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For a lot of us, the big question about Mars has been whether water really does or did exist… and if so, it may indicate the presence of life.

We may be closer than ever to an answer thanks to NASA's Phoenix Mars lander. It arrived in May and has performed the first chemical analysis of the Martian soil. It found that the soil chemistry is close to the upper dry valleys of Antarctica.

The composition is somewhat alkaline and contains chemical salts we associate with life on earth. Plus, photographs of the landing site revealed white chunks of matter that when exposed, disappeared over a few days.

NASA scientists say that's proof the matter is ice. To investigate further, the lander will "bake" soil samples to see if gaseous water is released. It'll also look for other chemicals associated with life so we know whether living organisms existed on Mars.

Or that life still exists beneath the Martian surface which would be astounding! Finding extraterrestrial life would shed light on how life evolved on earth.

We already have findings that may point to life outside earth. Meteorites discovered in the Antarctic contain amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.

And another key molecule associated with life - ribonucleic acids were found in another meteor that fell in Australia.

So could the theory of Panspermia be true? It originated in the early 1900's suggesting life on earth came from an extraterrestrial source such as a meteor.

Then in 1973, Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of DNA suggested life here came from directed Panspermia - meaning it was left behind by space visitors who seeded early earth's primordial conditions with simple organisms.

As we continue space exploration, we may just get closer to an answer.

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For more information…

Phoenix Mars Mission
This is the NASA web site on the Phoenix Mars Mission. The site includes multiple links on the background of the mission and key scientists leading the science program. It includes the latest results on soil chemistry and presence of water under the Martian surface.
For more information…

Panspermia: Spreading Life Through the Universe
Web site by space.com with multiple resources included about the search for extraterrestrial life. This site includes breaking news and an image gallery.
For more information…

Directed Panspermia
This is the manuscript published by Crick and Orgel describing the theory of Panspermia. "Directed Panspermia" Icarus (1973) 19: 341-346.
A later book by Francis Crick on the origins of life and the possibility of panspermia.
Life itself: its origin and nature. 1981. New York: Simon and Schuster.


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