Image of Mars taken by the Hubble Space Telescope
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of NASA
Bacteria Survives in Mars Environment
News story originally written on June 9, 1999
Scientists from the University of Arkansas 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 with an environment mimicking Mars. 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. Scientists can send the bacteria to the red planet, almost playing creator by starting the process and watching it grow. 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.
"If man were to go to Mars someday and introduce life, this might be the form of life that would grow there," Timothy A. Kral of the University of Arkansas said. "If you were going to try to create Earthlike conditions there, putting this type of organism on Mars might be the thing to start it."
The methane could even be used as a fuel for humans that may one day visit Mars. The gas serves as a rocket propellant and as fuel for heat. Astronauts could use the methane to propel themselves back to Earth.
"It made methane just like it does on Earth," Kral said. "It grows just fine in the Martian conditions."
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
on science education, classroom activities in The Earth Scientist
specimens, and educational games
You might also be interested in:
The first beings were probably much like coacervates. As a group, these bacteria are called heterotrophic anaerobes. Because there was virtually no oxygen in the atmosphere at this time, these bacteria...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