quantities in our world by cows, was detected by orbiting spacecraft and from Earth using giant telescopes.
Mars methane discovery hints at presence of life Telegraph UK
Nasa scientists have detected "plumes" of methane on Mars, possibly indicating organic activity on the Red Planet.

November 11, 2008

Has Mars Science Laboratory Made the Discovery of the Decade? The Daily Galaxy
Planetary scientists at NASA's Goddard Flight Center claim to have identified hotspots of methane gas emission, extremely localized plumes whose concentration fades quickly in time. An atmosphere-wide distribution that's stable in time would indicate a balance between geological sources and destruction by sunlight. Localized sources, however, suggest much more active sources. What's the best source of methane most people know about? Cows. That's unlikely on Mars. But backing off a level, the important factor is LIFE. NASA team leader Michael Mumma puts forward the idea that subterranean bacteria could be producing the noxious fumes, which periodically percolate to the surface in short lived bursts. But it could also be a geological source deep below the surface. The CH4 was identified spectroscopically, analyzing the exact wavelengths of the light emitted from certain regions over time. It's exactly the same strategy the astronomers of old used, "just looking at what color things are", but since we worked out (some) quantum mechanics the same light can tell us so much more. Unfortunately, it can't make the crucial distinction between life or rock-based gas. But if we can just get a bit closer we can find out.

October 10, 2008

Goldmine bug DNA may be key to alien life New Scientist
A bug discovered deep in a goldmine and nicknamed "the bold traveller" has got astrobiologists buzzing with excitement. Its unique ability to live in complete isolation of any other living species suggests it could be the key to life on other planets. A community of the bacteria Candidatus Desulforudis audaxviator has been discovered 2.8 kilometres beneath the surface of the Earth in fluid-filled cracks of the Mponeng goldmine in South Africa. Its 60°C home is completely isolated from the rest of the world, and devoid of light and oxygen.

September 6, 2008

On Mars, Does Fire Plus Ice Equal Life? Discovery News
If life on Mars exists, it may dwell in a violent home. The Red Planet is no stranger to fiery volcanic eruptions: It is home to the solar system's largest volcano, Olympus Mons. The planet is also well-endowed with ice, which has collected in large sheets near its north and south poles. Yet a key ingredient for life as we know it -- liquid water -- remains elusive. But what if fire met ice in the Martian north? On Earth, volcanoes sometimes erupt beneath glaciers, melting huge quantities of water and spawning massive floods. Lakes of meltwater are sometimes pinned at the bottoms of glaciers.

August 5, 2008

Scientists debate the meaning of mineral found on Mars Arizona Daily Star
The unanticipated discovery of a mineral in Mars’ arctic soil doesn’t rule out the possibility that the red planet could support life, scientists with the Phoenix lander said today. While cautioning that the discovery of perchlorate, an oxidizing agent found in rocket fuel, still had to be confirmed by more experiments, scientists with the UA-led Phoenix Mars Mission rejected speculation that the mineral’s presence killed the possibility of life on the planet. “These compounds are quite stable and don’t destroy organic compounds,” said Peter Smith, the UA’s lead scientist for the mission. “This is an important piece in the puzzle and it is neither good nor bad for life.” While perchlorate can be hazardous to some life forms on Earth, others use the molecules for life, including in remote arid desert regions. “The interesting thing is perchlorate is a relatively inert oxidant,” said Richard Quinn, a mission scientist. “There are some microbes that use it as an energy source.”
Toxin in soil may mean no life on Mars
NASA's Phoenix lander has discovered a toxic chemical in soil near Mars' north pole, dimming hopes for finding life on the Red Planet, the probe's operators said Monday. The chemical, perchlorate, is an oxidant widely used in solid rocket fuel. Researchers are still puzzling over the results and checking to make sure the perchlorate wasn't carried to Mars from Earth, the University of Arizona-based science team said. "While we have not completed our process on these soil samples, we have very interesting intermediate results," Peter Smith, the principal investigator for the project, said in a written statement. Early readings from a device aboard Phoenix called the Microscopy, Electrochemistry and Conductivity Analyzer, or MECA, "suggested Earth-like soil," Smith said. "Further analysis has revealed un-Earthlike aspects of the soil chemistry," he said. The Phoenix team has scheduled a teleconference for Tuesday to discuss the findings.
The Dirt on Mars Phoenix Lander Contamination Wired
Could the Mars Phoenix lander have been contaminated by bacteria from Earth? The possibility was raised by rumor-multipliers feasting on an Aviation Week report that the White House had been briefed on "major new Phoenix lander discoveries concerning the 'potential for life' on Mars." The report has since been retracted, but it raised the prospect, if only wildly, that the Phoenix found Martian soil so habitable because transplanted microbes flourished there. But that, say researchers, is highly unlikely. Mars explorers have a profound self-interest in ensuring that bacterial hitchhikers don't confound their results: imagine asking for NASA funding after claiming a plucky strain of underarm bacteria as extraterrestrial life. And if Earthly bacteria survives a trip and then flourishes, it could upset an alien ecosystem -- the equivalent of finding something rare and priceless by stepping on it.

August 4, 2008

White House Briefed On Potential For Mars Life Aviation Week & Space Technology
The White House has been alerted by NASA about plans to make an announcement soon on major new Phoenix lander discoveries concerning the "potential for life" on Mars, scientists tell Aviation Week & Space Technology. Sources say the new data do not indicate the discovery of existing or past life on Mars. Rather the data relate to habitability--the "potential" for Mars to support life--at the Phoenix arctic landing site, sources say. The data are much more complex than results related NASA's July 31 announcement that Phoenix has confirmed the presence of water ice at the site.

June 10, 2008

Making Sense of Mars Methane Astrobiology Magazine
Research on methane at a Mexican salt flat could help reveal the source of methane that has been detected in the atmosphere of Mars. But first scientists have to decipher the unique – and seemingly contradictory - isotopic signature of the Mexican methane.

June 6, 2008

Could microbes on Phoenix survive on Mars? New Scientist
The Phoenix lander may have been coated with dozens of species of bacteria when it left Earth – and some may be hardy enough to scrape by on Mars, two new studies suggest. But researchers say the parts of the lander that will contact water ice on Mars – which might provide a toehold for life – have been carefully sterilised, minimising the chances that terrestrial life could colonise the planet. NASA has long realised that spacecraft could potentially seed other planets with terrestrial life. To cut the chances of transporting microbes to space, probes such as Phoenix, which landed on the northern plains of Mars on 25 May, are now assembled in clean rooms ventilated with filtered air. NASA also swabs the craft to measure the levels of particularly hardy spore-forming bacteria, which can lay dormant for decades and withstand extreme temperatures. But the agency doesn't routinely check for less resilient bacteria or microbes that can't be cultured, since harsh ultraviolet radiation on Mars is thought to quickly kill most such organisms.

March 9, 2008

Once-Habitable Lake Found on Mars
A lake that might once have been habitable may have filled a crater for a long time on early Mars, new spacecraft images reveal. NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) captured the images that suggest the debris-strewn Holden Crater once held a calm body of water that could have harbored life. There is so far no convincing evidence life does or ever did exist on Mars, however. The crater debris includes a mix of broken boulders and smaller particles called megabreccia.

December 11, 2007

Mars rover finds signs of microbial life
Nasa says its Mars rover Spirit has discovered "the best evidence yet" of a past habitable environment on the planet's surface. Spirit has been exploring a plateau called Home Plate, where it discovered silica-rich soil in May. Researchers are now trying to determine what produced the patch of nearly pure silica - the main ingredient of window glass. They believe the deposits came from an ancient hot-spring environment or an environment called a fumarole, in which acidic steam rises through cracks. On Earth, both of these types of settings teem with microbial life, said rover chief scientist Steve Squyres.

September 17, 2007

Mars 'Pregnancy Test' Orbits Earth
A new experiment similar to a pregnancy test but designed to search for signs of life on Mars is now exposed to the vacuum of space above Earth. The European Space Agency's (ESA) postage-stamp-sized experiment, called the "Life Marker Chip" (LMC), was launched last week aboard a Russian rocket launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. Strapped to the ESA's large Foton-M3 capsule, the tiny experiment harbors more than 2,000 life-detecting samples that glow if they encounter life-critical compounds, such as proteins or DNA. Scientists and engineers hope the life-sensing chip can remain viable in the harsh radiation, temperatures and vacuum of space during a trip to Mars.

April 3, 2007

Possible New Mars Caves Targets in Search for Life
A Mars-orbiting satellite recently spotted seven dark spots near the planet's equator that scientists think could be entrances to underground caves. The football-field sized holes were observed by Mars Odyssey's Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) and have been dubbed the seven sisters --Dena, Chloe, Wendy, Annie, Abbey, Nikki and Jeanne--after loved ones of the researchers who found them. The potential caves were spotted near a massive Martian volcano, Arisa Mons. Their openings range from about 330 to 820 feet (100 to 250 meters) wide, and one of them, Dena, is thought to extend nearly 430 feet (130 meters) beneath the planet's surface. The researchers hope the discovery will lead to more focused spelunking on Mars.

January 7, 2007

Scientist: NASA found life on Mars - and killed it
Two NASA space probes that visited Mars 30 years ago may have found alien microbes on the Red Planet and inadvertently killed them, a scientist is theorizing. The Viking space probes of 1976-77 were looking for the wrong kind of life, so they didn't recognize it, a geology professor at Washington State University said. Dirk Schulze-Makuch presented his theory in a paper delivered at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, Washington. The paper was released Sunday.

November 2, 2006

Antarctic Microbes Handle Mars-Like Conditions
Lab experiments with primitive microbes taken from an Antarctic lake have shown that the hardy single-celled organisms can tolerate at least the warmest of the frigid temperatures found on Mars. And they found that these species of microorganisms "huddled" together in colder temperatures to form a chemically linked unit called a biofilm. The finding marks the first time this phenomenon has been detected in the Antarctic species of so-called extremophiles. The findings provide more evidence for the ideas that liquid found beneath Mars’ surface could harbor microbial life and that life could exist elsewhere in the solar system and galaxy, which is generally incredibly cold.

October 24, 2006

Viking Mission May Have Missed Mars Life, Study Finds National Geographic News
If future missions are to set the record straight, the study's authors add, scientists may need to change the ways in which they search. NASA's Viking Mission to Mars put two landers on the red planet in 1976. Their experiments uncovered mysterious chemical activity in the Martian soil but no clear evidence of life. Now scientists suggest that telltale signs of life could have been there all along, but Viking's testing methods were not robust enough to recognize them.

June 30, 2006

New Way Suggested to Search for Life on Mars
A shiny coating found on rocks in many of Earth's deserts suggest a new way to search for signs of life on Mars, scientists said today. The coating, known as desert varnish, binds traces of DNA, amino acids and other organic compounds to desert rocks over the eons. Desert varnish has been found in the Atacama desert in Chile, the Mojave desert in California and Canyonlands National Park in Utah. Prehistoric people carved the varnish away, revealing lighter-colored rock underneat to create petroglyphs. The logic is simple: Samples of Martian desert varnish could perhaps show whether there has been life on Mars at any time during its 4.5-billion-year history.

May 23, 2006

Arctic drilling could determine if life exists on Mars Edmonton Journal
On an Arctic island 3,000 kilometres north of the nearest city, scientists tested a drill this May that could one day open the next chapter in space exploration the quest to discover what lies beneath the surface of the moon and Mars. Working on the side of a sweeping fiord near the Eureka weather station half-way up Ellesmere Island, the nine researchers from NASA and McGill University bored two metres into a sandstone outcropping with a specialized drill that uses only a lightbulb's worth of power.

May 5, 2006

Students filled in on Mars mission The Ann Arbor News
Tia Jones peered at the flash cards spread across the stage as her partner, Alexa Jones, slid them back and forth. The girls, both fourth-graders at Ann Arbor's Dicken Elementary, were trying to match cards showing characteristics of Earth with cards showing characteristics of Mars. The activity was part of a visit to Dicken by Doug Lombardi, the education and public outreach manager for Phoenix, NASA's 2007 mission to Mars. Lombardi also visited King Elementary while in town.

April 21, 2006

If Mars had life, it was a long time ago, researchers find The Christian Science Monitor
For more than a decade, orbiters and landers have assaulted Mars, their handlers driven by the mantra "follow the water." Now, scientists have pulled the results together in the most comprehensive look yet at what the rocks and minerals on the red planet are saying about its climate history and the potential that life may have briefly appeared there.

April 4, 2006

Extreme spots on Earth may yield clues to life on Mars The Mercury News
Nathalie Cabrol will never get to Mars, but the 42-year-old NASA planetary scientist is doing the next best thing. She's climbed almost 20,000 feet into the thin air of an Andes mountain peak, dived into some of the world's highest lakes and sent a robot across a windswept Chilean desert - all in a quest to learn how life once might have existed, or may still exist, on the Red Planet. The French-born Cabrol is one of a growing flock of biologists and geologists - called "astrobiologists" - who are going to the ends of the Earth to find parallels to the cold, dry Martian environment.

April 1, 2006

Mars Rover Finds Definite Sign Of Life April Fools!
At a press conference early this morning, scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena California announced proof of extraterrestrial life has been discovered on Mars. Last month, while probing rocks on the surface, the "Spirit" rover encountered what appeared to be a smooth flat rock, almost completely covered by sand. "It was the texture of the rock, which drew our attention. It appeared smoother and less weathered than anything else on the surface that we have encountered thus far." When Spirit reached a distance of approximately 1 meter from the object, it was clear that we weren't looking at any ordinary rock. The object lifted from the ground, and began hovering at a altitude of 3 meters. "We had absolutely no expectation that we would ever encounter anything like this!", said JPL's Director Dr. Charles Elachi "We were all speechless." The object remained hovering at 3 meters without any visible sign of propulsion nor support. The features on the lower sections of the object made it very clear that it was an engineered object, and not a naturally occuring phenomenon. Section plates were evident, as well as possible weapons damage of some sort. Spirit has been stationed to observe the object for further signs of intelligent control. No motion other than the hovering has been observed. "We theorize that the object may have been programmed to respond to motion, which is why it is now hovering. Unfortunately, the probes currently on Mars have no way of achieving any further interaction." An anonymous source at the Whitehouse told us that the recently announced moon base is intended as a stepping stone to get scientists close enough to work with the object.

February 21, 2006

Scientists look for extraterrestrial life
Scientists are ramping up the search for extraterrestrial life with a powerful array of new telescopes and a refined sense of where to look within the vast expanses of our universe. At the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science last weekend, a panel of experts discussed the key components of life and what it might mean to find them within our own solar system -- or beyond.

December 22, 2005

Studies Cast Doubt on Idea of Life on Mars
Two new studies are challenging the notion that the desolate Martian plains once brimmed with salty pools of water that could have supported some form of life. Instead, the studies argue, the layered rock outcrops probed by NASA's robot rover Opportunity and interpreted as signs of ancient water could have been left by explosive volcanic ash or a meteorite impact eons ago. That would suggest a far more violent and dry history than proposed by the scientists operating Opportunity and its twin rover, Spirit, on the other side of the planet.

December 19, 2005

Microbes Under Greenland Ice May Be Preview Of What Scientists Find Under Mars Surface
A University of California, Berkeley, study of methane-producing bacteria frozen at the bottom of Greenlands two-mile thick ice sheet could help guide scientists searching for similar bacterial life on Mars. Methane is a greenhouse gas present in the atmospheres of both Earth and Mars. If a class of ancient microbes called Archaea are the source of Mars methane, as some scientists have proposed, then unmanned probes to the Martian surface should look for them at depths where the temperature is about 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than that found at the base of the Greenland ice sheet, according to UC Berkeley lead researcher P. Buford Price, a professor of physics. This would be several hundred meters - some 1,000 feet - underground, where the temperature is slightly warmer than freezing and such microbes should average about one every cubic centimeter, or about 16 per cubic inch.

December 5, 2005

Desert Find Lends More Strength to Theories of Possible Life on Mars University of Arkansas
A University of Arkansas researcher has found methane-producing microorganisms in an unexpected place - arid desert soils. This finding strengthens the possibility that such microorganisms can exist under the conditions found on Mars and points the way to possible future experiments for detection of life on a distant planet. Tim Kral, professor of biological sciences in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, along with researchers from the University of Southern California reported their findings online in the journal Icarus. "You don't commonly find organisms such as methanogens in dry areas," said Kral. "But finding them in a dry area on Earth is especially significant because the surface of Mars is dry."

July 25, 2005

NASA Urged to Keep Microbes From Mars
While Earth germs may not kill attacking Martians as they did in "War of the Worlds," a new study is calling on NASA to prevent contamination of Mars with microbes from our planet. NASA is planning a return to the Moon and eventually to send manned spacecraft to Mars, and the National Research Council warned Monday that if life forms from Earth were able to survive the trip they could contaminate the Red Planet.

July 20, 2005

It's one small step for a bug, a giant red face for NASA The Sunday Times
Far from discovering life on Mars, Nasa may have put it there. The American space agency believes the two rover spacecraft scuttling across the red planet are carrying bacteria from Earth, writes John Harlow. The bacteria, bacillus safensis, were found in a chamber in California that had been used to test the rovers. Officials believe it is likely some of the microbes, possibly from scientists skin, were on board when the mission left.

June 3, 2005

Martian methane could come from rocks Nature
The methane in Mars's atmosphere could easily be produced by mineral chemistry, rather than life. That's the claim from a pair of geologists whose calculations suggest that some experts have been too quick to assume a bacterial source for the gas.

May 20, 2005

Traces Of Stowaway Earth Algae Could Survive On Mars, Study Finds University of Florida
Some hardy Earth microbes could survive long enough on Mars to complicate the search for alien life, according to a new study co-authored by University of Florida researchers. Though scientists looking for life on Mars worry about contamination from stowaway spores clinging to spacecraft, the inhospitable Martian environment is actually an effective sterilizing agent: The intense ultraviolet rays that bombard the Martian surface are quickly fatal to most Earth microbes. However, the new study shows that at least one tough Earth species, a type of blue-green algae called Chroococcidiopsis, could live just long enough to leave a biological trace in the Martian soil creating a potential false positive.

May 8, 2005

Researchers recommend oil-drilling techniques to assess viability of life on Mars
In an effort to help determine the chances of survival of life on Mars, scientists have proposed that techniques that are used to drill for oil could prove useful in estimating the odds of survival on the Red Planet. Professor John Parnell from the University of Aberdeen and his team of researchers have proposed this method. The team has just returned from the Arctic where they were involved in studying a meteorite crater using methods for detecting oil and gas. The site that they were studying happens to be the 23-million-year-old Haughton meteorite impact site in the Arctic. This site is located in the Canadian High Arctic and is a project undertaken by NASA via Ames Research Center and the Mars Institute.

May 3, 2005

Scientists: Life on Mars Likely Wired
Not so long ago it was unthinkable for respectable scientists to talk about life on Mars. Such talk was best left to X-Files fans. But no longer. Evidence is building to suggest biological processes might be operating on the red planet, and life on Mars, many scientists believe, is now more a likelihood than merely a possibility. "The life on Mars issue has recently undergone a paradigm shift," said Ian Wright, an astrobiologist at the Planetary and Space Sciences Research Institute at the Open University in Britain, "to the extent now that one can talk about the possibility of present life on Mars without risking scientific suicide." Much of the excitement is due to the work of Vittorio Formisano, head of research at Italy's Institute of Physics and Interplanetary Space.

April 27, 2005

Europes ExoMars Rover: Steering A Course Toward Humans On Mars
Future hunts for past or present life on Mars, hauling back to Earth samples of martian rock and soil, as well as setting the stage for a human voyage to the red planet is taking on a decidedly European look. European Space Agency (ESA) officials are taking steps to shift into high gear the building of the ExoMars robotic rover mission. The lander would be launched in 2011, likely onboard a Soyuz Fregat 2b booster from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana.

April 22, 2005

Rare bacteria clusters Yellowstone find could unlock clues to early Mars life San Francisco Chronicle
A bizarre community of microbes has been discovered inside rocks in Yellowstone National Park, thriving in pores filled with water so acidic it can dissolve steel nails. The clusters, interwoven with flourishing green algae, comprise at least 40 different new species of bacteria, according to Jeffrey Walker, a University of Colorado microbiologist -- and he and his colleagues say the microbes' fossil forms could provide powerful clues to the nature of early life on Earth and life that may have existed billions of years ago on Mars.

April 19, 2005

NASA Scientist: 'Mars Could be Biologically Alive'
Evidence for intense local enhancements in methane on Mars has been bolstered by ground-based observations. The methane, as well as water on Mars, was detected using state-of-the-art infrared spectrometers stationed atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii and in Cerro Pachn, Chile. Scientific teams around the globe are on the trail of methane eking out of Mars. And for good reason: The methane could be the result of biological processes. It could also be an "abiotic" geochemical process, however, or the result of volcanic or hydrothermal activity on the red planet. Many types of microbes here on Earth produce a signature of methane. Indeed, the tiny fraction of atmospheric carbon found as methane on our planet is churned out almost entirely biologically with only a very small contribution from abiotic processes, scientists say.

March 27, 2005

Simple yet astonishing: life on Mars The Union
Occam's Razor: Faced with multiple possible explanations, don't go for the splashiest; choose the simplest - the one that requires the least number of coincidences - the one that is least astonishing. If the simplest explanation doesn't pan out, move on to the next simplest (which is also a bit more astonishing). The leader of the team running an instrument aboard Mars Express - a European Space Agency spacecraft orbiting Mars - believes his data imply something truly astonishing: Martians.

March 24, 2005

Scientist at center of Mars flap speaks out
Carol Stoker thought she was talking casually to friends at a party. A NASA scientist, Stoker and her husband and colleague Larry Lemke described work they were doing looking for biological activity life at a site in Spain called Rio Tinto that may be similar to potential habitats on Mars. What happened next is up for debate. Stoker says neither she nor Lemke ever implied that her work could be extrapolated to suggest present life on Mars. She certainly never told anyone that a paper to that effect was about to be published in the journal Nature, she says. Several people at the party, however, later told a journalist that they had said that. The subsequent Space News article set off a brief media frenzy in mid-February that eventually led to a rare official denial from NASA.

March 16, 2005

New Signs of Recent Glaciers, Volcanoes and Flowing Water on Mars
New images of Mars reveal that flowing water, large glaciers and active volcanoes have scoured the planet in recent geologic times. Scientists say Mars has been geologically active in the past few million years -- an eyeblink in the planet's 4.5-billion-year history. Three studies appearing in the March 17 issue of the journal Nature add to a growing body of evidence that points to recent liquid water and present vast stores of underground ice near the planets equator. Combined, the research provides further impetus to search Mars for signs of life, scientists said.

March 8, 2005

Spelunking on Mars: Caves are Hot Spots in Search for Life
The hunt for some form of life elsewhere in our universe may spur a veritable fleet of robot orbiters, landers and rovers to study the surface of Mars in the coming years. But they might look in the wrong place. Instead of probing for signs of alien life on Mars harsh surface, some researchers have suggested looking inside the planet, where there is mounting evidence of water ice near the equator and the potential for underground aquifers that could support basic, microbial organisms.

March 2, 2005

Spherix Viking Scientist Who First Claimed Life on Mars Welcomes Deluge of Support PRNewswire
Spherix Incorporated (Nasdaq: SPEX - News) -- One of the persons most relishing the news out of last week's ESA Mars Conference in the Netherlands that 75 percent of the attending scientists now believe that Mars may have had life, and 25 percent saying that Mars may currently have life, is Dr. Gilbert V. Levin. Now working as Executive Officer for Science of Spherix Incorporated, the firm he founded in 1967, Levin was Experimenter on the Labeled Release (LR) life detection experiment aboard NASA's 1976 Viking Mission seeking life on Mars.

March 1, 2005

European Scientists Believe in Life on Mars
European Space Agency scientists think that there was and could even still be life on Mars and want a new European mission to the red planet to take samples, a conference heard on Friday. "Mars is the most Earth-like planet in our solar system," said Agustin Chicarro, ESA Mars Express Project Scientist at the end of a one-week conference during which scientists from around the world discussed ESA's Mars mission findings so far.

February 24, 2005

New organism raises Mars questions
A U.S. scientist claims to have thawed out a new life form, which he said raises questions about possible contemporary life on Mars. The organism froze on Earth some 30,000 years ago, and was apparently alive all that time and started swimming as soon as it thawed, said Richard Hoover from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)'s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.

February 18, 2005

NASA Statement on False Claim of Evidence of Life on Mars
News reports on February 16, 2005, that NASA scientists from Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California, have found strong evidence that life may exist on Mars are incorrect.

February 16, 2005

NASA Researchers Claim Evidence of Present Life on Mars
A pair of NASA scientists told a group of space officials at a private meeting here Sunday that they have found strong evidence that life may exist today on Mars, hidden away in caves and sustained by pockets of water. The scientists, Carol Stoker and Larry Lemke of NASAs Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, told the group that they have submitted their findings to the journal Nature for publication in May, and their paper currently is being peer reviewed.

February 14, 2005

Is There Life on Mars? Looking for Rock Solid Evidence
With each passing day, those peppy robots on Mars Spirit and Opportunity churn out extraordinary new views of the red planet. Each android is over a year in operation, relaying a steady stream of eye-catching photos. And more than once, the Mars machinery has sent back an image that stirred up a promising eureka moment: Finding evidence for life on that remote world.

February 7, 2005

Wild Things: The Most Extreme Creatures LiveScience
Extremophilic microbes are a wild bunch. They can be found thriving in some of the most hostile environments imaginable swimming in near-boiling water, eating rocks, lounging in sub-zero temperatures, and hanging out where radiation levels rival nuclear reactors. Recent discoveries have greatly expanded the range of these wild things. Here's a census of small creatures living in some of the worst conditions imaginable.

January 18, 2005

Mars "Life Detector" Built Betterhumans
A compact "life detector" has been built for future missions to Mars. Called the Mars Organic Analyzer, the briefcase-sized device reportedly has 1,000 times greater sensitivity than the 1976 Viking probes, which didn't detect organic molecules.

January 17, 2005

Mars Life ScienCentral News
To find life on Mars, you must either bring a sample back to a laboratory or find a way to take a lab to Mars. As this ScienCentral News video reports, researchers have found a way to shrink down a lab so it can go to Mars.

January 2, 2005

Year of Life on Mars? BellaOnline
Conditions on vast plain on Mars could have been suitable for life, states Steve Squyres, Cornell professor of astronomy and leader of the rovers' Athena science team , in the latest special Science issue. With 2005 bringing the completion of the first year of pioneering development from the robotic rovers on Mars, Fiona Stewart investigates and presents a review of the latest Martian news for BellaOnline readers in a summary for Year of Life on Mars?. 11 peer-reviewed articles published present conclusive evidence for water on mars and infer at some point mars may have been habitable for a considerable period of time. Water formation and eroded surface structures? Epsom-like salts hide significant amounts of water? Fiona Stewart delves deeper and finds excitement mounting about life on mars, with significance attached to the living essential water, salts, methane, haematite blueberries, magnesium, sulfates and similarities between the origins of Earth and Mars.

December 14, 2004

Life-Swapping Scenarios for Earth and Mars
Evidence is mounting that the time-weathered red planet was once a warm and water-rich world. And a Mars awash with water gives rise to that globe possibly being fit for habitation in its past and perhaps a distant dwelling for life today. As sensor-laden orbiters circle the planet, NASAs twin Mars rovers -- Spirit and Opportunity -- have been tooling about and carrying out exhaustive ground studies for nearly a year.

December 3, 2004

Conditions on vast plain on Mars could have been suitable for life, Cornell rover scientist Squyres states in special Science issue Cornell
Scientists have long been tantalized by the question of whether life once existed on Mars. Although present conditions on the planet would seem to be inhospitable to life, the data sent back over the past 10 months by NASA's two exploration rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, showed a world that might once have been warmer and wetter -- perhaps friendly enough to support microbial organisms. Now a Cornell University-led Mars rover science team reports on the historic journey by the rover Opportunity, which is exploring a vast plain, Meridiani Planum, and concludes with this observation: "Liquid water was once present intermittently at the martian surface at Meridiani, and at times it saturated the subsurface. Because liquid water is a key prerequisite for life, we infer that conditions at Meridiani may have been habitable for some period of time in martian history."

