After the discovery of Mars’ surface containing water, it is understandable that the next natural step would be to look at how extremophiles, microbes that can survive under harsh environments fare in conditions similar to those found on Mars. And it has been found that a lake on Earth which strongly mimics the harsh and acidic water contents of Mars not only contain life, but that life thrived in these conditions.
Recent discoveries indicate to scientists that the surface of Mars once contained not only ice, but when it was warmer it actually contained freshly flowing water. The main argument against the development of life on these planets was the discovery that the water would have likely been acidic and hostile to life as we know it. Then, a survey team searching through the lakes of Western Australia brought back a bacteria culture to the university of Science in Missouri. Melanie Mormile discovered that in these conditions life not only was able to struggle through survival, but to thrive. The rapid rainfall and evaporation of the water contents ultimately resulted in a thick layer of salts and acids, which essentially resulted in small lakes and shallow puddles of incredibly hostile and acidic life which could not have supported life. At least that’s what scientists thought until they retrieved and later confirmed several samples from the pools. And in the pools there were also “hairy blobs” fossilized beneath, indicating that life had been there for quite some time.
If such structures could survive over time in Earth’s incredibly hostile waters, and conditions relative to those existed at one time on Mars, is it possible then that there is a chance that life could exist now, or could have existed at some point on the red planet? The past two years have seen several discoveries which not only shocked scientists, but essentially changed the astronomical view of the Solar system considerably.
But unlike traditional microbes, it is noted that the mechanism by which these extremophiles can survive and thrive under harsh conditions is unknown. Those studying the microbes are understandably interested in learning these mechanisms, as they may be the first step in seeding a planet such as Mars to produce conditions conducive to life and eventually perhaps even terraforming and colonization.
The theory behind terraforming and colonization has several modes, but could in theory utilize something like a microbe which can be sustained, and exudes material that could make soil more fertile, produce oxygen like an algae, and slowly but steadily spread across the planet and create an ozone. Such a project would take several years before a mass exodus to the red planet could take place, but the military has already been studying killswitches on synthetic biological microbes and this could be the final step in the terraforming process before the first Earth ships arrived on its surface. And the discovery of these microbes removes this possibility from the realm of science fiction and into the realm of possibility with current technology.