mars_surface

A new study by scientists from NASA and the German Aerospace Center suggests that life from the earth can temporarily survive on the surface of Mars. The scientists launched several microorganisms to the Earth’s stratosphere back in 2019 as part of the MARSBOx experiment, because Earth’s atmosphere closely resembles the conditions of Red Planet. And now, the scientists have published a paper about this, where they discussed how these microbes survived the space trip.

To be precise, microorganisms could only live on the surface of Mars temporarily, but the scientists found that the spores from the black mold Aspergillus niger, could be revived after they returned home.

“The team launched the microbes like fungal spores of Aspergillus niger and Salinisphaera shabanensis, Staphylococcus capitis subsp. capitis and Buttiauxella sp., into the stratosphere inside the MARSBOx (Microbes in Atmosphere for Radiation, Survival, and Biological Outcomes experiment) aluminum container, which was kept at Martian pressure and filled with artificial Martian atmosphere throughout the mission.”

“The box carried two sample layers, with the bottom layer shielded from radiation. This allowed us to separate the effects of radiation from the other tested conditions: desiccation, atmosphere, and temperature fluctuation during the flight. The top layer samples were exposed to more than a thousand times more UV radiation than levels that can cause sunburn on our skin.”

MARSBOx payload in the Earth’s middle stratosphere (38 km altitude). The shutter is open exposing the top layer samples to UV radiation
MARSBOx payload in the Earth’s middle stratosphere (38 km altitude). The shutter is open exposing the top layer samples to UV radiation. Credit: NASA

What Aspergillus niger surviving the stratosphere, trip means?

“With crewed long-term missions to Mars, we need to know how human-associated microorganisms would survive on the Red Planet, as some may pose a health risk to astronauts,” says team member Katharina Siems from the German Aerospace Center. “In addition, some microbes could be invaluable for space exploration. They could help us produce food and material supplies independently from Earth, which will be crucial when far away from home.”

Siems also explained that experiments like the MARSBOx balloon mission to the stratosphere, “is a really important way to help us explore all the implications of space travel on microbial life and how we can drive this knowledge towards amazing space discoveries.”

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