Extremophiles are organisms that thrive in all kinds of extreme environments. They are found throughout New Mexico—on the surfaces of desert rocks, cave walls, lava tubes, and mineshafts. In these environments, scientists have discovered thousands of species of microorganisms whose genes have remained virtually unchanged over billions of years. Going back so far in time, these organisms may harbor important clues to how life originated.
This same research into extremophiles is being tapped to help our space program decide what to look for while searching for life on other planets.