December 2, 2004

With Proof of Ancient Water on Mars, Researchers Consider Life's Chances
Researchers can now say definitively that Mars once supported a watery environment, but whether the red planet could have ever supported life is still far from certain. The success of NASA's Mars rover Opportunity in finding tell-tale signs of past water at its Meridiani Planum landing site has left some researchers believing the region could have once been a habitable, albeit still hostile, environment.

November 12, 2004

Mars' methane keeps 'em guessing The Seattle Times
Methane detected on Mars could be a sign of extraterrestrial life, scientists said yesterday. But don't get ready for E.T. just yet. There are many possible explanations for the methane, and tiny Martian critters are only one. Still, the detection of methane had scientists buzzing in Louisville at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society's Division of Planetary Sciences. "I stand before you and tell you, quite honestly, I'm shocked by these results," said Michael Mumma, an astrobiologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

November 11, 2004

Mars answers spur questions Rocky Mountain News
Five spacecraft are circling Mars and creeping across its ruddy surface, looking for traces of long-gone waters and signs that the cold, arid planet may once have been hospitable to life. The robotic martian invasion - three orbiters and two six-wheeled rovers - has already uncovered strong evidence that water once flowed on Mars and is now locked in subsurface ice. But big questions about water on Mars remain. When did it flow? How long did it last? How much was there? Where did it come from? Where did it go? Perhaps the most tantalizing question: Were there long-lived watery environments where microbial life could have gained a foothold?

November 8, 2004

UA Professor Explores Possibility of Life on Mars University of Arkansas
For centuries, humans have struggled to answer the question, "Are we alone in the universe?" The discovery of methane gas in the Martian atmosphere this past March by the Mars Express orbiter may bring scientists one step closer to being able to answer that question. This discovery has set off a wave of excitement in scientific circles around the world, but nowhere more so than in the laboratory of Univeristy of Arkansas biology professor Timothy Kral. For years, Kral and his team of researchers at the Arkansas-Oklahoma Center for Space and Planetary Sciences have been exploring the possibility that the Red Planet could sustain life.

October 28, 2004

Researchers detect methane on Mars University of Michigan
A University of Michigan scientist is part of a European Space Agency team that has detected methane gas on Mars, and the findings will be published in the online Web journal Science Express today. Sushil Atreya, professor and director of the Planetary Science Laboratory in the College of Engineering says the detection of methane is the clearest indicator of the possibility of life on the Red Planet yet.

October 13, 2004

Exploration of Mars can reveal key secrets about where life began
As President Bush outlines plans for putting humans on the face of the cursed red planet, we have to ask ourselves, what is the big deal about Mars? A trip to Mars would be hugely expensive when completed in 20 to 25 years. Who cares? Mars research has been a difficult process. Whole careers have been derailed. Ptolemy, who devised an early earth-centered view of the solar system, failed to explain why Mars seemed to back up in its orbit occasionally.

October 8, 2004

Does Mars Methane Indicate Life Underground? National Geographic News
Data obtained by the Mars Express probe that is currently orbiting the red planet show that water vapor and methane gas are concentrated in the same regions of the Martian atmosphere, the European Space Agency recently announced. The finding may have important implications for the possibility that microbial life could exist on Mars. If microbes are making methane in the Martian atmosphere as part of their living process, they would rely on water.

October 5, 2004

First Canadian astronaut convinced of life on Mars; mining needed for proof cnews
Canada's first astronaut in space says he's convinced there was once life on Mars and Canadians are uniquely placed to figure out if there still is. Garneau said he's convinced there once was life, but he's doubts there still is, although it could exist in a kind of dormant state under the planet's surface. "We need to find it," he said. Canadian companies could be at the forefront of finding it. It requires mining.

September 29, 2004

Expedition Turns Up Life on Pseudo-Mars
An international team of scientists has found life on a Norwegian island. No surprises there, but the successful field test of a collection of life-detection instruments may be a stepping stone for future endeavors to sniff out life on Mars. "Its the first time we have employed a package of tools ranging form spectroscopy to microbial techniques," said the lead investigator, Hans Amundsen of the University of Oslo, Norway.

September 28, 2004

Martian methane hints at oases of life Nature
In the first published study to track methane on Mars, researchers have concluded that life is the only plausible source of the gas. The putative martians are hiding in a few isolated spots and the rest of the planet is totally sterile, they say. Teams at conferences have already discussed finding martian methane. But Vladimir Krasnopolsky, an atmospheric scientist from the Catholic University of America in Washington DC, says that his study, to be published shortly in the peer-reviewed journal Icarus, is the first hard evidence for methane on the planet.
Methane on Mars causes controversy New Scientist
Methane and water vapour are concentrated in the same regions of the Martian atmosphere, say scientists studying data from Europe's Mars Express orbiter. They say the link may point to a common source - possibly life - but others remain sceptical about the detection.
Rover Report Card: Prospect of Mars Life More Likely
Rolling, rolling, rolling. Keep those Mars rovers rolling. You can almost hear the crack of a Martian whip. Since January, NASAs Spirit and Opportunity robots have been wheeling and dealing with the red planet. Last week they had their driving licenses renewed for an additional six months. The science results already have changed how researchers view Mars, and the mission could be far from over.

September 23, 2004

Life is a Gas: Methane Might Support Underground ET
A new test that produced methane under conditions mimicking the deep interiors of Earth and Mars lends support to an idea that the gas could theoretically support unseen colonies of microbes on both worlds. And the study hints at the possibility of a potential vast supply of petroleum products. While the lab work doesn't reveal what's really down there, it has nudged a controversial theory about what's under our feet one step closer to the mainstream. The research was led by Henry Scott of Indiana University at South Bend and was published online last week by the National Academy of Sciences.

September 22, 2004

Mars, Once Warm and Wet, Left Some Clues
A new theory about ancient Mars puts some fizz back in the idea that the red planet was once warm, wet and potentially habitable. Many studies have suggested that early Mars was covered by large oceans and blanketed by a thick atmosphere rich in carbon dioxide -- the stuff that puts the bubbly zing in soda. But if that's all true, then when the oceans evaporated a lot of the carbon dioxide should have turned into what scientists call carbonates, which should be strewn all over the place. Problem is, the carbonates aren't there. One recent study found trace amounts in Martian dust, just enough to conclude that Mars probably didn't have vast oceans. The new model provides a way around this problem. It suggests the chemistry of Martian seas was different than has been assumed, so the clues have been missed.
Standard Linear Actuators Are Being Modified For Specialty Applications In Both Outer And 'Inner' Space Product Design and Development
While most of us tend to think of motion control as a very down-to-earth topic, designers of space apparatus and undersea equipment have a very different view of the technology. As a matter of fact, these types of out-of-this-world applications usually demand extraordinarily precise and highly specialized motion control products, which mandate close collaboration between the makers of the motion control devices and designers of specialty equipment in order to meet these special needs. It was this type of close collaboration that landed a customized linear actuator on a concept apparatus that may help determine whether life exists on Mars. Scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, designed the concept apparatus as a model of a device that may one day be built and sent along on a future space mission to determine whether amino acids are present in the Martian soil. This very important test could determine whether life exists on the Red Planet because amino acids are considered a signature of life.
Rock bugs resist polar extremes
It seems wherever scientists look on Earth they can usually find some kind of lifeform eking out an existence. And microbe colonies discovered living under rocks in the Arctic and Antarctic are just the latest example. Their high-latitude polar habitats are among the most extreme on the planet, with damaging levels of ultraviolet light as well as sub-zero temperatures.

September 20, 2004

New Mars data gives life clue
New data showing that patterns of water and methane in Mars' atmosphere overlap may have important implications for the idea that the planet could harbour life. The finding comes from the Mars Express probe in orbit around the Red Planet. If microbes are making methane seen in Mars' atmosphere, they would rely on water, so the association between the two has excited some researchers.
Water and methane maps overlap on Mars: a new clue?
Recent analyses of ESAs Mars Express data reveal that concentrations of water vapour and methane in the atmosphere of Mars significantly overlap. This result, from data obtained by the Planetary Fourier Spectrometer (PFS), gives a boost to understanding of geological and atmospheric processes on Mars, and provides important new hints to evaluate the hypothesis of present life on the Red Planet.

September 10, 2004

Gas may yield clue to life on Mars The Guardian
Scientists yesterday confirmed the presence of methane on Mars, raising two possibilities - volcanos, or life on the red planet. "Methane should be short-lived in that atmosphere. It should last for less than a few hundred years," Andrew Coates, of the Mullard space science laboratory at University College London, told the British Association science festival in Exeter. "So there must be a very recent source, perhaps even a current source. The two possible sources could be volcanism - very recent or current volcanism - or life. All life as we know it on Earth, even down to the tiniest microbe, produces methane as a byproduct."

August 31, 2004

Study: Meteorites Gave Earth Life Discovery News
Iron meteorites may have been responsible for the evolution of life on Earth, according to NASA funded research. In a study to be published shortly in the journal Astrobiology, University of Arizona's Dante Lauretta, assistant professor of planetary sciences, and doctoral candidate Matthew Pasek, suggest that iron meteorites brought enough phosphorus to Earth to give rise to biomolecules which eventually assembled into living, replicating organisms.

August 30, 2004

Life on Mars: A Definite Possibility Astrobiology Magazine
This much is known: At some point in Mars's past, at least one region of the planet was drenched in water. Ancient Mars provided a habitat suitable for life as we know it. What kind of organism might have lived there? And is life lying dormant there still, just waiting for things to warm up a bit? No one can say. But one scientist, taking cues from earthly bacteria, has a pretty good idea of how a martian microbe could survive.

August 26, 2004

Was Venus Alive? 'The Signs are Probably There'
The planet Venus is like Earth in many ways. It has a similar size and mass, it is closer to us than any other planet, and it probably formed from the same sort of materials that formed Earth. For years scientists and science fiction writers dreamed of the exotic jungles and life forms that must inhabit Earth's twin sister.
Purdue Researches Possibility of Life on Mars WISH-TV
Is a human mission to Mars in the future? Not until a source of water can be found to support life. NASA has asked Purdue engineers to help. They want to know which plants can grow normally when fed sewage. The idea is to reclaim drinkable water from the astronauts' waste.
For Mars journey, scientists seek waste-eating plants Science Blog
In possibly the ultimate in recycling, people who voyage to Mars may be able to quench their thirst with water recovered from waste. Engineers and agronomists are testing plants to identify ones that can grow normally when fed sewage. The circle of life would be complete when drinkable water is reclaimed from the plants.

August 24, 2004

Scientists Seek Scent of Life in Methane at Mars
Sniffing out any whiff of biology on Mars has become a scientific battle of the bands spectral bands that is. The purported detection of methane in the martian atmosphere by Mars Express, the European Space Agency (ESA) probe now orbiting the red planet, has sparked measurable debate.

August 18, 2004

Keck Foundation Awards $500,000 to Fund Search for Life on Mars University of Arkansas
A $500,000 challenge grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation of Los Angeles will enable Derek Sears and his students and colleagues to investigate how liquid water forms on Mars and examine the existence of considerable amounts of near-surface ice all over the planet. They also will study how slight changes in pressure and temperature could transform Mars into a wet planet hospitable to simple life forms. Additionally, a laboratory used by Sears, a professor of chemistry in Fulbright College and director of the Arkansas-Oklahoma Center for Space and Planetary Sciences, will be renovated and named the W.M. Keck Laboratory for Space Simulation at the University of Arkansas.
Next-gen rover to practice searching for life
Robotics experts are getting a next-generation rover ready to hunt for life in the driest place on Earth. The two-month-long dry run in Chile's Atacama Desert could help set the stage for a similar search someday on Mars. The four-wheeled, solar-powered rover, named Zo, was created at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. It's designed to cover up to 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) a day, at speeds of up to 2.2 mph (1 meter per second). That's 20 times as fast as the top speed for the twin rovers currently working on Mars.

August 9, 2004

NASA Scientist Sees Possible Mat of Martian Microbes
A future astronaut traipsing across the landing sites of the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity might be squishing into a welcome mat of microbes, according to one NASA scientist. While the twin robots push ahead in scouring their real estate locations at Gusev Crater and Meridiani Planum, they leave behind a tantalizing trail of issues that need to be sorted out. One big unknown: Did life ever take root on Mars? And if so, is that planet home to living organisms today? So far, the life-on-Mars card has not played out. Rover scientists have seen nothing they regard as needing a biological explanation.

August 5, 2004

Digging for life in the deadest desert
Life is hard. For some, it's almost impossible. Specialized microorganisms called extremophiles thrive in nuclear waste, volcanic vents, boiling geothermal geysers and even deep inside rocks. Their unique biology allows them to feast on chemicals and radiation that would kill most organisms. But there is a place on Earth so hostile to life that even extremophiles perish: Chile's Atacama Desert.

August 3, 2004

Life on Mars Likely, Scientist Claims
Those twin robots hard at work on Mars have transmitted teasing views that reinforce the prospect that microbial life may exist on the red planet. Results from NASAs Spirit and Opportunity rovers are being looked over by a legion of planetary experts, including a scientist who remains steadfast that his experiment in 1976 proved the presence of active microbial life in the topsoil of Mars. "All factors necessary to constitute a habitat for life as we know it exist on current-day Mars," explained Gilbert Levin, executive officer for science at Spherix Incorporated of Beltsville, Maryland.

August 2, 2004

Water could mean Mars hills were alive The Albuquerque Tribune
The Spirit rover has crossed into a new martian frontier - an unexplored hilltop that might hold secrets from the planet's earliest history. Since it arrived Jan. 4, Spirit has spent its time exploring rocks on top of a powdery surface of volcanic rock and ash - called an ejecta blanket - spewed out from an ancient meteorite impact, said Larry Crumpler, a Mars Exploration Rover team member and curator at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. The rocks there were interesting, but not nearly as cool or old as the rocks Spirit reached last week, when it got to Columbia Hills, named after the space shuttle that exploded in February 2003.

July 30, 2004

Martian mission for star student The Sun
Sitting at a coffee shop table in the University of Washington's University Village might just be the guy who finds life on another planet. "I'm not going to make any promises," said 21-year-old Christopher Glein with an aw-shucks shrug, "but it's real exciting."

July 28, 2004

Protecting Earth from Space Bugs RedNova
Texas A&M University and NASA are teaming up to bring new levels of planetary protection against forward contamination of other worlds from our space probes. The team hopes to sterilize future hardware using a well-known technique called electron beam irradiation.
The search for life on Mars Nature
As Mars Express sends back the best ever data about the chemicals present in the martian atmosphere, rumours abound that scientists are beginning to detect signs of life on the red planet. What signs of life are scientists looking for on Mars? The smells of digestion. Life, as we know it, depends on chemicals built up from carbon and nitrogen, and whenever those chemicals break down they release gases like methane (CH4) and ammonia (NH3). Some bacteria on Earth get their energy by reacting carbon dioxide with hydrogen to make methane and water. Such 'methanogenic' bacteria are prime candidates for life on Mars, because they do not need sunlight or oxygen to survive.

July 23, 2004

Analysis: No 'L' word yet looms for Mars
For a brief time last week, there was a small flutter that raised the tantalizing possibility of scientists coming closer to using the "L" word regarding the exploration of Mars. Alas, as a corollary to the famous comment by Mark Twain, reports of life on the red planet have been exaggerated.

July 21, 2004

Allan Hills Meteorite Abiogenic? Astrobiology Magazine
The famous softball-sized meteorite found at Allan Hills in Antarctica continues to spawn debate about its organic vs. inorganic origins. While there is little doubt the meteorite is remarkable at over four and half billion years old and largely undamaged during its fiery terrestrial descent, alternative inorganic hypotheses about its strange interior shapes now has new laboratory evidence.

July 15, 2004

Ammonia on Mars could mean life
Ammonia may have been found in Mars' atmosphere which some scientists say could indicate life on the Red Planet. Researchers say its spectral signature has been tentatively detected by sensors on board the European Space Agency's orbiting Mars Express craft. Ammonia survives for only a short time in the Martian atmosphere so it must be getting constantly replenished. There are two possible sources: either active volcanoes, none of which have been found yet on Mars, or microbes.

July 13, 2004

Glacial lake hides bacteria nature
Scientists have discovered a community of bacteria living in the lake beneath an Icelandic glacier. The chilly world provides a model of martian terrain and may boost speculation about the red planet's potential inhabitants. This is the first unequivocal example of life in a subglacial lake. "Yet another habitat on Earth that could be colonized by microbes, is colonized by microbes," says Eric Gaidos from the University of Hawaii, who was part of the research team.
Bacteria tested in Mars simulator
Danish scientists aim to better understand whether life can survive on Mars by subjecting terrestrial bugs to conditions present on the Red Planet. They are using a "biochamber" to simulate the temperature, radiation and chemical environment found on Mars.

June 28, 2004

Hardy wild bacteria attract firms' interest The Seattle Times
The creatures are known as "extremophiles," and they earn the name: They live in toxic Superfund cleanup sites, boiling deep-sea rift vents, volcanic craters and polar glaciers some of the planet's harshest environments. These single-celled creatures owe their hardiness to genes, and that has drawn the attention of a few biotech companies. The companies train the genes to mass produce industrial-strength enzymes for such products as better detergents, cleaner chemicals and more effective DNA fingerprints.

June 21, 2004

Discovery of tiniest organism could have huge implications
They've deciphered DNA and cloned all manner of animals, but one question still nags biologists working on the frontiers of life. Just how small can a creature be and still be considered living? The answer could provide more than fodder for academic debate. A better grasp of the very smallest life forms could help doctors clear clogged arteries and dissolve kidney stones with antibiotics, or even end the argument over whether life once existed on Mars.

June 20, 2004

Researchers work toward life on Mars The Explonent Online
In 2002, a NASA Specialized Center of Research and Training in Advanced Life Support, providing a $10 million research program, was awarded to the three schools to address and overcome obstacles which inhibit life and habitation outside of Earth.

June 11, 2004

NASA scientist discusses Mars life Reno Gazette-Journal
Scientists have learned from their mistakes on the five missions that have landed on Mars and now better know where to dig for Martian fossils or drill for frozen microbes, a NASA scientist said Thursday in Carson City. The search for evidence of life on Mars is really a detective story, said Christopher P. McKay, a planetary scientist and astrobiologist with NASAs Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley.

June 7, 2004

Fleshing Out Martian Proteins Astrobiology Magazine
Berkeley biophysicist, Richard Mathies, talked with Astrobiology Magazine about plans for a 2009 experiment to test for martian biology. By making a portable test for protein detection and classification, his contribution to future forensics may yield the most comprehensive tests yet for detecting life elsewhere. Can heating soil samples with amino acids reveal biological origin-- or not?

May 31, 2004

Scientists Finding Strange Life Forms in Great Salt Lake KSL-TV
A consortium of scientists, including a Utah biologist, say some weird creatures found in the Great Salt Lake might help unravel some of the mysteries on Mars. Though the Great Salt Lake is a dead sea - drying up even more this year from years of drought - it's far from dead. On the northern arm of the lake microbiologists from Westminster College in Salt Lake have been taking samples of water.

May 26, 2004

Water: Medium of life San Diego Union-Tribune
The hunt for water on Mars arguably began in 1877. In that year, Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli spotted what he thought were canali, or channels, on the surface of the Red Planet. An imprecise translation led American astronomer Percival Lowell nearly 30 years later to map "Mars and its canals" sparking a popular obsession with Martians living in a warm, wet world.
Survival of the Smallest: Mini-Microbes Redefine Extreme Living
world of mini-microbes discovered deep under ice in Greenland reveals apparent survival skills that could come in handy on Mars or other extreme worlds: Get small and hang in there. The tiny creatures are smaller than most commonly known bacteria and have endured at least 120,000 years in subzero temperatures, crushing pressure, low oxygen levels and almost no nutrients. They were found in ice core samples taken nearly 2 miles (3,000 meters) below a glacier. Researchers said they could be a million years old.

May 20, 2004

'Martian features' found on Earth
Features in a Martian meteorite believed by some to be the fossilised remains of alien bacteria may have formed underwater, scientists claim. Researchers have found a "striking" match between microscopic features on underwater rocks and mineral deposits from Earth and microbe-like structures in the famous Martian meteorite ALH84001.
Claim made for new form of life
Doctors claim to have uncovered new evidence that the tiny particles known as "nannobacteria" are indeed alive and may cause a range of human illnesses. The existence of nannobacteria is one of the most controversial of scientific questions - some experts claim they are simply too small to be life forms.

May 5, 2004

Study May Cast Doubt On Some 1996 Evidence Of Past Life On Mars
When scientists announced that they had found evidence of past life in a meteorite from Mars in 1996, it set off a controversy that has been going back and forth even now. The latest research, published in the journal American Mineralogist casts doubt that it's life that was in the space rock. The original discoverers believed that magnetite in the rock was formed by bacteria, but this new paper shows that it can also be caused by an inorganic process, which can be duplicated in the laboratory when iron-bearing carbonates decompose under high heat (such as atmospheric reentry).

April 23, 2004

New Case for Oldest Life on Earth
Using a method never applied to rock from ancient Earth, researchers have found possible signs of biological activity dating back nearly 3.5 billion years, earlier than any other agreed-upon discovery of life on this planet. The primordial life appears to have eaten rocks to survive.

April 15, 2004

Biologist's find alters the bacteria family tree Washington University in St. Louis
The bacteria family tree may be facing some changes due to the recent work of an evolutionary biologist at Washington University in St. Louis. And that may change our understanding of when bacteria and oxygen first appeared on earth. Blank's findings appear in the February 2004 issue of Geobiology.

April 13, 2004

Rust-Breathing Bacteria: Miracle Microbes? National Geographic News
They breathe rust, clean up polluted groundwater, generate electricity, and may harbor clues to the origins of life. That's a lot for one family of microscopic bugs, but don't be surprised when Derek Lovley wows the world with another wonder from the Geobacter genus of bacteria. "When we think we have hit the last of the big discoveries, something else comes along," said Lovley, a microbiologist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

April 12, 2004

Experiment harnesses state-of-the-art sequencing technology to detect life on Mars UC Berkeley
The same cutting-edge technology that speeded sequencing of the human genome could, by the end of the decade, tell us once and for all whether life ever existed on Mars, according to a University of California, Berkeley, chemist. Richard Mathies, UC Berkeley professor of chemistry and developer of the first capillary electrophoresis arrays and new energy transfer fluorescent dye labels - both used in today's DNA sequencers - is at work on an instrument that would use these technologies to probe Mars dust for evidence of life-based amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.

April 9, 2004

Martian Methane: Carbon compound hints at life Science News
Evidence that parts of ancient Mars had oceans and might have supported some form of life in the past grabbed front-page headlines just a few weeks ago. But detection of the simple carbon compound methane in the Martian atmosphere by both ground-based telescopes and an orbiting spacecraft spotlights an even more intriguing possibility: There might be primitive life, even today, on the Red Planet.

April 4, 2004

Marsh gas on Mars U.S.News & World Report
Have scientists caught the scent of life on Mars? Observations from a European probe circling the planet and a telescope on Earth have detected a wisp of methane in its thin atmosphere. On Earth, most methane, aka marsh gas, comes from living things, such as the microbe-rich goop in swamps. Don't get in a lather yet. On Mars, the source could well be nonbiological, such as water interacting with hot, volcanic rock under the surface. But even that could raise hopes of Mars life: Heat-loving microbes teem on and within Earth's undersea volcanic vents. "If this is right, it is very exciting," exclaimed James Kasting, an atmospheric chemist at Penn State University, as word spread last week at a meeting on astrobiology--the search for alien life--at NASA's Ames Research Center south of San Francisco.

March 31, 2004

Red Planet Relatives?
If a Mars rover bumped into signs of life on Mars, would it know it and would that life look anything like life here on Earth? Geological and remote readings have suggested life may exist on Mars and some think it's highly possible that NASA's Odyssey or Spirit could have stumbled across evidence. Planetary scientists also say if primitive life exists on Mars, it could very well share traits with life on Earth. "There is transport from Mars to Earth by meteorites," said Jason Dworkin, a biochemist at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif. "So it's reasonable to suggest that perhaps we're all Martians and life started on Mars and traveled to Earth."

March 29, 2004

Methane on Mars could signal life New Scientist
Methane has been detected on Mars by three independent groups of scientists. And this could be a sign of life - indicating methane-producing bacteria. But scientists are advocating caution when interpreting the results, saying that the instruments looking for chemical signatures in the Martian atmosphere are not yet good enough to conclusively detect methane. Even if methane exists on Mars, the gas could be a product of non-biological processes such as active volcanoes.

March 28, 2004

God's creatures on Mars? The Mercury News
No one is truly expecting the Mars rover to find extraterrestrials on the red planet. But if it did, the world's religions should have no trouble welcoming them. Scholars with expertise in science and religion contend that the major religions practiced on Earth are elastic enough to account for intelligent life on other planets. But thinking through the possibilities could be an important exercise in getting followers of different religions to see how they can coexist.
Methane poses Mars life puzzle
Methane has been found in the Martian atmosphere which scientists say could be a sign of present-day life on Mars. It was detected by telescopes on Earth and has recently been confirmed by instruments onboard the European Space Agency's orbiting Mars Express craft. Methane lives for a short time in the Martian atmosphere so it must be being constantly replenished. There are two possible ways to do this. Either active volcanoes, but none have yet been found on Mars, or microbes.

March 25, 2004

Life hitched a lift to Mars The Scotsman
Life may exist on Mars - from organisms that hitched a ride on spacecraft from Earth. An American scientist has claimed that such microbes may have survived on the Red Planet after arriving on a series of unsterilised robotic probes.
Life on Mars - but 'we sent it' New Scientist
There is life on Mars, a researcher has announced at a conference - unfortunately it is just spaceship-borne contamination. "I believe there is life on Mars, and it's unequivocally there, because we sent it," Andrew Schuerger of the University of Florida told the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, Texas, recently. He has been granted funding from NASA's planetary protection office to help develop better sterilisation techniques for future missions.

March 24, 2004

Life on Mars Could Have Come from Earth
An American scientist believes that if life is finally proved to exist on Mars, its origins may be more mundane and closer to home than we think. "I believe there is life on Mars, and it's unequivocally there, because we sent it," said Andrew Schuerger in the New Scientist Magazine Wednesday.

March 23, 2004

Salty Sea Covered Part of Mars: 'Excellent' Site to Search for Past Life
A salty sea once washed over the plains of Mars at the Opportunity rover's landing site, creating a life-friendly environment more earthlike than any known on another world, NASA scientists announced today. The rover found evidence for the shores of a large body of surface water that contained currents, which left their marks in rocks that developed at the bottom of the sea. Opportunity found a distinct chemical makeup in the rocks and unique layering patterns that must have been generated by slow-moving water in an evaporating sea, researchers said.
Standing Body Of Water Left Its Mark In Mars Rocks
NASA's Opportunity rover has demonstrated some rocks on Mars probably formed as deposits at the bottom of a body of gently flowing saltwater. "We think Opportunity is parked on what was once the shoreline of a salty sea on Mars," said Dr. Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., principal investigator for the science payload on Opportunity and its twin Mars Exploration Rover, Spirit. Clues gathered so far do not tell how long or how long ago liquid water covered the area. To gather more evidence, the rover's controllers plan to send Opportunity out across a plain toward a thicker exposure of rocks in the wall of a crater.
Pools of water once existed on Mars
Three weeks after reporting that the Opportunity rover's landing site on Mars was once wet, scientists went even further on Tuesday, declaring that the now-barren rocks were formed at the bottom of an ancient body of saltwater. The findings, announced at a NASA news briefing in Washington, represent an important link in a chain of evidence hinting that the Red Planet was wet enough and warm enough for a long enough time to support the development of life. Moreover, if organisms ever did arise, their fossils should still exist within Martian rock, the scientists said.
The New Hunt for Life on Mars
Sending one-way spacecraft to learn if life exists or has ever been resident on the red planet is a tall order its been that way for decades. Today, powerful orbiters circle Mars. Meanwhile, wheeled robots traipse across that reddish globes time-weathered landscape. The results are telling: The planet is serving up teasing signals that life should have been welcomed there at some point in the past. Perhaps even now, hidden subsurface, martian biology might skulk in cozy and secure surroundings.

