Mars - Antarctica Connection

Is there (frozen) life on Mars?

A new study finds frozen microbes could indeed survive the harsh martian climate for millions of years.
Missions from above and on the surface have been searching for life on Mars for years. But there’s an important question worth asking, amidst this vital search: If life once thrived there, how long could even extreme microorganisms survive in Mars’ current harsh conditions? And where might they best survive? A group of researchers from Lomonosov Moscow State University has just released their answer to those questions.

The paper, published today in the journal Extremophiles, focused on naturally occurring microbes in Arctic permafrost sedimentary rocks, one of the best analogues we have to martian regolith here on Earth. The microbes were exposed to Mars-like conditions such as intense gamma radiation (10,000,000 rads [100 kilograys]), extremely low temperatures and pressures (-58 F [-50 C]; 1 Torr [133 Pascals]), and dehydration. The result? A high number of the microbes survived the harsh simulated climate of Mars, raising hopes that microbes on the Red Planet might also survive within the icy regolith well enough for searching rovers or — someday — human scientists to recover them.

The study was conducted using a constant climate chamber and, the authors stress, natural communities of microbes, rather than pure cultures. Studying natural communities allows for a better comparison with reality, allowing for greater biodiversity and increasing the similarities of the studied group to any microbes potentially on Mars.

“In a nutshell, we have conducted a simulation experiment that well covered the conditions of cryoconservation in Martian regolith,” said Vladimir S. Cheptsov, a post-graduate student at the Lomonosov MSU Faculty of Soil Science, Department of Soil Biology, and an author on the paper, in a press release. “The results of the study indicate the possibility of prolonged cryoconservation of viable microorganisms.”

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Is there (frozen) life on Mars?

Nov 12, 2017

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