Scientists have discovered fossils of microscopic bacteria in a 3-billion-year-old Martian meteorite, producing the strongest evidence yet of life in space.

To NASA scientists who participated in the discovery, this presents ''the possibility that a primitive form of microscopic life may have existed on Mars'' all those eons ago.By the time Hollywood digests this news, the bacteria no doubt will have mutated into little green men bent on threatening the Earth. Either that, or Ray Walston will be offered a new sitcom.

But, no matter. The idea of life on other planets has excited mankind for centuries, and this latest discovery will only fire the human imagination.

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