March 18, 2004

Water is the magic molecule essential to our biochemistry Seattle Times
When NASA's $820 million rovers Spirit and Opportunity discovered signs of ancient standing water on Mars, there was obvious excitement. The agency's search for alien life is based on the strategy: "follow the water," and for obvious reasons. The only life we know is built on a scaffolding of carbon that floats in bags of water. Bacteria or brontosaurus, we're all made from the same basic recipe.

March 16, 2004

Company: Frozen lobsters come back to life
A company says its freezing technique allows some lobsters to come back to life when thawed -- just in time to become dinner. Trufresh LLC, of Suffield, Connecticut, discovered that the method it has used for years on salmon also revived some lobsters after their subzero sojourns, which involves immersing the lobster in a brine 40 below zero.
Yellowstone Could Help Find Life on Mars
A study of microscopic organisms that inhabit the park's hot springs may help NASA researchers in their efforts to find life on Mars. The organisms, called thermophiles, have lived in the boiling waters of springs in Yellowstone National Park for billions of years.
Creature Features: Fossil Hunting on Mars
Those on-the-prowl Mars robots -- Spirit and Opportunity -- are sending back extraordinary images and science data about the red planet and its history of climate and water. The tell-tale clues of water left behind hint that some spots on Mars did have a persistent wet look that might have been sociable to extraterrestrial creatures. While Mars scientists have their eyes focused on finding tiny microbes, the question remains: just how far along could martian biology, if any, have evolved?

March 14, 2004

Life on Mars? Palm Beach Post
The two Mars Rovers, Opportunity and Spirit, working on opposite sides of the planet, have already achieved their shared goal: to find evidence of liquid water on the barren world. Although they didn't find actual glistening pools of Martian water, they did discover strong evidence that Mars was once a world drenched in water, with rivers and streams flowing into larger basins and perhaps even an ocean or two. Important questions remain unanswered: Where did the water go? How long was it on the planet? And, because water is one of the key elements needed for life as we know it, was there -- is there -- life on that hunk of rock next door?

March 11, 2004

Water makes biological splash on Mars Harvard University Gazette
Finding new signs of water on Mars was not unlike finding a needle in a haystack. Now scientific explorers and their robot helpers face a trickier task, looking for life, a needle they are not even sure is there. If life did exist, don't expect traces of little green primates or even little green bugs. According to Andrew Knoll, Fisher Professor of Natural History at Harvard University, "Any life that evolved was probably very simple, on the level of bacteria and less than the width of a human hair in size. You'd need a microscope to see it."
The Blueberries of Mars TIME
Photographs of Mars shot from orbit show vast plains that resemble ancient sea floors, steep gorges that would dwarf the Grand Canyon and sinuous surface scars that look an awful lot like dry riverbeds. Given all that, why were NASA scientists so excited last week to announce that one of their Mars rovers, having crawled across the planet for five weeks, finally determined that Mars, at some point in its deep past, was indeed "drenched"--to use NASA's term with liquid water?
Bozeman scientist picked to help prevent Mars contamination The Bozeman Daily Chronicle
Microbes can live in ice, rocks, clouds, brine and boiling acid, but could they survive a trip to Mars aboard a rover? A national panel of scientists, including one from Bozeman, began discussing this issue last week and is expected to release guidelines for the sterilization of Mars spacecraft and landers within a year.

March 10, 2004

A wet world teeming with tiny Martians? The Telegraph
There is new evidence of liquid water on the surface of Mars... and that could point to the existence of aliens. Nasa's Opportunity rover has spent much of the time since it bounced down on to the surface of Mars sniffing around inside a shallow depression, studying an outcropping of bedrock.

March 9, 2004

NASA's strategy: Follow the water Los Angeles Times
Albert Einstein once famously wondered whether God had a choice in how he created the universe. His still unanswered question drives physics to this day. The same question could be asked about the biological universe -- especially now that the rovers Spirit and Opportunity have found signs of ancient standing water on Mars.

March 8, 2004

Avoiding the 'F word' on Mars
People have imagined Mars as an abode of life for so long centuries at least, probably much longer that NASAs recent self-styled significant announcement of strong evidence for liquid water long ago was, lets face it, pretty ho-hum to both space enthusiasts and the general public. So where did the breathless Internet rumors come from? Where was the evidence for current water, such as brine springs? Are those microscopic threads really just debris from the airbags, and if so, why do they seem to keep appearing even as Spirit moves farther away from the landing site? And aside from the junk that the two rovers brought with them and strewed across the landscape (didnt the NASA science team expect to be confused by some of that?), are there any other shapes seen in the images that look, well, organic?
Mars Underground: The Harsh Reality of Life Below
If there is life on Mars, it certainly hasn't jumped out and mugged for the Mars rovers' cameras like many people had hoped. And most scientists agree it probably won't. In fact, any critters that lurk on the red planet today would almost certainly be part of an underground organization that has defied long odds and the harsh realities of a very unfriendly world. So why all the excitement last week over once soggy rocks at Meridiani Planum?

March 7, 2004

How the Little Green Men Met Their Makers The New York Times
Now that there's conclusive evidence that at least part of Mars was once a water-soaked place where living things could have wriggled, swam or slithered, it takes only a few more leaps of speculation to wonder how they might have died. Did their eyes bug out like Arnold Schwarzenegger's in "Total Recall"? Not likely - hypothetical Martian creatures probably wouldn't have had enough time to evolve eyes before the planet became the cold and arid place it is today.

March 5, 2004

Team Finds Species of Sea Microbes The Washington Post
A Maryland research team that helped decipher the human genome has applied its powerful DNA analyzers to the high seas, discovering in a few giant gulps of seawater at least 1,800 new species of marine microbes and more than a million genes previously unknown to science.
In search of the red sea The Sydney Morning Herald
Robot explorers are making dazzling finds as they chase the ghosts of Mars' vanished oceans. Richard Macey reports.

March 4, 2004

MSU prof says Mars could be spoiled by rovers Helena Independent Record

John Priscu knows that microbes can live in the toughest environments, including two miles below the Antarctic ice in one of the coldest, deepest and darkest points on Earth. If life can thrive down there, Priscu believes, then chances are good that it can also thrive on the dry, cold surface of Mars. Priscu's ongoing study of the Vostok ice in Antarctica has earned him a spot on a National Research Council that is looking for ways to prevent the contamination of Mars due to human exploration.

March 3, 2004

Bookies Stop Taking Bets on Life on Mars

The information coming in from the Mars rovers is exciting for NASA, but it's ending some of the action for bookies in Britain. The bookmaking firm Ladbrokes announced it's stopped taking bets on the question of whether there was ever life on Mars.

Brewing Sulfur with Martian Water Astrobiology Magazine

If the very high sulfur content found at the Opportunity landing site points to its aqueous history, then what speculative biology could take advantage of brewing sulfur with water. According to one Mars' veteran, there are fascinating extreme microbes that can make good use of these chemical combinations.

Mars Water Discovery Spurs Deeper Questions National Geographic News

NASA scientists said Tuesday that the roving robot Opportunity has found evidence that water once soaked the planet Mars. Liquid water is the one absolute requirement for life on Earth. Although the discovery does not mean the evidence of life on Mars has been found, it suggests that life could have evolved there at one point just as it did on Earth.

March 2, 2004

Rover Finds Mars Was Wet Enough for Life

Mars rover Opportunity has found evidence that the Red Planet was once wet enough for life to exist there, but the robot has not found any direct traces of living organisms, NASA scientists announced Tuesday. "Opportunity has landed in an area of Mars where liquid water once drenched the surface," said Edward Weiler, associate NASA administrator for space science, at a news conference. "This area would have been a good, habitable environment."

March 1, 2004

Big news from Mars

After a weekend of escalating buzz, NASA has scheduled a rush news conference at 2 p.m. ET Tuesday at its Washington headquarters to announce dramatic new findings about water on Mars. The specifics are being held back for the briefing, but clearly they have to do with evidence sent back from the Mars rovers relating to the role liquid water played and may still be playing on the Red Planet. If there is even a bit of salty liquid water beneath the surface of Mars, as hinted last month, that theoretically could open the way for life to exist there even today.

February 29, 2004

Mars: A Water World? Evidence Mounts, But Scientists Remain Tight-Lipped

Evidence that suggests Mars was once a water-rich world is mounting as scientists scrutinize data from the Mars Exploration rover, Opportunity, busily at work in a small crater at Meridiani Planum. That information may well be leading to a biological bombshell of a finding that the red planet has been, and could well be now, an extraterrestrial home for life. There is a palpable buzz here at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California that something wonderful is about to happen in the exploration of Mars.

February 25, 2004

Mars on Earth Wired

A saddleback ridge and two gentle peaks the color of rust rise from a rough, rock-strewn plain. The soil is a powder dotted with gray and salmon pebbles. Every footfall raises tiny puffs of dust and leaves a sharp-edged track. The piercing blue sky extends in an unbroken arc; the wind howls and tastes of salt. Everywhere I look is utter desolation, without a trace of any living thing - just stone, sand, and sky. It could be a picture from Spirit, Pathfinder, or Viking. It could be Mars. Indeed, that's why a couple dozen scientists are now scattered across the hillside.

February 23, 2004

ESA prepares mission to search for life on Mars

Before humans can leave their boot prints on the dusty surface of Mars, many questions have to be answered and many problems solved. One of the most fundamental questions one that has intrigued humankind for centuries is whether life has ever existed on Mars, the most Earthlike of all the planets.

February 16, 2004

Physics lecture investigates possibility of life on Mars The Michigan Daily

As NASAs rovers journey across Marss surface and new satellites orbit the planet, a wealth of information on the red planet is now available to the public, said astronomer and author Kenneth Croswell. Croswell spoke at this semesters first installment of Saturday Morning Physics, a lecture series hosted by the Universitys Physics Department. More than 350 people filled two auditoriums in the Dennison Building for the talk a typical turnout for Saturday Morning Physics, said coordinator and physics Prof. Timothy McKay. Croswell presented material from his new book, Magnificent Mars.

February 11, 2004

Reality Check: Spheres on Mars Not Fossils

Mars has a long history of being misinterpreted, from conjurings of apparent canals that signaled an alien civilization to the infamous NASA photo of a supposed giant face. Now a close-up picture of tiny spheres embedded in a Martian rock has some people seeing fossilized life. This alternate, perhaps hopeful view of a picture taken by NASA's Opportunity Rover and released Monday has been expressed in e-mail messages to reporters and geologists. Mission scientists anticipated it and were ready yesterday with a response.

February 2, 2004

From a River in Spain to a Crater on Mars Astrobiology Magazine

Andrew Knoll is a member of the Mars Exploration Rover science team and Fisher Professor of Natural History at Harvard University. His research focuses on ancient rocks on Earth; he studies how well they preserve evidence of ancient terrestrial life. Shortly after Opportunity landed on Mars, Astrobiology Magazine's Editor-in-Chief, Henry Bortman, spoke with Knoll about the scientific potential of the Opportunity landing site. In this interview segment, Knoll discusses how iron deposits near the Rio Tinto in Spain could help scientists understand the history of the hematite deposits on Mars. In the second segment, Knoll will discuss the possibility that Opportunity could find signs of life.

Pink slime yields first set of genomes sequenced from environment UC Berkeley

In the first triumph of a field dubbed "environmental genomics," scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, in collaboration with the Joint Genome Institute, have for the first time sequenced the genomes of the most abundant members of a community of organisms - not one at a time, but simultaneously. The researchers took a simple community of microbes from a pink slick on the floor of an abandoned mine, ground them up, and shotgun sequenced the lot. As they put the pieces of DNA back together, the snippets fell easily into five distinct genomes, four of them unknown until now.

February 1, 2004

Space probes let earthly germs make themselves at home on Mars The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

As the first explorers pushed into the interior of the New World, they found native populations reeling from diseases never seen in the Americas. The bugs got there first. Leapfrogging ahead of the Europeans, the microbes carrying smallpox, measles and other diseases had decimated communities that had no natural immunity to them. Now, on a more distant new world, the bugs have done it again -- across 50 million miles of interplanetary space. Decades will pass before the first humans set foot on Mars. But they won't be the first Earthlings to land there.

Canada's mission to Mars Toronto Star

Little green men, or microscopic blobs? For centuries, the prospect of life on Mars has brought the most lethargic imaginations to the boil, and driven scientists to a frenzy of speculation. But a team of University of Toronto physicists, working with other Canadian and American experts, hopes its landmark research mission will be among the first to answer the interplanetary riddle, and deliver new information that will pave the way for the great race to the Red Planet.

U.N. Wants Rules for Bioprospecting in Antarctica

The United Nations said on Sunday rules were needed to prevent a free-for-all search for unique Antarctic organisms that can be used for pharmaceutical and other commercial purposes. "Bioprospectors are starting to turn their attention to many of the world's last frontiers, such as hydrothermal vents, the deep seabed, the water column of the high seas and polar ice caps," said a report by UN University, headquartered in Tokyo.

January 30, 2004

We're all from Mars: scientists News Interactive

The Martians are not coming - they've probably already arrived on earth. And we could be their descendants. Two Australian scientists have developed new technology to confirm claims by NASA that a meteorite from Mars found in Antarctica in 1984 contained microscopic fossils from the red planet. Biophysicist Dr Tony Taylor from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) in Sydney and the University of Queensland's Professor John Barry devised a new technique which they say affirms the Martian microbe theory "beyond reasonable doubt".

Red Planet gets redder, with NASA help The Age

The American space agency NASA has been accused of doctoring its pictures of Mars to make the Martian surface conform to our impression of the Red Planet. NASA, it is claimed, digitally "tweaked" drab brown scenery to make it redder, and removed green patches to hide evidence of life. Most of the pictures have been taken through green, blue and infra-red filters instead of green, blue and standard red filters, which would have produced more accurate colours. The infra-red filters over-emphasised the redness of the planet, turning blue objects a deep burgundy red or, in some cases, a hot pink, while greens appeared a dirty mustard yellow.

January 29, 2004

Life on Mars first Herald Sun

Life on Mars probably existed before life started on Earth. Scientists say a new analysis of a meteorite that plummeted to Antarctica in 1984 has confirmed NASA's theory that life once existed on Mars. In 1996, NASA announced it had found microscopic fossils of primitive bacteria-like organisms in meteorite ALH84001 that landed in Antarctica. Scientists have debated NASA's findings and whether the organisms were biological or Martian.

It's life, but not as we know it The Daily Telegraph

Australian scientists claim to have conclusive proof that unusual microscopic fossils found in a four billion-year-old meteorite from Antarctica are bacterial life from Mars. And in an extraordinary piece of research to be published today, they claim that the find makes it probable that life on Earth first began on Mars.

Golf gives up the secrets of life The Courier-Mail

The answer to one of the most profound questions confronting humanity might have been found in the murky depths of a water trap at a bayside golf course. Great philosophers have spent millennia knitting their brows about whether we are alone in the universe. It now seems they should have been looking at hole nine of the Howestern golf course in Birkdale. Former University of Queensland microbiologist Tony Taylor revealed yesterday he had uncovered cast-iron (or should that be five iron) evidence that magnetic crystals found inside a Martian meteorite matched those in bacteria.

It's all over, red rover, we're sending in the dingo The Sydney Morning Herald

History may record that a dog named Tamarind helped confirm there was once life on Mars. While five space probes - including two robot rovers - explore the red planet, a Sydney scientist's pet dingo-kelpie cross may have found the evidence so many have been seeking.

Nasa accused of painting Mars red The Daily Telegraph

The American space agency NASA has been accused of doctoring its pictures of Mars to make the Martian surface conform to our impression of the famously red planet. Nasa has been accused of digitally "tweaking" drab brown scenery to make it redder. It has even been suggested that Nasa removed green patches to hide evidence of life.

January 28, 2004

Follow the Fire: Landing on a Volcano Astrobiology Magazine

Among those primordial elements critical for life, water has been considered the one in short supply on Mars. But even as scientists adopt the theme to 'follow the water', another element, geothermal heat, may offer interesting exploration opportunities. Astrobiology Magazine interviewed Buffalo volcanologist, Tracy Gregg, about landing on a martian volcano.

January 25, 2004

If life on Mars theory holds water, what does it mean? The Age

It may only be a thin blue line on the red planet, but it is set to spark a debate about life as we know it. The European Space Agency's unmanned spacecraft Mars Express has discovered evidence of frozen water at the planet's south pole, backing NASA findings made in 2002. If the planet does hold water, the possibility of extraterrestrial life, past or present, may also become more than just science fiction.

January 22, 2004

Mars Buggy 'May Have Landed in Mud-Like Material' The Scotsman

Pictures from Nasas roving Mars buggy have astonished scientists by indicating that it may have landed in mud. Strange marks near the Spirit rovers landing site suggest that against all the odds there be might liquid water on or just beneath the surface of Mars. The water would have to be very salty to avoid freezing or evaporating in the harsh Martian conditions. If the scientists suspicions are confirmed it would be the clearest sign yet that lakes and oceans once existed on Mars, and greatly increase the chances of life.

January 16, 2004

Mystery at Gusev Crater

Scientists are puzzled about a patch of soil near the Mars rover Spirit lander that they now call "Magic Carpet". The intrigue has been stirred up by how soil behaved when the landers airbags scraped across the martian soil. That soil appears to have been peeled away. This odd performance of the soil, some speculate, could provide a window into the existence of subsurface water and, maybe, clues about whether Mars could sustain life.

January 13, 2004

Mars on Earth? EurekaAlert!

A team of scientists from LSU, NASA, the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico and other research organizations has discovered an area of Earth that is shockingly similar to the surface of Mars. This joint research effort has discovered clues from one of Earth's driest deserts about the limits of life on this planet, and why past missions to Mars may have failed to detect life. The results of the group's study were published this week in Science magazine, in an article titled "Mars-like Soils in the Atacama Desert, Chile, and the Dry Limit of Microbial Life."

January 5, 2004

Recognizing Martians: If We Find ET, Will We Know?

As NASA prepares to set twin robots loose on the Martian surface and makes plans to send another in 2007, the agency's long term goal is clear: Determine whether the red planet does or ever did harbor life. But the current search for life is necessarily limited to life as we know it, organisms dependent on liquid water. A reader recently suggested that "we as humans are arrogant, simply believing that any other form of life will be just like us."

January 1, 2004

Bacteria Discoveries Could Resemble Mars, Other Planets ScienceDaily Magazine

A team of scientists has discovered bacteria in a hole drilled more than 4,000 feet deep in volcanic rock on the island of Hawaii near Hilo, in an environment they say could be analogous to conditions on Mars and other planets. Bacteria are being discovered in some of Earth's most inhospitable places, from miles below the ocean's surface to deep within Arctic glaciers. The latest discovery is one of the deepest drill holes in which scientists have discovered living organisms encased within volcanic rock, said Martin R. Fisk, a professor in the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University.

December 29, 2003

Bacteria Discovered In 4,000 Feet Of Rock Fuels Mars Comparison Oregon State University

A team of scientists has discovered bacteria in a hole drilled more than 4,000 feet deep in volcanic rock on the island of Hawaii near Hilo, in an environment they say could be analogous to conditions on Mars and other planets. Bacteria are being discovered in some of Earth's most inhospitable places, from miles below the ocean's surface to deep within Arctic glaciers. The latest discovery is one of the deepest drill holes in which scientists have discovered living organisms encased within volcanic rock, said Martin R. Fisk, a professor in the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University. Results of the study were published in the December issue of Geochemistry, Geophysics and Geosystems, a journal published by the American Geophysical Union and the Geochemical Society.

December 25, 2003

Odds on finding martians slashed to 100/1 Ananova

The possibility of aliens being found on Mars is now 100 times more likely than Wolves winning the Premiership, according to odds from a leading bookmaker. Space probe Beagle 2's attempted landing on Mars has sparked a rush of interest in extraterrestrial life bets, William Hill confirms. The company has cut the odds that proof of the current existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life will be confirmed before the end of 2004 from 500-1 to 100-1.

December 23, 2003

Looking for a Little Life, 3 Visitors Descend on Mars The New York Times

Mars passed closer to Earth this summer than it had in thousands of years, and now three emissaries from Earth are about to repay the neighborliness and then some. They are set to descend on the planet, and stay. The three visiting spacecraft, two of them carrying robotic roving vehicles, will be searching the Martian surface for signs of life or conditions conducive to life, at least in the distant past. Their quest is the latest scientific response to an abiding human fascination about the world next-door, a place cold and arid but sufficiently Earthlike to inspire visions of extraterrestrial life.

Bookies Cut Odds on Life on Mars The Scotsman

Bookmakers today cut the odds on Beagle 2 finding signs of life on Mars. The odds were cut by Ladbrokes from 33-1 to 25-1 after a number of bets were placed as the British probe neared its Christmas Day landing. Ladbrokes spokesman Warren Lush said: These odds obviously dont represent the true odds on finding life on Mars but we have shortened our price from 33-1 to 25-1 because we have liabilities of hundreds of thousands of pounds on the bet. We first took money for life on Mars back in 1969 and would be looking at a black hole in our accounts if the Beagle mission discovers something.

December 22, 2003

Assault on Mars nears its climax

The prospect of life on Mars has charged the public imagination for more than a century, ever since astronomers first spied what they thought were canals dug to irrigate the planets ruddy surface. But after spacecraft and Earth-based telescopes began taking a closer look at the planet, evidence of the canals and the Martians who presumably created them quickly vanished.

Landers may resolve riddles of Mars life, water

Early Christmas morning, a small armada of exploratory spacecraft will reach the red planet, some attempting to enter orbit, others to land -- a very risky business because of the engineering and physical challenges that await the robotic probes. Together, they represent one of the most ambitious efforts yet to resolve the contradictions that persist in alternately intriguing and beguiling scientists.

December 19, 2003

Desert dust enables algae to grow EurekaAlert!

Biologists from the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research have demonstrated that desert dust promotes the growth of algae. Scientists had already assumed that the iron in desert dust stimulated algal growth, but this has now been demonstrated for the first time. The researchers have published their findings in the December issue of the Journal of Phycology. The biologists cultured two species of diatoms in seawater originating from the iron-depleted Southern Ocean, the sea around the South Pole. The algae were supplied with dust from a desert in Mauritania and a desert in Namibia. The growth of algae which received a lot of dust was compared with that of algae which received little or no dust.

December 18, 2003

Invasion from Earth The Christian Science Monitor

Friday, scientists are set to unleash a robotic "hound," dubbed Beagle 2, from its mother ship to hunt a tiny piece of Mars for the geochemical scent of past - and perhaps present - life. Beagle 2's release from its mother ship - the Mars Express orbiter - will represent a milestone in an unprecedented international exploration of the red planet over the next month and a half.

December 14, 2003

The curse of Mars The Daily Telegraph

The British-led Beagle 2 probe is about to enter the last, and most risky, stage of its six-month-long, 250-million-mile journey. Robert Matthews meets Professor Colin Pillinger, the driving force behind the mission to the Red Planet Professor Colin Pillinger is not remotely superstitious. Even so, as the driving force behind Beagle 2, Britain's first mission to Mars, he knows all about the curse of the Red Planet - about how it took the Cold War superpowers seven attempts to get their first probe anywhere near it, and how two thirds of those sent since have failed to complete their missions.

December 12, 2003

Gene map reveals uranium-gobbling microbes secrets

A bacterium that can remove uranium contamination from groundwater may also be able to generate electricity, U.S. researchers said Thursday. Scientists who deciphered the gene map of Geobacter sulfurreducens say it has more than 100 genes that should enable it to make chemical changes in metals that would generate electricity.

December 10, 2003

Inter-world life transport argued

Astronomers may have shown how microbes from Earth could be spread throughout the galaxy taking life to other worlds. Scientists at Armagh Observatory and Cardiff University say bacteria could get into space on rocks blasted off the planet by an asteroid or comet impact.

December 8, 2003

A glimpse of Mars The Mercury News

Four Bay Area scientists just got back from exploring one of the highest lakes on Earth -- a frigid, emerald-green jewel 19,400 feet up in the crater of Licancabur volcano in Bolivia. Their goal: To see how life might survive in an environment so harsh that it may be the closest thing on the planet to conditions on Mars.

December 4, 2003

UTD professor joins latest Mars mission Plano Star Courier

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration Associate has selected professor Janok P. Bhattacharya to join a panel of scientists developing a science plan for a proposed mission to Mars in 2013. He was appointed to the Mars Astrobiology Field Lab Mission Definition Science Steering Group co-chaired by Dave Beaty of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Andrew Steele of the Carnegie Institution.

December 1, 2003

Down That Long Dusty Trail USC

While Mars can claim some unique features - the largest volcano and the deepest canyon in the solar system - its rocky, dusty, cold landscape has yet to yield signs of the ultimate prize: life. Three simple words - follow the water - have become the mantra of astrobiologists studying the Red Planet because the presence of water is believed to be a prerequisite for life, either past or present. But as scientists look for evidence of water on Mars, they are faced with an underlying dilemma: Will they know life when they see it?

Mars mission appointment for UTD geoscientist Dallas Business Journal

An associate professor in the geosciences department at The University of Texas at Dallas has been selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to help develop a science plan for a 2013 mission to search for life on Mars.

Space: A bad influence on microbes?

Life is a bit different in space, even for microbes. Research shows that the pattern of gene activity in some microbes differs in weightlessness, leading to differences in behavior. These differences could be behind a curious observation: the common food-borne pathogen salmonella becomes more virulent when grown in a form of simulated microgravity.

November 29, 2003

Viking Dust Astrobiology Magazine

The soft-landing Viking missions to Mars offered a challenging set of experiments to test for biological activity in 1976. As biology has progressed in the ensuing quarter-century, one of the principal investigators continues to mull over what that mission sought to test. In preparation for the three planned missions in the next month and half, those results are revisited.

November 17, 2003

The Calm Before The Storm: An Interview With Dr. Gilbert Levin

In a little over one month, the British built Beagle 2 exobiology lander will look for signs of extinct or extant life on the surface of Mars. Not since NASA's Viking mission 27 years ago has another search for life on Mars been attempted.

November 10, 2003

Mars-Like Atacama Desert Could Explain Viking No Life Results

A team of scientists from NASA, the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Louisiana State University and several other research organizations has discovered clues from one of Earth's driest deserts about the limits of life on Earth, and why past missions to Mars may have failed to detect life.

November 7, 2003

How bugs hitch-hike across the galaxy Electronic Telegraph

Mankind's search for alien life could be jeopardised by ultra-resilient bacteria from Earth. David Derbyshire reports What was the most important discovery of the Apollo programme? Some have argued that it was the rocks that explained how the Moon was formed. Others believe it was the technological spin-offs. But according to Captain Peter Conrad, who led the 1969 Apollo 12 mission, it was life.

November 6, 2003

Life on Mars is 'similar to Chilean desert' Ananova

Scientists say one of the Earth's most inhospitable corners has soil very similar to that on Mars. The arid and almost lifeless Atacama desert in Chile could help researchers design better experiments for detecting Martian life. An international research team headed by Rafael Navarro-Gonzales of the University of Mexico compared findings from soils in the Atacama with results of similar tests from the Viking missions to Mars in the 1970s.

November 4, 2003

Volcanic Lake May Hold Clues to Mars Life Discovery News

A team of scientists is making its way to a lake at the top of the world where, despite blasting solar radiation and little protection from atmospheric ozone, life took hold and continues to thrive today. Licancabur, a dormant volcano rising 20,000 feet above sea level, is not your typical tourist spot. Atmospheric pressure at Licancabur's peak is less than half that at sea level and its equatorial location between Chile and Bolivia puts it directly in the line of fire for ultraviolet blasts from the sun.

