The Ultimate Paternity Test: Are We Martian?

"Dad?" A scene from War of the Worlds.

This rather outlandish, sci-fi notion comes straight from the fertile minds of researchers from MIT, the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University who are proposing a biology experiment that could be sent on a future Mars surface mission. If their hypothesis is proven, we wouldn’t only have an answer for the age old question: Are we alone? but we’d also have an answer for the not-so-age-old question: Did life from Mars spawn life on Earth?

The idea goes like this: countless tons of material from Mars has landed on Earth. We know this to be true; meteorites have been discovered on Earth that originate from the Red Planet. These rocks were blasted from the Martian surface after eons of asteroid impacts, and the rocks then drifted to Earth.

If there was once life on Mars — a concept that isn’t that far-fetched, considering Mars used to boast liquid water in abundance on its surface — then perhaps some tiny organisms (not dislike the hardy cyanobacteria that is thought to have been one of the earliest forms of life to evolve on our planet) hitched a ride on these rocks. If some of these organisms survived the harsh conditions during transit from Mars to Earth and made it though the searing heat as the meteorite fell through our atmosphere, then perhaps (perhaps!) that is what sparked life on Earth.

You may have heard a few variations of this mechanism, it is of course the “panspermia” hypothesis. Panspermia assumes that life isn’t exclusive to just one rocky body like Earth, perhaps life has the ability to hop from one planet to the next, helped on its way by asteroid impacts. Not only that, but perhaps (perhaps!) tiny microorganisms could drift, encased in interstellar dust, akin to pollen drifting in the wind, seeding distant star systems.

Naturally, when considering the distance between the planets (let alone the light-years between the stars!), one might be a little skeptical of panspermia. But it certainly would help us understand how life first appeared on Earth. After all, it’s not as if the solar system has a natural quarantine system in place — if Mars had (or has) bacteria on its surface, perhaps they have been spread to Earth, like an interplanetary flu bug. Also, as experiments are showing us, microorganisms have an uncanny ability to survive in space for extended periods of time.

So, according to my esteemed Discovery News colleague Ray Villard, the MIT team led by Christopher Carr and Maria Zuber and Gary Ruvkun, a molecular biologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University, are proposing to build an instrument to send to Mars. But this instrument won’t be looking for signs of life, it will be testing the hypothetical Martian DNA and RNA. Should this interplanetary paternity test prove positive, proving a relationship between Earth Brand™ Life and Mars Brand™ Life, then this could be proof of some extraterrestrial cross-pollination.

Although this is complete conjecture at this time, as there is no proof that life has ever existed on Mars (despite what research in dodgy research journals tell us), it is certainly an interesting idea that would not only test the hypothesis of panspermia, but also give us a clue about the potential human colonization of Mars.

To quote Ray:

This could give us pause about sending humans to a germ-laden alien world. It would be an ironic twist on the H.G. Wells classic 1898 novel “The War of the Worlds,” where invading Martians succumb to the common cold from Earth microbes.

See, Wells’ Martian warriors should have done genome testing first.

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8 thoughts on “The Ultimate Paternity Test: Are We Martian?”

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  2. Hi Ian,
    I’ve always since I learned about it all at a young age,through my Fathers interest in things Astrological,been a firm believer in the possibility that the Earth was “seeded” from somewhere?.My first thoughts as a youngster were of Comets or Asteroids?,Surely if an Asteroid could take all life should it not be able to give all life also by,for a better word,seeding the Astrological relative new comer that was the Earth back whenever?.
    We know that their are millions of life sustaining capable planets out there in Space but the question is does the fact they COULD support life mean that they DO support life?,if no seeds have been sown then you get nothing taking advantage of the possibilities there!?.
    Is there a date for this happening?,for when data will have been analysed and translated into English!?.I’ll mark it on my calendar so I don’t miss it as I am looking forward to maybe finding out the answers to these very important questions and the possibility of the many,wonderful,different answers!?,because we just don’t know the answers is what makes it so interesting to myself and i’m sure to plenty of others too?.
    I am going to read more on the points you have made in your post and I look forward to maybe seeing a reply or a post on my blog!?,don’t ask,don’t get in this world of ours!?.I am new to blogging so any advice or constructive criticism is welcomed as I wish to improve my blog to as high a standard in content and appearance also!.
    I’ll read some more of your links later too and will probably comment on those too?.
    Yours,
            Steve Mckenna

    http://thescottishsaharan.blogspot.com/

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