If we want to find life on Mars it might help to study the most forbidding places on Earth. And it turns out there are four places so inhospitable – too cold, dry, hot or salty – that match the conditions on Mars. A team of scientists visited these sites to see if life can survive.
The four places are:
- Chott-el Jerid, a salt pan in Tunisia
- Atacama desert in Chile
- Rio Tinto in Southern Spain
- Deception Island in Antarctica
“The big questions are: what is life, how can we define it and what are the requirements for supporting life? To understand the results we receive back from missions like Curiosity, we need to have detailed knowledge of similar environments on Earth. In the field campaigns, we have studied ecosystems…found a range of complex chemical processes that allow life to survive in unexpected places.”
The results are helping to guide NASA’s mission to Mars with the rover Curiosity. Hinting at places where life might be found, how cloud cover can help create moisture, and showing that bacteria can survive just below the surface.
More about this research and the results from each site – from AstroBiology Magazine – Mars-Like Places on Earth Provide Insight to Life.