A-1 - Encouraged by What You Read?

Stranded on Mars and assumed dead, astronaut Mark Watney tells himself, “I’ve got to make water and grow food on a planet where nothing grows.” While The Martian is a work of fiction, it accurately depicts how difficult it is for life to survive on the red planet. But, many real-world astrobiologists are convinced that life—or remnants of it—will eventually be discovered on Mars.

Exposing Antarctic Fungi to Mars’ Conditions

In their search for life on Mars, a team of 10 astrobiologists subjected dehydrated cryptoendolithic fungi to simulated Martian conditions aboard the International Space Station.1 The two species of fungi collected (Cryomyces antarcticus and Cryomyces minteri) thrive on rock surfaces in Antarctica. By exposing the fungi to Martian conditions, the scientists aim to determine if some of Earth’s hardiest species can survive on present-day Mars.

After 18 months under the simulated Martian environment, less than 10 percent of the Antarctic fungal samples proliferated and formed colonies. However, more than 60 percent of the cells and rock communities remained intact. The fungal communities did suffer significant DNA damage during the exposure to Martian conditions; nevertheless, the team was impressed at how much DNA stability was retained inside the fungal cells.

What Do the Results Mean?

The team’s research demonstrates the hardiness of some of Earth’s extremophiles (organisms able to survive under extreme environmental conditions, thanks to complex biochemical repair machinery embedded in the cells). The research also shows that the Antarctic fungi might survive a meteorite-assisted trip to Mars and live, at least for a short duration, on the surface of Mars.

If a large enough meteorite were to strike Antarctica, the impact could conceivably eject fungi-embedded Antarctic rocks into interplanetary space where they could be deposited on the Martian surface. Once on the Martian surface, a tiny percentage of the fungi embedded in the rocks could possibly survive in a viable state for a short period of time.

Will We Ever Find Terrestrial Life on Mars?

But is life present on Mars now? Given that, over life’s history on Earth, about 200 kilograms of Earth’s soil and rocks have been deposited (by meteoritic transfer) onto every 100 square kilometers of the Martian surface,2 it is inevitable that the remains of terrestrial life will one day be discovered on Mars. The research results achieved by the 10 astrobiologists demonstrates that a small but not totally remote possibility exists that terrestrial life may actually be alive on Mars.

Christians need not be scared should life be found on Mars. As the psalmist declares, God has created life to fill every corner and crevice of our planet: “How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.”3 Isaiah 45:18 concurs, “He who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited.” It is because Earth is so full of God’s creatures that Mars might not be totally empty.

Subjects: Life on Other Planets

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About The Author

Dr. Hugh Ross

Reasons to Believe emerged from my passion to research, develop, and proclaim the most powerful new reasons to believe in Christ as Creator, Lord, and Savior and to use those new reasons to reach people for Christ. I also am eager to equip Christians to engage, rather than withdraw from or attack, educated non-Christians. One of the approaches I’ve developed, with the help of my RTB colleagues, is a biblical creation model that is testable, falsifiable, and predictive. I enjoy constructively integrating all 66 books of the Bible with all the science disciplines as a way to discover and apply deeper truths. 1 Peter 3:15–16 sets my ministry goal, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience." Hugh Ross launched his career at age seven when he went to the library to find out why stars are hot. Physics and astronomy captured his curiosity and never let go. At age seventeen he became the youngest person ever to serve as director of observations for Vancouver's Royal Astronomical Society. With the help of a provincial scholarship and a National Research Council (NRC) of Canada fellowship, he completed his undergraduate degree in physics (University of British Columbia) and graduate degrees in astronomy (University of Toronto). The NRC also sent him to the United States for postdoctoral studies. At Caltech he researched quasi-stellar objects, or "quasars," some of the most distant and ancient objects in the universe. Not all of Hugh's discoveries involved astrophysics. Prompted by curiosity, he studied the world’s religions and "holy books" and found only one book that proved scientifically and historically accurate: the Bible. Hugh started at religious "ground zero" and through scientific and historical reality-testing became convinced that the Bible is truly the Word of God! When he went on to describe for others his journey to faith in Jesus Christ, he was surprised to discover how many people believed or disbelieved without checking the evidence. Hugh's unshakable confidence that God's revelations in Scripture and nature do not, will not, and cannot contradict became his unique message. Wholeheartedly encouraged by family and friends, communicating that message as broadly and clearly as possible became his mission. Thus, in 1986, he founded science-faith think tank Reasons to Believe (RTB). He and his colleagues at RTB keep tabs on the frontiers of research to share with scientists and nonscientists alike the thrilling news of what's being discovered and how it connects with biblical theology. In this realm, he has written many books, including: The Fingerprint of God, The Creator and the Cosmos, Beyond the Cosmos, A Matter of Days, Creation as Science, Why the Universe Is the Way It Is, and More Than a Theory. Between writing books and articles, recording podcasts, and taking interviews, Hugh travels the world challenging students and faculty, churches and professional groups, to consider what they believe and why. He presents a persuasive case for Christianity without applying pressure. Because he treats people's questions and comments with respect, he is in great demand as a speaker and as a talk-radio and television guest. Having grown up amid the splendor of Canada's mountains, wildlife, and waterways, Hugh loves the outdoors. Hiking, trail running, and photography are among his favorite recreational pursuits - in addition to stargazing. Hugh lives in Southern California with his wife, Kathy, and two sons.

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