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Mars: 'Strongest evidence' planet may have supported life

Minerals found underground on Mars are the "strongest evidence yet" that the planet may have supported life, according to new research.
The team, led by the Natural History Museum in London and the University of Aberdeen, said the ingredients for life could have been in a zone up to 5km down for much of the planet's history.
They used data from the US space agency (Nasa) and European Space Agency (Esa).

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Giant leap in hunt for Martians

A team from Aberdeen University have found minerals beneath the hostile surface of the red planet which offer the strongest evidence yet that simple micro-organisms could have thrived there.
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Martian genome: Is there DNA on the Red Planet?

Craig Venter helped crack the human genome, created the first synthetic cell and has scoured the sea for novel genomes. Now he has set his sights on Mars.
Earlier this week at the Wired Health Conference in New York, he outlined plans to send a robotically controlled genome-sequencing unit, or "biological teleporter", to the Red Planet in order to sequence the genome of alien life that may be there. He's not the first to suggest doing this.

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Ben Bova: Could life exist on Mars?

What is it about the planet Mars that fascinates us so? Of all the planets in the solar system, Mars is the only one whose surface can be seen clearly by ground-based telescopes. And Mars appears to be much like Earth. It has ice caps at its poles, it axis is tilted at almost the same angle as Earth's, and its day is very close to 24 hours long.
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Scientists fear Curiosity rover drill bits could contaminate Mars

For all the hopes NASA has pinned on the rover it deposited on Mars last month, one wish has gone unspoken: Please don't find water.
Scientists don't believe they will. They chose the cold, dry equatorial landing site in Mars' Gale Crater for its geology, not its prospects for harbouring water or ice, which exist elsewhere on the planet.
But if by chance the rover Curiosity does find water, a controversy that has simmered at NASA for nearly a year will burst into the open. Curiosity's drill bits may be contaminated with Earth microbes. If they are, and if those bits touch water, the organisms could survive.

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Title: Remote Sensing of Chiral Signatures on Mars
Authors: William Sparks (Space Telescope Science Institute), James H. Hough (University of Hertfordshire), Thomas A. Germer (National Institute of Standards and Technology), Frank Robb (University of Maryland School of Medicine), Ludmilla Kolokolova (University of Maryland)

We describe circular polarization as a remote sensing diagnostic of chiral signatures which may be applied to Mars. The remarkable phenomenon of homochirality provides a unique biosignature which can be amenable to remote sensing through circular polarisation spectroscopy. The natural tendency of microbes to congregate in close knit communities would be beneficial for such a survey. Observations of selected areas of the Mars surface could reveal chiral signatures and hence explore the possibility of extant or preserved biological material. We describe a new instrumental technique that may enable observations of this form.

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Title: Complexity Analysis of the Viking Labeled Release Experiments
Authors: Giorgio Bianciardi, Joseph D. Miller, Patricia Ann Straat, Gilbert V. Levin

The only extraterrestrial life detection experiments ever conducted were the three which were components of the 1976 Viking Mission to Mars. Of these, only the Labelled Release experiment obtained a clearly positive response. In this experiment 14C radiolabelled nutrient was added to the Mars soil samples. Active soils exhibited rapid, substantial gas release. The gas was probably CO2 and, possibly, other radiocarbon-containing gases. We have applied complexity analysis to the Viking LR data. Measures of mathematical complexity permit deep analysis of data structure along continua including signal vs. noise, entropy vs.negentropy, periodicity vs. aperiodicity, order vs. disorder etc. We have employed seven complexity variables, all derived from LR data, to show that Viking LR active responses can be distinguished from controls via cluster analysis and other multivariate techniques. Furthermore, Martian LR active response data cluster with known biological time series while the control data cluster with purely physical measures. We conclude that the complexity pattern seen in active experiments strongly suggests biology while the different pattern in the control responses is more likely to be non-biological. Control responses that exhibit relatively low initial order rapidly devolve into near-random noise, while the active experiments exhibit higher initial order which decays only slowly. This suggests a robust biological response. These analyses support the interpretation that the Viking LR experiment did detect extant microbial life on Mars.

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Mars 'too dry for life'

Mars is too dry a planet to host any form of life, British scientists have concluded. An analysis of soil, collected during 2008 Nasa Phoenix mission to Mars, by Imperial College London has revealed the Red Planet has experienced a 600-million-year "super-drought", the 'Geophysical Research Letters' journal reported.
The three-year-long research found that the surface of Mars had been dry for such a long time that any life would have to be lurking deep underground.

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NASA Study Of Clay Minerals Suggests Watery Martian Underground

A new NASA study suggests if life ever existed on Mars, the longest lasting habitats were most likely below the Red Planet's surface.
A new interpretation of years of mineral-mapping data, from more than 350 sites on Mars examined by European and NASA orbiters, suggests Martian environments with abundant liquid water on the surface existed only during short episodes. These episodes occurred toward the end of hundreds of millions of years during which warm water interacted with subsurface rocks. This has implications about whether life existed on Mars and how its atmosphere has changed.

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Missions to Mars may have stalled, but the search for signs of life continues - by analysing the 'DNA' of Martian meteorites

Are we alone in the cosmos? For centuries, that question has been purely speculative. But in recent years scientists have gathered evidence of alien life on Mars that is as tantalising as it is inconclusive.
We thought we might have a definitive answer in 2003, when Britain's £50 million Beagle 2 probe was scheduled to touch down on the Red Planet, carrying an instrument that could have detected traces of living things. But we never heard from the little probe again.

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