According to David McKay, chief of astrobiology at NASA’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston, the fact that Mars has bred life will be confirmed this year and the historic discovery will not be made on the Mars, but here on Earth using the chunks of the red planet.
“Powerful new microscopes and other instruments will establish whether features in martian meteorites are alien fossils,” said McKay.
Using a new instrument, a team of NASA scientists will bombard three meteorites — known to be from Mars as the gases trapped inside them match those in rocks examined by probes on the red planet — with a stream of ions to check whether features are geological or biological, Scientific American reported.
Two of the three meteorites – ALH84001 and Yamato 593 – were found in the Antarctic by American and Japanese scientists after they were lying in the icy desert for thousands of years.
Chunks of the third meteorite, which fell at Nakhla in Egypt in 1911, are preserved at London’s Natural History Museum.
Astronomers believe that the three meteorites were blasted out of the Mars’ surface by asteroid impacts and then drifted around the solar system for millions of years before falling on Earth.
The NASA team is already convinced that colonies of micro organisms are visible inside the three martian rocks.
“We do not yet believe that we have rigorously proven there is – or was – life on Mars. But we do believe that we are very, very close to proving there is or has been life there,” McKay said.
“If so, this would have profound implications for our understanding of life in the universe,” he added.
The NASA team believes a planet-wide network of micro organisms came to life underground on Mars around 3.6 billion years ago when the planet was much warmer and wetter with a much thicker atmosphere.
Compelling evidence that life may still survive on Mars came a year ago after NASA detected plumes of methane in its atmosphere.