Is there life on Mars? It’s possible, but it may not be Martian, say scientists. New research, published in the open access journal BMC Microbiology, suggests that conditions on Mars are capable of supporting dormant bacteria, known as endospores. This raises concern about future attempts to detect Martian life forms because endospores originating on Earth could potentially hitch a ride to Mars and survive on its surface.
Soil on Mars is thought to be rich in oxidising chemicals that are known to destroy life. The high levels of ultraviolet radiation on the surface of the planet make it unlikely that any organism could survive. Ronald Crawford and colleagues from the University of Idaho have investigated whether bacterial endospores can exist in Mars’s hostile environment.
Endospores are a survival form of bacteria, formed when they find themselves in an unfavourable environment, and are perhaps the most resilient life form on Earth. They are resistant to extreme temperatures, most disinfectants, radiation, drying, and can survive for thousands of years in this dormant state. There is even evidence that they can survive in the vacuum of space. Given the possibility of endospores hitching a lift on spacecraft bound for Mars, Ronald Crawford and his colleagues investigated whether endospores could survive in a simulated Martian environment.
Gordon Fletcher | BioMed Central Limited
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