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Bacteria Survives in Mars Environment - Windows to the Universe

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Image of Mars taken by the Hubble Space Telescope
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Courtesy of NASA

Bacteria Survives in Mars Environment
News story originally written on June 9, 1999

Scientists found an Earth bacteria that can live in an environment similar to Mars. The microbe is usually found deep within the earth or in a cow's stomach. They survive in places without oxygen.

The bacteria was grown in culture dishes. There was no oxygen present, but there were plenty of carbon dioxide and hydrogen gases. The soil was close to dirt on Mars, with no nutrients and only traces of water. The result was a thriving colony of methane-producing bacteria.

Because this special type of bacteria naturally produces methane, it may be used to start a new colony on Mars. It could also be used to produce an environment close to Earth's. Methane is a greenhouse gas, which means it can warm the surface.

The methane could even be used as a fuel for humans that may one day visit Mars. The methane can propel astronauts back to Earth.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF