If life can exist in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, can it also be present on Mars?
Scientists are studying extremophiles to get some clues. Extremophiles are organisms that can survive in harsh conditions, such as ice or boiling water.
One study site is the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica. The Dry Valleys are arid, frigid, and mostly ice-free, since the region is protected from precipitation by the Transantarctic Mountains. This environment is as similar to a Martian environment as you can get without leaving Earth.
In the 1970s, NASA’s Viking program sent space probes to Mars to conduct exobiology experiments (studies designed to detect life in space or on another planet). These test were inconclusive for life, but were conducted prior to the discovery of extremophiles. So, expectations of where life could exist on Mars were more limited. Scientists hope that learning more about the hardy organisms in the Dry Valleys could inform future Mars missions.
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry Antarctica Noun
Earth's fifth-largest continental landmass.
Encyclopedic Entry: Antarctica arid Adjective
to change from a liquid to a gaseous state.
to transmit, transport, or carry.
something seen, documented, or noticed for the first time.
our planet, the third from the Sun. The Earth is the only place in the known universe that supports life.
Encyclopedic Entry: Earth environment Noun
conditions that surround and influence an organism or community.
branch of biology concerned with the search for life beyond Earth and the effects of extraterrestrial environments on living organisms.
to try or test an idea.
microbe that is adapted to survive in very harsh environments, such as freezing or boiling water.
at or below 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit).
to study or examine in order to learn a series of facts.
fourth planet from the sun, between Earth and Jupiter.
(National Aeronautics and Space Administration) the U.S. space agency, whose mission statement is "To reach for new heights and reveal the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind."
living or once-living thing.
large, spherical celestial body that regularly rotates around a star.
Encyclopedic Entry: planet research Noun
scientific observations and investigation into a subject, usually following the scientific method: observation, hypothesis, prediction, experimentation, analysis, and conclusion.
person who studies a specific type of knowledge using the scientific method.
space probe Noun
set of scientific instruments and tools launched from Earth to study the atmosphere and composition of space and other planets, moons, or celestial bodies.