October 25, 2003

Study suggests life sprang from clay

Science backed up religion this week in a study that suggests life may have indeed sprung from clay -- just as many faiths teach. A team at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston said they had shown materials in clay were key to some of the initial processes in forming life.

October 22, 2003

NASA Scientists to Study Lake's Primitive Life to Learn About Mars

Scientists from NASA, the SETI Institute and other institutions will study microscopic life forms in some of the highest lakes on Earth atop a South American volcano to learn what life may have been like on early Mars. From Oct. 27 to Nov. 23, scientists will conduct field tests to examine life forms in several lakes, including the Licancabur volcano crater lake, at nearly 20,000 ft. in the Andean Altiplano on the border of Bolivia and Chile.

October 21, 2003

Bugs Save the Day

Iron lungs may be the answer. To the problem of nuclear pollution, the demand for new energy sources, the mystery of Earth's earliest life, and the search for life in space. A family of tiny iron-breathing critters discovered by Derek Lovley, professor of microbiology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, is redefining what scientists have believed possible in all these areas.

October 15, 2003

The search for life

Life on other planets is always going to be an exciting subject for debate. But how do we find out if life really exists elsewhere in the Universe? One way is to travel to the planets, either with remotely operated probes or with manned spacecraft.

October 9, 2003

Rocks could reveal secrets of life on Earth - and Mars University of Glasgow

A new UK project could help detect evidence of life on Mars and improve our understanding of how life evolved on Earth. The aim is to develop a technique that can identify biomolecules in water that have been trapped in rocks for millions to billions of years.

October 5, 2003

Red River Drills for Mars Astrobiology Magazine

Drilling five-hundred feet into a Spanish red river (Rio Tinto), astrobiologists from the US and Spain are developing techniques to look for underground life forms. The highly acidic, wine-colored river is inhospitable to most microbes except the most robust that can live off the iron and sulfur minerals which give Rio Tinto its unusual tint.

October 4, 2003

Life theories The Globe and Mail

Scientists usually focus on the destructive nature of asteroids and comets slamming into Earth. But maybe the heavenly bodies were the start of something big. ANNE McILROY delves into research that accentuates the positive.

September 26, 2003

Could earthly religions survive the discovery of life elsewhere in the universe? The Atlantic Monthly

The recent discovery of abundant water on Mars, albeit in the form of permafrost, has raised hopes for finding traces of life there. The Red Planet has long been a favorite location for those speculating about extraterrestrial life, especially since the 1890s, when H. G. Wells wrote The War of the Worlds and the American astronomer Percival Lowell claimed that he could see artificial canals etched into the planet's parched surface. Today, of course, scientists expect to find no more than simple bacteria dwelling deep underground, if even that. Still, the discovery of just a single bacterium somewhere beyond Earth would force us to revise our understanding of who we are and where we fit into the cosmic scheme of things, throwing us into a deep spiritual identity crisis that would be every bit as dramatic as the one Copernicus brought about in the early 1500s, when he asserted that Earth was not at the center of the universe.

September 22, 2003

Early Mars Was Frozen, But Habitable: II Astrobiology Magazine

Mars was cold - very cold, says Chris McKay, a planetary scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center. But that doesn't mean it was incapable of supporting life. McKay has extensively studied life in some of the harshest environments in the world: the Antarctic dry valleys, the Arctic, and the Atacama desert. In part two of this series, he discusses the frozen dust and why one might want to look closer at the red planet.

Scientists Practice Mars Drilling Near Acidic Spanish River

To develop techniques to drill into the surface of Mars to look for signs of life, NASA and Spanish scientists recently began drilling 150 meters (495 feet) into the ground near the source of the waters of the Rio Tinto, a river in southwestern Spain, part of a three-year effort that will include the search for underground life forms. During the Mars Analog Research and Technology Experiment (MARTE), scientists and engineers from NASA, U.S. universities and the Spanish Centro De Astrobiologa (Center for Astrobiology) hope to show how robot systems could look for life below Mars' surface. Scientists believe that liquid water may exist deep underground on Mars.

September 19, 2003

Arthur C. Clarke: Mars Has the Munchies

Mars has a case of the munchies. That is, the red planet is spotted with vegetation with some sort of life feasting on the foliage. So says Arthur Clarke, the noted sci-fi writer and space visionary, making the claim during a recent conference on the space elevator. Clarke was keynote speaker at the 2nd annual international conference on the space elevator, held in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Sir Arthur beamed into the gathering by satellite link on September 13.

September 17, 2003

Geobiologist Kenneth Nealson to discuss the search for life on other planets in public lecture on Thursday, October 16, at UC Santa Cruz UC Santa Cruz

If life exists on Mars, how would we know? Scientists have been grappling with this deceptively simple question for years. Kenneth Nealson, the Wrigley Professor of Geobiology at the University of Southern California, is a leading authority on this issue, which he will address in a public lecture at the University of California, Santa Cruz, on Thursday, October 16.

UC lands $330 million deal Contra Costa Times

NASA/Ames Research Center in Mountain View said Tuesday it has picked the University of California for a competitive $330 million, 10-year contract that will enable the space agency to harness some of the top scientific minds in the UC system. The contract taps UC Santa Cruz to manage the development of a University Affiliated Research Center whose work will focus on interdisciplinary research in astrobiology and informational technology and its fusion with nanotechnology and biotechnology.

September 15, 2003

Early Mars Was Frozen, But Habitable: I Astrobiology Magazine

Early Mars was cold - very cold, says Chris McKay, a planetary scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center. But that doesn't mean it was incapable of supporting life. McKay has extensively studied life in some of the harshest environments in the world: the Antarctic dry valleys, the Arctic, and the Atacama desert.

'Mars: the search for life' European workshop CORDIS

The European exo/astrobiology network association and the Spanish astrobiological centre are jointly organising a workshop addressing the possibility of life on Mars, to take place from 18 to 20 November in Madrid, Spain.

September 5, 2003

Mars Underground: Digging Deep for Life

Martian biology is likely alive and well on the red planet, but tucked away in caves or dwelling underground, sustained by pockets of water. That prospect has spurred scientists to look for exotic life forms here on Earth, far from the maddening crowd of topside biota that covers our planet. This quizzical quarry for life is helping devise the strategies, the tools, and the procedures for unearthing the biological leftovers from an ancient Mars, or hardy microbes that might exist on that distant world today. Experts on the search for underground Martian biology took part in the Sixth International Mars Society Conference, held August 14-17, 2003.

September 4, 2003

Space theorist posits unusual life on Mars '2nd genesis' on Red Planet San Francisco Chronicle

The planet Mars may well have been the scene of the solar system's "second genesis," where forms of life vastly different from Earth's emerged deep beneath the Martian surface billions of years ago, a leading space scientist proposed Wednesday. Christopher McKay, of NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, said that life on early Mars might have been based on DNA, genes and proteins unlike anything found on Earth.

September 3, 2003

Scientist Says No Water Needed to Make Mars Red

Data from an unmanned Mars probe suggests the red planet's rusty color might have come not from water as widely believed but from tiny meteors raining on its surface, a science magazine said on Wednesday. Scientists exploring the possibility of some form of life existing on Earth's planetary neighbor are eager to establish whether water exists or has existed on Mars and, if so, in what quantities. The New Scientist magazine quoted Albert Yen of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as saying information from the 1996-97 Pathfinder mission suggested the hue came from meteors and dust containing iron and magnesium.

Surface Water Possible Under Mars-Like Conditions University of Arkansas

A team of researchers from the University of Arkansas has measured water evaporation rates under Mars-like conditions, and their findings favor the presence of surface water on the planet. Water on the planets surface makes the existence of past or present life on Mars a little more likely, according to the group.

August 27, 2003

Mars in their eyes CORDIS

On 27 August, the distance between Mars and the Earth was less than 56 million kilometres, the closest the Red Planet has been to ours for more than 60,000 years. Stargazers and amateur astronomers were treated to views of Mars unrivalled since Neanderthal times, with the distinctive red-orange planet easily visible to the naked eye. Scientists have also taken advantage of the planetary close encounter to record their own observations.

Could Soap Lake hold secrets to life on Mars? The Seattle Times

With Mars at its closest position to Earth in 60,000 years, most Red Planet enthusiasts have their eyes trained on the night sky. Some scientists from Central Washington University have turned their attention elsewhere to Soap Lake. As part of an $840,000 study funded by the National Sciences Foundation, the team from Central Washington was on the desolate lake Friday collecting samples of green and brown slime, murky water, tiny plankton and worms. They were searching for the type of life that might have existed on Mars.

August 25, 2003

Cleaning up after Martian exploration The Space Review

Mars 2. Mars 3. Mars 6. Viking 1. Viking 2. Mars Pathfinder and Sojourner. Mars Polar Lander. Deep Space 2. All these spacecraft have landedor crash-landedon Mars since the early 1970s. In a few months, they will be joined by Spirit, Opportunity, and Beagle 2. All have brought scientific instruments seeking to understand the nature of planet Mars, and if the planet once or currently harbors life. They also all brought with them terrestrial bacteria.

August 21, 2003

Carbonates found on Mars PhysicsWeb

Small amounts of carbonate minerals have been discovered on the surface of Mars for the first time. The result could help researchers better understand the history and evolution of the planet as part of their efforts to determine if the conditions for sustaining life ever existed there. Joshua Bandfield and colleagues at Arizona State University discovered that particles on the surface of Mars reflect and absorb infrared radiation in a way that exactly matches that of magnesium-rich carbonates found on Earth (J Bandfield et al. 2003 Sciencexpress to be published).

Mars Findings Pour Cold Water on Ocean Theory

Scans of the surface of Mars have turned up clues about the Red Planet's atmosphere and suggest Mars has always been a cold, barren place, U.S. scientists said on Thursday. Using the Thermal Emission Spectrometer on NASA's orbiting Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft, geologist Philip Christensen of Arizona State University and his colleagues looked for minerals known as carbonate compounds. The compounds provide clues about Mars's past because they form when carbon dioxide gas comes in contact with minerals and water.

August 20, 2003

Socorroan searching for life on Mars El Defensor Chieftain

New Mexico Tech Professor Philip Kyle, who is a leading expert on Mount Erebus in Antarctica, is helping an Australian geologist look for life on Mars. Kyle, who has traveled to Antarctica every year for the last 32 years to study Mount Erebus, was approached recently about his work on ice towers, because the geologist, Nick Hoffman, had seen the latest images taken by the Mars Odyssey orbiter, which revealed hotspots in the Hellis Basin that could be similar to ice towers in Antarctica, where microbiological life forms live on chemical energy.

August 14, 2003

Microbe makes hell its home

A microbe that thrives in boiling water and breathes iron has stretched the limits of where scientists believed life could exist, according to a report published on Thursday.

August 6, 2003

Liquid Water Likely Supports Life On Mars Today, Scientists Claim

Even on the present-day cold and dusty surface of Mars, liquid water may be sustaining a world of Martian microbes. Data churned out by NASA's Mars Odyssey suggests that the nearby planet is waterfront property -- at least in the form of below surface deposits of water ice. Odyssey scientists report that the soil very close to the surface over much of the planet contains large amounts of ice. Now a father and son science team argue that ice near Mars' surface means liquid water in its "topsoil", thereby strengthening the case for life on the red planet.

August 4, 2003

Geologist: Ice may hold clues to life on Mars

Giant ice towers that formed next to steaming volcanic vents in the freezing atmosphere of Mars may be the best place to look for life on the red planet, an Australian geologist said on Monday. Nick Hoffman of the University of Melbourne said the latest images taken by the Mars Odyssey orbiter had revealed curious hotspots in the Hellas Basin that could be similar to ice towers in Antarctica, where microbial life forms live on chemical energy.

August 1, 2003

New Species Of Organism Found In Mars-Like Environment

They thrive without oxygen, growing in salty, alkaline conditions, and may offer insights into what kinds of life might survive on Mars. They're a new species of organism, isolated by scientists at the National Space Science and Technology Center (NSSTC) in Huntsville, Alabama.

July 30, 2003

Search for life on Mars in Canada's Arctic CBC News

A study of springs and ice-covered lakes in Canada's High Arctic could help point scientists to life on Mars. Researchers from McGill University have been studying the aquatic environments at Expedition Fiord on Axel Heiberg island. The area contains the most northerly perennial springs in Canada. Nancy Martineau says these springs maintain a temperature of about 5 C all year despite winter air temperatures that dip below -40 C.

A New Form of Life

Mark Twain didn't think much of California's Mono Lake. "It lies in a lifeless, treeless, hideous desert," he wrote in his 1872 travelogue, Roughing It. "This solemn, silent, sailless sea--this lonely tenant of the loneliest spot on earth--is little graced with the picturesque." Astrobiologist Richard Hoover of NASA's National Space Science and Technology Center (NSSTC) in Huntsville, Alabama, has a different view: "It's beautiful," he says.

July 29, 2003

Viking Mission Scientist Strengthens Case For Life On Mars Spherix

Spherix Incorporated (NASDAQ/SPEX), today reported that recent data on the Martian surface sent by the Odyssey spacecraft will be interpreted as evidence for liquid water, life's most essential need, in a paper to be presented at the Astrobiology session of the SPIE (International Society for Optical Engineering) meeting in San Diego on August 4. This is the latest, perhaps most compelling, round in the years'-long fight of the paper's author, Dr. Gilbert V. Levin, a life detection scientist in NASA's 1976 Viking Mission to Mars, to gain support for his conclusion that his experiment had succeeded in detecting microbial life. In his analysis of the data from Odyssey's Neutron Spectrometer, Levin says that the vast quantities of ice it found close to the surface of Mars mean that life-sustaining liquid water was in the soil sampled by his Viking experiment.

July 24, 2003

Earth, Mars Similarities Fuel Speculation About Life

The prospect of finding life on Mars is alive and well. Despite its extremely hostile environment, the red planet may indeed be an asylum for microorganisms. That viewpoint is gaining support, thanks to scientists looking for life in a range of extreme conditions right here on planet Earth. Experts that are on the trail of finding life on Mars are taking part this week in the Sixth International Conference on Mars sponsored by the California Institute of Technology, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Lunar and Planetary Institute, NASA, and the Planetary Society.

July 15, 2003

ET on Mars, claim researchers The Australian

NASA found evidence of life on Mars in 1976, but dismissed the findings as impossible, two British astronomers claim. Now, evidence from missions such as the Mars Global Surveyor suggests that the early observation was correct after all.

July 11, 2003

Couple hooked on extremes The Oak Ridger

Taking the UT/ORNL marriage to heart, this couple spends quality time descending into some of the world's deepest gold mines as a precursor to the search for life on Mars.

July 9, 2003

Alien Blood Test

Scientists Hope to Use Horseshoe Crab Blood to Hunt for Life Outside Earth. "One of the reasons the horseshoe crab has survived for so long is its advanced immune system," said Norman Wainwright, a senior scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Mass. "This system can be used to find microbial life."

July 8, 2003

Berkeley To Explore The Elements Needed To Support Martian Life

Could life once have existed on planets other than Earth, perhaps on Mars? A team of researchers led by the University of California, Berkeley, has joined the quest to find the answer. The NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) announced this week that UC Berkeley is one of 12 institutions that will receive funding to study the origin, evolution and future of life in the universe. The institute is awarding the UC Berkeley-led team $1.23 million for the first year of a five-year grant to study the biosphere of Mars, both ancient and recent.

June 26, 2003

More evidence of water on Mars

Barely a year ago, Mars Odyssey found signs that the planet has reservoirs of underground ice near the south pole. Scientists at the US space agency (Nasa) estimated there was enough ice to fill Lake Michigan twice. They said it might be merely the tip of the iceberg and it seems they were right. New observations by Mars Odyssey and Mars Global Surveyor (another Nasa probe that is mapping Mars) suggest the planet's north pole has about one third more underground ice than the south. Beneath a shallow crust of dry soil, there appears to be a layer of permanently frozen ground that is up to 75% ice.

May 30, 2003

'Maybe we are the Martians'

As Europe and the United States prepare to launch missions to Mars, BBC News Online's Helen Briggs looks at our long-running fascination with the idea of Martian life.

May 29, 2003

Historic Mars lander 'did find life'

Claims have re-emerged that the US space agency (Nasa) did find signs of life on Mars during the historic Viking landings of 1976. Dr Gil Levin, a former mission scientist, says he now has the evidence to prove it, just days before the US and Europe send new expeditions to the Red Planet. The United States and Russia have spent billions since the 1960s on a handful of space craft designed to land on Mars. Only three have succeeded so far: the two Viking probes in the 1970s and Mars Pathfinder in 1997.

May 26, 2003

Mars 2003 Rovers Get Bio Scrub Ahead Of June Launch

What do NASA's soon-to-be-launched Mars Exploration Rover (MER-1 and MER-2) spacecraft have in common with the Viking and Voyager spacecraft launched decades ago? Besides being interplanetary explorers, they will be among the most biologically clean spacecraft ever launched from Cape Canaveral. Making sure the spacecraft are as biologically clean and contamination-free as possible before they leave Earth is NASA's planetary protection (PP) policy. It protects other solar system bodies from Earth life and protects Earth from extraterrestrial life that may be brought back by returning space missions.

May 1, 2003

Planetary Protection: An Integral Part of Mission Preparations

Since the early years of the space program, scientists have expressed concern about planetary protection --that is, the prevention of human-caused biological cross-contamination between Earth and other bodies in the solar system. "Hitchhiker" bacteria and other organisms on spacecraft and equipment might cause irreversible changes in the environments of other planets or interfere with scientific exploration on them. In practical terms, the concerns are twofold: avoiding (1) forward contamination, the transport of terrestrial microbes on outbound spacecraft, and (2) back contamination, the introduction onto Earth of contamination or life-forms that could be returned from space. Both concerns are covered in provision of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, as well as in NASA policies and requirements.

April 30, 2003

Drilling for Life

Scientists and engineers with the Mars Analog Research and Technology Experiment (MARTE) recently selected a location near the Rio Tinto river to drill for exotic subsurface life. Representing NASA, numerous U.S. universities, and the Spanish Centro De Astrobiologa (Center for Astrobiology), the group hopes to discover underground bacteria and other microbes that feed on minerals obtained from rocks containing iron and sulfur. Though an Earth biological study, MARTE hopes to provide valuable lessons in the search for life on Mars.

April 12, 2003

In search of 'weird life' The Globe and Mail

The European Space Agency is soliciting scientists to come up with unique ways of identifying life on Mars. The idea is to put these detection tools on ESA's ExoMars mission, which is set to deposit a rover on the Red Planet in 2009.

April 9, 2003

Hitchhikers May Have Thumbed A Ride to Mars Astrobiology Magazine

Could dormant forms of bacteria called endospores potentially travel from Earth to Mars aboard spacecraft? If so, new experiments suggest that even a dry and cold Mars might not prove so inhospitable, despite the possibility of self-sterilizing and oxidizing martian soil.

April 7, 2003

Mars Gullies Could Harbor Martian Biology

Over the decades, a flotilla of Mars spacecraft have relayed back to Earth freeze-frame portraits of a cold, dry, dusty and desolate planet. But Mars experts are becoming progressively more surprised as they observe a world in constant change. Evidence is mounting that the red planet bares witness to very young, water-related features. Mars has undergone episodic climate cycles that have caused dramatic changes to its surface. Some of these climate swings may have been fairly recent as measured in geologic time.

April 3, 2003

Hitchhiking Bacteria could compromise the detection of life on Mars BioMed Central

Is there life on Mars? It's possible, but it may not Martian, say scientists. New research, published in the open access journal BMC Microbiology, suggests that conditions on Mars are capable of supporting dormant bacteria, known as endospores. This raises concern about future attempts to detect Martian life forms because endospores originating on Earth could potentially hitch a ride to Mars and survive on its surface.

March 30, 2003

Martian Ground Truth Sought on Dark Dunes Astrobiology Magazine

Are dark spots that appear near the south pole of Mars in early spring, a sign of life on the Red Planet? No one can say for sure, according to a group of scientists who met at ESTEC, ESA's technical center in the Netherlands. Indeed ever since Mars watcher, Percival Lowell, mistook the chiselled images from his telescope as Martian 'canals', a certain skepticism has greeted fresh claims about purely visual evidence of unusual activity on the Red Planet. But as Lowell himself wrote from Flagstaff, Arizona in 1895, there is much more to the Mars habitability question than can be answered astronomically: "If Mars be capable of supporting life, there must be water upon his surface; for, to all forms of life, water is as vital a matter as air. On the question of habitability, therefore, it becomes all-important to know whether there be water on Mars."

March 28, 2003

Mars Water, Odd Surface Features Tied to Life

Mars is one wet and wild world. Scientists are slowly warming up to the view that trickling amounts of water on the cold, dry planet may be nourishing Martian biology. Thanks to spacecraft observations by the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS), newly formed dark slope streaks on Mars have been spotted. Emanating from a point source, they widen as they flow down slope. In some cases, they divide into separate streaks as they encounter other surface features. These sharp-edged dark stains always appear on slopes, mostly inside craters and valleys, but also on small hills. They are almost always located below Martian sea level - zero elevation.

March 25, 2003

Digging for life on Mars

Europe is stepping up its plans to search for life on Mars with proposals for a solar-powered robot that would spend months on the Martian surface. The Mars rover would be equipped with a portable lab, a drill, and a system to take soil samples from sites that could contain primitive life forms. The European Space Agency (Esa) is asking scientists to come up with ideas for the 2009 mission.

March 24, 2003

Pasteur: Payload Opportunities to Search for Life on Mars esa

Are we alone, or is there life beyond Earth? Has life ever existed on Mars? The European Space Agency (ESA) is now offering scientists a rare opportunity to answer these fundamental questions that have intrigued mankind for centuries. In order to determine whether life ever evolved on Mars, ESA intends to launch an exobiology mission, known as ExoMars, to the Red Planet in 2009. As part of ESAs long-term Aurora programme to prepare for future human missions, ExoMars will deploy a high-mobility rover on the Martian surface.

March 21, 2003

Leading Expert On Possibility Of Life On Mars To Speak The Morning News

One of NASA's leading planetary scientists and a renowned expert on the possibility of life on Mars, Dr. Christopher P. McKay, will present a lecture at the University of Arkansas at 4 p.m. Tuesday in Giffels Auditorium. Titled "Life on Mars: Past, Present and Future," McKay's presentation will discuss evidence that, early in Mars' history, the planet had liquid water, more active volcanism and thicker atmosphere -- conditions remarkably similar to those of Earth. In fact, Mars exhibited these conditions about 3.5 billion years ago, about the same time that life appeared on our planet.

March 17, 2003

Did white stuff once fall on Red Planet? The Knoxville News Sentinel

The quest for life beyond Earth generally revolves around the presence of water, which makes the recent discovery of abundant water just under the surface of Mars so tantalizing, according to NASA scientists. But the latest theory to emerge from pictures taken by the Mars Odyssey satellite orbiting the Red Planet is even more astounding: NASA researchers now believe there is a possibility that snow may have fallen on the surface in the geologically recent past.

March 13, 2003

Water 'flows' on Mars

New images and analysis suggest the slopes around the Red Planet's largest extinct volcano, Olympus Mons, contain dark stains caused by brine flowing down hill. The discovery indicates that the substantial underground ice deposits on Mars can sometimes melt and flow across the surface. It is bound to increase speculation that life may exist near to the surface of the planet.

March 12, 2003

A Mars invasion, by a fleet of rovers The Christian Science Monitor

Efforts to explore Mars - a planet that has captivated the human imagination for millenniums - represent one of the few bright spots in a space program overshadowed by the loss of the shuttle Columbia and its crew last month. Now, US and European scientists are poised for a return to the red planet late this spring in an unprecedented effort to deliver two rovers and a lander to the surface, while a new orbiter takes up station high above to gather stereo images of the planet's surface in extraordinary detail. The projects, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover mission and the European Space Agency's Mars Express, will help determine whether Mars could once have hosted simple forms of organic life - and whether such forms still may exist there.

February 19, 2003

Trickle Down Theory of Melting Snow May Support Life on Mars

Intriguing and often-examined gullies on Mars might not be created by water seeping out from underground springs, according to a new study. Rather, they are likely caused by trickling water from melting snowpacks, an active process that could sustain biology on the Red Planet. A leading Mars scientist has proposed a new theory regarding gully formation on the planet, backed by images taken from NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft. The research bolsters the view that liquid water is sheltered by snow, preventing the fluid from rapid evaporation in Mars' thin atmosphere.

February 14, 2003

Bugs from the Deep May Be Window Into the Origins of Life on Earth and Beyond American Association for the Advancement of Science

Simple life forms are turning up in a surprising variety of below-ground environments, potentially making up 50 percent of the Earth's biomass, scientists said today at the AAAS Annual Meeting. From South African gold mines, to cooled seafloor lavas, these subsurface bugs have provided clues to the potential for life on Mars, and the diversity of possible fuel sources for life, including nuclear energy and toxic waste.

February 12, 2003

Methane Might Mark Martian Life Betterhumans

Like Earth organisms, Martian organisms would pass gas. So why not use this as a marker for life on the Red Planet? Scientists from George Mason University and the California Institute of Technology suggest we do just that. In a paper in Geophysical Research Letters, the scientists say that bacteria that evolved early in Martian history and then moved underground could be producing detectable methane.

January 6, 2003

'No water' on Mars News Interactive

A MELBOURNE geologist believes he's put a dent in NASA's plans to send an expedition to Mars to search for life. University of Melbourne planetary scientist Nick Hoffman has identified gully and channel development near the polar regions of Mars from images taken by the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft.

Hunt for life on Mars dealt another blow Science Blog

An Australian geologist has identified what could be the first ever active flow of fluids through gullies on Mars. University of Melbourne geologist Dr. Nick Hoffman identified recent gully and channel development near the polar regions of Mars from images taken by the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. But contrary to the majority of scientific opinion which suggests that such features were carved by liquid water, Hoffman says the flow is most likely frozen carbon dioxide. NASA is hoping to find signs of liquid water on Mars so it can have a target for the next generation of Mars landers and rovers to go and search for life, but their search could prove fruitless if Hoffman's analysis of the images is correct.

December 17, 2002

Microbes from edge of space revived New Scientist

Microbes collected from the edge of space have been brought back to life in the lab. This enabled the high-flying organisms to be identified, almost two years after they were found in air samples collected by a weather balloon cruising at 41,000 metres (135,000 feet) over southern India. How the bugs got there is not known, but there are three possibilities: they were carried up on winds, they sneaked into the samples on Earth or they have flown through space and are aliens making their way down to our planet.

Report: Microbes Rain Down from Space? More Support for Controversial Theory

A controversial finding last year of microbes high in Earth's atmosphere and thought to have come from space gained another scientist's support this week. The organisms, collected by a balloon mission to the stratosphere in January 2001, were first studied by Chandra Wickramasinghe of Cardiff University, co-proponent with the late Sir Fred Hoyle of the modern theory of panspermia. The theory states that the Earth was seeded in the past, and is still being seeded, with microorganisms from comets.

December 16, 2002

2,800-year-old frozen microbes found

In ice that has sealed a salty Antarctic lake for more than 2,800 years, scientists have found frozen bacteria and algae that returned to life after thawing. The research may help in the search for life on Mars, which is thought to have subsurface lakes of ice.

Ancient, Frozen Antarctic Life Revived, Along with Hopes for Life on Mars

Within ice that covers a salty, liquid Antarctic lake scientists have found and revived microbes that were at least 2,800 years old. The discovery, announced today, points to probable life within the underground lake and suggests the sort of ecosystem that might exist on Mars. The ancient microbes were in a state of suspended metabolism, similar to dormancy, said study team member John Priscu of Montana State University. "They're in a frozen state," Priscu said in a telephone interview. "They'll come back to life if you add water."

December 13, 2002

Primitive Housing: Potential Homes for Earth's First Life Found in Space Rock

Organic bubbles that could serve as dwellings for primitive life have been discovered inside a space rock that fell to Earth nearly three years ago. The frozen chunk of stone and metal was recovered in the Yukon Territory after eyewitnesses saw it's dramatic breakup in the sky. Inside the so-called Tagish Lake meteorite, frozen and well preserved, researchers have now found what they call organic hydrocarbon globules. Similar bubble-like structures have previously been created in laboratories at NASA's Ames Research Center, under conditions designed to simulate how Nature might have cooked up the first life on Earth.

