Life on Mars IS possible…

Atacama Desert is the closest place on Earth to Mars

SCIENTISTS claim there could be life on Mars after bacteria was found to be living in Earth’s driest desert.

The Chilean Atacama desert – which has not seen any significant rainfall from 1570 to 1971 – is the most similar place to Mars on Earth.

Studies conducted by NASA have concluded the desert, located in northern Chile, is the driest in the world with average rainfall recorded at about 1mm per year.

And temperatures in the near-barren lands can reach around 40 degrees Celsius – although mountains tops are still covered in snow.

Now scientists claim the wasteland’s vast similarities to Mars has proved life on the distant plant is possible.

Atacama
The Atacama desert has not seen any significant rainfall from 1570 to 1971

And they claim that despite the lack of water and the strong ultraviolet radiation, it would be possible to find life forms able to adapt and work in the extreme conditions.

But if there is life on Mars it is probably inside caves and underground, according to the Chilean astrobiologist Armando Azua, from the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science in Seattle.

He said: “Atacama is the driest and oldest desert on Earth, 150 million years old.

“Along this desert, you can see the past of life on Mars.”

The astrobiologist says he has found several forms of life that have adapted to desert conditions – including a spider which “had adapted to living on the web, taking advantage of the drops of water that accumulated on its wires in the morning”.

While in the central valleys, researchers found 70 species of microorganisms and further inland, the team made another shocking discovery.

Mr Azua said: “One metre deep, underground, we found bacteria.”

Life on Mars
The desert is close the the rocky landscape of Mars
The Chilean Atacama desert
The desert is the driest in the world with average rainfall at about 1mm per year

Studying life forms in the Atacama Desert, he added, was “like seeing living mummies walking, able to tolerate and continue living well with almost no water”.

His team are now working with NASA to help send a small greenhouse filled with seeds to the moon and Mars, to see how they grow in space.

The mission would help determine which planets could be inhabited by future human colonies if earth’s population continues to rise.

Published on express.co.uk