NASA Scientists Bring To Life 10,000-Year-Old Strange Life FormsBy Chris Brandt, UniversityHerald Reporter
NASA scientists have found and revived new strange life forms not in outer space but deep in the caves of Mexico. They said that the new discovery might contain clues that evolutionary history of microbes on Earth.
The microbes were found deep in the crystal cave mines of Naica in Mexico. Scientists said that the strange life forms they extracted from the giant crystals found in the cave are believed to be around 10,000 to 50,000 years old.
Dr. Penolope Boston, the new director of NASA's Astrobiology Institute, said that the microorganisms are very different from those that are known in the genetic database.
The walls of the cave are filled with different types of microbes. However, the ones they found isolated inside the crystals are very surprising. There are suggestions that these microbes might just be the result of contamination brought by the miners and the tools they use. However, the scientists say that the organisms that exist inside the cave are full-fledged microbial communities with viral load.
Dr. Boston and her team used sterile tools to extract the microorganisms from the gypsum crystals and revive them in the laboratory. She added that some scientists had claimed that they were able to reanimate some bugs found in the same mine but their claims were contentious. After conducting their own exploration and experiment, Boston said she accepted them.
But how is the discovery of these microbes relevant to NASA's space exploration program?
Dr. Boston said that it has a lot of astrobiological link - by being able to find a life form that can exist even in the harshest places and condition on Earth, it must also be possible for these organisms to exist in different planetary settings.
The crystal mines had temperatures as hot as 40 to 60 degrees Celsius. Aside from being hot, the environment is also very acidic and dark. In order for these organisms to survive, they have to produce energy by processing rock minerals.