Experiment Shows Microbes Can Survive on Mars, Proving Life in Mars Possible
Jan 23, 2017 11:40 AM EST
A team of astrobiologists from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville has proven that microbes could survive on Mars despite its harsh environment. The year-long experiment gives hope to the possibility that there could have been life on the planet at one point.
The scientists decided to conduct the experiment following the event at which NASA's intrepid Mars rover, Curiosity detected the presence of methane. Because most of the methane on earth is produced by living organisms, team leader Rebecca Mickol believes that the same could possibly be true for Mars.
A group of microorganisms called methanogens produces the natural gas on our planet. Methanogens are found in marshes and in the cattles' guts. The microbes live without oxygen or photosynthesis, therefore, it is most likely that the methanogens would survive on Mars is if they're found underneath the surface, protected from the red planet's high levels of ultraviolet radiation.
To conduct the experiment, the scientists grew microbes in test tubes under specific conditions. They used liquids that closely represented fluids that could have flooded underneath the Martian surface. The intensely low atmospheric pressures of the area underneath the Martian surface were also replicated within each test tube. Followed after, the microorganisms within the test tubes were subjected to freezing temperature that closely resembles the planet's.
After conducting experiments on four different species, the scientists concluded that all four were capable to survive under those harsh conditions for three to 21 days. However, Mickol warned of the possibilities that the methane on Mars could have been a product of volcanism or perhaps other atmospheric factors.
Although the experiment provides little evidence to life after planet earth, it gives a brighter glimpse of future explorations that would bring more understanding into the "possibility of life".