December 10, 2002

Ice packs red planet Nature

Staggering quantities of water are hidden below the surface of Mars, the latest results from the Odyssey spacecraft suggest. The discovery doesn't alter the Mars' status as a barren wilderness because the water has been locked-up in subterranean ice for millennia, mainly around the planet's poles. But the sheer volume of ice does pertain to the likelihood that life once existed on the planet.

December 7, 2002

Revolutionary new theory for origins of life on Earth The Royal Society

A totally new and highly controversial theory on the origin of life on earth, is set to cause a storm in the science world and has implications for the existence of life on other planets. Research by Professor William Martin of the University of Dusseldorf and Dr Michael Russell of the Scottish Environmental Research Centre in Glasgow, claims that living systems originated from inorganic incubators - small compartments in iron sulphide rocks. The new theory radically departs from existing perceptions of how life developed and it will be published in a forthcoming issue of Philosophical Transactions series B, Chloroplasts and mitochondria: functional genomics and evolution.

December 6, 2002

Hopes for life on Mars recede The Age

In the ongoing battle between the wet and dry-Marsers, competing theories ebb and flow. Robert Cooke reports from New York. A new look at the bumps, basins and flow channels on Mars suggests the red planet, though sometimes awash with water, has been too cold and too dry to ever get life going.

December 5, 2002

Scalding Rains, Flash Floods and Worse Plagued Ancient Mars

Mars in the popular imagination is a planet that was once warm and wet, a place that might have fostered life. But new research shows how these imagined pleasant periods were brief, hellish, and punctuated by utter catastrophe. New and detailed computer modeling paints a picture of blankets of molten rock, scalding rain and colossal floods more than 3 billion years ago that rapidly and permanently scarred vast regions of the surface following crushing impacts from comets or asteroids.

November 27, 2002

Mars probe leads to Death Valley Whittier Daily News

In the search for life on other planets, one of the most important questions is: "What are we searching for?' Biologists on Earth have traveled to the most inhospitable parts of the planet to find extreme forms of life in hopes of answering that query. A new study from scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Center for Life Detection shows that bacteria living in Death Valley's salt-encrusted mud may hold clues to finding microbes on Mars.

November 26, 2002

Key to life on Mars may be in Sudbury The Ottawa Citizen

NASA wants to know what the Sudbury crater has to tell scientists about life on Mars. Researchers from the U.S. space agency are probing the most inhospitable places on Earth in the hopes they will find clues about how lifeforms could survive another inhospitable place -- Mars. They are studying how lifeforms adapted to survive in the Siberian permafrost, the arid valleys of Antarctica and a dormant volcano in the Chilean Andes. And they're hoping that Canada's ancient Sudbury crater also has some secrets to reveal.

November 25, 2002

Scientists blast rocks to study space bacteria The Albuquerque Tribune

New Mexico Tech wants to see what happens when bacteria fly. Scientists at the university are testing bacteria-filled rocks to see if the organisms can survive the extreme pressures and temperatures involved in a meteor impact on another planet that might send them to Earth. If the bacteria prove hardy, it might mean that life could be widespread across the universe. "People kind of thought of this as crazy science fiction in the past, until we found this meteorite from Mars and discovered evidence of life in it in the 1990s," said Eileen Ryan, a research scientist at Tech's Magdalena Ridge Observatory Project. "Studying these rocks has implications for how we view ourselves and our place in the universe. It's an exciting idea that we're not alone."

Surviving the Final Frontier Astrobiology Magazine

Could life on Earth have spread to other planets? Or the other way around? An idea nearly 140 years old is resurfacing in a new form: microbes surviving space travel inside meteorites. Shielded from the intense radiation of the sun, dried out microbes could survive and sprout on a new world.

November 19, 2002

How Life Might Have Formed in Martian Impact Craters

Mars may be smaller than Earth, but its still huge to a roving spacecraft that can cover only 100 meters a day. For that reason, Mars mission planners must go to great lengths to find landing sites that might still carry evidence that life once existed on Mars. A key zone of speculation exists just beneath Mars cold, dry, dusty and inhospitable surface where two prerequisites for life, water and heat, may be found. Such heat may come from volcanism, and indeed Olympus Mons is the largest volcano in the solar system. Asteroid impacts (most likely in the first half-billion years of the solar system but conceivably even today) are a second possibility.

November 17, 2002

The Mars Experiment: Looking for life in the driest spot on Earth Tri-Valley Herald

Kimberly Warren-Rhodes has an eye for microscopic life. But on this day in early October, as she trekked across perhaps the driest spot on Earth, she was having trouble. She couldn't find a thing. A post-doctoral researcher with NASA-Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Warren-Rhodes hunts down hardy bacteria that thrive in climates too harsh for other life. The microbes colonize the underside of white quartz, using the opaque crystal as a "rock greenhouse" to filter the sun's rays and condense scarce moisture. Warren-Rhodes had never found a desert floor without them.

Community Voices: Life from Mars? Find out at UCSC Santa Cruz Sentinel

Did life come from Mars? And should it go back? At least the first question will be discussed by Australian physicist Paul Davies in a free public lecture at UC Santa Cruz on Tuesday night. Davies will present the lecture as popular science, so that people can follow the findings without specialized science training. The lecture will take place at the UCSC Sigma Xi and Physics Department in Classroom Unit 2 on the campus, at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

November 11, 2002

Seeking Earthly Clues to Alien Life Astronomy Now

The highest lake in the world is located in this volcano's crater. NASA / SETI / In the vast wasteland of Chile's Atacama Desert, yearly rainfall is measured in tenths of inches and life is scarce. Yet, rising above its barren landscape, at an elevation of 19,410 feet (5,916 meters), Licancabur Volcano holds an ice-covered crater lake that's teaming with life. At this lake the world's highest the atmospheric pressure is half that at sea level and more dangerous ultraviolet radiation reaches the ground than at lower elevations.

November 4, 2002

The hunt for alien pond scum The Mercury News

With growing support from the federal government, scientists are accelerating their hunt for life beyond Earth. They also are broadening the search to include organisms unlike any of those on our home planet -- what some researchers call "weird life." By this, they mean alien forms of life that are not based on our familiar DNA but on a different genetic code. In theory, creatures made of unusual biological or chemical structures might exist on moons or planets that lack liquid water, a must for life as we know it.

Superman bug may be migrant from Mars Independent Online

microbe which is resistant to radiation may have come from Mars, Russian scientists say. The researchers suggest the bug may have begun life on the red planet before being blasted to earth by an asteroid. Deinococcus radiodurans can withstand a thousand times the dose of radiation that would kill a human being. To find out how this resistance was acquired, Anatoli Pavlov and his team from St Petersburg's Ioffe Physico-Technical decided to blast another microbe, E.coli, with gamma rays, according to New Scientist magazine

October 30, 2002

It's true, men really are from Mars The Guardian

Comment: Nasa landed two Viking spacecraft on the Martian surface with the specific aim of searching for signs of biological activity. Not so much as a bacterium was found. The surface of Mars appeared to be a freeze-dried desert, utterly hostile to any form of life. Today this pessimistic assessment seems too hasty. I believe not only that Mars has harboured life, but it may actually be the cradle of life. This conclusion arises because of the recent discovery that our biosphere extends deep into the bowels of the Earth. Microbes have been found thriving at depths of several kilometres, inhabiting the pore spaces of apparently solid rock. Genetic studies suggest these deep-living organisms are among the most ancient on the planet. They are, in effect, living fossils.

October 29, 2002

Martian water is prime candidate

Water is the liquid that cut the fresh gullies seen on Mars in 2000, suggests a new analysis - this despite claims that other liquids may be responsible. The fleeting presence of water flowing on the Red Planet once again raises hopes that primitive life may exist just below the surface. Looking at ancient canyons and shorelines, most scientists agree that Mars was wetter and warmer billions of years ago. But the fresh gullies would indicate that running water, and perhaps life, may be a feature of Mars today.

October 25, 2002

Scientists studying two big craters on earth find two causes University of Illinois

Two of the three largest impact craters on Earth have nearly the same size and structure, researchers say, but one was caused by a comet while the other was caused by an asteroid. These surprising results could have implications for where scientists might look for evidence of primitive life on Mars.

October 24, 2002

Please keep that planet clean Guardian Unlimited

A mission from the mid-1970s provides the benchmark. When Nasa sent two robotic Viking landers to Mars, both had been sterilised to a level comparable to the best operating theatre. The rules to be applied to each space mission fall into a discrete set of categories. These reflect scientific knowledge of the nature of the celestial bodies, and the conditions under which life exists on Earth. Thus, Venus is not judged to be in need of phenomenal standards of protection, because its surface temperature of about 500 C is far above that at which any life has been found on Earth, and the chemical bonds necessary for the maintenance of such life break down at about 160 C. Bugs on board a spacecraft sent to land there would soon be killed.

October 23, 2002

Martian rock 'does contain life'

The strange shapes seen in a rock from Mars that some researchers say are fossilised bacteria really are tiny micro organisms, say American researchers. But while they are confident the Mars rock contains fossilised life they cannot quite bring themselves to say it comes from the Red Planet, it might be Earthly contamination. Despite the uncertainty about their origin establishing that the small structures really were living things, and not just mineral globules, would be an advance in a field that has sharply divided opinions.

October 16, 2002

Evidence of water on Mars increases possibility of life

Neighboring Mars may look dry as a bone, but experts are finding evidence of life-sustaining water hidden below the planet's rugged terrain. The quantities discovered so far by instruments aboard NASA's $300 million Mars Odyssey mission equal twice the volume of Lake Michigan. Suspected for more than three decades, the watery findings compiled by the Odyssey after reaching its destination a year ago are a signpost of life on the Red Planet.

October 11, 2002

Biological Potential Seen for Mars

Mix Mars rock, water, and a heat source. What do have? Perhaps a suitable environment to support Martian life. A source of energy to power metabolism has been regarded as a limiting factor if life is to have thrived, or now exists, on the red planet. New research by a team of researchers here at the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) suggests that there's hope in discovering still-alive organisms on Mars.

Q&A: Arthur C. Clarke

British-born visionary Arthur C. Clarke's writings inspired satellite communications and influenced President John F. Kennedy's May 25, 1961, decision to send American explorers to the moon. But his 1968 cinematic collaboration with the late Stanley Kubrick, 2001: A Space Odyssey, over-optimistically predicted an aggressive human expansion into space.

September 26, 2002

Tough Earth bug may be from Mars New Scientist

A hardy microbe that can withstand huge doses of radiation could have evolved this ability on Mars. That is the conclusion of Russian scientists who say it would take far longer than life has existed here for the bug to evolve that ability in Earth's clement conditions. They suggest the harsher environment of Mars makes it a more likely birthplace.

September 13, 2002

Spain may hold clues to life on Mars The Detroit News

If there is life on Mars, scientists believe it's likely to be tiny organisms that can survive below the planet's surface, without sunlight or oxygen, nourished by the minerals available even in that harsh environment. In other words, said Ricardo Amils Pibernat, a researcher at the Center for Astrobiology in Madrid, past or present life on the red planet could well resemble the unusual microbes that populate Spain's Rio Tinto. The 58-mile-long river, which flows through one of the world's largest deposits of pyrite, or fool's gold, has a pH similar to that of automobile battery acid and contains virtually no oxygen in its lower depths.

September 11, 2002

A Case for Life on Mars

A multitude of arguments supporting the possible existence of life on Mars have surfaced after the discovery and examination of the ALH84001 meteorite. The polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) found within, plus detailed examination of the ratios of certain metabolites, all have various interpretations supporting or opposing their organic origin.

September 7, 2002

Red river in Spain may hold clues to life on Mars

If there is life on Mars, scientists believe it's likely to be tiny organisms that can survive below the planet's surface, without sunlight or oxygen, nourished by the minerals available even in that harsh environment. In other words, says Ricardo Amils Pibernat, a researcher at the Center for Astrobiology in Madrid, past or present life on the Red Planet could well resemble the unusual microbes that populate Spain's Rio Tinto. The 58-mile-long river, which flows through one of the world's largest deposits of pyrite, or fool's gold, has a pH similar to that of automobile battery acid and contains virtually no oxygen in its lower depths.

August 27, 2002

Air test suggests life possible on Mars

A strange and hardy terrestrial microorganism can grow in atmospheric and soil conditions that in some ways resemble those on Mars, suggesting that life could thrive on the red planet, according to scientists. The creatures, known as methanogens, survived in a thin atmosphere of hydrogen and carbon dioxide and in a special brew of volcanic ash altered to simulate the properties of martian soil, including its density, grain size and magnetic properties. The results, in addition to the presence of vast stores of underground water on Mars, lend support to the theory that the planet once hosted or now hosts life, said Tim Kral, a researcher at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

August 19, 2002

Mars-like Lab Conditions Support Life

A laboratory experiment simulating conditions on Mars found that certain terrestrial microorganisms called methanogens can survive in extreme Mars-like conditions involving low air pressure. While the work does not by any means suggest there is or ever was life on Mars, it illustrates one possible way primitive organisms might have once thrived on the Red Planet or could even exist below the surface today, according to Tim Kral of the University of Arkansas. Kral led the experiment and presented it to colleagues during a bioastronomy conference in Australia last month.

August 15, 2002

Microorganisms Grow At Low Pressures, Implying Possible Life On Mars University of Arkansas

Using a unique device known as the Andromeda Chamber to simulate conditions found on Mars, University of Arkansas researchers discovered that certain microorganisms called methanogens could grow at low pressures. Their findings imply that life could have existed on the Red Planet in the past, present, or that it could do so at some point in the future. Associate professor of biological sciences Tim Kral presented the preliminary results at a bioastronomy conference in Australia in July. "Our goal is first to get the organisms to grow well, then systematically experiment with conditions found on Mars," said Kral. He and his team first grew test tube cultures of various methanogens in a Mars soil simulant called JSC Mars-1. Derived from altered volcanic ash, it approximates the composition, grain size, density, and magnetic properties of Martian soil.

August 6, 2002

New Life to Mars Life Debate

A quarter of the magnetic material in a famous martian meteorite was most likely created by microbes, insist a team of researchers from the United States and Canada. The claim isn't new, but additional evidence for it is. In the August issue of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, a team of nine researchers headed by Kathie Thomas-Keprta, an astrobiologist at NASA's Johnson Space Center, presents new evidence that at least some of the magnetite crystals in ALH84001 are organic. About 25 percent of the magnetite crystals in ALH84001 have passed a set of criteria that only biological magnetite crystals have ever met before.

August 2, 2002

Researchers Publish Latest Results In Continuing Search For Ancient Martian Life

In the latest study of a 4.5 billion-year-old Martian meteorite, researchers have presented new evidence confirming that 25 percent of the magnetic material in the meteorite was produced by ancient bacteria on Mars. These latest results were published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology. The researchers used six physical properties they refer to as the Magnetite Assay for Biogenicity (MAB) to compare all the magnetic material found in the ancient meteorite -- using the MAB as a biosignature. A biosignature is a physical and/or chemical marker of life that does not occur through random processes or human intervention.

July 31, 2002

Leave The Bugs At Home Please

When packing for a trip towards another planet, there are some things, such as microorganisms, that you do not want to include in your 'luggage'. For example, what if extraterrestial life is finally detected on Mars, and scientists realise afterwards that such life is actually terrestrial? Fortunately, there are strict international rules to avoid the contamination of Solar System bodies with biological material from Earth. Landers, for example, may present a special danger to the objects they set down on. The European Space Agency (ESA) is well aware of this.

July 3, 2002

South Pole May Provide Test For Mars Drilling

Measurements of the ice temperature far below the South Pole suggest that a so-called "lake" discovered at the base of the ice is most likely permafrost - a frozen mixture of dirt and ice - because the temperature is too low for liquid water. Far from being a disappointment, says a University of California, Berkeley physicist, the permafrost subglacial lake may be ideal for developing and testing sterile drilling techniques needed before scientists attempt to punch through the ice into pristine liquid lakes elsewhere in Antarctica in search of exotic microbes. Techniques that avoid contaminating a drill site with microbes also would prove useful for future drilling into Mars' polar caps in search of life.

May 31, 2002

Astronomy beneath the surface, Mars awash in water National Post

More than 100 years ago, Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli peered through his telescope and saw channels and grooves etched across the surface of Mars. The canali, as he called them in 1877, gave rise to incredible science fiction stories about intelligent aliens having engineered the strange structures. A century later, spacecraft and astronomical probes revealed not the handiwork of Martians, but compelling evidence that vast quantities of water once washed across the surface of Earth's planetary neighbour, carving out deep canyons, channels and coastlines. But the water had long vanished from the now dusty, rusty Martian surface. All that scientists have been able to detect are small amounts of water in the Martian ice caps and a bit wafting around the hazy, pink atmosphere. The missing water has been one of the most perplexing mysteries in planetary science: Was it blasted away by some cosmic disaster? Did it somehow leak out of the Martian atmosphere? Or did it, as scientists are reporting this week, seep underground, remaining there to this day? An international team, using NASA's Odyssey spacecraft, say they have collected compelling evidence that a huge amount of water is locked underground in a Martian version of permafrost. Or "buried treasure," as William Boynton, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona, describes it.

May 27, 2002

Is There Earth-like Life On Mars? There Probably Is...

NASA specialists made the sensational statement that great quantities of ice have been detected one meter deep under the surface of the red planet. Specialists say that, if the detected ice melted, Marss surface would be covered with a 500-meter layer of water.

May 20, 2002

Mars - The Astrobiology Connection

Ronald Greeley of Arizona State University will be presenting the Director's Seminar on Monday, May 20, 2002, 11:00am Pacific (12:00pm Mountain, 1:00 Central, 2:00 Eastern). This seminar will outline the key discoveries from past and present exploration and discuss the current plans for the future. The overall strategy for Mars Exploration includes searching (i.e., remote sensing), in situ exploration (e.g., landers/rovers), and sampling (return of materials to Earth), in a continuing, iterative process. The principal goal is to search for evidence of past or present life and to characterize environments conducive for organic evolution. A key aspect of the strategy is the inclusion of Mars Scouts, which are missions led by science Principal Investigators who form a team typically involving NASA centers and aerospace industry for projects that complement the primary missions and provide flexibility to the overall Program. The implementation of the Mars Exploration Program is international, with near-term missions to include NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers (2003), Japan's Nozomi orbiter (2003), the European Space Agency Mars Express (2003), NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (2005), and the French CNES Premier orbiter and Netlander mission (2007), as well as other potential projects, leading to the eventual return of samples to Earth from well-characterized sites.

April 21, 2002

No Green Seen on the Red Planet

When NASA planetary scientist Carol Stoker was preparing a poster paper about her work on developing autonomous intelligence for Mars rovers, little did she know it would land her in the middle of the media's spotlight. But that's just what happened before NASA's second Astrobiology Science Conference, held at Ames Research Center last week. After a brief abstract of her paper was posted on the conference website, an online news article reported that Stoker's research had "found 'intriguing' evidence that may indicate there is life on Mars." It's true that Stoker's abstract used the word "intriguing." However, there is no hint in the abstract nor does Stoker herself make any claim about "evidence that may indicate there is life on Mars."

April 20, 2002

What Lies Beneath?

Hydrogen-producing Earth rocks may hold a key to extraterrestrial life forms. Scientists have long known that hydrogen gas is set free from many common rocks when water infiltrates fresh cracks within them. Primitive bacteria that comprise a subterranean biomass possibly outweighing all living things at Earth's surface thrive on this hydrogen, using it as an energy source. A recent study describes a different hydrogen-producing reaction within the minerals that make up the bulk of certain rocks that were once hot or molten. This latter process could indicate a novel support system for microbes on other planets. Friedemann Freund of NASA's Ames Research Center suspects that similar hydrogen-consuming microbes may exist deep in the rocks on Mars and other planets that contain water today or were once wet.

April 16, 2002

Gas in Rocks May Sustain Alien Life Discovery News

Huge colonies of Earth microbes are living off of hydrogen gas released by common rocks, raising the possibility of similar life forms on Mars, says a NASA researcher. "The hydrogen comes from a subtle chemical reaction that occurs within rocks that were once hot or even molten," said Friedemann Freund, a physicist, geologist and chemist at NASA's Ames Research Center whose work appears in the current issue of Astrobiology Journal.

April 9, 2002

Building A Case For Life On Mars

When it was announced last month that the Mars Odyssey satellite had found water ice beneath the planet's frozen carbon dioxide south polar ice cap, Dr. Lidija Siller, a physicist from the University of Newcastle, England, felt excited. "I believe that the data I have explains how this water became trapped underneath the surface",she said. Dr. Siller presented the results of her research - which involves studying photochemical reactions in ice - at the Condensed Matter physics conference held April 8, part of the Institute of Physics Congress in Brighton, England.

April 8, 2002

Mars called key to quest for alien life San Francisco Chronicle

Chris McKay's album of family photos opens with a picture of fossilized bacteria, entombed within rock billions of years old. "This is one of (my family's) oldest, oldest, oldest ancestors," declares the NASA scientist, showing a slide of the photo and drawing a big laugh from his packed audience. But he's only half joking. The quest for "alien" life forms on the primeval Earth and their possible counterparts on Mars has consumed much of McKay's career at NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, he said on the opening day of the space agency's biannual Astrobiology Science Conference.

April 5, 2002

Story of Possible Life on Mars Overstated, NASA Says

A story published by the BBC today reported that NASA researchers "have found 'intriguing' new evidence that may indicate there is life on Mars," but a NASA spokesperson told that the claim is overstated. The article, posted on the BBC's Web site, said researcher Carol Stoker, from NASA's Ames Research Center, worked with a team that used photos from the 1997 Mars Pathfinder mission to determine that there could be chlorophyll on Mars. The molecule is used by plants to produce energy from sunlight and would be considered a monumental find on the Red Planet.

April 3, 2002

Hydrogen-fed bacteria may exist beyond Earth

Primitive bacteria exist in huge numbers deep in the Earth, living on hydrogen gas produced in rocks, a NASA scientist reports in the spring issue of the journal Astrobiology. Recent studies suggest that the mass of bacteria existing below ground may be larger than the mass of all living things at the Earths surface, according to recent studies cited by the paper's lead author, Friedemann Freund, who works at NASA Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley. Similar hydrogen-consuming microbes may some day be discovered on Mars, raising new prospects for the possible existence of life beyond Earth, Freund added. "The hydrogen that could feed bacteria in the depth of the Earth comes from a subtle chemical reaction that occurs within rocks that were once hot or even molten. In the top 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) of Earth's crust," Freund said, "the conditions are right to produce a nearly inexhaustible supply of hydrogen. In the top 5 to10 kilometers (about 3 to 6 miles) all fissures and cracks in the rocks are probably filled with water. Hydrogen molecules will seep out of the mineral grains, enter the intergranular space and saturate the water. Microorganisms that live in these water films can be expected to use this hydrogen as their vital energy source."

Hydrogen-Fed Bacteria May Exist Beyond Earth

Primitive bacteria exist in huge numbers deep in the Earth, living on hydrogen gas produced in rocks, a NASA scientist reports in the spring issue of the journal Astrobiology. Recent studies suggest that the mass of bacteria existing below ground may be larger than the mass of all living things at the Earths surface, according to recent studies cited by the paper's lead author, Friedemann Freund, who works at NASA Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley. Similar hydrogen-consuming microbes may some day be discovered on Mars, raising new prospects for the possible existence of life beyond Earth, Freund added.

March 27, 2002

Was Mars Always A Frozen Wasteland Devoid Of Life? UniSci

Most of the worlds recognized planetary scientists accept the model that Mars was once a warm and watery world. Now a radical new Australian theory about the evolution of Mars suggests the planet may have always been a frozen wasteland devoid of life. University of Melbourne geologist Dr. Nick Hoffman has evidence that is forcing these scientists to reassess their long-held beliefs about how Mars formed and whether there is, or ever has been, liquid water and life on the surface of Mars. Dr. Hoffman has studied erosional features scarring the surface of Mars such as valleys, channels and gullies. He suggests that liquid and gaseous carbon dioxide (CO2) could be responsible for gouging out these features, not water, as believed by the majority of scientists.

Space bug specialist killed in crash

A pioneering British scientist who was leading studies in Antarctica to understand the likelihood of life existing on Mars and elsewhere has been killed in a car accident. Dr David Wynn-Williams died after he was involved in a crash involving two vehicles near his home in Cambridge. He was the Antarctic astrobiology project leader at the British Antarctic Survey and studied the way microbes survive in harsh conditions as a model for how life might exist on other planets. He was jogging when the crash happened.

March 21, 2002

Geologist recreates 'life on Mars' evidence in laboratory SpaceFlight Now

As NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft begins exploring the planet, particularly looking for signs of water that once could have nourished life, a University of Dayton geologist is disproving what some pointed to as scientific evidence of past life on the Red Planet. A couple of years ago, the scientific community was rocked by evidence that pointed to possible life on Mars. A 4.5-billion-year-old Martian meteorite showed what seemed to be "a trace of biochemistry, chemical compounds from little critters decaying. Not fossils, but decomposed remnants of life," said Andrea Koziol, associate professor of geology at the University of Dayton. In experiments in her Wohlleben Hall basement laboratory, Koziol has proved the "remnants" could have been created by natural Martian processes -- lessening the credibility of the theory that Mars once hosted life.

March 15, 2002

Dark Spots on Martian Surface May Be Alive

A suggestion that dark spots near the south pole of Mars could be a sign of life has led to a meeting of European Space Agency scientists to determine whether the theory warrants a look with ESA's planned Mars Express, scheduled to orbit the planet beginning in late 2003. The spots appear on dunes found on the floors of craters in the south and north polar regions. A Hungarian team has examined the southern spots in detail and reported that the spots appear in late winter and then disappear by summer.

March 2, 2002

Vast Ice Fields Suggest Life on Mars Possible Los Angeles Times

Just days after starting its science mission, a new spacecraft orbiting Mars has struck pay dirt, detecting vast fields of ice that scientists say provide evidence of sufficient water to make it possible for the planet to have harbored life. The discovery is a coup for NASA, whose leaders are using a "follow the water" strategy to understand the evolution of Mars and look for signs of past and present life there. The presence of water would also be key to any future attempt to have astronauts explore the Martian surface. "Water is vital to life. Water has changed the surface of Mars in the past. And water is essential to the future exploration of Mars," R. Stephen Saunders, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's project scientist for the Odyssey orbiter, said at a news conference Friday in Pasadena to release the findings.

February 19, 2002

Life On Mars: Native, Or Carried There From Earth? UniSci

If microbial life is found on Mars, will it be native to the planet or something carried there from Earth? Either way, will it be safe to return samples of such organisms to Earth? Astrobiology, the search for life elsewhere, says a University of Illinois microbiologist, is making us look a lot closer at microbial life on Earth -- how it adapts and its relationship to emerging infectious diseases. "Even if we don't find life on other planets, we are learning a lot about life on the Earth, particularly microbial life," Abigail Salyers said in an interview about her speech Friday, Feb. 15 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston, Mass. She challenged scientists to consider far-reaching possibilities in a talk titled "Are There Medical Implications of Geomicrobiology?"

February 17, 2002

Guarding against space travelers San Francisco Chronicle

His business card reads: "John D. Rummel, Ph.D., Planetary Protection Officer." He's a cheerful, 49-year-old NASA biologist whose job is to keep the Earth safe from any microbes that might one day turn up on Mars, and to keep our own germs from contaminating the Red Planet -- or any other heavenly body. Even if a spacecraft were to land on a completely sterile planet, there is a danger that microbes on a robot would take hold and forever confound scientific efforts to determine if the germs were native. "We know a lot about life in Florida," Rummel said of NASA's primary launching site. "We don't want to go all the way to Mars, and discover life from Florida."

