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An example of bacteria
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JPL/NASA

Microbes Could Live on Mars!
News story originally written on September 4, 2002

Researchers have found tiny organisms that could survive the low atmospheric pressures of Mars. They are not actually Martians but are called methanogens and live here on Earth.

Because methanogens are very small, they are called microorganisms or microbes. They are members of a very ancient group of bacteria called Archaebacteria that are closely related to the first life on Earth. Methanogens thrive where there is no oxygen and live in places like swamps, sewage and even in our guts.

To see whether these organisms would be able to survive in a Martian environment, researchers put the methanogen bacteria into an Andromeda chamber where the pressure could be reduced to simulate the conditions on Mars. Despite the extreme environment, the little critters survived and grew!

Life like this may exist today below the surface of Mars where an underground ocean of ice sits, or creatures like these might have lived on Mars in the past.

The methanogens produce methane, a greenhouse gas that could warm the surface of Mars, so bacteria from Earth could one day be taken to Mars if we were to tereform the planet, creating an environment where we could survive. This is a very controversial idea, because altering the environment of Mars could harm life that might already be there.


Last modified September 4, 2002 by Lisa Gardiner.

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