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“I am very sure that there is life up there, somewhere in our solar system,” says Christine Moissl-Eichinger, a microbiologist at the Medical University of Graz in Austria. But like any scientist, Moissl-Eichinger knows full well that substantial proof is needed for such a substantial claim. So she and others are working to find that proof—both here on Earth and on Mars.

On the Red Planet, NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance is searching for fossils and traces of alien biochemistry in Jezero Crater, an ancient lake bed thought to have once offered habitable conditions for microbial life. Back home, microbiologists are investigating oxygen-poor environments that may mimic the habitat of early Mars. This two-pronged approach of grounding scientists’ extraterrestrial extrapolations with studies of Earthly analogues could help clarify the bedrock limits for life on rocky planets, greatly aiding the development and execution of future extraterrestrial missions.

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