Solar system

NASA and Riotinto in Huelva

NASA and Riotinto in Huelva

You don't have to go to outer space to find ways of life that might exist in other worlds. We have them here.

In the province of Huelva (Andalusia, Spain) NASA participates in the MARS project, whose acronym, in English, means Astrobiological Technology and Research Experiment for Mars. This curious project began in 2003.

Its ultimate goal is to develop some kind of mechanism that allows detecting the presence of life in the basement of Mars. As? Apparently very simple. Thanks to various space projects, it has been possible to determine quite precisely the chemical conditions on the surface of the mentioned planet, both on the surface and in the subsoil. And it has been seen that on Earth, full of life, there are two environments with very similar conditions to the Martians: the dorsal areas, with active volcanism (in the Atlantic Ocean, for example) and the vicinity of the Tinto river, in Huelva

Both places are characterized by being extremely acidic media, with abundant sulfur, very little oxygen and enough heavy minerals that, in many cases, would be lethal to human life. Therefore, the organisms capable of living and adapting to these extremely harsh environmental conditions are called extremophilic organisms.

In the mountains of Huelva, Portugal and Seville there were conditions very similar to those found in the areas of the marine dorsals during the Paleozoic period, which created the highest concentration of sulphides worldwide. This ancient mountain range is called Pyrite Belt and it has been exploited in the form of mines during all the cultural stages through which the Iberian Peninsula has passed. There are currently Canadian, English and Spanish companies extracting both sulfides (for fertilizers and explosives) such as mercury, gold, silver, lead and copper.

As well; The MARTE project has focused on areas of the Pyrite Belt where the subsoil has not yet been altered. There he has found a series of microorganisms so accustomed to living in those harsh conditions that have based their metabolism on sulfur, instead of carbon and oxygen as we do and 98% of terrestrial life forms. In the following image you can see the characteristic yellow color of this chemical element, inside the bacteria found.

Once the researchers knew what to look for, they found similar organisms in oceanic volcanic areas. So it can be said that the project has been a success, because such living beings would live without problems in Martian conditions.

Now, the next step will be to develop a series of instruments and experiments capable of detecting life forms similar to these, but on the planet Mars. So these microorganisms are, most likely, those closest to the appearance of the Martians and not those green or gray little men with big eyes that have fed so many fantasies.

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