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15 March 1999

Investigations of the Nakhla Meteorite provide new clues in the search for life on the Red Planet

Johnson Space Center scientists David McKay and Everett Gibson and co-workers will present results of further work on meteorite ALH84001 as well as new information from the Nakhla meteorite, one of 12 Martian meteorites held in collections worldwide. It is so named for the site in Egypt where it impacted.

In a session Thursday afternoon at the 30th Annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, McKay will describe micrometer-size spheres embedded in secondary deposits of Martian origin in the Martian meteorite Nakhla. According to McKay et al, the spheres, which are considerably larger than those found in meteorite ALH 84001, show strong characteristics of bacterial life.

Several other researchers who have also been studying the carbonates in the Nakhla meteorite will also report results on Thursday. Opinion in the planetary science community has been solidifying against a "Martian life" interpretation for the carbonates in ALH84001. The new line of investigation on the Nakhla meteorite, with the finding of significantly larger carbonate spheres, will undoubtedly reinvigorate the debate and deliver a very lively discussion between scientists with opposing views in Houston on Thursday afternoon.

The National Space Society strongly supports the decade-long Mars robotic exploration program currently underway by NASA. These missions will help us better understand the geological history of Mars as well as look for signs of life or past life below the surface of the Red Planet. Their data will serve as a key resource of information as plans are developed to send humans to Mars in the next century.

The National Space Society, founded in 1974, is an independent, nonprofit space advocacy organization headquartered in Washington, DC. Its 20,000 members and 75 chapters around the world actively promote a spacefaring civilization. Information on NSS and space exploration is available at

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Updated Tue, Jul 22, 2008 at 15:28:18
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