Life in Extreme Places

Life in Extreme Places

If life can exist in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, can it also be present on Mars?

Grades

4 - 12+

Subjects

Astronomy, Geography

If life can exist in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, can it also be present on Mars?

Scientists are studying extremophiles to get some clues. Extremophiles are organisms that can survive in harsh conditions, such as ice or boiling water.

One study site is the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica. The Dry Valleys are arid, frigid, and mostly ice-free, since the region is protected from precipitation by the Transantarctic Mountains. This environment is as similar to a Martian environment as you can get without leaving Earth.

In the 1970s, NASA’s Viking program sent space probes to Mars to conduct exobiology experiments (studies designed to detect life in space or on another planet). These test were inconclusive for life, but were conducted prior to the discovery of extremophiles. So, expectations of where life could exist on Mars were more limited. Scientists hope that learning more about the hardy organisms in the Dry Valleys could inform future Mars missions.

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Writer
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Editor
Caryl-Sue Micalizio, National Geographic Society
Producers
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Caryl-Sue Micalizio, National Geographic Society
other
Last Updated

September 27, 2022

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Funder
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