The last time Mars passed this close to earth, Neanderthals were chasing down sabertooth tigers for dinner. Sixty-thousand years ago, our Paleolithic predecessors saw the same bright orange beacon that’s currently glowing in our night sky. These days, scientists are wondering if the red planet is where all life, human and otherwise, began.
There is now evidence that microbial life might have existed on Mars, and some argue that those cells could have hopped a meteorite to earth and colonized this, the blue planet. Today those findings are being hotly debated, and a number of spacecraft are now hurtling towards Mars to help answer the question of where life first stirred in our solar system.
Colin Pillinger, Professor of Planetary Science at the Open University in the UK, and lead scientist of the Beagle 2 mission to Mars
Kelly Beatty, Executive Editor of Sky and Telescope Magazine
Les Dalrymple, Contributing Editor to Sky & Telelescope, and guide lecturer at the Sydney Observatory, Sydney Australia.