Mars: What can survive on it – “Most organisms have died”

What can survive on Mars? “Most organisms have died.” Researchers from NASA and the German Space Agency have mapped conditions on Mars in the Earth’s stratosphere.

The experiment showed that black mould spores survived extreme temperatures and radiation.

The NASA rover has landed on Mars and sent the first photos from its surface. Interest in Mars has not waned for several days, which of course has to do with the landing of the Perseverance rover on it. The Mars 2020 mission is designed to help answer several questions, and one of its most important goals is to find biosignatures that would be evidence of past life on the Red Planet.

NASA showed a photo taken by the Perseverance rover during its landing on Mars. The rover is already talking to us and sending beautiful photos from Mars. “I love rocks.”

NASA believes that Earth can survive on Mars

Now an international team of scientists from NASA and the German Space Agency (DLR) has praised the results of their research on Mars. The researchers wanted to see if any living organisms from Earth could even survive in the Red Planet’s atmosphere.

To find out, a MARSBOx experiment (Microbes in Atmosphere for Radiation, Survival and Biological Outcomes experiment) was conducted, in which many types of microorganisms were placed in an aluminium TREX container, including bacteria, filamentous fungi (mould) and yeast. The box was attached to a balloon that was launched into the stratosphere in 2019.

After 6.5 hours of flight, the balloon and the microbes reached an altitude of 38 km. The Earth’s atmosphere at such a height is very similar to the Martian atmosphere near the surface. 38 km above sea level, the Earth has an equal pressure and temperature and reaches an equivalent dose of UV radiation as on the Red Planet.

Moreover, two samples with microbes were prepared, of which only one was protected against the adverse effects of cosmic rays. The naked ones were exposed to UV radiation at a dose a thousand times greater than that, which causes sunburn in humans.

The experiment showed that the vast majority of living organisms died shortly after the balloon was raised to the target height. However, the spores of the black spores (or black mould) survived the test and were able to revive after the container was recovered. According to the researchers, this shows that these mushrooms can also remain alive in the Martian atmosphere, but only for a certain period.

ESA is looking for astronauts to fly to the moon. We know the requirements.
For long-term human-crewed missions to Mars, we need to know how human-related microorganisms could survive on the Red Planet, as some can pose a threat to astronauts’ health. Moreover, some microbes can be invaluable in space exploration. They can help us produce food outside of Earth, which will be crucial when we’re away from home – says study co-author Katharina Siems from DLR.

According to the researchers, this is also of great importance when sending both human-crewed and uncrewed missions to Mars. NASA wants the Red Planet’s natural environment not to be accidentally “contaminated” with life from Earth.

Interestingly, black mould is a problem, inclusive of the International Space Station, where even though it receives enormous doses of radiation, it is complicated to fight.