Fungi that usually live on rocks in the Antarctic were sent to the International Space Station (ISS) by the European Space Agency (ESA) to see whether they would survive in conditions similar to those on the Red Planet.
The results from the experiment – called EXPOSE-E – showed that the fungi were able to survive in Mars-like conditions, according to scientists aboard the International Space Station.
For a period of eighteen months, the microscopic fungi – C. minteri and Cryomyces antarcticus – were exposed to conditions similar to those on Mars that included: thin air; an atmosphere with a pressure of 1,000 pascals and made mostly of carbon dioxide (about 95 percent); freezing and dry temperatures; high levels of ultraviolet radiation.
At the end of the experiment, the DNA of the fungi was still stable, and the fungi had more than sixty percent of their cells intact, the scientists said.
The results will shed some light on how living organisms could survive in the Red Planet, and it will also help astrobiologists better understand how life may originate and evolve in Mars-like environments.
Rosa de la Torre Noetzel from Spain’s National Institute of Aerospace Technology (INTA) and co-researcher on the project, said that the new study helps assess the stability and survival ability of microorganisms on the Red Planet. The information is extremely relevant specifically for future experiments that will focus on finding life on Mars, de la Torre Noetzel added.
Scientists used two species of cryptoendolithic fungi – which means that they are able to survive in rock cracks. Both of the species were collected from McMurdo Dry Valleys in the Antarctic Victoria Land. This region in the Antarctic is known to have extreme climate, similar to that on Mars.
The platform for experiment called EXPOSE-E, that was developed to test biochemical and biological materials in space, was sent to the International Space Station in a vehicle that remained attached to the space station for 1.5 years.
This current project is part of a bigger suite of studies known as Lichens and Fungi Experiment (LIFE). Both the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) plan to launch rovers toward Mars to search for signs of life – which is a high priority for the two agencies.
Image Source: esa
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