Neil Halelamien writes "Nature and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report that a NASA-funded "robotic astrobiologist" named Zoë (a successor to the Hyperion rover) has found life in Chile's Atacama desert. The Atacama is the Earth's driest desert, with steep slopes and rugged terrain. This is the first robot to remotely detect life, finding bacteria (and lichens, in the less dry areas) by using a fluorescent imager. The robot could also spray special dyes to detect life signatures like DNA, protein, lipids, and carbohydrates. Zoë's next assignment will be to autonomously sample soil over 50 kilometers of the Atacama. The Atacama desert is thought to be similar to Mars; instruments similar to those used on the 1970s Viking missions have previously failed to detect life there."
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