February 16, 2002

Scientists probe the life in rocks San Francisco Chronicle

Armed with the modern tools of biotechnology, scientists are unraveling secrets of the most ancient life forms on Earth -- methane-eating microbes that inhabit deep sediments on the ocean floor, or sulfur-breathing bacteria that lurk in dark fissures miles below ground. To the researchers in the arcane but fascinating field of "geobiology," the distinction between the study of life and the study of Earth is blurred. The minerals beneath us so teem with life that these scientists speak of rocks being "alive."

February 13, 2002

Keeping Alien Samples Safe For Study

It's human nature to clean for company more thoroughly than one would for oneself, but nowhere is this truth taken to greater extremes than at the Johnson Space Center. NASA's setting new standards of cleanliness in its labs that handle samples returning from space. And their efforts are laying the groundwork for samples that might some day contain evidence of extraterrestrial life from Mars, Europa, and other points little known. Welcome to the Advanced Curation Laboratory, where the guests could entirely change our view of the Solar System.

January 30, 2002

Some Mars Researchers See Life in Planet's Dunes

A Hungarian research team claims that Martian organisms dot certain areas of the Red Planet. Calling the intriguing blemishes "dark dune spots", the scientists argue that these changing features are "probable Martian surface organisms." Their evidence is based on studies of imagery snapped by NASA's Mars Global Surveyor (MGS), a spacecraft now orbiting that planet. However, this is at odds with the published conclusions of the MGS team, and at least one leading Mars researcher and astrobiology expert deems the life-form assertion "premature". This is also not the first time that images of Martian surface features from MGS have sparked the life debate.

January 16, 2002

Bizarre Creature in Idaho Raises Prospects for Life on Mars

They eat hydrogen, breathe carbon dioxide, and belch methane. And they form the root of an ecosystem unlike any previously known on Earth. Meet the methanogen, a tiny organism living in complete darkness 660 feet (200 meters) underneath the surface of Idaho. Researchers report in the Jan. 17 issue of the journal Nature the discovery of a community of various organisms dominated and supported by these methanogens, creatures they say could represent just the sort of life to look for when turning over rocks on Mars. The work, along with another report this week of life found in extreme conditions in Antarctica, adds to mounting evidence for life's tenacity and creativity, fueling increased speculation about the prospects for life on other worlds.

Finding Challenges Assumptions of Mars Meteorite, Planet Formation

The enigmatic Martian asteroid ALH84001, which has been thought by some scientists to contain proof of life on Mars, may prove to be less extraordinary given the results of a recent study involving distant stars. A team of scientists from the University of Amsterdam revealed today in the scientific journal Nature that carbon-based compounds like those inside the Martian asteroid have also been found in two faraway stellar nebulas. Until this discovery, it was thought that all carbonates required liquid-water environments to develop. Now, the carbonates in the meteorite may be inconclusive in proving that liquid water -- and therefore a life-giving environment -- existed on the Red Planet, say the scientists. The carbonates could likely have come from interstellar locales instead.

UMass researchers find environment on Earth that mimics Mars geochemically and supports ancient life form

Deep below the surface of the Beverhead Mountains of Idaho, a research team led by Derek Lovley, head of the microbiology department at the University of Massachusetts, and Francis H. Chappelle of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), has found an unusual community of microoganisms that may hold the key to understanding how life could survive on Mars. Their findings are spelled out in the Jan. 17 issue of the journal Nature (vol. 415). "The microbial community we found in Idaho is unlike any previously described on Earth," said Lovley. "This is as close as we have come to finding life on Earth under geological conditions most like those expected below the surface of Mars.

January 14, 2002

Antarctic Microbes Suggest Life Is Possible in Terrains On Mars

Canadian and New Zealand scientists have found living microbes buried deeper than perhaps ever before in Antarctica's ice-free Dry Valleys. They and collaborating planetary scientists at the University of Arizona say new research "opens up the possibility of life on Mars and the possible positions within a soil where it might be found." An international team is reporting the work in Icarus in an article titled, "Morphogenesis of Antarctic Paleosols: Martian Analogue." According to William C. Mahaney of York a scientist at Ontario University, scientists have discovered long-lived colonies of insecticidal fungi and a common species of Penicillium bacteria at two sites in two salty soil horizons more than one to three inches (3 to 8 centimeters) beneath Antarctic surface pavement.

Radiation Zaps Mars And Extrasolar Planets, Affects Biological Evolution

Calculations by a team of astronomers at The University of Texas at Austin show that jolts of radiation from space may affect biological and atmospheric evolution on planets in our own solar system and those orbiting other stars. The work by David Smith (a former UT-Austin undergraduate, now a graduate student at Harvard University) and UT-Austin astronomers John Scalo and J. Craig Wheeler is presented today at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington, D.C. Bursts of radiation that can cause biological mutations, or even deliver lethal doses, can come from flares given off by the planet's parent star or from more remote cosmic events (e.g., supernovae and gamma-ray bursts).

January 11, 2002

Bugs could travel in comfort aboard meteorites New Scientist

For the first time, millions of bacterial spores have been purposely exposed to outer space, to see how they are affected by solar radiation. The results support the idea that life could have arrived on Earth in the form of bacteria carried from Mars on meteorites. The idea that life started elsewhere and spread through space is called panspermia. It was first proposed in 1903 by the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius, who suggested that solar radiation might propel single spores across solar systems. Recent discoveries of Martian meteorites that have reached Earth have raised the possibility that bacterial spores could have hitched a ride on these rocks. Most meteorites spend millions of years in space, but meteorites taking a direct route would make it from Mars to Earth in just a few years - too short a time to experience much damage from deadly cosmic rays.

January 9, 2002

Bugs-from-space theory gets a boost

The theory that meteorites carrying bacteria kickstarted life on Earth has been strengthened by a German experiment that placed bugs in orbit to see if they survived the brutal environment of space. The Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius proposed the theory in 1903, contending that billions of years ago, bacteria drifting through the cosmos landed in the fertile soil of Earth, where they flourished and evolved into higher forms of life. Critics of Arrhenius's so-called pan-spermia theory say that unprotected bacterial hitchhikers would have been slaughtered by cosmic rays and ultraviolet radiation from the Sun. The argument has raged back and forth, spiced by contemporary research into rocks that were knocked off the surface of Mars, presumably by some asteroidal collision, and eventually landed on Earth as meteorites.

December 19, 2001

The First Sulfur Eaters

Some of the oldest rocks on Earth can be found amid the spiky grass and orange-red dust of Northwestern Australia. While most rocks have been altered over time through geological processes, the Australian rocks have remained relatively unchanged since their inception 3.47 billion years ago. Earlier this year, Yanan Shen of Harvard University, Donald Canfield of Odense University in Denmark, and Roger Buick of the University of Washington announced they found evidence for life in the ancient Australian rocks.

November 20, 2001

Researchers question purported evidence of life in Mars meteorite

A group of researchers say NASA scientists have failed to prove their contention that a Mars meteorite contains evidence of ancient microbial life on the Red Planet. A group led by Peter Buseck of Arizona State University said the NASA researchers have inadequate evidence showing that tiny crystalline structures in Mars meteorite ALH84001 were formed by bacteria billions of years ago as the rock was sitting on the Martian surface. A study with Buseck as the first author appears today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

November 13, 2001

Mars Volcanoes: Still Alive After All These Years?

Mars may be alive with active volcanoes, bolstering the prospect that life is firmly rooted on the red planet. New data from instruments aboard the Mars Global Surveyor show evidence for ongoing volcanic activity, with geological features tied to recent floods. Both these volcanic and hydrologic events are young, and could perhaps still occur on Mars in the future. This new evidence was presented late last week during the Geological Society of America's (GSA) annual meeting, held in Boston, Massachusetts.

October 10, 2001

Search For Martian Life Will Need Good Vibrations

University of Bradford PhD student Emma Newton is playing a part in helping NASA's planned exploration of Mars in 2005, a trip which many people hope will lead to discovering life on the planet. Emma works in the Department of Chemical and Forensic Sciences studying lichens and cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae) for the purpose of understanding the survival strategies adopted by life in the Antarctic. Scientists at NASA hope this type of work will provide a basis for studying any life forms on Mars, as the Antarctic provides one of the nearest Earth analogues to Mars.

October 4, 2001

Hungarians may have found life on Mars The Budapest Sun

Hungarian scientists claimed they have found evidence of living organisms on Mars after sifting through 60,000 photographs taken by NASAs Mars Global Surveyor satellite. Three scientists claim the pictures show evidence of thousands of dark dune spots, similar to organisms found near Earths South Pole, in craters in the snowy southern polar region of Mars. "These spots indicate that on the surface below the ice there are organisms which, absorbing solar energy, are able to melt the ice and create conditions of life for themselves," biologist and team member Tibor Ganti told the Reuters news agency.

October 1, 2001

If Life Exists On Mars, Our Robotic Probes May Have Brought It There

The results of NASA's 1976 Viking lander missions were largely inconclusive. But, what if our spacecraft brought tiny forms of Earth life to Mars? Could it have survived there? If so, what does this mean for the future exploration of Mars? How can we seek out life in the solar system without harming it? Can robotic probes built on Earth be made clean enough to search for life on other planets without contaminating it? If we bring samples of alien life back to Earth, how do we prevent them from contaminating Earth's biosphere? "Planetary protection" is the prevention of "cross contamination." That is, preventing life from getting from one planet to another and causing harm. It's an important factor in space exploration that the public is barely aware of, but one that NASA spends a lot of time working on.

September 26, 2001

Bacterial Communities Found to Follow Water - Implications for Mars?

Miraculous things happen to the desert when it rains - everything changes from brown to green and organisms that have not been seen for months make a brief emergence from underground lairs. In fact, even the desert's soil turns visibly green following the rare desert rain, as hidden filaments of photosynthesizing cyanobacteria suddenly hydrate. Lying a few millimeters deep, these primitive prokaryotes quickly glide upward, migrating en mass to the surface for an hour or so of light exposure until the dirt begins to dry. Then, just as suddenly, they return again to the subsurface, where they begin the long wait for the next rain.

September 20, 2001

Latest Claims Of Martian Life Are Erroneous Says USGS Scientist

Speculations about life on Mars have always caused great interest and controversy. Recently, several Internet articles have been posted describing the discovery of Martian Surface Organisms in the south polar region of Mars. As a research scientist working on the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Thermal Emission Spectrometer (TES) Team, I have spent the last four years analyzing data from this Martian region. The data reveal a region active with interesting and intriguing physical phenomena, but does not suggest the existence of life.

September 8, 2001

Hungarian scientists claim potential evidence of life on Mars Dispatch Online

Large groups of dark spots in the southern craters of Mars which spread every Martian spring could prove there is life on Mars, Hungarian scientists said Friday. "We cannot find anything else to explain it," said evolutionary biologist Tibor Ganti, a member of the three-man Hungarian team that believes it has discovered life on the red planet. The team studied 60,000 photographs taken by the Mars Global Surveyor Probe before concluding that the organisms lived by photosynthesis.

September 7, 2001

Hungarian Scientists Claim to Have Found Traces of Life on Mars

Hungarian scientists claimed on Friday to have found evidence of living organisms on Mars after analyzing 60,000 photographs taken by the Mars Global Surveyor probe. The three-man team said the pictures showed evidence of thousands of dark dune spots, similar to organisms found near Earth's South Pole, in craters in Mars' snowy southern polar region. "These spots indicate that on the surface below the ice there are such organisms which, absorbing solar energy, are able to melt the ice and create conditions of life for themselves," biologist and team member Tibor Ganti told Reuters.

Fresh claims about life on Mars

Hungarian researchers say that during harsh martian winters, when temperatures plummet to minus 200 degrees Celsius (minus 328 Fahrenheit), these so-called Mars Surface Organisms are protected by a thick blanket of ice which then melts as the planet's early summer temperatures climb to just above zero. Large grey dark dune spots -- with a diameter ranging from 10 meters (33 ft) to several hundred meters -- are left behind. The Hungarians claim the spots are dried-out organisms which can reactivate themselves once the colder, icy season sets in again.

September 5, 2001

Viking Data Still Cause Stir About Mars Life

NASA recently posted on its Web site detailed data collected at Mars 25 years ago by life-detection experiments aboard the Viking spacecraft. The scientific community's judgment on those findings is one of the longest running and most contentious debates in space science. In 1976, two ingenious spacecraft soft-landed on Mars. Each was equipped with a miniature biology laboratory packed into less space than a domestic microwave oven. The three biology experiments within the package each produced some positive results that might have been associated with living organisms but the overall verdict at the time was that these results were caused by chemical rather than biological processes. All these years later, scientists continue to glean information from the Viking data and still debate whether the results indicate life in the soils of Mars. The pendulum has swung back and forth between chemical and biological explanations for the Viking results.

September 4, 2001

For Mars pro-life camp, an unlikely ally

NASA has posted on the Internet the results of an experiment that tested positive for life on Mars, despite having given little credence to the research for decades. The unexpected action comes in the wake of renewed i nterest in the findings of planetary researcher Gilbert Levin, sparked by a recent re-examination of his data that detected more tantalizing hints of life on Mars.

August 21, 2001

NASA Establishes Website for Spherix's Experiment on Life on Mars

Spherix (formerly Biospherics Incorporated) (Nasdaq: SPEX), the technology innovations firm that participated in NASA's exploration of Mars for life, today reported that the Agency has sponsored a new website devoted to the Firm's experiment. The purpose of the website is to make the data available to investigators who have become interested in the possibility that the Labeled Release (LR) experiment on the 1976 Viking Mission to Mars detected microbial life in the soil of the Red Planet. The website, prepared by the NASA Planetary Data System's Geosciences Node at Washington University in St. Louis, may be accessed through

August 8, 2001

Keep It Clean Says NASA

The Aerospace Corporation has landed a follow-on effort with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to continue researching the effectiveness of spacecraft cleaning methods used by NASA in missions to planets and moons that could harbor life. "Sterilization of spacecraft is very important for NASA missions to planets and moons that could potentially harbor life," explained Dr. Carl Palko, a project engineer involved in the research. "Outbound sterilization and cleaning is important to prevent both the accidental contamination or infection of alien worlds with terrestrial organisms and the accidental contamination of extraterrestrial soil or ice samples being returned to Earth with terrestrial organisms that could be mistaken as evidence for alien life," Palko said.

August 6, 2001

Hunting for little green microbes from Mars Seattle Post-Intelligencer

When scientists get together to talk about extraterrestrial life, they certainly don't imagine little green men. In fact, our first contact with life beyond our planet probably will involve a microbe. Although it doesn't hold the Hollywood appeal of coming face to face with an alien biped, the search for signs of microbial life in the universe is generating a lot of excitement these days. "Any discovery of extraterrestrial life -- even if it's microbial life -- would be among the most significant scientific discoveries ever," said Chris Chyba, who holds the Carl Sagan chair at the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, Calif. Chyba is among the scientists gathered at Crystal Mountain this week for the first astrobiology conference held by the University of Washington.

July 31, 2001

Scientists Claim Evidence of Life in Outer Space

A team of international researchers said on Tuesday they have found what could be the first proof of life beyond our planet -- clumps of extraterrestrial bacteria in the Earth's upper atmosphere. Although the bugs from space are similar to bacteria on Earth, the scientists said the living cells found in samples of air from the edge of the planet's atmosphere are too far away to have come from Earth. As much as a third of a ton of the biological material is raining down over the entire planet daily, by their estimation.

Scepticism greets 'space bugs' claim

The claim that alien bacteria had been found high up in the Earth's atmosphere was greeted with a large degree of scepticism on Tuesday. Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe, from Cardiff University, UK, told a weekend conference that a balloon flight at an altitude of 41 kilometres had recovered clumps of microbes that most probably had their origin in outer space. But scientists working in the field of astrobiology - the study of life in the Universe - said they had yet to be convinced by the Cardiff evidence.

July 30, 2001

Mars life more than maybe Environmental News Network

An expert scientific panel on Sunday said there is convincing evidence that life does exist or did exist at one time-on Mars. For the kickoff session of the International Symposium on Optical Science and Technology, scientists came from the United States, Russia, Portugal, England, France, Austria, Belgium and Puerto Rico to provide what a conference statement called "the strongest evidence to date for primitive life forms on Mars." Their data come from ancient graphite in the Ukraine, Antarctic depths, extraterrestrial meteorites found on Earth, dust in the upper atmosphere, the Hubble Space Telescope and especially from Mars itself.

Did Viking missions see life on Mars? New Scientist

A claim that NASA overlooked evidence of life on Mars in data collected by the Viking missions 25 years ago has been met with interest and scepticism. Joseph Miller, a visiting professor at the University of Southern California, re-analysed data collected by probes sent to the Martian surface by the Viking 1 and 2 spacecraft in 1976. He believes tests performed on soil samples reveal a cycle of chemical activity similar to the daily rhythms seen in living organisms on Earth.

Reanalysis of Decades-Old Data Reveals Signs of Life on Mars Scientific American

Previously dismissed claims for evidence of life in Martian soil samples collected more than 20 years ago now appear to have been right on the money. So says a University of Southern California biologist who recently reanalyzed the data and presented his findings last Friday at an astrobiology symposium held during the annual meeting of the International Society for Optical Engineering. Back in the 1970s, the NASA researchers who first studied the soil, which had been gathered by the Viking Landers 1 and 2, found clear indications of gas release that they believed came from living organisms. Others countered, however, that such gases more likely resulted from chemical reactions among highly reactive inorganic compounds in the soil, and the argument for life on the Red Planet fell by the wayside.

July 28, 2001

Scientists Say Mars Viking Mission Found Life

There is new life in old dataand it's likely Martian life. Several scientists have found compelling evidence that Viking Mars landers did indeed discover life on the red planet in 1976. A re-examination of findings relayed to Earth by the probes some 25 years ago, claim the experts, show the tell-tale signs of microbes lurking within the Martian soil. The researchers will unveil their views Sunday, July 29, at a session on astrobiology, held during the SPIE's 46th annual International Society for Optical Engineering meeting in San Diego, California.

Scientist claims 25-year-old data shows signs of life on Mars

Data collected 25 years ago on the surface of Mars by NASA's twin Viking landers show evidence of life, a scientist claimed Friday. Other scientists quickly cast doubt on the claim by Joseph Miller. They cited a variety of other explanations for the data radioed back to Earth as the landers performed experiments in an effort to find any trace of life on the Red Planet. Miller, an associate professor in the Department of Cell and Neurobiology at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, said he detected distinct rhythms in the levels of gas given off during the range of experiments that sought to prompt the growth of microbial life in samples of Martian soil doused with water and nutrients.

July 27, 2001

NASA Data Point to Mars 'Bugs,' Scientist Says

Did NASA discover evidence of life on Mars and then misplace it for almost 25 years? A University of Southern California scientist argues that is just what happened and that once-lost data collected by the 1975 Viking probes suggest the existence of Martian microbes. The significance of that finding was overlooked -- along with the data itself -- after NASA concluded that its experiments showed only signs of chemical activity on the surface of the "Red Planet," said Joseph Miller, a USC neurobiologist. But a careful reexamination of a fragment of the recovered NASA record showed a surprising pattern: gas released by the Martian soil and tracked by Viking followed the same kind of rhythms followed by all Earth-bound organisms from humans to fruit flies in a cycle akin to feeding and respiration by colonies of microbes.

July 24, 2001

Life On Mars: Swimming Right Under the Surface?

As NASA struggles to refocus its Mars program on the heels of two failed missions, one supremely logical mantra has emerged to guide the search for Martian life: Follow the water. Great advice. But hard to heed on such a dry and dusty planet. No matter how much water might once have flowed on Mars, the place now looks downright dead. Liquid water, if it exists, might be a mile deep or more, scientists say. But there are two places where water is known to exist in mass quantities, right at the surface: The polar caps.

July 23, 2001

How Small Can Life Be?

As advanced microscopes enable us to peer deeper into the realms of inner space, biologists have been faced with a vexing question: Is there a size limit on life? If so, then just how small can something be before it can no longer be defined as "life"? Some scientists believe that life can be very small indeed. Called nanobes, nanobacteria, or nano-organisms, these miniscule structures borrow their name from their unit of measurement, the nanometer. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. That's about the length of 10 hydrogen atoms laid out side by side. The period at the end of this sentence is approximately one million nanometers in diameter.

July 20, 2001

Debate on Mars life rages long after Viking

The mightiest probe ever to land on another planet settled down on Mars on this day 25 years ago, igniting a scientific firestorm that still rages today -- Does the red planet possess life?

Rethinking Viking: The Life on Mars Debate Rages On

In a quest to detect Martian life 25 years ago, the U.S. Viking 1 Lander plopped down, peeked about and poked the ground. Along with its later arriving twin, the robotic Vikings gulped down scoops of dirt, digesting the material in a kind of exotic microbial game of feast or famine.

July 12, 2001

Congress Hears Alien Life Testimony

Seven years after members of Congress rejected research into extraterrestrial life as a search for "little green men," lawmakers encouraged scientists in their efforts to find life beyond the Earth. "The discovery of life in the universe would be one of the most astounding discoveries in human history," Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said Thursday at a hearing of the House space science subcommittee. "Funding should match public interest and I don't believe it does."

July 11, 2001

Fire and Ice: Sizzling Comets Around a Dying Star

As an alien sun blazes through its death throes, it is apparently vaporizing a surrounding swarm of comets, releasing a huge cloud of water vapor, a team of astronomers reported today. The discovery, reported in an article to be published tomorrow in the journal Nature, is the result of observations with the Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite (SWAS), a small radio observatory that NASA launched into space in December 1998. "Over the past two years, SWAS has detected water vapor from a wide variety of astronomical sources," says Dr. Gary Melnick of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Principal Investigator on the SWAS mission. "What makes the results we are reporting today so unusual is that we have found a cloud of water vapor around a star where we would not ordinarily have expected to find water."

July 9, 2001

Images Stir Life on Mars Debate

Mars has turned into a red planet Rorschach test. Depending on who is doing the looking, pictures snapped by the orbiting Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) clearly show a world of big time biota, from fields of vegetation and towering Banyan trees, to blotches of bacteria. As MGS plods along on its scientific tour-of-duty, Mars does not shirk from its claim of being one weird world. It doesn't matter whether Mars snapshots are examined by do-it-yourself interpreters or scrutinized by veteran planetary geologists. There is no doubt that there are strange doings on the red planet.

July 2, 2001

Researcher: Mars rock varnish hints of life

Many Mars rocks possess a chemical quality that suggests they harbor life, which could eke out an existence in a similar manner as microbes in the harshest, driest places on Earth, according to a new report. Studying images taken by two Mars landers, a planetary researcher found striking similarities between rocks on the red planet and rocks in terrestrial deserts known to contain thin layers of primitive life.

June 29, 2001

We've got company

We earthlings have long fantasized, feared and hoped that we're not alone in the universe. Yet somehow, our dreams of alien life only seem to feature the UFO-flying variety of creature. In "Life Everywhere: The Maverick Science of Astrobiology," astronomer David Darling contends that "life" encompasses more than E.T. and the green-skinned go-go girls of "Star Trek." Bacterial life-forms from other planets have the potential to profoundly affect our understanding of the cosmos, as well as ourselves. Darling expertly explores the accomplishments and goals of this young, controversial science and looks with great optimism to the possibility of discovering life on Mars, on the moons of Jupiter and even on planets outside our solar system.

June 27, 2001

Martian water hunt leads to poles

Look for life in pools of water in the polar regions of Mars, say scientists. Liquid water is the key for life, they say, but over most of Mars the atmospheric pressure is too low for water to exist in that state. Now, an assessment of all the available satellite data suggests that there may be pools of open water at the poles, or small lakes just under the ice. A research project is already underway that will gather as much information as possible on Mars' polar regions, and look for lakes so that future landers can be targeted on them.

June 14, 2001

Arthur C. Clarke Believes there is Life on Mars

Noted writer Arthur C. Clarke, in a speech at the Werner von Braun Memorial Lecture series held in Washington, D.C. on June 6, has stated that he believes that new images of Mars clearly show the red planet dotted with patches of vegetation, including trees. He spoke over the telephone from his home in Sri Lanka to an audience at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.

June 13, 2001

Not Vegetation! Defrosting Sand Dunes in Late Southern Winter

As winter gives way to spring in the martian southern hemisphere, the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) is observing the retreat of the south polar frost cap as sunlight falls upon it for the first time in several months. One of the most aesthetically-pleasing aspects of the spring defrosting process is the pattern that is created on the martian sand dune fields.

June 12, 2001

Life's Rocky Road Between Worlds

A possible mechanism for transfer of life between planets is via rocks ejected by major asteroid or comet impacts. The term "transpermia" was coined by Oliver Morton to describe the transfer of lifeforms by this method and to distinguish it from the more general concept of panspermia.

June 11, 2001

Protecting Biospheres Beyond Earth

A new era in space exploration is slowly opening up as we prepare for the return of samples beyond the Moon: from comets, Mars and Europa. But there is a downside to this glorious new age of exploration - two downsides, actually. Firstly there is a good deal of apprehension among the general public that samples returned from other worlds such as Mars - just might - contain alien germs capable of turning into a worldwide plague, or at least wreaking havoc with the Earth's natural environment. Beside this fear of "back contamination", there is also a fear of "forward contamination" - the possibility that spacecraft might contaminate the worlds they land on with Earth microbes, destroying scientifically priceless alien lifeforms before we even have a chance to study them.

June 8, 2001

Astrobiology Conference University of Washington

The University of Washington's Center for Astrobiology and Early Evolution is hosting an exciting conference at the dawn of the new field of Astrobiology. The purpose of this conference is to bring together experts to discuss Astrobiology's fundamental principles, past accomplishments, latest scientific results, and future research and technological directions. Rather than the usual proceedings, the conference will produce a graduate student level textbook invaluable to the overall development of the field: Astrobiology: The University of Washington Lectures. The book will be a high-level, interdisciplinary introduction to the origin and evolution of life on Earth, the geological, physical and chemical conditions that have spawned and sustained life, and the detection of extant and extinct life on other planets and moons.

June 7, 2001

Row over ancient bacteria

An international row is brewing over claims that a strain of bacteria was brought back to life after having remained dormant in a rock crystal for 250 million years.

June 5, 2001

It's dead, Jim. Mars lifeless orb The Oklahoman

If you read science fiction, especially the vintage science fiction of the '50s and '60s, or modern pseudo-science, you will find Mars is often home to extraterrestrial life. And not infrequently, these Martians are hostile to Earthlings. June 13, Mars reaches opposition, the point in its orbit where it's closest to Earth and brightest in our sky. With Mars so prominent in the night sky, the question of life on the Red Planet seems a natural topic of inquiry.

June 3, 2001

Field of astrobiology gains legitimacy, catches on

There was never a "Eureka!" moment for David McKay. Instead, a slow, gradual process that led to the announcement that fossilized minerals produced by bacteria may lie deep inside a 4-billion-year-old potato-sized Martian meteorite found in Antarctica in 1984. It was one of the first pieces of credible evidence that remnants of life, however tiny, may have come from Mars to Earth. That was five years ago. Afterward, scientists still debated whether the fossils truly were of non-Earth origin.

June 1, 2001

Rocks From Mars

Finally, the debate continued to rage on at the Conference as to whether the famous Martian meteorite ALH84001 does or does not contain meaningful fossil evidence of ancient Martian microbes.

May 30, 2001

Europe plans major search for alien life

The European Space Agency is planning a major search for extraterrestrial life. The initial research targets will be Mars, the Moon, Jupiter's moon Europa and a number of asteroids.

Europe launches into astrobiology

Is our planet an oasis of life in an otherwise dead universe? Twenty years ago, the scientific consensus was "yes, probably". Now it has shifted to "probably not" and the field of astro- (or exo-) biology is burgeoning. This growth of interest is evident this week at ESRIN, ESA's European Space Research Institute in Frascati, Italy, which is hosting the first European workshop on exo/astrobiology. About 200 scientists from fields as diverse as astrophysics, geology, environmental sciences, biology and chemistry are attending. Yesterday, they took the opportunity to set up the European Exo/astrobiology Network to coordinate their growing efforts.

