Re: Signs of Primitive Life on Mars Found in Meteorite

Rohit Khare (
Wed, 7 Aug 96 18:58:03 -0400

NYTimes late update; Clinton moves fast, but probably not far in the current
fiscal climate. Could be a key to the California vote, though.. :-)

I love how "America should pursue answers" to an entire species' questions...
what a nostalgic rush!


NASA Researchers Reveal Details on Mars Meteorite Findings

NASA researchers defended their conclusion on Wednesday that chemicals and
bacteria-like shapes found in a meteorite from Mars prove there once was life
on the red planet. President Clinton said he'll convene a space summit to
"discuss how America should pursue answers" to questions raised by the
findings. "We believe we have found quite reasonable evidence of past life on
Mars," David McKay, a Johnson Space Center planetary scientist, said at a
Wednesday afternoon news conference. "We don't claim that we have conclusively
proven it," said McKay, who led the team that came up with the conclusions.
At the same news conference, NASA administrator Daniel Goldin cautioned that
researchers were not claiming "ultimate proof" of _life beyond earth_ but
circumstantial evidence they want other scientists to study and then prove or
disprove. "All of us are skeptical," Goldin said, "but thrilled and humbled by
this prospect." Scientists said Tuesday that study of a meteorite, believed
to have broken off from Mars and landed on Earth about four million years ago,
"points to the possibility that a primitive form of microscopic life may have
existed on Mars more than three billion years ago."

Clinton noted that the United States plans to launch an unmanned spacecraft
on a Mars exploration mission in November. He said he had directed Vice
President Al Gore to convene "a bipartisan space summit" at the White House
later this year "on the future of America's space program" including how to
pursue scientific questions raised by the Mars meteorite, Reuters reported.
"We are committed to the agressive plan we have put in place for the robotic
exploration of Mars," Clinton said. "I am determined that the American space
program will put its full intellectual power and technological prowess behind
the search for further evidence of life on Mars," Clinton said in a statement
as he left Washington on a political trip to California.

Meanwhile, Thursday's issue of the journal Nature reported that scientists
have discovered that a short chain-like molecule can reproduce itself in the
test tube, boosting a theory of how life on Earth first emerged from the
primordial soup. Most scientists believe that some kind of self-reproducing
molecule was needed for life to emerge. Its job would be to pass information
from one generation to the next. Nowadays, that job is generally handled by
DNA. Popular theory says that originally, a chemical cousin of DNA called RNA
may have been the reproducing molecule that let life emerge. But the new
research supports the less popular theory that molecules called peptides may
have played that role instead, The Associated Press said. Scientists found
that a peptide was able to promote the formation of new copies of itself.
Scientists should seriously consider a possible role for peptides in the
origins of life, said researcher M. Reza Ghadiri of the Scripps Research
Institute in La Jolla, Calif.