Life from Mars could have 'polluted' Earth: Krauss

Sep 05, 2012 by Elizabeth Howell, Universe Today
Credit: NASA

Unless you've been living under a rock—Earth or Martian—in the past month, surely you have heard about the Curiosity rover's landing and early adventures on Mars.

The prospects for what the rover could find has many in the space community very excited, even though Curiosity is supposed to look for habitable environments, not itself.

However, a couple of weeks ago, noted Lawrence Krauss said he wouldn't be surprised if we do find evidence of life on Mars.

In an interview with CNN (below), Krauss said it's possible Martian life could have "polluted" Earth early in our planet's history, giving rise to life as we know it today.

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"The big surprise (in finding life) would be if it weren't our cousins. Because what we've learned is that material goes back and forth between the planets all the time. We have discovered in Antarctica, for example, and it goes the other way around, and microbes certainly (can) survive the the eight-month voyage in a rock."

Though Krauss did not specify which meteorites in Antarctica he was referring to, he is most likely talking about ALH84001, which was found in 1984.

The meteorite shot to international prominence in 1996 when scientists, led by NASA's David McKay, published an article in the journal Science saying there was evidence the meteorite showed "primitive bacterial life" from Mars. In particular, they used a high-power and found formations that they said are consistent with those caused by bacterial life.

The team's proclamation met with scientific skepticism. The Lunar and Planetary Institute's Allan Treiman said even if it did show evidence of life, the rocks could have been contaminated by Antarctic life or by handling of the meteorite after it was found.

John Bradley, an adjunct professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, took his skepticism a step further: "Unfortunately, there are many signatures in the fossil record here on Earth, and probably on Mars, that look very similar to bacterial signatures. But they are not unique to bacterial processes," he said in an undated NASA page (most likely from 2001, since it references a meeting from that time) that was reportedly based on a SPACE.com story.

NASA revisited the sample in 2009 with more advanced equipment and argued that life was the most plausible explanation for the formations. In a paper published in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, the authors rejected the alternate hypotheses of shock or heating affecting the meteorite based on their experiments.

That said, the 1996 announcement is still a long way from confirmation. Krauss' interview is below. What do you think of his views of ?

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User comments : 20

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barakn
3.9 / 5 (7) Sep 05, 2012
"the the eight-month voyage in a rock." The chance of a rock making it here after just one Hohmann transfer orbit is infinitesimally small. Typically such rocks spend hundreds of thousands or millions of years in space.
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
5 / 5 (3) Sep 05, 2012
Quite. I just made a back-of-the-envelope based on the observed martian mass transport (used before LHB in the absence of better data), modern cell survivability data on survivability hypervelocity shocks (used for both ascent and descent, in the absence of better data) and non-metabolic CR travel, and Earth initially sterile (from the Earth-Moon impactor, say).

Compared to hydrothermal vent abiogenesis theories, that sets an upper limit on chemical evolution to free cells on the order of max lifetime or a vent or 0.1 million years, the transpermia flow would have a likelihood of initiating cells of ~ 1 %.

If impact rates were order of magnitude larger before LHB, which is now believed to be survivable, or the descent survivability higher, or the amount of bacteria living in rock cracks larger, those numbers can go up. Having older, less robustly controlled, repaired and self-contained cells, makes them go down.

All in all, IMO not looking like a good idea for first life here.
GSwift7
3.8 / 5 (16) Sep 05, 2012
Agreed. Not very likely for a quick trip from Mars to Earth. Anything thrown off of Mars should enter a solar orbit that keeps taking it back near the orbit of Mars at each apogee. Much more likely that Mars would scoop it's own debris back up before the Earth did.

This kind of public relations fluff story is just meant to get grade school teachers who don't know much about space excited, so they'll talk to their kids about it.
NOM
3.7 / 5 (6) Sep 05, 2012
If the proposed bacteria were common enough for the random sampling of a meteorite impact to have sent a few into space, and tough enough for some to have survived several million years in space - plus two meteor impacts, then there will still be some living on Mars now.
LuckyExplorer
1.7 / 5 (12) Sep 06, 2012
Once more a scientist (?) who just wants publicity, riding on the "Mars Rover hystery wave"...
Deathclock
2.9 / 5 (15) Sep 06, 2012
Once more a scientist (?) who just wants publicity, riding on the "Mars Rover hystery wave"...


