On Tuesday, the German Aerospace Center announced a breakthrough discovery—that samples of bacteria, algae, lichens, fungi, and other organisms survived on the outside of the International Space Station for over 500 days. With neither oxygen nor gravity and extreme temperatures, a variety of single-celled organisms still managed to stay alive.
The discovery was part of a project known as the Biology and Mars Experiment, which investigates the possibility of organisms to survive in harsh conditions similar to those on the surface of Mars.
“Some of the organisms and biomolecules showed tremendous resistance to radiation in outer space and actually returned to Earth as ‘survivors’ from space,” said astrobiologist Jean-Pierre Paul de Vera in a statement. “They have survived in space conditions and are also detectable with our instruments. Such single-celled organisms could be candidates for life forms that might be found on Mars.
“Of course, this does not mean that life actually exists on Mars,” continued de Vera. “But the search for life is more than ever the strongest driving force for the next generation of missions to Mars.”