Spectacular hand made models reveal delicate structures behind tough microbes.
It was a scientific breakthrough when a Russian team broke through some 12,365 ft. of ice to tap Lake Vostok, buried under Antarctica for 14 million years last February. The U.S. and Great Britain soon followed with efforts to tap into similar buried lakes in the hopes of finding ancient forms of life. Sadly on Christmas Day, the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) announced the shuttering of their operations due to technical problems.
Antarctica isn't completely covered in ice. The McMurdo Dry Valleys almost never see rain and look like a barren desert. Yet photos of the area show patches of moisture on the ground, and geologists believe the soil is wicking moisture out of the atmosphere — which could be happening on seemingly dry planets, too.
The driest desert on earth — the Atacama Desert of Peru — is considered a great stand in for what the geology of Mars is like. It's no wonder then that scientists are excited to find what they term an "oasis" of micro-organisms living under the surface of the desert. Such a find could mean that similar microbes could theoretically exist under the surface of Mars.
The U.S. Naval Research Lab (NRL) has just won a grant from NASA to pursue creating Mars rovers powered by microbes. Researchers are hoping this would tackle the problem of providing a safer and more reasonably sized fuel cell to handle the long term needs of powering a rover and sending data all the way back to Earth.
Whether there's life on Mars could be one of the defining questions of our generation, since a definitive "yes" would suggest that life is significantly more common on places that aren't Earth, which includes the entire rest of the universe. This is why we're scouting out extremophiles, and the latest almost-alien bacteria hail from a lava tube in Oregon.
Scientists have just figured out the means by which a certain type of microbe can convert urine into hydrazine. Yes, that's right: these tiny bugs chow down on your pee, and then poop out honest to goodness rocket fuel.