Scientists think it's possible that life originally came from Mars, possibly carried here by meteorites. If that's the case, then life on Mars might have genetic similarities to life here on Earth.
MIT researchers are building a tool that might provide DNA evidence that could back up this radical theory.
In order to test Martian soil for DNA or RNA evidence, the researchers are building a prototype device called Search for Extra-Terrestrial Genome (SETG). But it won't be completed for a couple of years.
Ideally, the device would be sent to Mars on a mission. For instance, a drill on a rover could take samples of Martian soil to test for DNA or RNA. Then, the device would use biochemical techniques to analyze genetic sequences. The microfluidic chip would allow reactions to take place instantly and it would analyze DNA molecules on the spot. Think about the forensic techniques seen on the TV show CSI and apply that to testing soil samples on Mars.
MIT researcher Christopher Carr said in a statement:
"It's a long shot, but if we go to Mars and find life that's related to us, we could have originated on Mars. Or if it started here, it could have been transferred to Mars." Either way, "we could be related to life on Mars. So we should at least be looking for life on Mars that's related to us."
The genetic information taken from samples of Martian soil might reveal biological traces that might have once existed on Earth. It's possible the lifeforms still exist in the Martian deep freeze. The idea might seem far out there, but there's solid evidence that give the idea of lifeforms originating from Mars some credibility:
- climates on Mars and earth were similar during the early days of the solar system
- rocks travel from Mars to earth all the time, usually in the form of asteroid impacts
- microbes have been able to survive asteroid impacts
Life starting on one planet and spreading to another is possible, considering the orbital dynamics of the solar system. It's 100 times easier for meteorites to travel from Mars to Earth, according to the researchers.
There's something about this research that screams...men are from Mars. I had to say it. You never know, there might soon be DNA evidence for it.
Photo: Christine Daniloff
Are you a Martian? [MIT]
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