A new study has sent microbes into the Earth’s stratosphere to test their endurance in conditions similar to those on Mars. The aim was to uncover their potential uses and threats during space travel. The study found that the microbes were able to temporarily survive in conditions similar to the Martian surface.
The study was carried out by scientists from NASA and the German Aerospace Center. Her work paves the way for understanding the threat that microbes pose to space missions, as well as opportunities for resource independence outside of Earth. The scientists say they successfully tested a new method to expose bacteria and fungi to Mars-like conditions.
The test involved using a scientific balloon to fly their experimental devices into the Earth’s stratosphere. The researchers say that some microbes, particularly black mold spores, survived the trip even when exposed to very high concentrations of ultraviolet radiation. Understanding the endurance of microbes for space travel is important for the success of future space missions.
The scientists point out that while humanity searches for extraterrestrial life, we must ensure that whatever was discovered did not travel with humanity from Earth. The researcher says that knowing how human-associated microorganisms can survive on Mars is very important if we are to pursue long-term missions to the Red Planet. Microbes are also important for the independent production of food and materials, which is vital off-earth.
Scientists say that many Mars surface features on Earth high above the ozone layer in Earth’s middle stratosphere cannot be found or easily replicated, but the conditions are remarkably similar to Mars. The team notes that not all microbes survived the trip, but the black mold Aspergillus niger could be revived upon its return. This particular microbe was discovered on the ISS in the past.