NASA apparently fund groundbreaking new study to see if tiny 'machines' may have lived on Earth before us

NASA apparently fund groundbreaking new study to see if tiny 'machines' may have lived on Earth before us

For over 50 years, NASA has been engaged in the search for answers to the ultimate questions. You know, all that Star Trek stuff. Are there aliens out there on other planets? Where did life on Earth originally come from? What is humanity's place in the cosmos? But so far, despite all the billions of dollars and dearest hopes of the best scientists, the search for extraterrestrial life has been fruitless. However, recently, the space agency announced that it plans to investigate a new theory on the origins of life on Earth, and their hypothesis is more bizarre and fantastical than any science fiction story.

NASA has allegedly awarded a whopping $6 million grant to a team of scientists from Rutgers University called ENIGMA. The acronym stands for "Evolution of Nanomachines in Geospheres and Microbial Ancestors". Their mission? To prove whether or not tiny 'robots' once inhabited Earth before the evolution of microbial carbon-based life forms. The ENIGMA team believes that, if these protein nanomachines actually existed, they were probably alien in origin, and delivered to Earth via meteorite, spacecraft, or some other means of interstellar transport.

Commenting on his theory, ENIGMA principal investigator Paul Falkowski stated: "All life on Earth depends on the movement of electrons; life literally is electric. We breathe in oxygen and breathe out water vapor and carbon dioxide, and in that process we transfer hydrogen atoms, which contain a proton and an electron, to oxygen to make water. We move electrons from the food we eat to the oxygen in the air to derive energy. Every organism on Earth moves electrons to generate energy."

NASA's space centre. Credit: Getty

He added:

"Protein nanomachines are are enzymes that physically move. Each time we take a breath, an enzyme in every cell allows you to transfer electrons to oxygen. Enzymes, like all proteins, are made up of amino acids, of which there are 20 that are used in life. Early on, amino acids were delivered to Earth by meteorites, and we think some of these amino acids could have been coupled together and made nanomachines before life began. We’ve been looking for evidence of life on Mars since the Viking mission, which landed in 1976. I think it will be very difficult to prove there is life on Mars today, but there may be signatures of life that existed on Mars in the distant past. Mars certainly had a lot of water on it and had an atmosphere, but that’s all largely gone now."

Professor Falkowski has also proposed a mission to the moon of Europa, which orbits Jupiter, to see if he can find any evidence of these nanomachine enzymes. The origins of life on Earth is still a subject which divides astrobiologists, but perhaps the ENIGMA team's theory will one day be proven correct. All we can do until then is keep watching the stars.