New research by NASA and scientists at the German Aerospace Center recently found that some microorganisms on Earth could temporarily survive on the surface of Mars.
According to a Phys.org report, the study investigators tested the microorganisms' endurance to the Red Planet conditions.
More so, this work, published in Frontiers in Microbiology, paves the way for further understanding, not just the danger of bacteria to space missions, but the opportunities too, for resource independence from Earth.
According to Marta Filipa Cortesao, this study's joint first author from the Cologne, Germany-based German Aerospace Center, they successfully "tested a new way of exposing microbes and fungi" to conditions akin to the Martian planet by the use of a scientific balloon to fly for their investigational equipment up to the stratosphere of Earth.
She also said some bacteria, in specific spores from the black mold fungus "were able to survive the trip," even when they were exposed to very high ultraviolet or UV radiation.
Understanding the microbes' endurance for space travel is essential for the success of future missions. More so, when looking for extra-terrestrial life, the expert said there is a need to guarantee that anything discovered is not "traveled with us from Earth."
In addition, Katharina Siems, also a joint first author who's based at the German Aerospace Center, said, with manned long-term missions to the Red Planet, there is a need for them to knowhow microorganisms associated with humans would survive on Mars, as some may stance a danger in the health of astronauts.
Some microbes, Siems added, could be "invaluable for space exploration." They could help humans produce food and material supplies self-sufficiently from Earth, which will be essential when far away from home.
Many key features of the environment on Mars' surface cannot be found or duplicated at the planets' surface. However, on top of the ozone layer in Earth's middle stratosphere, the conditions are considerably similar.
Explaining the study further, Cortesao explained, they launched the bacteria into the stratosphere inside the Microbes in Atmosphere for Radiation, Survival, and Biological Outcomes experiment or MARXBOx.
This is a payload that was kept under pressure on the Red Planet and filled with a simulated Martian atmosphere during the entire mission.
Specifically, the box contained a pair of sample layers that have the bottom layer protected from radiation. This allowed humans to separate the impacts of radiation from other tested conditions like desiccation, temperature fluctuation, and atmosphere during the flight.
Meanwhile, the sample layers were exposed to more UV radiation over a thousand times compared to levels that can lead to sunburn on the human skin.
Microbes, Close Relation to Humans
Siems explained, while not all bacteria endured the trip, one formerly identified on the International Space Station or ISS, the black mold Aspergillus niger, could be revived following its return to home.
Siems underscores his current research's essentiality; microbes are closely associated with humans, bodies, food, and the environment. Therefore, he elaborated, it is not possible to "rule them out of space travel."
The use of good similarities for the Martian environment, like the MARSBOx balloon mission to the stratosphere, is indeed, an essential way to help researchers discover all effects of space travel on bacterial life, not to mention the manage they can drive such knowledge towards astounding space discoveries.
Check out more news and information on Mars on Science Times.