A trip to the Red Planet can face many hindrances for humans, like cosmic radiation, different gravity levels, lack of enough oxygen, and more. But it’s good to know that there are some organisms living on Earth that are capable of enduring the harsh cosmic conditions of a trip to Mars. As scientists are struggling to find a suitable way of arriving to our neighboring planet, it shouldn’t be too difficult for the Deinococcus bacteria if humans will consider it useful to send it there.
The professor of molecular biology Akihiko Yamagashi from the Tokyo University of Pharmacy and Life Sciences had the hunch that a specific organism can survive in cosmic space and even for a journey towards another planet.
Found by scientific balloons and an aircraft
The Deinococcus bacteria was found about two years ago by an aircraft and scientific balloons. Scientists were stunned to conclude that the tiny organism is resistant against ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which triggered hope that the bacteria can be used in useful ways. Therefore, running an experiment practically became mandatory.
Scientists had been collecting data for several years, and they found that DNA damage of the bacteria was sustained when the thickness of the organism was surpassing 0.5 milimeters. A protective layer was also found dwelling beneath the surface of the aggregate, which had the mission of making the colony survive.
One of the statements within the study says:
“Collectively, these results support the possibility of pellets as an ark for interplanetary transfer of microbes within several years,”
Recent estimations reveal that bacteria pellets that are thicker than 0.5 millimeters can survive between 15 and 45 years while present on the low-Earth Orbit. Scientists also predicted that colonies of the Deinococcus bacteria that measure more than 1 millimeter in diameter can survive for eight years in outer space. This is more than enough time for a one-way ticket to Mars!
Professor Yamagashi provided the following statement:
“The results suggest that radioresistant Deinococcus could survive during the travel from Earth to Mars and vice versa, which is several months or years in the shortest orbit,”
The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology here: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmicb.2020.02050/full