Tech UPTechnologyThey develop a new technique to find life on...

They develop a new technique to find life on Mars

Life on Mars has always intrigued the scientific community . Since the mid-nineteenth century there has been speculation about this fact, and since then, efforts have been made to finally find a clear answer.

Currently, in the middle of the technological age, researchers have taken a step forward in this intriguing question. For the first time, a technology capable of directly detecting and characterizing life on Mars and other planets has been developed .

The study consisted of the use of low-cost and low-weight miniature scientific instruments and new microbiology techniques to identify and examine microorganisms in extreme ecosystems (similar to those found on Mars). The environment chosen as an experimental model has been the Canadian High Arctic , one of the closest Mars-like areas to it on our planet Earth. “Mars is a very cold and dry planet, with a permafrost terrain that is very similar to what we find in the Canadian high Arctic,” says Dr. Goordial , director of the project at McGill University in Canada.

Today, most instruments on astrobiology missions look for conditions that favor life, small organic molecules and other “biosignatures” that generally could not form without a habitable environment. That is why these findings provide only indirect evidence for life .

Until now, the instruments available have always been relatively large and heavy . In addition, these implicitly carried a high energy requirement. For this reason, such technology was not suitable, for example, for missions to the areas of Enceladus and Europa (satellites of Jupiter and Saturn), the main targets in the search for life in our solar system, along with Mars.

The researchers thus created a ‘modular life detection platform’ capable of cultivating microorganisms from soil samples, assessing microbial activity and sequencing DNA and RNA. And all this, using a new and improved technology that costs well below average.

Mini space tools, compatible on Earth

The researchers were able to isolate Extremophilic microorganisms that had never been cultured before, detect microbial activity, and sequence the DNA of active microbes. But this is not all, since it has been shown that this same methodology ¸ combined with another, could also be used to detect and identify pathogens during epidemics in remote and difficult-to-sample areas on our planet.

Although the Mars project is not yet ready for space travel , this study is expected to serve as a starting point for future development of life detection tools. Dr. Goordial states that one day not too distant, the definitive evidence that there is life beyond Earth may be provided. According to him, we are facing an exciting time in astrobiology, as several planetary bodies are believed to have habitable conditions .

Reference: J. Goordial, Ianina Altshuler, Katherine Hindson, Kelly Chan-Yam, Evangelos Marcolefas, and Lyle G. Whyte. ‘ In Situ Field Sequencing and Life Detection in Remote (79 ° 26′N) Canadian High Arctic Permafrost Ice Wedge Microbial Communities’ Doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2017.02594

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