Earth. Is there any life here? Nobody knows for sure, although Carl Sagan used the Galileo spacecraft to make an educated guess of “yes” back in 1993. Finding life on planets is a tricky business, as evidenced by the fact that we’ve so far completely struck out everywhere except our own backyard. It’s going to take some practice to figure out where and how to look, which is why a robot named Zoë is heading back to the Atacama Desert in Chile.
The Atacama Desert is a brutal place. It’s mostly waterless, and so high up in elevation that the air is thin and solar radiation is significantly higher than normal. Not much lives there: about the only things that can survive are microorganisms, and even they have to hide beneath the surface. This is about as close as we can get to an analog to a planet like Mars, and it’s Zoë’s job to test out instruments and techniques that could lead to the discovery of life on the red planet. [See More]
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