Fungus spores and other microorganisms are candidates to survive on the surface of Mars, according to NASA
When we talk about the possibility of emigrating to MarsConsidering the situation and what could happen in detail, we raised the possibility that our microorganisms (the terrestrial ones) had already reached Mars despite the sterilization processes of the vehicles. But beyond the accidental ones, those that did reach a theoretically equivalent environment are those of the MARSBOx experiment, of which the results have now been published.
The MARSBOx experiment (Microbes in Atmosphere for Radiation, Survival, and Biological Outcomes Experiment) started in 2019, being a collaboration of researchers from NASA and the German Aerospace Center. Using a balloon, a sample of fungi and bacteria was sent into the stratosphere to see the potential survival of the microorganisms in the most Martian conditions possible.
Looking for Martian corners on Earth
The proposal of the experiment is based, as explained in his work the researchers, in that in the stratosphere (specifically about 38 kilometers above sea level) ** radiation levels are equivalent to those found on the surface of Mars **. Being sending a probe here much simpler and cheaper than sending something to the Red Planet (in addition, there now we already have Perseverance, decided to study what happened to a handful of microscopic beings under those conditions.
We know that there are microorganisms that resist completely extreme conditions, either high temperatures (thermophilic bacteria), high salt concentrations (extreme halophiles) or even radiation (such as Deinococcus radiodurans), designated together with the name of Extremophiles. In fact, in the International Space Station they already verified that there are bacteria that can survive for years in.
What this time they wanted to check is the resistance to ultraviolet radiation (about 1,148 kJ / m²) of spores of the fungus Aspergillus niger and bacteria of the species Salinisphaera shabanensis, Staphylococcus sp. head Y Buttiauxella spp.. As you might think, spores are among the most resistant forms of life (precisely, they are structures “designed” to withstand the worst conditions and for life to develop when they are favorable) together with bacteria S. shabanensis, holding S. capitis subsp. head only under certain conditions of the experiment and with the total inactivation of Buttiauxella sp..
What they deduced is that spores could be reactivated upon return to Earth (or a favorable environment). For their part, resistant microorganisms could temporarily endure on the surface of Mars, as in the case of S. capitis subsp. head, a bacterium associated with human skin.
Hence they conclude that the spores are potential candidates to be one of the most polluting life forms ahead of our arrival on Mars, although more experiments would still need to be done. Katharina siems added that these experiments also seek to deduce survival of microorganism species associated with humans in the manned missions already planned, because they are symbiosis that we need in our survival (for example, in digestion).
This experiment complements previous ones, such as the one we already saw with Rio Tinto cyanobacteria, organisms also very resistant. According to Siems, the idea is that with all investigations, useful microorganisms are also found, thinking about the day that food or other materials may need to be created for survival on Mars, as being investigated on the ISS for years.