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These Webpages are no longer maintained. We are keeping the pages here to preserve some of the early years of ProjectDragonfly, to honor the students who created the interactives in the early days of the Web, and because many of the activities are fun and people are still using them. For current Project Dragonfly work, go to:www.ProjectDragonfly.org

Thanks!

The ProjectDragonflyteam.

Where to Look

Where would you first look for life on Mars? We think extreme places here on Earth may provide some hints. You would be surprised at the life people have discovered in places that are amazingly dark, hot, cold, without air, or poisonous. It is tempting to think that, if life can find a foothold in these places, life could have existed on Mars. One possible place to investigate is a thermal spring--a place where water heated deep underground bubbles up to the surface.  On Earth, the hot waters of thermal springs are home to unusual creatures so tiny you need a microscope to see them.

Bears and Bacteria
Two of the most famous areas on Earth for thermal springs are Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas.
 

Hot Spring at Yellowstone National Park
We first visited Yellowstone as children, on camping trips with our families. We loved the geysers, waterfalls, and especially the bears. Years later we brought our own children to the parks. As scientists who study volcanoes, glaciers, and deserts, our interests in the parks had grown to include the microscopic creatures living in the thermal springs. Imagine life able to live in water that is boiling hot. After getting special permits, we carefully collected samples of water and rock and took them back to our lab. Now we search through powerful microscopes to find the tiny creatures living in the water and preserved in the rock. Some of these tiny creatures are as different from humans as any life found on Earth. We look at them in wonder.
 
Diatoms are particular kinds of one-celled creatures called algae. Diatoms make complicated, hard cell walls. They can be found throughout the world in many different environments.


These are very long, thread-like creatures which burrow into rock and live on the mineral sulfur. They have no name.

We see simple, rod-shaped organisms only 1 micrometer long (one thousandth of a millimeter). Thin threads grow from each end.


We also see tiny spheres or balls, a fraction of a micrometer across.

If life on our planet spans this incredible range of size and shape, what might we find on Mars or on some other planet? We older scientists are just learning to ask such a question. You younger ones may discover the answer.

 

Red Rover, Red Rover
Photo courtsey of NASA.
In the summer of 1997, the Pathfinder mission to Mars carried the first wandering robot; its name was Sojourner. SojournerÔs job was simply to investigate rocks and soils and to prove that a rover can gather data millions of miles from Earth. During the next 10 years, more rovers will be launched to other places on Mars--places where the rocks might hold clues to past or even present life. The rovers will collect some of these rocks, and other spacecraft will rocket them back to Earth.
 About 10 years from now, scientists will bring these martian rocks into their laboratories to begin the exciting search for signs of martian life. Who knows what they will find?!
 
 

Carl and Jaclyn Allen each grew up wanting to explore the Earth and space. They met on a camping trip and have studied volcanoes, glaciers, and deserts across the world. They are now sharing in the search for life on the edge at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

 
 
Life on the Edge
Search for Life
Moon Lab
Space Links

 
 

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