Dr. Wesley T. Huntress, Jr.
Associate Administrator for Space Science
Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics
Committee on Science
U.S. House of Representatives
September 12, 1996
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
I am glad to be here today to discuss with you the recently announced research results concerning the possibility that life existed on ancient
Thirteen thousand years ago a messenger in the form of a meteorite arrived on this planet. It arrived in a very remote part of this planet, in
Antarctica, and was buried in ice. For 13 millennia it waited patiently for the human species to get out of their caves, produce a civilized society
and to develop the capability to find it.
The forces of nature also played a role; the movement of ice and wind across Antarctica helped to expose this messenger. It was found in 1984 as part
of an annual Antarctic meteorite collection activity sponsored by the National Science Foundation, NASA and the Smithsonian Institution. We found it,
we brought it back, we opened it up, and if we are reading the message correctly it may say: "you are not alone." If it is true, that is pretty
And in fact, we should not foreclose the idea that life still might exist in sheltered places on Mars. We have found compelling evidence on our own
planet where life has developed and prospered in very unlikely places where we did not suspect it was possible, such as several miles below the
surface of the Earth or inside rocks that happened to have liquid water and a source of chemical energy available. I suspect that there are sheltered
places on Mars --on the polar caps, in the polar caps, under the surface, or in permafrost -- that contain sources of liquid water we have not yet
Life on Earth has been found within the deep subsurface, in hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor at temperatures as high as 118 ° C (244 ° F), in
permafrost that has remained frozen for millions of years, beneath perennial ice covers, and inside the rocks of cold deserts. Where there has been
water, there has been life. Thus, on other planets, the search for the evidence of life requires understanding the history of water and operationally
becomes the search for liquid water, both past or present.etc...............