Paul Gilster follows up on a story I first saw at MSNBC describing how microbial life can make the iciest and most inhospitable places home. Project SLIce (Signatures of Life in Ice) studies how organic material might behave on other worlds by studying here it on Earth - and it's yielded some useful information.
An early SLIce result, described at the Goldschmidt2009 geochemistry meeting in Davos last week: The best place to look for microorganisms in ice is in the layers close to the surface. That’s good to know, because a planetary rover is going to be able to sample such environments much more readily than those several meters beneath. Also helpful is the team’s discovery that cleaning the rover’s sample scoop is harder than it looks, leaving dead micro-organisms on it even after it had apparently been sterilized. New procedures have resolved the problem, ensuring we don’t inadvertently ‘discover’ Earth organisms that have found their way along for the ride.