NSF official describes hunt for antarctic meteorites related to new meteorite evidence of primitive life on Mars

A researcher supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) has published new evidence in the Feb. 27 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that meteorite ALH84001, one of the meteorites retrieved from Antarctica, may contain remnants of primitive life that existed on Mars billions of years ago. Meteorite ALH84001 was discovered through the U.S. Antarctic Program's (USAP) Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) program. NSF is making available video of Scott Borg of the U.S. Antarctic Program explaining how meteorite searches are conducted.

Background: ANSMET is supported by a grant to Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. Through ANSMET, scientists have been able to obtain material from meteorites that have fallen to earth from the moon and from Mars as well as elsewhere in the solar system. The Antarctic meteorite program is a collaborative effort of NSF, NASA, and the Smithsonian Institution. NASA and the Smithsonian Institution provide for the classification, curation, and distribution of Antarctic meteorites. All three agencies sponsor research on these specimens.

Since 1976, ANSMET has recovered more than 10,000 specimens from meteorite stranding surfaces in the Transantarctic mountains. These specimens are currently the only reliable, continuous source of new, non-microscopic extraterrestrial material. The study of Antarctic meteorites has greatly extended knowledge of the materials and conditions in the primeval nebula from which our solar system was born; revealed the complex and exotic geologic nature of asteroids; and proved that some specimens recovered from Antarctica represent planetary materials from the moon and Mars.


Contact: Peter West
National Science Foundation

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