Looking for life on Mars—at the bottom of a gold mine

Deep within the South African gold mines that line the Vaal River basin, a global staff of scientists, together with Belgian biologist Gaetan Borgonie, are on the lookout for what they name excessive existence—existence the place no person believed it would exist.

The gold mines are the private man-made holes on earth, and so they permit the scientists get admission to to Earth’s hidden subterranean international. To unravel the Moab Khotsong mine, the scientists pile directly to an elevator known as the cage, jammed in along side the gold miners heading to paintings. The cage drops slowly to start with, then quicker and quicker, descending 450 tales underground. For comparability, the sector’s tallest development, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, has most effective 163 flooring.

Guided most effective by way of the sunshine in their helmet lamps, the scientists stroll miles by way of an unlimited maze of tunnels, earlier than taking a chairlift even deeper into the Earth. Right here, virtually two miles underground, they to find rock that used to be shaped 3 billion years in the past. Borgonie and his staff acquire samples of water trapped within the historic rocks, untouched by way of people.

In 2011, they made a break-through discovery: By no means-before-seen worms have been discovered dwelling in a pocket of water 5,000 years outdated. The worms have been dwelling with out daylight in insufferable warmth. Till that time, no person idea animals may exist that deep within the planet’s crust.

It wasn’t simply worms. 4 years later, Borgonie and his colleagues discovered extra animal existence in different South African gold mines: an arthropod, a flatworm, and a tiny crustacean, most effective about one sixty-fourth of an inch. Those are a number of the private dwelling creatures ever came upon.

The discoveries have essential implications for the place else excessive existence may exist—now not simply the deep subsurface of Earth, however in other places within the sun device. That comes with Mars, a planet that has harsh prerequisites very similar to the ground of the gold mines.

“As it way if they may be able to do it right here, why would they now not be capable to do it there?” Borgonie instructed 60 Mins correspondent Invoice Whitaker within the video above.

Borgonie stated Mars most probably does not have multicellular organisms, however fairly, easy existence bureaucracy, like micro organism. He additionally thinks the organisms are perhaps to are living deep underground. Since the surroundings on Mars has been blown away by way of sun wind, there is not any longer any water above floor. With out an ozone layer, the solar’s rays would wreck the rest natural. However there may be nonetheless water underground on Mars, just like the water trapped deep within the rocks on the Moab Khotsong mine.

Borgonie thinks the danger of discovering those easy existence bureaucracy is far upper than many scientists admit—and NASA has been following their paintings intently.

“Lifestyles at all times reveals some way,” Borgonie stated. “Make no mistake.”

To look at Invoice Whitaker’s 60 Mins file at the South African gold mine, click on right here.

The video above used to be edited by way of Will Croxton. 

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