Reading The chances are good I think there's a good chance we'll find living creatures on Mars, "says Melanie Mormile of the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Missouri-Rolla. "Although microorganisms are far less exciting to most people than big-eyed aliens, I think we still have some exciting discoveries to come." Mormile optimism stems from the discovery of a bacterium that survived for 250 million years in the salt of Neumexikos. Now she hopes that the answer to the question of life on Mars lies in the widespread sulfates and chlorides there.

Nor is that bacterium a single find. It is also not excluded that the microorganism arrived much later in the salt sample. Especially since the kind of today's little or no different. The researchers must therefore feverishly search for further evidence. Never before have you encountered such an old life, even though bacteria are found in the most extreme locations. Whether in the boiling water of hot springs or in the eternal ice of the Arctic, even in radioactive waste, it lives well - at a microscopically low level anyway. Even in the belly of a 25 million year old bee - preserved in a piece of amber - they have already survived.

At least NASA believes in Melanie Mormile and finances much of her work. On October 26, 2000, the Space Agency announced that it would send six robots to the Red Planet over the next ten years. The primary goal of the missions should be the search for extraterrestrial life.

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