THE RED PLANET--In this image released by NASA on Monday, Aug. 27, 2012, a chapter of the layered geological history of Mars is laid bare in this color image from NASA's Curiosity rover showing the base of Mount Sharp, the rover's eventual science destination. The image is a portion of a larger image taken by Curiosity's 100-millimeter Mast Camera on Aug. 23, 2012. Scientists enhanced the color in one version to show the Martian scene under the lighting conditions we have on Earth, which helps in analyzing the terrain. The pointy mound in the center of the image, looming above the rover-sized rock, is about 1,000 feet (300 meters) across and 300 feet (100 meters) high.
Benner argues several materials necessary for life to form wouldn’t have been available on Earth 3 billion years ago when life first arose — but there would have been plenty of them on Mars.
But is this just another wild theory meant to generate publicity? Well, that depends on who you ask. (Via Vanity Fair)
Benner has his supporters, such as prominent biologist Richard Dawkins, who said the idea is “not totally silly.” That’s some high praise.
And NBC science writer Alan Boyle said: “One thing’s for sure: Benner is not a kook. He was one of the first chemists to voice skepticism about the claims for arsenic-based life, which stirred up such a fuss in 2010.”
Even Benner’s critics say he does great work and that his ideas are plausible.
More than 100 meteorites found on Earth have been traced to Mars, most likely thrown into space by an asteroid strike. (Via NASA)
And it’s long been thought certain hardy microbes could actually survive for a while in the vacuum of space. (Via National Science Foundation)
So the critics admit much of what Benner says is possible, but they do take issue with the sensationalist press release.
Scientific American’s Caleb Scharf points out Benner’s explanation for how life arose is just one of many possible theories — and most others don’t require material from Mars.
Astrobiologist David Grinspoon says so much about the origin of life is still up in the air, it’s just as likely Earth was seeded by life from Venus as from Mars.
So at this point, the answer to the question “Are we all Martians?” is a not-so-sensational “maybe” — although it does make for a good headline.