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Microbes Could Live on Mars! - Windows to the Universe

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The Spring 2011 issue of The Earth Scientist is focused on modernizing seismology education. Thanks to IRIS, you can download this issue for free as a pdf. Print copies are available in our online store.
An example of bacteria
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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 group of bacteria called Archaebacteria that are closely related to the first life on Earth and live in places where there is no oxygen 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 a 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!


Last modified September 4, 2002 by Lisa Gardiner.

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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