NASA’s Amazing 2020 Mars Mission to Search for Ancient Fossils –“Unlike Earth, Mars is a Beautifully Preserved Fossil”

 

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Unlike seismically active Earth, Mars is a planetary-sized fossil. A new NASA mission named Mars 2020, the next-generation rover will carry a sophisticated mobile geology lab designed to search for signs of fossil single-celled algae and bacteria that are the planet’s most likely early inhabitants using sensitive scientific instruments will sniff out biosignatures—minerals and molecules secreted by ancient life at dried-up lake beds and extinct hydrothermal vents.


“On Earth, our ancient rock record has been through the washing machine and the ringer so many times that the fact that anything still retains any signature of its age is a miracle,” says Brown University’s Jack Mustard, one of the experts consulting with NASA on its fossil-finding mission. “The rocks on Mars would not have been processed to the same extent, would not have been beat up as much, would not have been stretched and squished and heated and buried and exhumed,” he says.

 

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In contrast, some 50 percent of the Martian surface contains intact rocks dating back to those crucial first billion years of the planet’s formation, adds Mustard. Fossil Finder NASA is considering eight target landing sites for the Mars 2020 rover, shown on the map above.

“There's definitely a potential for life-forms that might have existed there that had a different biochemistry," says Mustard."If it were staring us in the face, hopefully we'd be able to recognize there’s some organizational aspect that would point to it not being a geologic process.”

Meanwhile, back on Earth, this past August, in a newly melted part of Greenland, Australian scientists found what they think is the oldest fossil on Earth, a remnant of life from 3.7 billion years ago when Earth's skies were orange and its oceans green.

The discovery shows life may have formed quicker and easier than once thought, about half a billion years after Earth formed . And that may also give hope for life forming elsewhere, such as Mars, said study co-author Martin VanKranendonk of the University of New South Wales and director of the Australian Center for Astrobiology.

 

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"It gives us an idea how our planet evolved and how life gained a foothold," VanKranendonk said.

"It would have been a very different world. It would have had black continents, a green ocean with orange skies," he said. The land was likely black because the cooling lava had no plants, while large amounts of iron made the oceans green. Because the atmosphere had very little oxygen and oxygen is what makes the sky blue, its predominant color would have been orange, he said.

Scientists had thought it would take at least half a billion years for life to form after the molten Earth started to cool a bit, but this shows it could have happened quicker, he said. That's because the newly found fossil is far too complex to have developed soon after the planet's first life forms, he said.

The Daily Galaxy via National Geographic…Read more Here 

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