NASA recently found crystalized lifeforms dated at 60,000 years old! Reviving these organisms has revived our hopes of finding life in "extreme environments" on other, distant planets.
Penelope Boston, NASA's director of Astrobiology Institute, and her team explored Mexico's Naica Mine in Chihuahua. They searched through caves "as large as cathedrals" hoping to find extremophiles to take back to the lab. Boston claimed, the first time she saw a photograph of the mine's gypsum crystals, she thought someone had Photoshopped them to look so big.
No, this is not a hoax!
Even more astounding than the crystals themselves, Boston discovered "tiny bugs" in geolatency, a state where lifeforms "remain viable in geological materials" for an extended period of time.
"Much to my surprise we got things to grow," said Dr Boston. "It was laborious. We lost some of them -- that's just the game. They've got needs we can't fulfill. That part of it was really like zoo keeping."
Boston's team found close to 100 different types of bugs trapped in the crystals, 90% of which had never been categorized before. Some, they discovered, had even evolved to "feed on the sulphides, iron, manganese or copper oxide in the cave."
"They're really showing us what our kind of life can do in terms of manipulating materials," said Dr. Boston. "These guys are living in an environment where there's not organic food as we understand it. They're an example at very high temperatures of organisms making their living essentially by munching down inorganic minerals and compounds. This is maybe the deep history of our life here."
When asked what it was like to work in such an environment, Boston said it "was a very hard environment ... but tear-inducingly beautiful" with some of the crystals so big they couldn't even get a hug! Other caves were thought to contain even more organisms, but accessing them would have been too dangerous.
NASA says it plans to bring back ice samples from Europa, an icy moon of Jupiter. They claim this moon is "one of the best targets in the solar system" to sustain life because there is a "salty ocean" beneath its surface crust. It would also be a simple matter for the new bugs to survive space travel as long as they don't come into contact with ultraviolet radiation.
Now we have the "Sun Song" stuck in our heads.