May 23, 2001

Microorganisms Survive One Step Closer To Mars Environment University of Arkansas

University of Arkansas researchers have moved one step closer to growing microorganisms under Mars-like conditions by suspending them in water containing dissolved matter from Mars soil simulant. D. Ryan Ormond, Curtis R. Bekkum and Timothy Kral, associate professor of biological sciences, report their findings at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 23, at the American Society for Microbiology meeting in Orlando.

Europe launches into astrobiology esa

Is our planet an oasis of life in an otherwise dead universe? Twenty years ago, the scientific consensus was "yes, probably". Now it has shifted to "probably not" and the field of astro- (or exo-) biology is burgeoning. This growth of interest is evident this week at ESRIN, ESA's European Space Research Institute in Frascati, Italy, which is hosting the first European workshop on exo/astrobiology. About 200 scientists from fields as diverse as astrophysics, geology, environmental sciences, biology and chemistry are attending. Yesterday, they took the opportunity to set up the European Exo/astrobiology Network to coordinate their growing efforts.

May 18, 2001

Astrobiology Workshop (July, 2001) The Anglo-Australian Observatory

This workshop is the first attempt to bring together those working on astrobiology in the Australia/New Zealand region. We expect the workshop to attract a cross disciplinary group of scientists interested in the origin, distribution and future of life in the universe. The workshop is being held at Macquarie University which is located in North Ryde about 18km north-west of the centre of Sydney. The event will begin on the evening of July 11th with a public lecture and reception The scientific program will cover two full days (Jul 12,13).

May 11, 2001

Italian Team Claims to Have Revived Meteorite Bacteria

An Italian team reportedly has found and revived bacteria harbored in an ancient meteorite, a finding that points to the existence of extraterrestrial life but has yet to pass scientific muster. Bruno D'Argenio of the Italian National Research Council (CNR) in Naples and Giuseppe Geraci of the University of Naples discovered the bacteria, called "cryms" or cristallomicrobi, within the crystalline structure of space rocks found in several parts of the world, the Italian newspaper La Stampa reported.

May 8, 2001

Engineering ET: The Path to Alternate Life Forms

Cloning, move over. The powerful and potentially dark force that would give you a "mini-me" may soon be knocked off genetic engineering's center stage by an emerging laboratory effort to create life that is decidedly not as we know it. In two separate research efforts, scientists have altered the very nature of nature by creating cells that break a cardinal rule of biology, incorporating an entirely new basic building block into their cellular structures. It is a first step on a path of neogenesis -- the creation of alternate life forms.

April 25, 2001

Seeking Life's Chemical Fingerprints with the 'Raman Effect'

Perhaps in 2008, a rover on Mars will press its robotic arm against a rock. A probe at the end of the arm will scan the rock, repeatedly zapping the surface with a microscopically thin laser beam, probably green or ultraviolet. As the laser light hits the rock, it will scatter (be deflected) in random directions. Most of that light will stay the same color, but a tiny fraction will be shifted just slightly to a different color, a phenomenon called the Raman effect. That slight shift will reveal whether the rock harbors the chemical signatures of life, either microbes now alive or the remains of organisms that lived in the past. The "Raman-shifted" light also can detect any minerals indicating whether Mars once was conducive to life.

April 13, 2001

Life As We Didn't Know It

Biologists always thought life required the Sun's energy, until they found an ecosystem that thrives in complete darkness.

April 9, 2001

Star-Hopping Travelers Could Sow Seeds of Life

Rock-riding microbes tossed out of our solar system may have become star-trekking voyagers, by crossing deep space and planting themselves on planets circling other suns. This solar system-to-solar system seeding of life is called interstellar panspermia. It is now commonly thought that meteorite-sized rock fragments can be ejected from one planet to land on another. Meteorite collections include rocks believed heaved our way from the planet Mars and the Moon. These celestial hunks of material reached Earth after those worlds were subjected to large impacts of asteroids or comets eons ago. But Earth isn't only on the receiving end of chunky-style helpings of its planetary neighbors -- it works both ways.

April 7, 2001

Mars Doesn't Need Earth Goop Wired News

When Mir splashed down almost two weeks ago, many scientists were concerned that fungal spores that had developed on the inside of the space station would contaminate Earth's environment with some kind of primordial space goop, introducing an unknown life form. But what about contamination going the other direction? With the launch of Mars Odyssey on Saturday and a full slate of missions ready to launch for Mars this decade, what is being done to ensure that we don't contaminate Mars with our own goop?

April 4, 2001

Mars Attacks? Protecting Earth From Off-World Infections

Ebola outbreaks. Mad cow disease. Now the huge effort to contain the highly contagious foot-and-mouth plague sweeping across England, infecting cattle, sheep and other cloven-hoofed animals. These are a few of the biological battlegrounds here on Earth. But they also offer insight into future projects designed to bring to Earth samples from Mars, asteroids and comets. NASA has had a long-standing effort underway in planetary protection.

March 28, 2001

Does The Famous Martian Meteorite Really Point To Life?

It is fitting that the Antarctic-recovered Martian meteorite, ALH84001, is potato-shaped. After years of argument, the "Mars rock" continues to be just that -- a scientific hot potato. The inside story is that the meteorite may contain evidence of ancient life on the Red Planet. Trying to anchor that belief in a sea of skepticism remains a daunting and challenging, but dutiful task for those making the assertion.

March 27, 2001

Mars or Europa: Where Does Life Exist?

The list of candidates in our solar system most likely to harbor life or show signs of past life has narrowed in recent months. A hot debate now rages, inside NASA and throughout the science world, over where and how best to conduct the hunt. Uniquely human, we cannot agree on how to answer the biggest questions in life.

March 26, 2001

Can Liquid Water Exist on Present-day Mars?

In 1998, NASAs Associate Administrator Wesley Huntress, Jr., stated, "Wherever liquid water and chemical energy are found, there is life. There is no exception." Could there, then, be life on Mars? In the mid-1970s, the Viking Lander missions Gas Exchange Experiment detected strong chemical activity in the martian soil. Liquid water seems to be the one element needed for the equation of life on Mars. The presence of water there, however, is still hotly contested.

March 18, 2001

Alien science keeps students' interest Contra Costa Times

Is there life on other planets? If so, does it look like the monstrous thing Sigourney Weaver battled in the "Alien" movie blockbusters? Could you kiss it the way Captain Kirk was so fond of doing on "Star Trek"? Or, could it be related to your house plant? Students are grappling with such lively questions in "Astrobiology: The Search for Life in the Universe," a course being piloted at Leicester, West Springfield, and 23 other high schools and middle schools nationwide.

March 15, 2001

Secrets to Mars Water Hidden in Volcanic Remains

Scientists have become increasingly convinced in recent years that Mars, which now appears mostly dry on the surface, was once warm and wet -- the sort of place where life might have got a toehold and possibly even flourished. But looming questions have formed around this expectation: Where did the water come from, and for how long was the Red Planet wet? A new study points a finger at one of the most obvious features on Mars, a hulking, elevated region known as the Tharsis rise that may have released tremendous amounts of lava, along with water and carbon dioxide that combined to possibly create a habitable planet. The research also narrows the range of time, under this scenario, that Mars would have been wet.

March 14, 2001

Report: Mars volcanoes possibly still active

Volcanoes on the red planet could have melted ice and produced water necessary for life. They also could still be active, planetary scientists said this week. The volcanoes heated up ground ice on Mars and caused the melted water to flow downhill, which carved channels that today appear in satellite images as dry riverbeds radiating away from the volcanic centers, the researchers theorized.

March 12, 2001

Volcanoes May Have Melted Ice, Producing Water Necessary for "Life" on Red Planet

Two of the oldest volcanoes on Mars, which have been active for 3.5 billion years, are providing clues to the possibility of life on the planet, according to preliminary analysis by University at Buffalo geologists of new data from the Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) and the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA), currently orbiting the planet.

March 1, 2001

Live Interview Opportunity with Mars Expert

The new evidence that magnetite crystals in the martian meteorite ALH84001 are of biological origin raises the possibility that life may have once existed on Mars. Papers presenting these results were published Feb. 27 in a special Astrobiology issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Finding evidence of life on Mars is one of the central focuses of NASAs astrobiology research. But what does it mean? Ask a Mars Expert Book a window with Dr. Chris McKay, an Astrobiology researcher at NASA Ames Research Center, on Thursday, March 1, between 5:00 9:00 p.m. EST (2:00 6:00 p.m. PST)

February 27, 2001

More Evidence of Life on Mars Rock? Not So Fast

After being batted around the solar system like some cosmic softball, a rock from Mars ended up on Earth thousands of years ago. Now, 17 years after its discovery, it has become science's most studied stone. Researchers say the rock, known as the Allen Hills meteorite, provides compelling evidence that there was life on Mars, at least in the distant past. Few questions loom larger in space science today. If Mars once had life, than we humans would be faced with the increased likelihood that life has sprung up elsewhere, and we that are not alone. But after five years of intense scrutiny, the scientific community is no closer to agreement on whether the rock tells us anything.

February 26, 2001

Scientists Find Evidence of Ancient Microbial Life on Mars

An international team of researchers has discovered compelling evidence that the magnetite crystals in the martian meteorite ALH84001 are of biological origin. The researchers found that the magnetite crystals embedded in the meteorite are arranged in long chains, which they say could have been formed only by once-living organisms. Their results are reported in the Feb. 27 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Study: Crystals Prove Life on Mars

A crystal found in a meteorite from Mars could only have been formed by a microbe and may be evidence of the oldest life form ever found, researchers say. Scientists at the Johnson Space Center in Houston say that a crystalized magnetic mineral, called magnetite, found in a Martian meteorite is similar to crystals formed on Earth by bacteria. "I am convinced that this is supporting evidence for the presence of ancient life on Mars," said Kathie Thomas-Keprta, an astrobiologist at the space center and the first author of a study appearing Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Thomas-Keprta said there is no report of such magnetites being formed by any but biologic means.

'Conclusive evidence' for Martian life

Scientists have published what they claim is "conclusive evidence" that bacteria once lived on Mars. The study is a follow-up to the famous 1996 research that purported to show ancient bacterial forms in a meteorite from Mars. Critics at the time said the evidence was too thin to prove anything. Now, a Nasa-backed team from the US, Spain and Germany has published further work which it says strengthens the earlier claims. But some British experts, at least, are still sceptical, arguing the latest study falls short of absolute proof. The argument centres on tiny crystals found in a potato-sized meteorite picked up in Antarctica in 1984. The international team says the crystals are the same as those deposited by earthly microorganisms known as magnetotactic bacteria. Since the meteorite is from Mars, it can only be assumed that the same bacteria must have lived on Mars as well, the team says.

February 22, 2001

Astrobiology Special Report

It isn't a new field: Carl Sagan was arguing for the plausibility of other worlds -- and other life -- way back in 1966. But astrobiology, in recent years, has seen a rebirth. The rapid-fire discovery of a few dozen extrasolar planets will do that. Ditto the finding of what could be fossil bacteria in a hunk of Martian meteorite. Then there are the fresh insights about life here at home. Who knew, 15 years ago, that there was more of it embedded in rocks beneath Earth's surface than there is above ground? Or that living things thrive in boiling hotsprings and Antarctic wastes?

February 18, 2001

Microbes May Live in Antarctic Lake

Buried under thousands of feet of ice in the Antarctic are a series of fresh water lakes unexposed to the open air for millions of years but possibly holding a thriving community of microbes, scientists say. Researchers probing beneath the permanent ice shield around the South Pole have located at least 76 lakes, including one that is about 5,400 square miles, comparable to Lake Ontario. Lake Vostok, the largest of the polar lakes, lies beneath more than two miles of ice and is thought to have a liquid pool with a depth of about 3,000 feet, said John C. Priscu of Montana State University. Probing Lake Vostok may help in the future search for life in outer space. Priscu said the lake may resemble subsurface lakes thought to exist on Mars and on Europa, a moon of Jupiter.

February 13, 2001

Vikings would have missed life on Mars Nature

The Viking space missions to Mars in the 1970s sent back a mixed message about the red planet. The views were fabulous; but the nightlife was a little quiet. The two Viking lander craft touched down on the martian surface in 1976, scooped up handfuls of dust, and pronounced it devoid of the organic material that might signify the presence of microorganisms. But even if there had been several million bacteria-like cells in every gram of Martian soil, the Viking landers would not have detected them, Jeffrey Bada and his co-workers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, now claim.

January 30, 2001

Life on Mars? The answer might just be in Arkansas The Christian Science Monitor

Biology professor Tim Kral won't argue with anyone if they call his fascination with Mars an obsession. He loves the Red Planet, with its average temperature of -60 degrees C and atmosphere that's 95 percent carbon dioxide. In Professor Kral's office at the University of Arkansas, Martian figurines sit on shelves next to books about scientific topics that most people wouldn't even know how to pronounce. "I have always been interested in the search for life out there," Kral says. And that search is what keeps him occupied at the Arkansas-Oklahoma Center for Space and Planetary Science, which opened last month in Fayetteville. The center's main tool for planetary study will be the Andromeda chamber, which, when it's fully assembled in the coming months, will allow researchers and students to simulate the conditions of planets, comets, and asteroids.

December 20, 2000

Martian Micro-Magnets

The case for ancient life on Mars looks better than ever after scientists announced last week that they had discovered magnetic crystals inside a Martian meteorite -- crystals that, here on Earth, are produced only by microscopic life forms. Scientists studying the Allan Hills meteorite, a 4-billion-year-old rock from Mars that landed in Antarctica about 13,000 years ago, found just such crystals deep inside the space rock.

December 12, 2000

Iowa Professor Claims Compelling Evidence For Magnetotactic Mars Bacteria

An Iowa State University professor is part of a research team that has found compelling evidence that Mars once supported primitive life. The researchers discovered evidence of bacteria in a Martian meteorite. Tiny magnetite crystals -- so called magnetofossils -- embedded in the meteorite were confirmed to be the type produced only by a biological process unique to magnetotactic bacteria.

December 7, 2000

Catastrophe, Mother of Evolution: Life Survived Early Bombardment

Mounting evidence from seafloor critters to ancient soil and even Moon rocks suggests that life on early Earth survived heavy bombardment from space rocks, pointing to an earlier origin for terrestrial life and opening wider the window of possibilities for where life might exist in the cosmos.

December 5, 2000

Mars Rock Formations May Contain Fossilized Life

The layers upon layers of rock formations seen in newly unveiled images of Mars may contain beds of fossilized Martian life ripe for the picking by future missions to the Red Planet, scientists said. The beds of rock may have formed as sediments settled to the bottom of primordial seas or lakes bodies of water that once may have teemed with Martian life in the planets ancient past. As such, the bands of rock may contain evidence that life is not unique to Earth.

December 3, 2000

Dried-up sea beds found on Mars London Times

NASA scientists have discovered ancient sea or lake beds on the surface of Mars that could once have harboured life, writes Jonathan Leake. The discovery is among the most significant concerning Mars so far, because such places are the most likely locations for fossils or other signs of past life.

December 2, 2000

Another "Major" Mars Discovery to be Announced by NASA

According to a NASA press release, "Imaging scientists Dr. Michael Malin and Dr. Ken Edgett from NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft will present what they describe as their most significant discovery yet at a Space Science Update at 2:00 p.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. 7. Their findings are being published in the December 8 issue of Science Magazine.

November 29, 2000

Astrobiologists Find Evidence Of Early Ground Hoggers

Scientists with NASA's Astrobiology Institute (NAI) have discovered fossilized remnants of microbial mats that developed on land between 2.6 billion and 2.7 billion years ago in the Eastern Transvaal district of South Africa. This significant discovery presents the strongest evidence to date that life on land occurred at a much earlier stage in Earth's history than was previously believed by most scientists. It also suggests that an ozone shield and an oxygen-rich atmosphere existed on Earth 2.6 billion years ago, both necessary conditions for life on land to emerge. The results are reported in the Nov. 30 issue of Nature magazine.

November 27, 2000

Alien Microbe Reported Found in Earth's Atmosphere

A group of scientists says it has collected an alien bacterium 10 miles above Earth, plus signatures of other extraterrestrial microbes even higher in the atmosphere. The claims were met with immediate skepticism by other scientists. The bacterium was collected 10 miles (16 kilometers) high by balloon operated by the Indian Space Research Organization. Chandra Wickramasinghe, who leads a study into the results, called the microbe a previously unknown strain of bacteria and said it likely came from a comet.

November 26, 2000

NASA Scientist Soffen Dies at 74

Gerald Soffen, project scientist on NASA's Viking missions to Mars, died Wednesday of a heart ailment. He was 74. Soffen most recently was director of university programs at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, where he led the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's study of life in the universe through its astrobiology program.

November 24, 2000

Scientists discover possible microbe from space

An international team of scientists has recovered microorganisms in the upper reaches of the atmosphere that could have originated from outer space, a participant in the study said Friday. The living bacteria, plucked from an altitude of 10 miles (16 km) or higher by a scientific balloon, could have been deposited in terrestrial airspace by a passing comet, according to the researchers. The microorganisms are unlike any known on Earth, but the astrobiologists "want to keep the details under wraps until they are absolutely convinced that these are extraterrestrial," said study participant Chandra Wickramasinghe, a noted scientist at Cardiff University in Wales.

November 22, 2000

Scientists report 'alien' life United Press International

Scientists in Wales said they discovered what may be a tiny form of primitive alien life that a passing comet may have dropped into Earth's atmosphere, London's Daily Mail newspaper reported today. Researchers said that in the filter of a high-flying balloon operated by the Indian Space Research Organization, they found a strain of bacteria unlike anything on Earth. The bacteria were found at an altitude of 10 miles and scientists from the ISRO, Cardiff University and the University of Wales College of Medicine said it may have come from a comet on a close approach to earth, according to the Daily Mail. Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe, who is based at Cardiff University, said the discovery marked "the first time we have had direct evidence for the hypothesis that comets seed life on other planets."

November 15, 2000

Leonid Meteor Shower: Sowing the Seeds of Life?

Data from instruments flown on airplanes during last year's Leonid meteor shower show that the seeds of life, long suspected to exist in comet dust, could have survived a fiery passage from space to Earth's ancient atmosphere. A range of findings, reported by an international team of NASA-led scientists, provide support for panspermia, which holds that life on Earth did not spring up spontaneously out of some primordial soup, but was instead seeded from space.

November 8, 2000

Life In Extreme Conditions

Life exists even at the South Pole, one of the most inhospitable places on Earth, with microbiologist Ed Carpenter of the State University of New York in Stony Brook and his colleagues finding between 200 and 5000 bacteria per millilitre of melted snow from the pole. To their surprise, biochemical tests and electron microscope images show that the organisms can grow and divide even at -17 degrees C -- the coldest condition the team tested. "Probably they could live at even lower temperatures," says Carpenter.

November 3, 2000

Research Could Pave Way For Discovery Of Life On Mars

In the wake of last month's announcement that scientists have found what they believe to be a living microbe that pre-dates Tyrannosaurus rex, Dr. Melanie Mormile is keeping one eye on salt crystals that contain ancient earth-bound bacteria and another on Mars. Mormile, an assistant professor of biological sciences at the University of Missouri-Rolla and an expert on microscopic organisms, thinks living bacteria might be trapped in the sulphate and chloride salts of Mars. Her work is partially funded by NASA, which announced Oct. 26 that it has officially scheduled six robotic missions over the next ten years to hunt for signs of life on the red planet.

October 30, 2000

The New Case for Panspermia

The idea that the seeds of life are ubiquitous throughout the cosmos goes back to Anaxagoras, a Greek philosopher. In the 1800s, French chemist Louis Pasteur proposed that spontaneous generation of life could not have occurred on Earth. British physicist Lord Kelvin and others jumped on Pasteur's bandwagon and suggested that life might have come from space. But modern-day panspermia advocates have been the Rodney Dangerfields of science. In fact, just two leading researchers carry the bulk of the panspermia torch. The renowned Sir Fred Hoyle, known for his studies of star structure and the origin of the chemical elements in stars, has worked with Chandra Wickramasinghe over the past three decades to pioneer the modern theory of panspermia.

October 26, 2000

Analysis of Martian meteorite using unique magnetic microscope supports claim that meteorites could have carried life from Mars to Earth Vanderbilt University

When Joseph L. Kirschvink heard about the capabilities of the new magnetic microscope designed and built by scientists at Vanderbilts Living State Physics Laboratory, he immediately had an idea for an important experiment that the instrument was uniquely suited to perform. The professor of geobiology at the California Institute of Technology had samples of the famous Martian meteorite, ALH84001, and he realized that he could use the Vanderbilt instrument to gain important new information about the meteorites thermal history, information that could provide valuable support for the popular theory that, over geologic time, Martian meteorites may have carried microbial life from Mars to Earth.

Life On Earth Could Have Come From A Mars Rock

In a discovery that has scientists rethinking where they came from, a groundbreaking study has revealed that living organisms could emigrate through the solar system in the relatively cool womb of a space rock, spreading life with little more fanfare than the arrival of a shooting star. The finding, hidden from scientists for more than 15 years in the magnetic structure of a well-studied meteorite found in Antarctica, presents a serious alternative to the idea that life on Earth arose spontaneously out of some primordial soup. The bottom line: Our ancestors may have been Martians.

October 23, 2000

Balancing The Rights Of Indigenous Martian Life Over Human Exploration

If we discover living or dormant organisms on Mars and these forms represent a different type of life than the life we have on Earth, then we should not bring life from Earth to Mars. Instead we should alter the martian environment so that this native martian life can expand to fill a planetary scale biosphere. There is general agreement within the Mars research community that if Mars is indeed a lifeless planet then there is potential scientific, cultural, and human value in bringing life from Earth to Mars. The re-creation of habitable conditions on Mars is within our technological reach. To a Mars long since dead, Earth could give the gift of its genome: a biological heritage encapsulating billions of years of evolution. For Mars this would represent a jump start back into a biological future.

October 21, 2000

Bug Returns To Life After 250 Million Year Hibernation

A Lazarus bacterium which thrived millions of years before dinosaurs walked the Earth has been brought back to life. Biologists are astonished that the 250-million-year-old bug could be revived. It suggests that if conditions are right, bacterial spores might survive indefinitely. John Parkes, a geomicrobiologist at the University of Bristol, comments: "All the laws of chemistry tell you that the complex molecules in the spores should have degraded to very simple compounds such as carbon dioxide." He wonders that if it is proven that spores can survive this long, why should they die at all? "Where else are these dormant organisms waiting to be reawakened?"

October 5, 2000

How B.C. lake holds key to Mars Vancouver Sun

A unique form of underwater structure found in a lake in B.C.'s southern Interior could help determine whether life ever existed on Mars or elsewhere in the universe. For more than 20 years, recreational scuba divers have known about a formation of coral-like structures in Pavilion Lake, between Lillooet and Cache Creek. But the large underwater deposits never attracted any scientific interest.

October 4, 2000

Astrobiologists Take Interdisciplinary Approach To Biosignatures

A team of interdisciplinary astrobiologists from NASA and other agencies is homing in on recognizing the microbial biosignatures for life, making it easier someday to identify life on other planets. A scientific paper analyzing the team's research results, titled "Modern Freshwater Microbialite Analogues for Ancient Dendritic Reef Structures," will be published in the magazine Nature on Oct. 5. The paper focuses on the study of mounded microbialite deposits - layers of living and non-living organisms - found at Pavilion Lake in Canada. Microbialites are organic sedimentary mineral deposits covered by a thin layer of microbes that become entombed in the mounds as they grow outward.

October 2, 2000

First salt-loving bug sequenced

Scientists have sequenced the genome of the first salt-loving extremophile, a micro-organism that can survive in conditions 10 times saltier than seawater. The genetic data will shed light on how these primitive organisms are able to thrive in extreme environments like salt mines or salty lakes. Ultimately, researchers hope to harness the bug's genetic secrets for use in biotechnology, for example to develop rice that grows in salty soil. The information might also be used to investigate whether inhospitable planets like Mars once harboured similar lifeforms, as well as gaining a deeper understanding of how life arose on Earth.

September 27, 2000

Antarctic Study Paves Way for Search for Martians

Experiments in Mars-like areas in Antarctica could provide clues about how best to search for signs of life on the inhospitable red planet, U.S. scientists said on Wednesday. Scientists from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) found that mysteriously high salt concentrations in the exposed soils of Antarctica's Dry Valleys -- areas perennially devoid of snow and ice cover -- were due to sulfur-emitting marine algae. In a discovery important for Martian exploration, the scientists also found that digging more deeply into the soil of the Dry Valleys yielded higher concentrations of biologically produced sulfates.

Life-on-Mars hopes dented by meteorite contamination

Suggestions that life, or the potential for it, existed on Mars have been dealt a blow by a new question mark that has been placed over one of the main pieces of evidence -- Martian meteorites found in Antarctica. Of the 15 Martian meteorites so far retrieved on Earth, six have been found in the dry valleys of Antarctica.

September 26, 2000

Russian Scientist Finds Organic Pigments on Mars

Dr. Serguei M. Pershin PhD, a Principal Investigator for the NASA Mars Polar Lander LIDAR experiment, Russia's first experiment on a US spacecraft claims he has discovered organic pigments on Mars relating to ancient photosynthetic organisms. ICAMSR Executive Director, Barry E. DiGregorio has written an exclusive article about his discovery in the September issue of Spectroscopy magazine.

September 16, 2000

Mars in a Test Tube Raises Questions about Life on the Red Planet Planetary Society

What is destroying organic molecules on the surface of Mars? This is the question discussed by a group of scientists led by Albert Yen of JPL and Bruce Murray of Caltech, president of the Planetary Society. Needless to say, the answer to this question is crucial for the search for life on the Red Planet.

September 15, 2000

Space : Final Frontier Nature

The trouble with science is that nature is honest. It doesn't always give you the answers you want. The US space administration NASA has confessed that its priority for future planetary missions to Mars is to look for life. Yet every attempt to find evidence for Martians so far has failed, and it is starting to look as though there might not be any needles in the haystack anyway. Even the report in 1996 of possible 'fossils' of Martian bacteria in a meteorite thrown to Earth from the Red Planet now has a tattered reputation. But still Mars teases, exposing glimpses of a wetter past and even perhaps a sporadically watery present.

September 14, 2000

Why Life Is Not Found on Mars' Surface

Scientists have recreated Martian conditions in test tubes, producing a "disinfectant" that may help explain the planet's rusty red color and why life and organic material have not been found on the surface. The chemical is superoxide; a "free radical" or oxidant like those implicated in human cell damage from cigarette smoking, radiation and diseases like heart disease and cancer. "You would not expect life to exist at the immediate surface of Mars because production of these oxygen radicals will destroy organic molecules," said planetary geochemist Albert Yen of NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. "If life exists on Mars, it needs to be in a place where these chemicals dont exist."

September 13, 2000

Digging For Life On Mars

Find liquid water on Mars, and life may not be far behind. Many scientists believe that this water can only exist thousands of metres beneath the planet's surface. So a team of engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, is developing a robotic mole that can drill deep into Mars and return samples to the surface through a tube that it constructs as it digs.

August 29, 2000

Life Amidst Glaciers Thrives and Survives

A new study shows that life can not only survive beneath tons of ice at the dark, near-freezing junctions between glaciers and Earth, but actually thrive there. Researchers say the discovery reinforces the notion that the bottom of the ice cap at Mars' north pole should be a primary target in the search for life.

August 13, 2000

Terraform or Not to Terraform? Question Poses Problem for Mars Researchers

Mars needs a planetary make over. A little ozone here, a touch of genetic engineering there, stir in some oxygen - you've got the makings of a planet you can write home about. The terraforming of Mars - making the planet hospitable to human life by manipulating its atmosphere and surface - could give humanity a new, comfortable home beyond the Earth.

August 12, 2000

Mars On Earth: Fragile Life In the Arctic

Mars, 2012: A lean landing craft touches down on Mars, at a site judged to have the best chances for finding some trace of water. Guided by scientists on Earth, the robot works its way into a crevasse that looks like it might once have hosted an active hot spring. The landing craft begins to sample dirt and scratch rocks to collect anything that might hold signs of life. It dumps that material into a chamber and then begins to search the material for molecular DNA the most basic building block common to all known life.

