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August 24, 2007

Mars soil could be 0.1% extremophile microbe life

New intrepretation of Viking science data could mean 0.1% of Mars soil is made up of “extremophiles” - in this case, microbes whose cells are filled with a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water. That is roughly comparable to biomass levels found in some Antarctic permafrost, home to a range of hardy bacteria and lichen.

Joop Houtkooper from Justus-Liebig-University in Giessen, Germany, claims the Viking spacecraft may in fact have encountered signs of a weird life form based on hydrogen peroxide on the subfreezing, arid Martian surface.

“We suggest that the design of future organic instruments for Mars should include other methods to be able to detect extinct and or extant life.”


Scientists hope to gather further evidence on whether or not Mars ever supported life when NASA's next-generation robotic spacecraft, the Phoenix Mars Lander, reaches the planet in May 2008 and probes the soil near its northern pole.

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