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There are only a few questions that carry with them the mystique and intrigue of whether or not we are alone in this great, big universe of ours…or even in our own solar system.

As we look for clues to this ancient mystery, it feels as though we’ve been a bit astray in this “post-truth” world.  With the insane popularity of television shows such as Ancient Aliens literally providing nothing more than a “what if” alternative narrative to history, it’s easy to see how there might be some confusion over whether or not we still need to be looking of “aliens” or not.

The truth is, there is no concrete evidence out there that proves, irrefutably, that we have been visited by beings from another planet.  Honestly, the closest we can get to proving that life exists outside of earth is by doing the math and realizing that the sheer scope of the universe itself provides us no other alternative than to have distant neighbors…somewhere.

Now, it seems as though those distant neighbors may not be so distant after all.

The “building blocks” for life have been discovered in 3-billion-year-old organic matter on Mars, NASA scientists announced Thursday.

Researchers cannot yet say whether their discovery stems from life or a more mundane geological process.  However, “we’re in a really good position to move forward looking for signs of life,”  said Jennifer Eigenbrode, a NASA biogeochemist and lead author of a study published Thursday in the peer-reviewed journal Science.

The findings were also remarkable in that they showed that organic material can be preserved for billions of years on the harsh Martian surface.

The material was discovered by the Mars Curiosity rover, which has been collecting data on the Red Planet since August 2012. The organic molecules were found in Gale Crater — believed to once contain a shallow lake the size of Florida’s Lake Okeechobee.

For the past six years, “the Curiosity has sifted samples of soil and ground-up rock for signs of organic molecules — the complex carbon chains that on Earth form the building blocks of life, according to Science. “Past detections have been so faint that they could be just contamination,” the journal said.

So, maybe we can’t go ahead an bake a welcome to the neighborhood cake, we are breaking new thresholds in our search for the answers of the universe around us.

And, if you ask me, I’ll take these incremental bits of progress over a full scale, “Independence Day”-style meet and greet any day.

 

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