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Did Earth Life Begin on Mars?

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht
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Is the red planet actually our home? New research suggests that life on Earth actually began on Mars billions of years ago, BBC News reported.

Scientists based their research on a theory that the first molecules necessary for life required minerals best suited to forging RNA, ribonucleic acid – the building block of life believed to have predated DNA.

Scientists believe that RNA was the first chemical to distinguish life from the “pre-biotic” chemical soup that existed on Earth more than three billion years ago.

Prof. Steven Benner discussed the theory at the meeting of the Goldschmidt Geochemical Society in Florence, Italy, on Thursday.

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The creation of RNA takes finesse. It has to be shaped by “templating” atoms at the crystalline surfaces of minerals. On our planet, those minerals would have dissolved into the ocean, but on Mars they stood a chance. Other elements needed in the process of creating RNA, like boron, did not exist on Earth at the time.

"What’s quite clear is that boron, as an element, is quite scarce in Earth’s crust, but Mars has been drier than Earth and more oxidising, so if Earth is not suitable for the chemistry, Mars might be," Benner told BBC.

Benner said analysis of a Martian meteorite proves the presence of boron on Mars.

Another element, an oxidized form of molybdenum, probably did not exist on Earth at the time RNA came into existence.

"This form of molybdenum couldn’t have been available on Earth at the time life first began, because three billion years ago, the surface of the Earth had very little oxygen, but Mars did,” Benner said. "It’s yet another piece of evidence which makes it more likely life came to Earth on a Martian meteorite, rather than starting on this planet."

Benner suggests RNA began on Mars and traveled her on meteorites. 

“The evidence seems to be building that we are actually all Martians; that life started on Mars and came to Earth on a rock," Benner said. "It’s lucky that we ended up here, nevertheless — as certainly Earth has been the better of the two planets for sustaining life. If our hypothetical Martian ancestors had remained on Mars, there may not have been a story to tell."

It was announced this week that a private company hoping to colonize Mars in 2023 has fallen short of its projected 1 million applicants. Only 165,000 people applied to take the one-way trip to Mars.

Sources: BBC, Newser, Space.com