Pendulum swings back to life existing on Mars
Fresh data from ALH 84001 rules out nonbiological origin for carbon
This story is far from over. The latest analysis of the tiny specks of magnetite found deep inside the Martian meteorite ALH 84001 appear to have ruled out nonbiological explanations for their origin. This on the heels of an August paper that showed that the rock had originally come from an area of Mars that was warm and bathed in liquid water.
What does all this mean? Nothing conclusive. The evidence is definitely tipped in the direction of life, though; for instance, there's methane on Mars, but no obvious geological mechanism that could produce it. (Since methane can only survive for a few years under Martian conditions, it must be continuously replenished from some source.) There's now known to be an enormous amount of water right under the surface in the Northern hemisphere, which increasingly looks like it was the location of an ocean at one time. And in the past couple of years we've seen direct photographic evidence of subsurface water in the form of fresh gulleys in crater walls.
All of this could have been learned in a matter of weeks or months, thirty years ago, had NASA gone to Mars after Apollo. As it is, I may be dead and gone before this particular controversy is resolved. But at least there's progress.