Dry Valleys, Antarctica
Taylor Valley, facing Suess Glacier.
The Dry Valleys are a small, ice-free region at the edge of the Antarctic continent that is among the coldest, driest places on Earth. Since it most closely resembles the surface of Mars, it has become the scene of intense activity by scientists testing life-science equipment bound for the martian surface. The mats of hardy cynaobacteria found inhabiting what, at first, appear to be the completely sterile Dry Valleys offer hope that a similar resilient ecosystem might exist on the Red Planet. They are also helping researchers to design instruments with perhaps the best chance of success in the search for nearby extraterrestrial life.
1. Horowitz, N. H., et al. "Microbiology of the Dry Valleys of Antarctica," Science, 176, 242 (1972).