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Mars Earth Science

Craig Venter Wants To Rebuild Martian Life In Earth Lab 142

Hugh Pickens writes "Karen Kaplan reports in the LA Times that Craig Venter is making plans to send a DNA sequencer to Mars. Assuming there is DNA to be found on the Red Planet – a big assumption, to be sure – the sequencer will decode its DNA, beam it back to Earth, put those genetic instructions into a cell and then boot up a Martian life form in a biosecure lab. Venter's 'biological teleporter' (as he dubbed it) would dig under the surface for samples to sequence. If they find anything, 'it would take only 4.3 minutes to get the Martians back to Earth,' says Venter, founder of Celera Genomics and the Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR). 'Now we can rebuild the Martians in a P4 spacesuit lab.' It may sound far-fetched, but the notion of equipping a future Mars rover to sequence the DNA isn't so crazy, and Venter isn't the only one looking for Martian DNA. MIT research scientist Christopher Carr is part of a group that's 'building a a miniature RNA/DNA sequencer to search for life beyond Earth,' according to the MIT website 'The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Genomes.' SETG will test the hypothesis that life on Mars, if it exists, shares a common ancestor with life on Earth. Carr told Tech Review that one of the biggest challenges is shrinking Ion Torrent's 30-kilogram machine down to a mere 3 kg – light enough to fit on a Mars rover."
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Craig Venter Wants To Rebuild Martian Life In Earth Lab

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  • by History's Coming To ( 1059484 ) on Saturday October 20, 2012 @11:44AM (#41714683) Journal
    That's the big question - is it a coincidence? It's entirely possible that, just as the CNO cycle is a common method of fusion in stars, that DNA, RNA or close analogues (eg Si or As based) are common ways of producing self-replicating molecules. We've only got a single data point, any speculation on the molecular basis of ET life is just that, pure speculation, until we have a second point.
  • by hmbcarol ( 937668 ) on Saturday October 20, 2012 @11:55AM (#41714761)
    Having the exact stream of bytes of an ARM program will do you no good if you place it in an x86 CPU and expect it to run. Or even one variant of an ARM to another with different I/O, timers, etc. Simply transferring entire genomes between far distant organisms on Earth won't work. When the organisms are distant enough from each other there is variance in the code itself (stop codons, etc) and the machinery the specific code will be manipulating must be there to be controlled. Ribosomes vary, organelles certainly vary. In fact it's rather presumptive of us to assume the genetic mechanism must be DNA or RNA when there are probably all sorts of other mechanisms that would work suitably. Even presuming life had a common origin and there was some event that seeded Mars with Earth bacteria (or the other way around) a few billion years ago, doesn't mean there is the slightest chance it's in any way compatible with anything that could be found on Earth today. Very different environments will select for very implementations over those billions of years.

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas