Life at Low Pressure: Planetary Protection and the Habitability of Mars (SpaceRef)

Life at Low Pressure: Planetary Protection and the Habitability of Mars

A recent study supported by the NASA Planetary Protection Research Program is lending new insight into hypopiezotolerant microorganisms.

“The term ‘hypopiezotolerant’ means a microbe that is tolerant of low-pressure,” explains Dr. Andrew Schuerger, a researcher at the plant pathology department of the University of Florida and Principal Investigator (PI) on the NASA grant. “Hypo means low and piezo means pressure.”

The term ‘tolerant’ means a microbe that can tolerate low-pressures, but in which a low-pressure environment is not their normal ecological niche. As their name indicates, these organisms are adapted to grow at low atmospheric pressures. This ability could be invaluable for astrobiologists who are trying to determine if and how life as we know it might proliferate on Mars. The term hypopiezotolerant was coined in a previous study by authors Dr. Shuerger and Dr. Petra Schwendner, a postdoctoral researcher in Shuerger’s lab.

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