Mars Rock Finding Spurs Competition

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Science  20 Dec 1996:
Vol. 274, Issue 5295, pp. 1999
DOI: 10.1126/science.274.5295.1999d

The race is on to try to knock down or confirm last summer's report of possible fossilized life in an ancient Mars meteorite found in Antarctica. Last week, the National Science Foundation (NSF) released a solicitation for research on the topic, 2 weeks after NASA made a similar announcement. The two agencies are putting up a total of $2.3 million this year for work in fields ranging from paleontology to meteorite petrology. And there's no mistaking the purpose: β€œTo investigate and resolve, to the extent possible, recently reported evidence suggesting a biological origin for certain phenomena within Martian meteorite ALH84001,” states NSF's solicitation

The lead author on the controversial report (Science, 16 August, p.p 924) says his team is ready for the challenge. Says geologist David McKay of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston: β€œI encouraged NASA to do this, and we believe that there's a good chance we'll be proven right. I'm telling them to check us out.” NASA has asked for final proposals by 29 January, while preproposals are due to NSF 2 days later.

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