Registered: Jan 2003
Local time: 03:42 PM
New organism raises Mars questions
|A U.S. scientist claims to have thawed out a new life form, which he said raises questions about possible contemporary life on Mars.
The organism froze on Earth some 30,000 years ago, and was apparently alive all that time and started swimming as soon as it thawed, said Richard Hoover from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)'s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.
He discovered the bacterium near the town of Fox, Alaska, in a tunnel drilled through permafrost -- a mix of permanently frozen ice, soil and rock -- that is kept at a constant temperature of 24.8 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 4 degrees Celcius).
When he looked at a small sample of this bacteria-laden ice under a microscope, Hoover said, "These bacteria that had just thawed out of the ice ... were swimming around. The instant the ice melted, they started swimming. They were alive ... but they had been frozen for over 30,000 years."
This discovery, coupled with research released this week by the European Space Agency, makes it more likely that life could be found on Mars, Hoover said.
Hoover found the bacterium in 2000, but it took five years to confirm that it was in fact a new form of life.