BEACON TRANSCRIPT – According to a new report, coming in directly from the International Space Station, the astronauts were successful in cultivating plants in Mars-like condition. There is a new hope of growing life on Mars thanks to nasty-looking fungus found in the most desolate places on Earth.
Rosa de la Torre Noetzel is an astrobiologist working for Spain’s National Institute of Aerospace Technology. Recently, the scientists published a paper about a species of fungus which was capable of withstanding the life in outer space.
In her long study, the Spanish scientist noted that approximately 18 months ago, the Space Shuttle Atlantis brought on board the space stations several samples harvested from two different species of fungi: the Cryomyces minteri and the Cryomyces antarcticus.
These species of fungi belong to a larger family of fungi called the cryptoendolithic fungi. What makes these plants so special? According to the scientific literature, this family of fungi only grows in one place on Earth, more specifically the McMurdo Dry Valleys, which are located in the Antarctica Victoria Land. Moreover, it seems that these seemingly fragile plants can withstand quite a beating.
In fact, the cryptoendolithic fungi are the only species of plants that can withstand low temperatures and are usually found inside rocks, lodged in nooks and crannies.
In order to test out if these types of plants can withstand the harsh Martian conditions, NASA decided to bring some samples on board for further testing.
According to De Torres, there is a new hope of growing life on Mars. Her statement was based on the result supplied by the ISS experiment. For a period of 18 months, the fungi were exposed to various stressors in order to test their resilience. According to the same astrobiologists, approximately 60 percent of the cells belonging to the fungi remained intact when the experiment was over.
How was the experiment performed? The fungi were locked into cells and then placed on a platform. This platform containing the fungi samples was placed outside the command module by one of the astronauts aboard the ISS.
For a total period of 18 months, the cryptoendolithic fungi were exposed to Mars-like conditions, such as an atmosphere consisting of 95 percent carbon dioxide, 2.7 percent nitrogen and 0.15 percent oxygen. Moreover, the astronauts applied a pressure of 1000 pascals.
To top it all up, the scientists even exposed the plants to UV radiation, galactic radiation and to temperatures between -21.5 degrees Celsius and 59.6 degrees Celsius.
After the experiment was over, the scientists discovered that the fungal cells were not only safe and sound, but the plant also doubled its metabolism. Other samples of fungi were brought for the experiment, but it seems that only the two sample brought from McMurdo survived the encounter with the Martian conditions.