Lawrence Krauss is a world renowned physicist... Ph.D in physics from MIT, Harvard Society of Fellows, Professor at Yale University, chairman of the physics department at Case Western, and a member of Obama's Science Committee. He is hardly "just another scientists" and putting a (?) after scientist as if you didn't even know he was one is pathetic.

Don't talk about things that you have no knowledge of.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.9 / 5 (21) Sep 06, 2012
Agreed. Not very likely for a quick trip from Mars to Earth. Anything thrown off of Mars should enter a solar orbit that keeps taking it back near the orbit of Mars at each apogee. Much more likely that Mars would scoop it's own debris back up before the Earth did.
As DC points out, Krauss is a very accomplished and well-respected guy and so it might make sense to ask how he reached these conclusions.

The early solar system was a very messy and violent place 4 billion years ago, full of all sorts of stuff. Collisions of the sort which created our moon could well have thrown material from mars inward to hit earth without much time in space. The amount of orbiting debris could also have provided additional shielding.
http://www.scienc...1130.htm
mfritz0
1.9 / 5 (8) Sep 06, 2012
I believe it will be very important to search for any form of life there is on Mars prior to man going there. I've noticed NASA has never sent the tools for a micro-biology experiment on the red planet. I have to wonder why. Isn't it likely that if there is microbial life (germs) on the Martian surface or below, the human immune system would sense them as totally alien invaders, where the slightest contact with them would cause severe infections throughout the human body. When the Spanish came to Central America, they brought with them the small pox virus. This virus was totally alien to the natives in Central America and it really is what conquered the Mayans. The U. S. Calvary did the same to the Indians in the U.S. with blankets infected with small pox virus. The natives had no immunity to the germs, as we would have no immunity to any microbial life forms on Mars. The only hope we would ever have of developing an immunity to these germs is if they were in fact ( next post)
mfritz0
2.2 / 5 (9) Sep 06, 2012
cont... in fact actually cousins to the germs here on Earth. This very important detail seems to never be talked about by neither the media nor NASA. I remember when the first astronauts came back from the moon, there was a very real concern they might bring something back with them when they came back to Earth. They were quaranteed for many days and all the material and equipment that came back with them was thoroughly sterilized. We were lucky that the Moon had no such threats, but Mars, no doubt will. This could really cause future missions there to become tremendously expensive and complicated. Including, sending the personal with the technical expertise to deal with infectious controls. Is this why NASA hasn't really sent probes to thoroughly research this? Are they trying to avoid the issue to save funding? If Curiosity does discover microbial life, any future mission there could be jeopardized due to the lack of funding to deal with this issue.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.2 / 5 (18) Sep 06, 2012
So - I'm confused 'fritz'... Are you saying smallpox came from mars?
TheOtherGhost ofOtto
2.5 / 5 (21) Sep 06, 2012
Nice troll, Otto. Do you think he will bite? Hmmm?
mfritz0
2 / 5 (4) Sep 07, 2012
If microbial life is found on Mars, and if it proves to be genetically similar to the microbial life on Earth. This article could be exactly correct. There would, or should be no confusion. If the microbes originated on Mars, and if they did in fact pollute Earth, (which would be hard to prove, I would think), then the small pox virus could have extraterrestrial origins along with many other microbial life forms. The discovery of this type of life on Mars would generate so much needed research, I can't see how they couldn't send droves of scientists to the Martian surface.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.3 / 5 (15) Sep 07, 2012
and if they did in fact pollute Earth, (which would be hard to prove, I would think
If you would think, then it would not be very well. It will be easy to conclude that earth life came from mars, or that mars life came from earth, just as it is easy to see that later earth life came from earlier earth life.