August 1, 2000

Doubt Cast On Life On Mars

The complex chemical structures found in a meteorite from Mars, which scientists in 1996 hailed as possible evidence of past life on the planet, can be reproduced quite simply in any laboratory according to new research from the University of Greenwich. Professor Aron Vecht and researcher Terry Ireland from the university's School of Chemical & Life Sciences say that the special structures -- which are shaped like flowers and spheres -- could have been formed on the cold surface of Mars from minerals commonly occurring there. Their findings cast grave doubts on the possibility of Martian life.

July 20, 2000

NASA weighs expense, risk of mission to seek Martian life

As NASA races to revamp its failed Mars exploration program, scientists are torn over how aggressively the agency should proceed with a risky and expensive robotic mission that could hasten the search for life on the Red Planet. On Thursday, more than 200 experts wrapped up three days of NASA-sponsored debate at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston over how the agency should reshape its Mars exploration strategy in response to a pair of mission failures last year.

Searching for a microscopic E.T. Christian Science Monitor

Norman Pace strides across his office and returns with a small rock plucked from the frigid wastes of Antarctica. The University of Colorado biologist, who is credited with finding organic life in some of the harshest places on Earth, turns the stone in his hand and says, "A fundamental question is whether there is photosynthesis going on, on the surface of Mars," itself a frosty wasteland. "If there is life on Mars, this is what you're going to see," says Dr. Pace, pointing to a colored layer in the rock, once home to millions of microorganisms.

July 18, 2000

UC-Berkeley Professor Looks for Life on Mars Daily Californian

In light of recent evidence pointing to the existence of water on Mars, the next step in the minds of many scientists is to search for life on the Red Planet, and a UC Berkeley faculty member thinks he knows exactly how to do this. UC Berkeley professor emeritus David Gan is scheduled tomorrow morning to tell NASA scientists and aeronautics experts from around the world about a machine he has designed to test for life on Mars.

July 16, 2000

The Need For Mars Mission Exobiologists

Not since the twin Viking Landers set down on the surface of Mars over 24 years ago, has NASA included a biologist, paleontologist, or ichnologist (study of trace fossils) on any of its missions. Viking was unique as the first spacecraft to land and search for life on another planet. As such, the Viking program enlisted the talents of three Principal Biology Investigators, a Biology Team Leader and co-experimenters.

Viking Data May Hide New Evidence For Life

In 1976 the twin Viking Lander spacecraft touched down on the surface of Mars and began the first ever, search for extraterrestrial life. Onboard where three miniaturized biology laboratories each with a unique focus on how to look for microbial life on Mars. Of the three biology instruments on each Viking Lander, the Labeled Release experiment designed by Dr. Gilbert V. Levin, obtained intriguing results that Levin says is consistent with microbial metabolism.

July 14, 2000

Did Life Rain Down From The Sky

Life may have begun not in the sea but in tiny water droplets drifting high in the sky. Thrown up by ocean waves, these droplets could have provided just the conditions needed for complex molecules to form.

July 10, 2000

Life Chills Out At The South Pole

In a finding that may extend the known limits of life on Earth, researchers supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) have discovered evidence that microbes may be able to survive the heavy doses of ultraviolet radiation and the extreme cold and darkness of the South Pole.

July 7, 2000

Scientists Find Super-Hardy South Pole Microbes

In a finding that could have an impact on the search for life on Mars and other planets, scientists say they have detected hardy microbes that seem to thrive in the radiation, cold and darkness at the South Pole. "If the team's conclusions prove true, the discovery not only has important implications for the search for life in other extreme environments on Earth, but also for the possibility that life -- at least at the microscopic level -- may exist elsewhere in the solar system," the National Science Foundation (NSF) said on Thursday in a statement.

July 1, 2000

Fount of life New Scientist

THERE was great excitement last week when news leaked out that a spacecraft has seen signs that water might have recently flowed on Mars's surface. But experts are puzzled by how water could be liquid in the frigid Martian climate and warn that concrete proof will be hard to come by. "If these results prove true, that there is water on Mars near the surface, it has profound implications for the possibility of life on Mars," NASA's associate administrator for space science Ed Weiler told a press conference in Washington DC last week. "Just about any place biologists find liquid water, organic molecules and energy, they find life, whether it's on the surface of the Earth or 10 000 feet below."

June 29, 2000

Arctic Island a Living Lab for Mars Science

Just days after NASA's blockbuster announcement that liquid water may flow near the surface of Mars, scientists are rallying around the images -- and pondering the possibilities of life on Earth's neighboring planet. "When I saw those images, I said to myself that Ive seen them before in my Arctic field work," said James Rice, a geologist at the University of Arizonas Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson. Rice trekked in 1997 and 1998 to the 12-mile (20-kilometer) diameter Haughton meteorite impact crater on Devon Island, located in the Canadian High Arctic.

June 20, 2000

NASA to Announce Evidence of Water On Mars

NASA will announce next week that its Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft has turned up evidence of water on the Red Planets surface, has learned. Sources close to the agencys Mars program said the find involves evidence of seasonal deposits that could be associated with springs on the planets surface.

June 15, 2000

NASA Explores Small Sensor Network Technology For Future Planetary Missions

NASA scientists have gone back to the garden, "planting" wireless webs of small sensors in gardens here on Earth in preparation for missions to help monitor biological activity on planets.

May 5, 2000

Life on Red Planet May Exist The Daily Californian

For decades, scientists have debated whether life on Mars is possible. Today, a team of UC Berkeley students will fly to a conference in Texas to present experimental evidence that demonstrates that liquid water may exist on the red planet a finding that leaves open the possibility of life as we known it outside of the Earth.

May 2, 2000

Mystery surrounding Martian organic matter deepens Spaceflight Now

In 1976, two superbly designed robotic emissaries from the earth soft-landed on the rock-strewn surface of another world in search of life. After conducting three biology experiments, the American Viking missions to Mars concluded that they could neither confirm nor refute the presence of biological entities.

April 28, 2000

Decoding The Martian Record For Signs Of Life

While Dr. Dan McCleese's description of the process whereby NASA is redesigning the future U.S. Mars program was one of the main attractions at this month's First Astrobiology Science Conference at Ames Research Center, there were many other talks and posters dealing with Mars as a possible abode of present-day -- or, more likely, past -- life.

April 27, 2000

Life Detection Technology Gets Room to Grow

The back-to-back failures last year of U.S. Mars missions now give scientists time to blueprint a credible and step-by-step search for life on the Red Planet. Without the pressure to return martian samples to Earth any time soon, new schemes for automated, on-the-spot detection of past or present Mars life can be flown.

April 12, 2000

Scientists now doubt life on other planets Detroit Free Press

It's been less than four years since jubilant scientists proclaimed they had detected fossils of ancient microorganisms from Mars. About the same time, new planets were spotted all over the sky, offering potential homes for alien civilizations. Tiny bugs were discovered in harsh environments on Earth previously considered impossible for creatures to survive in. The prospect of finding new neighbors in outer space seemed bright. But now a wave of pessimism is rising.

April 4, 2000

New Astrobiology field draws cadre of researchers San Jose Mercury News

Two years ago, NASA took a chance and launched a new field of research christened "Astrobiology" with a bold Nobel laureate at the helm and about $10 million for research. This week, at the first ever Astrobiology Science Conference, NASA organizers were surprised when 600 scientists -- three times as many as expected -- showed up brimming with research papers, new ideas and enthusiasm about the questions of origins and evolution of life in the universe.

March 31, 2000

Astrobiology: A down-to-earth view

The word astrobiology may summon up images of boldly going in search of Vulcans or even more exotic aliens. You might think it has to do primarily with Mars, or Europa, or planets around other suns. But the fact is, Topic A in the rapidly growing field of astrobiology is good old Planet Earth.

March 29, 2000

Life's Volcanic Start

Geologists at Washington University in St. Louis have developed new theoretical calculations on how life might have arisen on Earth, Mars and other celestial bodies from volcanic gases.

March 28, 2000

Hands Off the Planet? How Finding Life On Mars Could Stop Exploration

Could finding life on Mars be a biological show-stopper, a discovery that would slow down or even halt plans to send humans there? The issue of life on Mars serves as a double-edged sword, where scientific passion and ethics cuts both ways.

March 22, 2000

Life's Rusty Old Debate

Two geology professors at The University of Texas at Austin, Dr. Robert L. Folk and Dr. Kitty L. Milliken, have demonstrated that iron oxide filaments from a variety of geological periods on Earth are lifelike in form at microscopic levels. They say their research could have implications for Martian exploration and the search for some form of life on other planets.

March 20, 2000

Is Mars Littered With The Residues Of Dead Life?

The surface of Mars could be littered with the chemical residues of life. Previous missions to the planet were simply not equipped to detect them, researchers claim.

From Volcanoes To Life On Mars

Was there ever life on Mars? That question may one day be answered in part by research now being conducted by a University at Buffalo geologist who studies volcanoes on earth.

March 16, 2000

Team probes Mars' science and fiction

Lecture/book signing by Dead Mars, Dying Earth author John Brandenburg: Dead Mars, Dying Earth theorizes the comet responsible for gouging Mars' 120-mile wide Lyot impact crater 500 million years ago also blasted organic seed debris onto Earth, which in turn hastened the evolution of primitive aquatic life.

March 15, 2000

UB Geologist's Study Of Volcanoes On Earth May Help Determine If There Ever Was Life On Mars University of Buffalo

Was there ever life on Mars? That question may one day be answered in part by research now being conducted by a University at Buffalo geologist who studies volcanoes on earth.

Search for Life Takes Two Women to the Depths

Imagine a world of green slime, red goo and dripping, bacteria-rich mineral formations known fondly as "snottites." You are entering a little patch of underground heaven -- a subsurface step on the road to learning whether Mars is a locale for past or present life.

March 9, 2000

Water + Energy = Life?

When planetary scientists first saw evidence of a water ocean beneath the frozen surface of Europa, everyone immediately began pondering the likelihood that the Jovian moon could harbor advanced life forms -- perhaps even fishlike creatures.

Mission to Mars: Digging for life

The main fascination about Mars has to do with the search for life beyond Earth.

March 6, 2000

Resurrecting life on Mars? Nature Science Update

Can bacteria leave fossils? Debate on this contentious question is central to the mystery of whether or not there is, or ever was, life on Mars. And it is a debate that has just re-opened, thanks to a report in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

February 21, 2000

Fossilized Bacteria Found in Ancient Meteorite

Russian scientists claim to have discovered fossils of primitive extraterrestrial organisms in a meteorite thought to be a leftover from the formation of the solar system.

Bacteria In Murchison/ Efremovka Meteorites

At a conference in Denver, July 20-22, 1999, a pair scientists from the Russian Academy of Sciences presented sharp images that look very much like fossilized microorganisms taken from fragments of several carbonaceous meteorites.

February 15, 2000

Atmospheric energy for subsurface life on Mars? National Academy of Sciences

The location and density of biologically useful energy sources on Mars will limit the biomass, spatial distribution, and organism size of any biota. Subsurface Martian organisms could be supplied with a large energy flux from the oxidation of photochemically produced atmospheric H2 and CO diffusing into the regolith.

February 6, 2000

UW experts squelch hope of finding folks on that final frontier Seattle Times

It's a thought that grips most everyone who stares into the unfathomable depths of a star-speckled night: Is there anybody out there? The odds, say Peter Ward and Don Brownlee, are probably more remote than you think. Earth, they contend, is simply too special, the result of myriad physical conditions missing from most of the universe, with just enough time and other circumstances to let complicated life arise.

January 12, 2000

Organic Molecules in Space Found

A primordial soup of complex organic chemicals that could be the precursors of life is cooked up very quickly after the birth of stars, new research suggests. Another international team has made calculations that suggest that life could have arisen on Mars and then been transferred to Earth by meteorites jolted away from the surface of Mars by asteroid impacts. Early in solar system history, it is also calculated that up a trillion Earth rocks were blasted into space and traveled to Mars. This means that life from Earth could have once seeded Mars. "Because of the heavy traffic between Earth and Mars, we couldn't decide which came first," Martian life on Earth, or the reverse, said Mileikowsky.

Did Bacteria Survive Trip From Mars?

Astronomers reported on Wednesday they had found a tough but peaceful pair of bacteria that might have been able to survive the arduous trip from Mars, back when the Red Planet could have supported life.

January 1, 2000

Life Beyond Earth National Geographic

Something astonishing has happened in the universe. There has arisen a thing called lifea flamboyant, rambunctious, gregarious form of matter, qualitatively different from rocks, gas, and dust, yet made of the same stuff, the same humdrum elements lying around everywhere.

December 30, 1999

Bugs in space

Astrobiologists are to test whether life from Mars could have survived a journey to Earth by hiding inside meteorites. Scientists from the Stone group, including Professor Colin Pillinger of the Open University and Professor Howell Edwards at the University of Bradford, will send bacteria into space and back inside manmade 'meteorites' attached to the heat shield of a Russian space probe, Foton 12.

December 16, 1999

Life origins may be underground Detroit Free Press

The search for how life began on Earth, and perhaps on other planets, is taking a detour in the endless night beneath the bottom of the sea.

December 14, 1999

Meet Conan the Bacterium

Humble microbe could become "The Accidental (Space) Tourist" Like a muscle-bound movie hero, it withstands attacks from acid baths, high and low temperatures, and even radiation doses. Then, in a science fiction sequel, it dispenses lifesaving medications and reshapes a planet for new settlers.

December 13, 1999

Hunting for ET

British scientists interested in searching for life in space are getting together to launch the UK Astrobiology Forum. It will allow British astronomers, biologists, geologists and engineers to pool their knowledge, and think up better ways of detecting extra-terrestrials.

December 12, 1999

New 'fingerprint' of early life The Record Online

The earliest direct evidence of organisms pumping oxygen into Earth's ancient atmosphere has been found in the fossilized remnants of bacterial slime, according to research that also gives scientists a new tool in the hunt for life on Mars.

December 9, 1999

Life Found Near Sub-Antarctic Lake, Fueling ET Hopes

The discovery of living microbes just above a hidden freshwater lake 2 miles deep in the frozen Antarctic extends the range of extreme conditions under which life is known to survive. The finding, which researchers say almost certainly indicates there is a thriving community of microscopic creatures in the ancient, pristine lake, buoys hopes that life may exist elsewhere in the solar system. It also provides some clues about how and where to start looking.

Life Found Near Sub-Antarctic Lake, Fueling ET Hopes

The discovery of living microbes just above a hidden freshwater lake 2 miles deep in the frozen Antarctic extends the range of extreme conditions under which life is known to survive.

Life on Mars? Before We Go, We've Got To Know

MOD: The Mars Organic Detector The Mars Organic Detector is designed to test martian soil samples for compounds associated with organic life. The detector, which would take up the volume of about a dozen CD cases stacked together, is provisionally budgeted for $3 million. It is designed to heat a rock sample to vaporize any organic compounds that might be inside.

December 7, 1999

CNN's Miles O'Brien profiles Dr Chris McKay and the search for Life on Mars

[Video] Miles O'Brien interviews Dr Chris McKay, NASA Scientist and Mars Society member, on the search for life on Mars and in analogue environments here on Earth.

December 2, 1999

Idea of Alien Life Gaining Credibility: What If the Mars Probe Finds Something? San Francisco Chronicle

As the Mars Polar Lander spacecraft nears the Red Planet on its water- seeking mission, scientists are already discussing the societal implications of finding life elsewhere in the universe, a sign that a once-dubious idea has found new respectability.

November 22, 1999

Radiation-proof bug offers clue to cancer cells Telegraph

SCIENTISTS have deciphered the genetic code of a bacterium which can withstand radiation at 3,000 times the level fatal to humans. Typically, it is found in locations where most other bacteria have died, ranging from the shielding pond of a radioactive caesium source to granite in the Antarctic, where conditions are thought to resemble those on Mars.

November 8, 1999

Your Ancestors May Be Martian

Suppose that billions of years ago life developed on Mars. Primitive, tiny organisms that thrived deep within rocks and made a living from water and chemicals seeping through those rocks.

November 7, 1999

Mars life team The Advocate

NASA is assembling a group of scientists to determine just how to judge a little green man -- or at least a little, possibly green, bacterium from Mars.

October 20, 1999

Marshall expert, ex-astronaut to search Antarctica for aliens Alabama Live

Somewhere in Antarctica lie rocks that fell from outer space thousands or even millions of years ago. Inside them, scientists hope to find microscopic evidence of life on other planets.

October 19, 1999

Research suggests tiny life on Mars The Daily Texan

Ongoing UT research adds another dimension to the theory that led NASA scientists to find evidence of life in a Mars meteorite.

October 6, 1999

Martian Meteorite 3.9 Billion Years Old

A new study of the carbonate minerals found in a meteorite from Mars shows they were formed about 3.9 billion years ago. Scientists believe the planet had flowing surface water and warmer temperatures then, making it more Earth-like. Giant meteorites were blasting huge craters in its surface.

September 30, 1999

Dating of Meteorite Mineral Leaves Mars-Life Hypothesis Alive

Scientists who proposed three years ago that a meteorite from Mars holds evidence of primitive martian life are thrilled by new research that sets the age of carbonate mineral deposits in the rock to 3.9 billion years old. The dating research, headed by Lars Borg, a geochemist at the Institute of Meteoritics at the University of New Mexico, is being lauded as the first to establish a reliable age for mineral processes that occurred after the formation of a meteorite. The research is published in this week's issue of the journal Science.

September 2, 1999

Mars mound might have been built by microbes

If life ever existed on Mars, it may have left behind a massive calling card in the shape of a white rock mound covering over 200 square kilometres. According to a team of researchers in Scotland and Turkey, the mound looks very like those built by bacteria over 3 billion years ago here on Earth.

August 27, 1999

Experts Search for Water in Space

Having found water in a 4.5 billion-year-old meteorite, NASA scientists are searching for more that may have been overlooked in other space rocks. The water, locked in a purple crystalline mineral called halite - or rock salt - remained uncontaminated by the Earth's atmosphere because scientists studied the meteorite quickly, less than 46 hours after it fell, said Everett Gibson, the NASA scientist who retrieved the space rock last year from the West Texas town of Monahans.

Scientists examine water found inside meteorite

Scientists who cracked open a meteorite that fell to Earth last year found tiny pockets of briny water, providing the first close look at water not originating on earth, according to an article in the journal Science. While astronomers have long thought that water flowed through asteroids and other bodies formed at the beginning of the solar system, the meteorite's liquid cargo offered the first chance to actually study it in a lab.

Water in meteorite spurs on search for new life Philadelphia Inquirer

Surf's up in space. Thanks to new technologies, astronomers are finding water in the most unexpected nooks and crannies of the universe. The latest discovery, reported this week in the journal Science, is a tiny puddle of saltwater tucked inside a meteorite that plopped down in Texas last year - the first time liquid water has been recovered from an object from space.

Ancient meteorite hints at origins of our water Christian Science Monitor

When Michael Zolensky first saw the meteorite that had recently punched a crater in a west Texas road, it looked like a fairly common piece of space rock. "We didn't know it was unusual until we brought it into the lab, broke it open, and saw purple deposits," says Dr. Zolensky, curator of NASA's collection of cosmic dust and moon-rock samples.

A Meteoric Discovery: Extraterrestrial Water Washington Post

A meteorite that whistled into a West Texas yard last year contained the first extraterrestrial water ever captured on Earth, scientists reported yesterday.

August 13, 1999

Life on Mars --The Evidence Grows

Three years after announcing that a Martian meteorite found in Antarctica held evidence of primitive life on Mars, a team of scientists at the Johnson Space Center says evidence continues to bolster that conclusion.

July 27, 1999

Earth's Toughest Bug Might Help Colonize Mars

Deinococcus radiodurans -- listed as "world's toughest bacterium" in the Guinness Book of World Records -- may prove useful in future human missions to Mars, according to researchers.

They Thrive in the Arctic, Why Not On Mars?

Biologists have found life deep inside Earth's crust, and at thermal vents at the frigid bottom of the sea. Astrobiologists are now looking to Siberian permafrost for clues about how life on Earth may have begun and how it might start on other water-rich bodies of the solar system.

July 1, 1999

Evidence for Life on Mars Remains Weak

For all its achievements, science has also been spectacularly wrong, UCLA paleobiologist J. William Schopf shows in his new book, "Cradle of Life: The Discovery of Earth's Earliest Fossils" (Princeton University Press). Facts always prevail eventually -- but sometimes they don't emerge for decades.

June 11, 1999

Unearthing clues to Martian fossils

The hunt for signs of ancient life on Mars leads scientists to Mono Lake, CA

June 2, 1999

Professor teams up with NASA to study signs of life from Mars Chicago Sun-Times

The moon doesn't hold much promise for clay mineralogists. But Mars is a different story. With signs that water once flowed on its now-parched surface, the red planet could have the answer to one of the world's weightiest questions: Does life exist outside of Earth?

Cookin' Up A Martian Stew

A University of Arkansas researcher has become the first scientist to grow methane-producing microorganisms under some of the conditions found on Mars. His work may provide clues for finding similar life forms on Mars.

Exotic Earth bacteria shown to grow in a simulated Mars

A methane-making, oxygen-hating microbe is able to thrive in Mars-like laboratory conditions, according to a researcher who says the experiment raises fresh hope about the possibility of life on the Red Planet.

Sustaining Live Methane-Producing Microorganisms University of Arkansas

A University of Arkansas researcher has become the first scientist to grow methane-producing microorganisms under some of the conditions found on Mars. His work may provide clues for finding similar life forms on Mars.

May 27, 1999

Search for life on Mars will start in Siberia

NASA and Russian scientists have been selected to take the search for life in the solar system to the frozen reaches of Earth. Richard Hoover of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and Prof. Elena A. Vorobyova of Moscow State University will investigate the microbiota found in the permafrost and ice of Siberia, Alaska, and Antarctica.

May 2, 1999

Mars Data Hint at Old Hot Springs The SETI League

Mars may once have bubbled with hot springs, warm cozy pools where Martian microbes could have evolved, according to a team of New Mexico researchers. Using data from NASA's Mars Pathfinder spacecraft, the scientists found chemicals in the Martian soil similar to what's found around hot springs on Earth.

April 28, 1999

NASA scientist: We will find living forms on Mars

The NASA scientist who claims to have found evidence of past life in three Martian meteorites made a bold prediction Tuesday: Real living creatures - not ancient microfossils - are buried deep beneath the windswept surface of Mars and eventually will be rooted out by robotic or human explorers.

April 1, 1999

Looking for life in all the weird places

Neil Armstrong received the glory as the first astronaut on the moon, but other earthlings actually beat him to the surface by two years. Stowaways on the Surveyor 3 spacecraft in 1967, a colony of the streptococcus mitus remained stranded on the moon until a rescue several years later by astronauts, who brought the harmless, common bacteria home where they were revived.

March 22, 1999

Do nanobacteria rule Earth and Mars?

The most common form of life on Earth may be tiny forms of bacteria, if new research in Australia is confirmed. And right now they might be living on Mars, as well as in Earth rocks and even inside your body.

March 18, 1999

Scientists say Nakhla meteorite hints at life on Mars Discovery Channel Canada

Scientists from NASA presented a paper today in Houston that suggests a meteorite from Mars, found here on Earth, may contain evidence of life from the Red Planet. If this seems like familiar news, well, it is and it isn't. The same scientists made an announcement back in 1996 about a Martian meteorite called ALH 84001 which was found in Antarctica.

March 11, 1999

New Martian meteorite found

A brown stone the size of a coconut has been identified as only the 14th known meteorite from Mars. It was picked up in the Dar al Gani region of the Libyan Sahara desert last year by an anonymous meteorite hunter.

March 10, 1999

It's dead Jim. But was it ever alive? Ad Astra

The ALH84001 announcement at T+2 years: How well does this piece of Mars meet accepted criteria for evidence of ancient life? In August 1996, our research team made a rather profound claim: evidence of fossilized life found within a meteorite (ALH84001) blasted off the surface of Mars.

Magnet theory to life on Mars

Scientists are about to reveal what may be the best evidence yet for past life in a rock from Mars. They hope it will cause their critics to pause for thought instead of dismissing their controversial claims.

March 2, 1999

Life on Mars - new claims

Sensational new claims about life on Mars are about to be made by US scientists. Some of the researchers who claimed in 1996 to have found evidence for past life in a Martian meteorite now say they have further evidence to support their theories in one, possibly two, other rocks.

February 11, 1999

Martian 'bacteria' matched to Earth

Unusual features found on a Martian meteorite may be those of fossilised alien bacteria after all, research suggests.

October 22, 1998

New hope of finding life on Mars

New research has boosted hopes of finding life on Mars. Data from a Nasa probe has revealed that enough heat from inside the Red Planet might be trapped at the poles to melt underground water ice.

August 25, 1998

Did Mars have enough spark for life?

Two planetary scientists have taken a novel approach to the question of life on Mars, calculating the amount of energy available for potentially life-sustaining chemical reactions. Their conclusion: There was enough energy for life to emerge, but not enough for it to flourish.

August 10, 1998

Red planet rock

A meteorite found in the Sahara desert, dubbed Lucky 13, did come from Mars, British scientists have revealed. Meteorite experts said the findings could provide the next breakthrough in the search for evidence of life on the red planet.

August 4, 1998

Meteorite debate hits two-year mark: Scientists still see no definitive answer

Its been two years since scientists announced that they saw signs of ancient life in a Martian meteorite. At the time, they were confident that others would quickly confirm their results. Instead, the claims appear to be fading into the gray zone between proof and disproof.

July 31, 1998

Mars meteorite in UK hands

UK scientists are hoping to make the next breakthrough in the search for evidence of life on Mars. They are analysing a small sample of a meteorite which landed in the Sahara desert.

July 3, 1998

David McKay discusses the search for Mars life

NASA planetary scientist David McKay is a member of the research team that announced in 1996 that a Martian meteorite known as ALH84001 appeared to contain traces of biological activity. In an interview, McKay discusses the continuing search for evidence of life on Mars.

The big question about life on Mars

Lets get right down to it: Is there life on Mars? Most scientists say we just dont know. When will we find out? Some say well have to wait a decade, while others insist that the answer could be available significantly sooner.

December 8, 1997

Martian Meteorite Contains No Biological Life

The famous Martian meteorite, found in the Antartica - ALH84001, fcontains no biological life forms, according to a Case Western Reserve University researcher and colleagues.

November 10, 1996

Martian microbe triggers healthy debate on policy

Now we know how Robinson Crusoe must have felt. In the classic novel by Daniel Defoe, the shipwrecked mariner spent years on a remote island before he discovered a stranger's footprint in the sand. He wasn't alone after all.

August 8, 1996

Author of Mars novel skeptical of NASA's claims

On the morning after they said there might have been life on Mars, the man who predicted it a half-century ago answered every phone call with a groan. "Here we go. I suppose this is about Mars again," snarled Ray Bradbury, author of "The Martian Chronicles," a book describing a lush but dying red planet peopled by changelings. Now 75 and living in Los Angeles, prophet had turned skeptic.

August 7, 1996

Meteorite Yields Evidence of Primitive Life on Early Mars

A NASA research team of scientists at the Johnson Space Center and at Stanford University has found evidence that strongly suggests primitive life may have existed on Mars more than 3.6 billion years ago.

June 1, 1977

Life on Mars The Atlantic Monthly

Space scientists won't say so, but the results of three brilliantly-conceived experiments lead inevitably to one startling conclusion: Life, in some form, exists on Mars. The results of the Viking life-detection experiments have been more positive than most people expected. Dr. Robert Jastrow, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, says, "Short of seeing something wiggling on the end of a pin, the case for life on Mars is now as complete as the Viking experiments could make it." But no one wants to make predictions about Martian life which might be proved wrong by later evidence; scientific reputations could too easily be damaged in the process. So the Viking scientists have been extremely cautious in interpreting the results of their biology experiments. And the official NASA position straddles the fence. As Viking scientist Dr. Carl Sagan of Cornell University puts it, "We have clues up to the eyebrows, but no conclusive explanations of what we're seeing."