Martian Soil and the Microbes That Love Them

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      Billions of years ago, Mars was home to oceans, rivers, and seas. During this ancient era of the Red Planet, atmospheric pressures and temperatures were themselves higher than today, making Mars a far more temperate world than the one we know in our modern age.

      Metallosphaera sedula, an extreme lifeform that thrives in hot acids, was successfully grown in samples of an actual piece of Mars called Black Beauty (or the Noachian Martian breccia Northwest Africa (NWA) 7034 meteorite). The material within this rare Martian sample which arrived on Earth long ago is thought to be 4.5 billion years old.

      “Black Beauty is among the rarest substances on Earth, it is a unique Martian breccia formed by various pieces of Martian crust (some of them are dated at 4.42 ± 0.07 billion years) and ejected millions years ago from the Martian surface. We had to choose a pretty bold approach of crushing few grams of precious Martian rock to recreate the possible look of Mars’ earliest and simplest life form,” explains Tetyana Milojevic, head of the Space Biochemistry group at the University of Vienna.

      Samples of M. sedula consumed minerals from the Martian rock, transforming it into biomineral deposits. Researchers studied these deposits down to the atomic scale. They found patterns in the chemistry and geology of the material which should resemble evidence we would see of ancient Martian life.

      Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction

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