The BBC has reported that new evidence from meteorites suggests that the basic building blocks of life are present on Mars.

The study found that carbon present in 10 meteorites, spanning more than four billion years of Martian history, came from the planet and was not the result of contamination on Earth. Details of the work have been published in the journal Science.

A team of scientists based at the Carnegie Institution for Science, based in Washington DC, found “reduced carbon” in the meteorites and says it was created by volcanic activity on Mars.

Scientists are looking for clues as to how chemistry evolved to create a “common ancestor” of all life on earth. They argue this is evidence: “that Mars has been undertaking organic chemistry for most of its history.”

The team’s leader Dr Andrew Steele told BBC News:

“Without carbon, the building blocks of life cannot exist… So it is reduced carbon that, with hydrogen, with oxygen, with nitrogen make up the organic molecules of life… This research shows, yes — it does exist on Mars and now we are moving to the next set of questions.”

Steele┬áhopes the next mission to land on the Red Planet – the Mars Science Laboratory, also known as the “Curiosity” rover, will shed more light on the big question:

“The question ‘are we alone’ has been a big driver of science but it relates back to our own origins on this planet. If there is no life on Mars why? It allow us to make a more informed hypothesis about why life is here.”