Researchers at the German Aerospace Center have shown that terrestrial organisms can survive on Mars for at least 34 days.
Specialists from the DLR (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft-und Raumfahrt) have simulated the conditions existing on Mars for 34 days, describing different microorganisms in the simulated environment. “During this period, lichens and bacteria continued to be active, engaging the process of photosynthesis,” said Jean-Pierre de Vera, a researcher at the Institute for Planetary Research in Berlin.
Microorganisms have adapted to the simulated environment, especially in niches in the rocks and cracks in simulated Martian soil. This result suggests that these strategies of adaptation to the environment could be life on Mars possible in certain niches and even the Martian soil.
In the experiment were used lichens from Antarctica and Switzerland, who live at an altitude of up to 3,500 meters above sea level and cyanobacteria in Antarctica. Scientists have recreated the surface of Mars using various mineral elements, using data from Opportunity and Spirit rovers, which were sent by NASA on Mars. Also, scientists have recreated the atmosphere of Mars, which is 95% carbon dioxide, 4% nitrogen and trace gases such as argon rest and oxygen. Specialists and simulated pressure, radiation to “hit” the surface of Mars and temperature variations (-50 degrees Celsius to 23 degrees Celsius).
“Terrestrial organisms were able to make the process of photosynthesis even in these difficult conditions,” said Jean-Pierre de Vera. Survivors showed that lichens are creative, adapting to the Martian environment and carrying the same activity as in the wild. “If life arose on Mars 4 billion years ago, would have remained until today present in niches,” Vera added.
Tilman Spohn, Director DLR Institute for Planetary Research, said that “this study represents a major step forward, showing that the presence of life on Mars is more plausible than previously thought”. He added: “People and wildlife are a fraction of the total biomass on Earth, microorganisms, however, is more than 80%”.
Results of the team of Jean-Pierre de Vera is also a warning to future travelers to Mars. “We must be extremely careful to not carry terrestrial life forms on Mars, otherwise we might contaminate the planet,” said the researcher.