What do you think they will find in the lake?
Click on image for full size
Windows to the Universe original image
The Search for Life on…Earth!
News story originally written on November 3, 2002
By studying the small life forms in lakes almost 20,000 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains of Chile, scientists hope to learn how life may survive in other harsh environments throughout the solar system.
One of the lakes that is being studied this month is a caldera that sits atop Licancabur volcano in Chile. A caldera is the name for a lake that forms in the collapsed top of a volcano. The harsh environmental conditions at this caldera make it one of the most Mars-like places on Earth.
The environment is tough to survive in because at high altitudes pressure is lower so there are less oxygen molecules in each breath of air, more ultraviolet (UV) sunlight, and it is very cold.
Even though the caldera on top of Licancabur volcano is in harsh environmental conditions, certain microorganisms can survive there and the scientist team from NASA, the SETI Institute and other organizations hope to learn how they survive. “Only by going there will we find out,” says Dr. Nathalie Cabrol, the principle investigator of the project. If scientists know how organisms survive in harsh environments on Earth, they will better understand the ways that life may have adapted to exist in environments such as those on Mars, or Jupiter’s moon Europa, today or in the past.
The 25-day mission to the high mountains of the Andes began on October 16, 2002 and will include mapping the crater’s geology and topography, surveying the depth of the lake and the temperature of the lake bottom, characterizing the organisms that live in the lake and testing a 2-wheeled Mars mini-rover.
Last modified October 23, 2002 by Lisa Gardiner.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Learn about Earth and space science, and have fun while doing it! The games
section of our online store
includes a climate change card game
and the Traveling Nitrogen game
You might also be interested in:
Europa was first discovered by Galileo Galilei in 1610, making it one of the Galilean Satellites. Europa is Jupiter's 4th largest moon, 670,900 km from Jupiter. With a diameter that is about half the distance...more
It was another exciting and frustrating year for the space science program. It seemed that every step forward led to one backwards. Either way, NASA led the way to a great century of discovery. Unfortunately,...more
The Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off from Kennedy Space Center at 2:19 p.m. EST, October 29th. The sky was clear and the weather was great as Discovery took 8 1/2 minutes to reach orbit for the Unitied...more
A moon was discovered orbiting the asteroid, Eugenia. This is only the second time in history that a satellite has been seen circling an asteroid. A special mirror allowed scientists to find the moon...more
Will Russia ever put the service module for the International Space Station in space? NASA officials are demanding an answer from the Russian government. The necessary service module is currently waiting...more
During a period of about two days in early May, 1998, the ACE spacecraft was immersed in plasma associated with a coronal mass ejection (CME). The SWICS instrument on ACE, which determines unambiguously...more
J.S. Maini of the Canadian Forest Service has referred to forests as the "heart and lungs of the world." Forests reduce soil erosion, maintain water quality, contribute to atmospheric humidity and cloud...more