We all know that for surviving in life, water is required. There is life persists in the driest surroundings on Earth. Then, how dry is too dry? At what point is surrounding is extreme for microorganisms or the smallest resilient life forms to survive? These questions are essential for the scientists to search for life beyond earth, which includes on the planet Mars. To know the answer, a research team of NASA’s Center Ames Research in California traveled to the Atacama Desert in Chile. This is the driest place on earth and a 1,000KM strip of land on the coast of South America. 

The Atacama Desert is the closest place to the Martian surface. It is uniformly dry. While traveling from the less dry Southern desert in central Chile to the dry center in Northern Chile, only a few millimeters rain shifts in a year.  The sterile environment offers an option to find for life by minimizing perception levels. The researchers’ team was able to determine the dry limitation of habitability exists by pinning down the number of water needs in the environment. 

Scientists can say how long cells have been dead by studying a kind of molecule that is known as amino acids. These are the blocks of protein buildings. The amino acid structures take two forms – 1. Each mirror reflections to another. 2- it is like a pair of hands. The life on Earth is built with left-handed amino acid molecules. When a cell dies, some amino acids change at a specific rate into the right-handed structure. It can balance 50-50 ratio over many years.

Mary Beth Wilhelm, an astrobiologist at Ames and lead author of the new study published in the journal Astrobiology this month said that they find evidence everywhere on Earth about microbial life. In extreme environments its essential to know whether a microbe is dormant or alive. 

Biologists analyze something as alive if its capable of reproduction and growth. If microbes are surviving a few general functions, they will die within only one generation without providing any genetic information. When searching for life on Mars, scientists require seeing this reproduction should take place that leads to genetic change and population growth from one generation to another.

Wilhelm said that they go to Mars, then they can use the Atacama like a natural laboratory and based on this result, they can adjust their expectations, what they might find when they get there.