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Mars Space Science

Bacteria Could Survive In Martian Soil 90

Dagondanum writes "Multiple missions have been sent to Mars with the hopes of testing the surface of the planet for life — or the conditions that could create life. The question of whether life in the form of bacteria (or something even more exotic) exists on Mars is hotly debated, and still lacks a definitive yes or no. Experiments done right here on Earth that simulate the conditions on Mars and their effects on terrestrial bacteria show that it is entirely possible for certain strains of bacteria to weather the harsh environment of Mars." Perhaps this is something that will be tested further in a few years by the Mars Science Lab, also known as "Curiosity" and (as reader Nova1021 points out) "the Mars Action Hero."
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Bacteria Could Survive In Martian Soil

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  • FP (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 4D6963 ( 933028 ) on Monday November 02, 2009 @11:50AM (#29950824)

    Allow me to be the first to point out that we already know that some bacteria can survive interplanetary space travel and life on the Moon.

    Now the real question is, can these bacterias be formed on Mars?

  • by pifactorial ( 1000403 ) on Monday November 02, 2009 @12:10PM (#29951084)
    To my knowledge many species of bacteria can survive indefinitely in practically any environment, but not while actively metabolizing. I am curious whether any of the species the article is talking about could actually survive and spread, if they would just stick around for a while and die out, or if they would only survive in a dormant state.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 02, 2009 @12:45PM (#29951564)

    Remember that the Earth has had several large impacts in the past, and that many of these events hurled tons of rocks and debris into space. Some of them at the proper angle and with enough force to leave orbit.

    We have found extremophiles hibernating in air pockets within rocks that had been air tight for hundreds of years. Is it so much of a stretch to assume that some of these debris might have carried life from earth to another planet? Realize that Mars doesn't have anywhere near the same level of atmosphere as the earth. It isn't as protected against small meteorite impacts. I could easily imagine life originating from Earth arriving on another world in the form of microorganisms. It might not be Mars, but maybe Europa instead. Maybe Earth life is already spreading itself throughout the Orion Arm.

    Distances in space reduce the chances of this scenario considerably. It really isn't that likely that this has happened. Even supposing that life survived the trauma of leaving Earth, it would most likely settle into a slowly decaying orbit and fall back down. Any impact powerful enough to send debris beyond the pull of earth's gravity would probably kill anything that lived within them. But that doesn't remove it from the realm of possibility, and it's still a nice thought.

  • by giladpn ( 1657217 ) on Monday November 02, 2009 @01:00PM (#29951782)
    Why do we expect or hope that earth-like life forms will be found elsewhere?

    The question of whether life in the form of bacteria (or something even more exotic) exists on Mars is hotly debated, and still requires a resolute yes or no

    Ho hummm... We have had this debate going on since the "canals" were discovered on mars only to be debunked.

    Once upon a time 600 years ago, people "knew" they are at the center of the universe. We were unique, chosen by heaven to lord it over the animals and created in the image of heaven. That was the view of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and also of the eastern empires (remember the "Emperor of Heaven") ?

    Nowadays there is a large substantial minority of people whose thinking is guided by science. For this very substantial minority - debunking the "humans are at the center" myth is an article of faith. Finding the aliens - little green men or bacteria on mars - is important as an act of faith not just science.

    It is important to separate real empirical science from the pseudo-science that is really an alternative system of belief. If we just look at empirical facts, the probability of finding life twice in the same solar system is not huge.

    Anthropo-centric theology/philosophy was rightly debunked by Copernicus, Galileo, Darwin and Einstein.

    Anti-anthropo-centric thinking equally deserves to be debunked. Science is about empirical evidence. Full stop.

  • Re:FP (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mikael ( 484 ) on Monday November 02, 2009 @01:34PM (#29952206)

    If bacteria can survive in the upper layers of the Earth's atmosphere, and chunks of atmosphere can be blown away by the solar wind, is it possible that such bacteria could make the journey from Earth to Mars?

  • by cpscotti ( 1032676 ) on Monday November 02, 2009 @02:03PM (#29952546)
    We should just send containers full of bacterias and wild things there... and see what grows.. In fact I think we should send bacteria-filled pods to as many planets/asteroids we can afford to.. this should be cheap.. Populate the whole thing..
    Rather than maintaining the question "is there life out there?" we should just force the most pleasant answer:
    "Yes.. and we did it!"
  • Re:FP (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ElectricTurtle ( 1171201 ) on Monday November 02, 2009 @02:53PM (#29953148)
    Apparently you've never heard of Hodgkin's Law of Parallel Planetary Development [].
  • by ElectricTurtle ( 1171201 ) on Monday November 02, 2009 @03:10PM (#29953396)
    What is your point? Most researchers have 'expectations' or 'hopes' about their research, that's what peer review is for, to make sure that their personal biases don't get the best of them. Why shouldn't we hope? And aside from your sociological anecdotes, why too should we not expect? I'll grant that the existence of adapted extremophile life forms on Earth is not in of itself credible as a foundation for thinking that such hardy things would spontaneously form out of the gate, but that's assuming that all life forms locally. There remains the possibility that very hardy strains can travel through space on debris.

    I think any rational person would take exception to you claiming that a probability model about the formation of life (based on a sample size of ... ONE) as an 'empirical fact'. That would suggest you don't really know what empiricism is. Until we have surveyed larger portions of Mars and other parts of the solar system in greater detail, there are no 'empirical facts' about the presence or lack of life in any form.
  • methane on mars (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Gearoid_Murphy ( 976819 ) on Monday November 02, 2009 @03:35PM (#29953744)
    The levels of Methane on Mars are much higher than expected [] . If bacertia could easily survive under the soil in the red planet, than that could explain the source of methane.

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger