Lichen exposed to harsh Mars-like conditions in a laboratory have been found to survive, preferring to cling to cracks in rocks and in gaps in the simulated Martian soil. The lichen collected from Antarctica were placed inside the German Aerospace Center’s Mars Simulation Laboratory for 34 days.
There they were subjected to the same atmospheric, temperature, radiation and pressure conditions they would experience if they were on the Martian surface.
Elsewhere in the Solar System there is potential for life on moons around the two largest gas planets Jupiter and Saturn. Jupiter’s icy moon Europa may host life within its deep ocean, which is kept warm by being constantly massaged by the gravitational pull of the giant planet. Lakes of liquid water are thought to exist just a few kilometres below the surface, embedded within the icy crust. They are likely connected to the surface through a rapid recycling process that can exchange material between the surface and ocean, suggesting that the distant moon may still be active today. Neighbouring moons Callisto and Ganymede may also be hiding oceans below their rocky crust. A mission proposed by ESA, called JUICE (short for JUpiter ICy moon Explorer), could evaluate the potential of these worlds for hosting life. The fate of the JUICE mission, which is competing against two other missions, will be decided next week. Around Saturn, Titan, with its thick atmosphere and surface seas of liquid methane and ethane, is a hot favourite for life. A new model discussed at EGU today speculates that late in Titan’s history the moon’s rocky core heated up sufficiently to release water, melting portions of an internal layer of ice. “The bursting forth of hot water from the deep interior might eventually affect the crust of Titan at the top of the ocean, leading to the release of methane seen in the air, clouds, seas and lakes of Titan,” said Jonathan Lunine from Cornell University.
Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald