Prof Lewis Dart­nell

Astro­bi­ol­o­gist and se­nior editor of the jour­nal Astro­bi­ol­ogy

Focus-Science and Technology - - DISCOVERIES -

“This dis­cov­ery of a lake of liq­uid water un­der­neath the south po­lar ice cap on Mars is very exciting for astro­bi­ol­ogy and the search for life be­yond Earth. Liq­uid water is one of the ma­jor pre­req­ui­sites for life, and sim­i­lar en­vi­ron­ments on Earth, such as Lake Vos­tok, sealed deep be­neath the Antarc­tic ice sheet, pro­vide ana­logues for what sort of mi­cro­bial life we might hope to find here on Mars.

“But this sub­sur­face lake­wa­ter on Mars would be an ex­tremely chal­leng­ing en­vi­ron­ment for life to sur­vive in. The water, al­though liq­uid, is still pun­ish­ingly frigid at around -70°C, and is prob­a­bly also very salty to keep it liq­uid at such low tem­per­a­tures. The lake is also 1.5km be­neath hard-frozen ice, and so would be dif­fi­cult to reach with ro­botic probes. But this is cer­tainly a exciting po­ten­tial habitat for ex­trater­res­trial life that we’d love to try to ex­plore.”

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