Mars to thank for life on earth

This computer-generated images depicts part of Mars at the boundary between darkness and daylight, with an area including Gale Crater, beginning to catch morning light. NASA/JPL-Caltech

A new theory says life on Earth was kick-started because of a key mineral deposited by a meteorite from Mars. The vital ingredient is an oxidized mineral form of the element molybdenum, which helped prevent carbon molecules — the building blocks of life — from degrading. The idea comes from Steven Benner, a professor at the Westheimer Institute for Science and Technology in Gainesville, Florida. Benner says the oxidized form of molybdenum couldn’t have been available on Earth at the time life first began, but Mars did. In this violent epoch of the Solar System, planets were pounded by comets and asteroids. The impacts would have caused Martian rubble to bounce into space until eventually being captured by Earth’s gravity. Recent analysis of a Martian meteorite shows the presence of molybdenum and boron, an element that would also have helped nurture life by helping protect RNA from the corrosive effects of water. Benner says, “The evidence seems to be building that we are actually all Martians, that life started on Mars and came to Earth on a rock.”

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