Can you discern how? Fritz?
Nice troll, Otto. Do you think he will bite? Hmmm?
Friend of yours esai? Or are you just talking to yourself again, neurotically? You seem to think alike-
TheOtherGhost ofOtto
2.8 / 5 (20) Sep 07, 2012
mfritz - A heads up - Otto only asks you a question to make you post so he can downvote you. It's a shitty game, but he has made it his own. You smell like an ashtray, Otto. Spiro Agnew.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.2 / 5 (18) Sep 07, 2012
mfritz - A heads up - Otto only asks you a question to make you post so he can downvote you. It's a shitty game, but he has made it his own.
Naw I only downrate inconsiderate or thoughtless or lazy or very suspicious sickpuppet-like posts. You know like your crap.
You smell like an ashtray, Otto. Spiro Agnew.
This is pussy/farmerRitchie/esteban/donQuixote-the-windmill-guys coy way of telling me to 'grow a penis'. Otto would just say 'grow a penis you idiot sickpuppet' and not use silly wordplay; but really wouldn't consider it worth saying. It's not clever, it's not funny.

But maybe this is why your sickpuppets consistently get 1/5ed and banned. Gay porn links are also not clever and not funny, at least the mods don't think so do they? Esai?

Say YOU'RE a farmer aren't you? How's that sweet sorghum coming? About ready to grind up in that thar windmill o yourn eh? So's you can stew it up and make hooch for your tractors and parties right?
TheOtherGhost ofOtto
2.9 / 5 (19) Sep 08, 2012
Did I give away your little fun secret? Sounds like it.
By the way, I'm still Estevan, noone else, but you just can't tell the difference. When in doubt throw ALL the poop.
I have never been banned, nor do I have sockpuppets. Do I sound like PussyCat? Doh. You just cain't tell can ya boy? Do I use Venditard Or Ottotard? No.
Your fear is that I am someone else, how bizarre, yet satisfying.

Why would someone ever use a electricity generating windmill to grind sorghum? Why use sorghum as a fuel? This is the Ritchie poster you so much want me to be. No bites on that one.

The gay porn is PussyCat, and was a really stupid thing to do.
I can see why she did it though, you followed her everywhere and called her Ritchie, or P/R/R/FH/ESPN/CBS, etc.

The Spiro Agnew is STILL funny because you couldn't ever figure it out.
Please tell me I am someone else, please.
The source of your personality: http://onlinelibr...abstract
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.2 / 5 (18) Sep 08, 2012
So, esai, why don't you use estiban any more? Seemed like a perfectly good suckpuppet to me. Must have been all that negative feedback. But then that is your pattern - your suckpuppets come and go every few months. Very Peculiar.
The Spiro Agnew is STILL funny because you couldn't ever figure it out.
No, I remembered something about it and knew it was on the INTERNET but didn't feel like looking it up because it is after all not very funny. Did you ever get positive feedback on it? Of course not.
Please tell me I am someone else, please.
Sure. You are the very disturbed pirouette/Ritchie/russkiye/pussystenk/obie/estiban/etc character who for some reason thinks that all this is somehow clever. It's not. Anyone else would be embarrassed.

The likely source of your personality:
http://www.biomed...6904/9/5
Jeddy_Mctedder
1 / 5 (7) Sep 09, 2012
the ONLY way to colonize mars is to go there with a mini-nuclear reactor, land it on the surface, and with the power from the reactor, begin the search for uranium ore and water (for steam to run the turbine) .

once that is accomplished, you feed the reactor enough uranium to provide enough energy to melt the slew of metals that will be required to create new reactors, and to build solar panels.

you're not going to be able to 'beam' power from some sattelite based solar panel to the surface reliably. if something goes wrong you are screwed.

then----once a colony is established---and only then, can you begin in earnest the search for life, or what remains of it, on mars.
NOM
1 / 5 (5) Sep 13, 2012
@Jeddy
Searching for life after a colony has been established would be too late. Escapes of bacteria would be inevitable and waste heat would provide suitable enough conditions for some of these bacteria to thrive.
You are right about the nuclear power. Though if we ever get He3 fusion sorted, importing this would be a better option than mining uranium.
mfritz0
3 / 5 (2) Sep 20, 2012
Are the trolls gone yet?

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