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Fraser
2003-Aug-01, 05:50 PM
SUMMARY: NASA scientists have discovered a new form of extreme-loving bacteria in California's inhospitable Mono Lake. Life has been known to live in the lake for quite a while, including tiny shrimp and other bacteria, but a new bacteria (Spirochaeta Americana) was found living deep in the lake's salty alkaline mud; where no oxygen could reach. The discovery is timely because Mono Lake shares some characteristics with Gustav Crater on Mars - the target for NASA's Spirit rover which will land in January.


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philip slater
2003-Aug-06, 05:42 PM
This story really is a wake up call for all of us with a commitment to space exploration who may not have been keeping up to speed sufficiently with developments in exobiology - and how similar it might be to some of our extremophile early relatives still managing to survive on a planet not currently best suited for their needs. The new species of bacteria, Spirochaeta Americana, was discovered:
deep in the lake's salty alkaline mud where no oxygen could reach...

"These extremely thin and graceful bacteria move with an elegant motion," marvels microbiologist Elena Pikuta of the NSSTC, who cultured the samples. "Their cell walls are very delicate, and it is difficult to keep them alive for long periods in the laboratory."

Somewhere I have read a graphic account of the first really huge ecological disaster on Earth caused when some organisms mastered the technology of photosynthesis and started releasing the highly reactive and deadly-to-some gas oxygen into the atmosphere as a waste product.

When exactly did that happen? What stage might independently evolved life possibly have reached on Mars before conditions became what we see today? Could any viable life forms conceivably be hanging on through a difficult patch, just like Spirochaeta Americana is managing to do on what for it is an inhospitable Earth?

It might be a good idea to get a few of these sort of questions asked and answered before Beagle 2, Spirit and Opportunity start sending us back their thoughts on the matter. Let’s wish them safe journeys and happy landings and hope that we are ready in time to try to understand whatever they have to tell us.

Philip