MIT and the quest to chase down Martian DNA

Once upon a time, billions of years ago, our solar system was a hectic, pinball machine of a place. Comets bounced about, striking any planets that got in their way. Sometimes they even hit more than one — Earth and Mars, for instance.

So goes the story (maybe) of the shared genetic origins of life on Earth and its little red neighbor. By the way, don't worry if we've got you thinking there was some sort of amazing announcement about life on Mars that you somehow missed. No such news has shown up just yet, but the case for Martian life is mounting. And it's that ever-increasing likelihood that has researchers at MIT looking for ways of locating — and then sequencing — Martian DNA.

Samples of now-extinct Martian creatures could be hidden in rocks or ice (or maybe some kind of crazy Martian amber) suggests MIT's Christopher Carr. And would he ever like to get his hands on that DNA. Carr and his team have already designed a microchip capable of sequencing DNA as well as weathering the radiation-rich Martian atmosphere. With a sample of sequenced martian DNA, Carr could easily discover just what life on Mars really looked like, as well as how it might have interacted with its environment.

Carr even envisions a day, years from now, that his DNA sequencing chip will be aboard exploration vehicles bound for Europa and other potentially habitable locales around the solar system. As long as he doesn't just go filling in the gaps in any DNA he finds with frog DNA like some kind of madman, we're entirely on board. If all goes well, we could be looking into the face (or whatever) of a distantly-related, de-extincted Martian some day.

Via MIT News

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