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An image of the interior of a Martian rock. Some scientists believe the worm-like shape is a fossil of a microbe from Mars.
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Courtesy of NASA

Are We From Mars?
News story originally written on January 19, 2000

A recent study shows there is a possibility that we came from Mars! No, that doesn't mean a spaceship flew here and dropped us off. Rather, scientists say chunks of rock were thrown off the Red Planet billions of years ago. These rocks may have contained tiny microbes that started life on Earth.

"The ancestral cell for life on Earth must have originated somewhere in our own solar system," said Curt Mileikowsky, an astronomer of the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and a leader of the research team.

Scientists say Mars is a logical source of life. They say trillions of rocks were broken off Mars by colliding asteroids. If this is true, then a large number of these rocks would have made it to Earth. Unfortunately, only a few Martian rocks have been found, but scientists say there are more to be discovered.

Although there is no chance for life to exist on Mars now, long ago the planet was capable of supporting life. At that time, it had mild temperatures, the proper atmosphere and water. In order for the microbes to make it to Earth, they must have been buried deep inside the rocks. The rock itself would protect the microbes from radiation and the intense heat that would come from entering our atmosphere.

"If the size (of the rock) is more than a football," he said, "heat would not have time to get inside."

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA