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The Earth shaking news this week was the discovery of life-on-Mars. Well, not quite, but what was discovered was methane percolating up into the Martian atmosphere in abundant quantities where it becomes converted to other chemicals fairly quickly. Methane on Earth comes primary from volcanoes and as a byproduct of life processes. The geology of Mars can be traced with good accuracy and apparently there haven’t been any active volcanoes there for millions of years. The methane might also just seep up from some other source but because it is destroyed in the atmosphere it has to come from somewhere within the planet itself.

There are now huge numbers of photographs taken on the surface by rovers and they show not the slightest trace of macroscopic sized living things. So, the martian life if it exists must be some form of subsurface life which gets its energy from some source other than the sun. Right here on Earth, scientists have discovered a life form 2.8 kilometers down in the rocks that gets its ultimate energy from radioactive decay. This species of bacteria was named Candidatus Desulforudis audaxviator and seems to be amongst the oldest living forms on Earth.

From New Scientist 17 January 2009

Life in a gold mine discover 2.8 kilometers down.

Life in a gold mine discover 2.8 kilometers down.

“One question that has arisen when considering the capacity of other planets to support life is whether organisms can exist independently, without access even to the Sun,” says Chivian. “The answer is yes and here’s the proof. It’s philosophically exciting to know that everything necessary for life can be packed into a single genome.”

Chris McKay, of NASA’s Ames Research Center says that D. audaxviator is an amazing discovery, and represents the kind or organism that could survive below the surface of Mars or Saturn’s sixth largest moon Enceladus.

A Mars rock with a possible fossil of a living thing.

A Mars rock with a possible fossil of a living thing.

This rock, discovered in Antarctica and named meteorite ALH84001, is thought to be from Mars. It doesn’t strain one’s credulity much to say this and the known living thing from the gold mine are similar in appearance.

There are very few known meteorites thought to come from Mars and to have found one with a possible fossil of a living form would seem to indicate the fossil was a common item. I proposed in a blog several months ago that a large number of extraterrestrial rocks could be found in Antarctica by using a camera being flown at a very low altitude, 30 meters or so.

Balloon with camera and drag package.

Balloon with camera and drag package.

Mars rocks on the cheap. Man on Mars? No need explores the subject of recovering extraterrestrial rocks from a snowy landscape. Also, in the blog iRobot and Mars roves in the Antarctic. By bringing back some more of these rock samples, it would probably be possible to verify if this was a life fossil or a mineral one.