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Life Can Survive on Mars

Microbes may be able to survive on Mars. This means that life could have existed there in the past, and may be there today, hidden under a crust of ice. While microbes aren't as exciting as discovering a Martian civilization, it does mean that microbes could have traveled on a meteorite from Mars to Earth, seeding life here?meaning we are actually Martians. It could also mean that higher forms of life may have existed on the planet in the distant past and we may be able to eventually find some artifacts from Mars' distant past.

Researchers first grew the microbes in a medium made up of volcanic ash, which simulates Martian soil. When 3 different methanogens survived, they moved them to a large, stainless steel device called the Andromeda Chamber, which simulates Martian conditions. The microbes continued to grow in low air pressure and an atmosphere consisting only of hydrogen and carbon dioxide.

Timothy Kral, of the Unviersity of Arkansas, says, "With the recent successful missions to Mars and especially the discovery that there is probably a vast ocean of frozen water below the surface, there is a greater possibility that life may exist below the surface today." If we can grow microbes in a simulated Martian atmosphere here on Earth, we may be able to take them to Mars if we ever try to colonize the planet. Methanogens give off methane as they grow, and Kral says, "Since methane is a greenhouse gas, methanogens could be used to raise Mars' surface temperature, eventually ?terraforming? the planet so that it could support life."

Some people think they?ve already communicated with life from other worlds. Whitley Strieber is one of these, and so is Lissette Larkins, who will discuss her experiences with Whitley on Dreamland, August 31st. Read all about it in ?Talking with Extraterrestrials?, click here.

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