Extremophilic bacteria “planted” on the International Space Station (ISS) plating could survive for 533 days under the influence of irradiation with solar ultraviolet radiation, as well as extreme temperature changes. This experiment proves the possibility of life on Mars, according to an article in the journal Astrobiology, as well as on the website of the German Aerospace Center (DLR).
Among all the planets of the solar system, Mars, perhaps, is the most likely candidate for the role of a planet capable of supporting life. But this is a very inhospitable place – the conditions are dusty, arid, with very little oxygen, there is reduced gravity, and the surface is exposed to constant solar radiation, because the atmosphere is discharged. It is very cold and very hot there. And dust storms often cover the entire planet as a whole, plunging everything into darkness.
We have not yet found life on Mars, but scientists are conducting experiments aimed at understanding the potential of its possible presence on the Red Planet. For example, the recently completed experiment of BIOMEX, conducted by the German Aerospace Center with various living organisms, which were sent to the ISS and were a half proud in very unsuitable, as it seemed at first glance, conditions.
“Some types of organisms and biomolecules that we studied turned out to be incredibly resistant to the action of radiation, and they returned to Earth in a completely alive state. Of course, this does not mean that such microbes exist on Mars. On the other hand, now we have even more reasons to look for it in the framework of subsequent missions, ”comments Jean-Pierre de Vera from the DLR Institute of Planetological Studies in Berlin, commenting on the results of the study.
The study of extremophiles on the ISS was conducted for 18 months, from October 2014 to June 2016. After that, samples of life were taken back to Earth for analysis.
All the capsules in which the living organisms were located were arranged in this way. For example, a part of bacteria and other organisms in them “directly” came in contact with cosmic radiation, while other microbes were inside a kind of environment imitating Martian or lunar soil. So scientists wanted to understand whether spores of bacteria or archaea or their active colonies can survive in the real soil of Mars and where it is worth looking for them.
The experiment showed in an expected way that most of the algae and microbes cannot survive on the surface of Mars due to ultraviolet radiation. However, some of them turned out to be incredibly resistant to the action of cosmic radiation and other extreme effects, which, at least in theory, indicates the possibility of their quite comfortable existence in the near-surface layers of the soil of the Red Planet.
“For example, we studied the archaea found inside the permafrost in the Arctic. They not only survived the space trip, but they can be found in the soil using the techniques that we created in the framework of the BIOMEX project. Such single-celled organisms may well be found on real Mars, ”adds Jean-Pierre de Vera.
Scientists hope that the collected data will help the European Space Agency's Rosalind Franklin rover to detect traces of existing or at least extinct life, as well as find hints that will indicate the possibility of its existence on some other planets in the solar system.
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