Research by NASA scientists at The Johnson Space Center and Stanford University has finally paid off. The have found evidence that strongly suggests that life of some kind did exist on Mars around 3.6 billion years ago. They have found organic molecules thought to have originated on Mars, several mineral features characteristic of biological activity, and microscopic tube-like (pic below) fossils of primitive, bacteria-like organisms inside an ancient Martian meteorite thought to have landed in Antarctica about 13,000 years ago. The research teams have found and measured gases trapped in the meteorites interior that match the atmosphere of Mars as measured by the Viking Probe back in 1985. The rock was recently found completely encased in lava. The problem is that scientists have collected fragments of other Martian meteorites on earth that contained no life, though they did contain trapped gases of almost identical mixtures. These rocks fell to earth only around 1.3 billion years ago or less, the considered normal timeframe for most Martian meteorites, so scientists are curious about this rock that left Mars 3.6 billion years before. Was there at one time life on Mars that was completely eradicated later, or did these bacteria fossils just arrive on Mars as a meteorite from another planet? We have a quick animation to illustrate the question.

      Although Mar's atmosphere is 150 times less dense than Earth's, scientists believe enough elements are available to have supported microbes and they plan to search for them in the perma-frost at its poles. Microbes frozen for thousands or millions of years have been recovered on Earth and made to live again.  Scientists hope to recover similar suspended life on Mars and re-establish them elsewhere. If that fails, they have sophisticated plans to introduce microscopic plant life from Earth to the surface and begin a cycle of life that may lead to the building of an atmosphere, higher plants and even animal life as a purely naturally occurring evolutionary process. Once introduced to a fertile environment, scientists are convinced micro-organisms and microscopic plant life will create their own atmosphere, just as they did on Earth millions of years ago. Once higher plants are established, animal should follow naturally. Of course the evolutionary process will have to be sped up somewhat so teams will have to go to Mars to monitor events. Sound ridiculous? We are capable of sending probes to Mars and they have provided the information required to plan for manned voyages. We already have a potential power source at our disposal, nuclear power. Nuclear engines are not a new concept in spacecraft engines. American scientists and
engineers tested them at Jackass Flats in Nevada, and were close to producing a useable engine before the Space Shuttle concept (officially) forced cancellation of the project. Nuclear powered spacecraft will be assembled in space, well away from Earth, and will provide an almost limitless source of energy for the future journey to Mars and deep space. The journey to Mars will require about three months out, a stay of 600 days (to allow Mars and Earth to reach their closest points to each other in their orbits of the sun) and a return journey of three more months. In all, the first international team of scientists will be gone for nearly two and one-half years. Everything they will need for the trip will either go with them or precede them in a supply ship which will be waiting in orbit around Mars. Believe it or not the first manned mission to Mars is planned for around 2015.