Our chances of finding life on Mars have been boosted thanks to a groundbreaking new experiment.
Scientists showed that certain simple organisms found on Earth can survive the red planet’s brutal conditions for months on end.
They stuck a canister filled with microbes to the outside of the International Space Station, exposing them to cosmic radiation and the vacuum of space for 18 grueling months.
Some of the tiny creatures survived, proving that similar life could be hiding out on the red planet.
The research was led by scientists at the German Aerospace Centre in Cologne.
“Some of the organisms and biomolecules have shown tremendous resistance to radiation in the open space and actually returned to Earth as ‘survivors’ of space,” said scientist Jean-Pierre Paul de Vera.
He added that certain single-cell organisms “would be candidates for life forms that we could imagine on Mars.”
The “Biomex” experiment tested the space survival skills of microscopic organisms like bacteria, algae, lichens and fungi.
They were exposed to vacuum, extreme UV radiation and drastic temperature differences on an ISS outdoor platform for a total of 533 days.
Space experts have long argued whether life could survive the punishing conditions on Mars.
Anything living on the planet’s surface would be subject to intense radiation and temperatures that seesaw from highs of 68 degrees to lows of −243 degrees.
The new study suggests life could withstand the planet’s climate — though it doesn’t prove that Martians are out there.
“Of course, [our research] does not mean that life really happens on Mars,” de Vera said.
“But the search is now more than ever the most powerful driving force for the next generation of space missions to Mars.”
The result adds a bit of weight to the theory that life on Earth actually came from Mars.
Experts think our neighbor was home to microorganisms nearly 4 billion years ago, and that an asteroid strike sent some flying into space aboard chunks of Martian rock.
These chunks then collided with an early version of our planet, depositing the microbes and leaving the foundations for all life on Earth.
Scientists had previously doubted whether any life could survive the perilous trip from Mars, but the German Aerospace Centre study shows some organisms are more than capable.
The results were published in the journal Astrobiology.
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