(organisms able to survive in extreme environments) are a core research element for astrobiologists. Such organisms include biota
which are able to survive several kilometers below the ocean's surface near hydrothermal vents (example pictured)
that thrive in highly acidic environments. It is now known that extremophiles thrive in ice, boiling water, acid, the water core of nuclear reactors, salt crystals, toxic waste and in a range of other extreme habitats that were previously thought to be inhospitable for life. It opened up a new avenue in astrobiology by massively expanding the number of possible extraterrestrial habitats. Characterization of these organisms—their environments and their evolutionary pathways—is considered a crucial component to understanding how life might evolve elsewhere in the universe. According to astrophysicist Dr. Steinn Sigurdsson, "There are viable bacterial spores that have been found that are 40 million years old on Earth - and we know they're very hardened to radiation."
Frank Donald Drake PhD
is an American astronomer
. He is most notable as one of the pioneers in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, including the founding of SETI
, mounting the first observational attempts at detecting extraterrestrial communications in 1960 in Project Ozma
, developing the Drake equation
, and as the creator of the Arecibo Message,
a digital encoding of an astronomical and biological description of the Earth and its lifeforms for transmission into the cosmos.