We’ll be helicoptering about 100 miles northeast of the capital Nuuk to get to the Isua peninsula, where the oldest (or almost the oldest, depending on who you choose to follow) rock formations on Earth can be found. Three days and two nights on the ice, or what we hope is still ice. And then a day or more of scientific debate.
I will be writing about this and more (some folks involved the Mars 2020 mission will also be testing instruments at the site) for Many Worlds in the days and weeks ahead.
To me this is an important story not only because of the possible age of the stromatolite find. If confirmed, it would move back the presence of identified life on Earth by 200 million years.
It is also important because of the fact that scientists with different views on this important issue have traveled thousands of miles to go to the site together and try to reach a consensus—or at least to vigorously argue their cases. Doesn’t often happen in such high profile science.
Marc Kaufman is the author of two books about space: “Mars Up Close: Inside the Curiosity Mission” and “First Contact: Scientific Breakthroughs in the Search for Life Beyond Earth.” He is also an experienced journalist, having spent three decades at The Washington Post and The Philadelphia Inquirer. He began writing the column in October 2015, when NASA’s NExSS initiative was in its infancy. While the “Many Worlds” column is supported and informed by NASA’s Astrobiology Program, any opinions expressed are the author’s alone.