A single pixel represents 13 miles (22 km) of Martian terrain. (Credit: NASA/David Crisp & WFPC2 Team)

There is a hypothesis that’s gaining a little traction in the scientific community, which ultimately suggests that life on Earth could have originally come from Mars. Evidence in favor of this idea has been building over the last couple of decades, meaning it may soon evolve from the realm of  viable hypotheses, to the realm of scientific theories.

This new breed of evidence comes from the Westheimer Institute for Science and Technology located in Florida after an analysis of a Martian meteorite. Today, (August 29; the time of this article’s original publication), Professor Steven Benner will reveal his findings at a geochemist summit. The theory basically suggests that some 4-billion years ago, life started on Mars. A meteor then struck the planet; sending little chunks of Martian rocks – with bits and pieces of Martian microbes – into interplanetary space. One, or more, of these rocks then fell to Earth; seeding our planet with life. Billions of years later… BOOM, here we are. If true, it means that we… all… (could be)… Martians.

Basis in Fact?

Credit: NASA/Mary Pat Hrybyk-Keith

On the surface, the findings are pretty simple, but they have deep ramifications. The analysis of these Martian meteorites clearly reveal the presence of highly oxidized molybdenum; a substance crucial to the early development of life. According to Professor Benner, “This form of molybdenum couldn’t have been available on Earth at the time life first began, because three billion years ago the surface of the Earth had very little oxygen, but Mars did. It’s yet another piece of evidence which makes it more likely life came to Earth on a Martian meteorite, rather than starting on this planet.”

The Issues:

There are a few problems with the Earth-based abiogenesis theory. Two problem in particular that Benner’s research hopes to address (in favor of the Martial counterpart), are the so-called “tar paradox” and the RNA-water problem. The tar paradox, a term coined by Benner, is focused on the nature of certain organic material. When light and energy are focused onto organic molecules – and are left to their own devices long enough, instead of creating life, the matter turns into a tar-like substance, which is not very lifelike (to say the least).

Some combinations of the materials are known staunch the process, to prevent this tarring from happening. Two things in particular, boron and molybdenum, are abundant on Mars. At least, the Martian meteorites indicate they were – meaning that Mars certainly had the ingredients for life in its early history (perhaps even earlier than Earth).

Maybe we aren’t as different as we thought? (Credit Shutterstock)

The second focuses on a problem with RNA and Earth’s history. Most scientists now believe that life started as RNA. They also believe that Earth’s early surface was completely covered in water. As standalone fun fact, that’s all fine and dandy, but when you combine the two, you get problems. Firstly, boron only forms in dry places. At the moment, on Earth, it’s only found in the driest regions of the planet, such as Death Valley. Secondly, water is corrosive to RNA, which poses a problem when life would have started in oceans as RNA.

The “life originating on Mars” idea is certainly looking more favorable the more we know about the origins of life. One day, maybe we’ll be able to proudly proclaim “Yes, I am a Martian Ape!” Either way, as Prefessor Benner so eloquently put it, “It’s lucky that we ended up here nevertheless, as certainly Earth has been the better of the two planets for sustaining life. If our hypothetical Martian ancestors had remained on Mars, there might not have been a story to tell.”


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