No life has been discovered outside of Earth (yet?), but do we know if anything that would be considered "living" on Earth could conquer Mars? (or maybe Venus?)

With the Mars One project on the way, I was wondering if it was possible to transplant some of Earth's life to Mars, and if something could survive there (naturally).

Many kinds of life are based on air and sun. Animals have to breathe oxygen, plants need the sun, and both need water. But there are many other kinds of life on Earth, like:

  • Very deep seawater life that lives under high pressure and without sunlight,
  • extremophile organisms that live in very hot water,
  • weird "arsenic life" which was debunked as being fully arsenic-based, but turned out to be something different...

Have there been any theories or studies about unusual forms of life on Earth that might survive on Mars?

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    $\begingroup$ I'll add as a side note that even if there were Earth life that could survive on Mars, we probably wouldn't want to send them to Mars yet because it might complicate our research to find if Mars currently has its own form of life. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Dec 5, 2013 at 16:03
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    $\begingroup$ I think this would probably depend on exactly WHERE on Mars you want to deposit the lifeforms. Mars's lack of a strong magnetosphere allows a lot of radiation to get through, so even if they could handle the atmosphere and the temperature, they might die from that. But I'd imagine that some deep-soil or ice-based bacteria could survive on Mars, where they'd be shielded from the radiation and the atmosphere difference would be moot. That being said, I don't have any specific data for you, (hence my adding this as a comment instead of an answer). $\endgroup$
    – Nerrolken
    Dec 6, 2013 at 2:17
  • $\begingroup$ Surface or subsurface? Pressure builds rapidly as you pile on dirt and rock. Temperature moderates, then increases. I don't think we know the pH or temperature of martian brine deposits more than a couple inches down. Likely there is some some energy souce suitable for growies; perhaps chlorate, rather than oxygen as the final electron acceptor: google.com/… $\endgroup$ Nov 26, 2016 at 15:56
  • $\begingroup$ Living Earth organisms have survived on the Moon, so why not on Mars ? space.com/11536-moon-microbe-mystery-solved-apollo-12.html That's why there are planetary protection programs. $\endgroup$
    – usernumber
    Jan 7, 2021 at 13:45

3 Answers 3


The most likely candidate would be the Tardigrade. These little guys handle vacuum and radiation just fine. So long as water is provided, according to tests done in LEO the Tardigrade would survive on Mars. Even if they do dehydrate, they spring back to life once water is provided again.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for this very interesting answer. I'll wait for other answers, hoping to get a longer list, maybe studies etc. If I don't get any, I'll accept your answer. $\endgroup$
    – Thibault
    Dec 9, 2013 at 14:25
  • $\begingroup$ No problem! I'm also hoping to see some other interesting answers. $\endgroup$
    – dotancohen
    Dec 9, 2013 at 14:27
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    $\begingroup$ Tardigrades can't really be a candidate for a first colonist in my view, because tardigrade food (like plants or bacteria) would have to be established there first. $\endgroup$ Dec 6, 2015 at 19:01
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    $\begingroup$ @RemcoGerlich: You are right! That is an interesting usage of the word "conquering" and you might want to ask the OP for clarification. By all measures, I do believe that I've already conquered Mars and I don't see anybody sending flags to challenge my assertion! $\endgroup$
    – dotancohen
    Dec 6, 2015 at 20:40
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    $\begingroup$ I'd also like to point out that, as per the wikipedia article, tardigrades aren't extremophiles. They don't thrive and reproduce in extreme environments, they merely endure them. If you implant a number of Tardigrades on Mars' surface and come back a year later, all you'll see is the same number of sleeping tardigrades. $\endgroup$
    – Ingolifs
    Mar 8, 2019 at 0:53

I've read lichens have been shown to survive in a Mars-like atmosphere, tested by NASA.

This other article says they can survive vacuum and radiation



There are a number of factors on Mars that are different than Earth that make it more hostile to life as we know it (least problematic first):

  • Lower gravity - roughly 1/3 of Earth's gravity
  • Less sun - Mars is further from the sun than Earth, so it receives less sun light.
  • Global dust storms - These can block out the sun for long periods of time.
  • CO2 atmosphere mostly lacking oxygen - this might actually be beneficial to plants.
  • Cold - Temperatures are usually below freezing, but can reach mild temperatures in the summer near the equator mid day.
  • Less water and frozen - though there is still frozen water.
  • Radiation - Mars is not protected by a strong magnetic field or thick atmosphere like Earth is. Much of the cosmic and solar radiation reaches the surface.
  • Thin atmosphere - roughly 1/100th of Earth's pressure - This is not enough for liquid water to exist long on the surface - it will freeze or boil.

All that being said, underground might serve as a better spot for life. I would imagine many of Earth's deep sea oceanic organisms could survive in the liquid water under the ice caps. It is possible microbes could exist underground. It is conceivable, and I am curious if any type of earth plant might even survive on the surface. Perhaps we could bioengineer such a plant? CO2 would be in its favor, but the water freezing due to the thin atmosphere is likely the worst problem.


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