Google+ Mars Travel: Earliest Life on Earth is Evidence Life Could Exist on Mars

Earliest Life on Earth is Evidence Life Could Exist on Mars

Often it is discoveries made about life on Earth that allow us to draw new conclusions about potential life on other planets. This was the case with the discovery late last year that arsenic can support life, and it continues to be the case with the most recent discovery of 3.4 billion year old micro-fossils in the remote Strelley Pool region of Australia.

The discovery is significant not just because the fossils are the oldest ever found, but because 3.4 billion years ago there was little, if any oxygen in the atmosphere. Given the conditions of Earth at the time, it is thought that the life would  have thrived on sulphur, metabolizing it for energy. This is being taken as evidence that life can exist without oxygen, and so could conceivably exist on other planets that do not have oxygen rich atmospheres, like Mars. Learning that oxygen is not a prerequisite to life will force scientists to reassess the necessary parameters for what constitutes a hospitable environment.

What This Discovery Means About Life on Mars

The discovery that life existed without oxygen on Earth opens the door to the possibility that life existed, or still exists, on Mars. Martin Brasier of Oxford University, who was one of the scientists who made the discovery, speculates, "Could these sorts of things exist on Mars? It's just about conceivable. This evidence is certainly encouraging, and lack of oxygen on Mars is not a problem." With NASA having just discovered evidence of flowing water on Mars, there is hope that Mars has life as well.
If life existed on Earth without oxygen it is entirely conceivable that the same is true of Mars. Perhaps Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity will find life on Mars, though it is more likely we will have to wait until the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity lands at Gale Crater and begins testing for signs of life.
This most recent discovery is just one of many that can now be added to the arguments for life on Mars. We can argue all we want about whether life exists on Mars and other planets, but until we find some there will be no winner of that debate.


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