If there are other planets like Earth out there, at least one in three probably harbors life, according to Charles Lineweaver and Tamara Davis of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. If life can arise on planets unlike ours, then the odds on finding life are even more favorable.

We can get important knowledge from the fact that life on Earth seems to have evolved very quickly, say the researchers. According to the earliest fossil records, life took no more than about half a billion years to gain a foothold, once the planetary conditions were amenable. This time scale might actually have been much less – even instantaneous in geological terms.
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The scientific desire to search for life on Mars is coming into conflict with the need to prevent any such life from endangering the astronauts or the Earth. The National Research Council (NRC) is recommending that safety take precedence over research and that missions to Mars should try to avoid encountering any possible life forms there. The NRC is part of the National Academy of Sciences, an independent agency chartered by Congress to provide advice to the government on scientific issues.
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Scientists have found new evidence that may indicate there is life on Mars. An analysis of data obtained by the 1997 Pathfinder mission to Mars suggests there could be chlorophyll in the soil close to the landing site. Chlorophyll is used by plants and other organisms on Earth to extract energy from sunlight.

When the Mars Pathfinder mission touched down in the Ares Vallis region of Mars in July 1997, it took many images of the surrounding area and released a small rover to sample rocks. A detailed analysis of the images of the landing site reveals two areas close to Pathfinder that have the spectral signature of chlorophyll. This could be highly significant?or they could just be patches of green-colored soil.
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The dark spots that appear near the south pole of Mars in early spring may be a sign of life. We may be able to find out for sure when Mars Express, the European Space Agency?s Mars mission, goes into orbit around Mars in late 2003.

Agustin Chicarro, European Space Agency project scientist for Mars Express, says, ?As a geologist, I found the spots quite perplexing and very exciting.?

A controversy about the Mars spots began when Andras Horvath, Tibor Ganti and Eors Szathmary from the Planetarium and the Institute for Advanced Study, Budapest, suggested that the spots could be colonies of Martian microbes which wax and wane with the season.
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