Penelope does most of her work in caves & deserts, high altitudes or extreme environments. She also researches the use of robotics to assist exploration, human life support issues in space, and extraterrestrial environments. She spoke recently at a NASA symposium for Innovative Advanced Concepts where she discussed her background and present time spent in caves and other extreme places identifying earth’s own aliens.
For instance the Cave Crystals of the Naica Mine of Chihuhua, Mexico. One finds conditions that are so extreme there that a human is not allowed to enter the environment without wearing vests made of ice. Apparently it is so hot & humid that a human body is unable to cool itself. BUT the giant gypsum crystals that are inside the cave were an incredible find. They tell of long term storage in geological materials.
More oddities here on Earth? Life in the form of microbes located in the Cave of the Lighted House in Tabasco, Mexico whose survival is beyond what many had thought possible. In an area that is rich in hydrogen sulfide (poisonous to humans) some of these unusual organisms can be found in Snottites hanging from the caves walls and ceilings. These unique bacteria obtain their energy from chemosynthesis of volcanic sulfur compounds and then produce a waste of sulfuric acid.
These aliens on earth are part of Penelope Boston’s daily life, and these aliens on earth provide her many of the clues as to where to search on Mars. And so caves and lava tubes, canyon overhangs and sink holes (yes, Mars has sink holes) all must be explored before any decisions on the existence of life can be made. Inhabitants are considered a possibility by Penelope and other scientists of some underground abode. More specifically, inside Mt. Sharp – Curiosities next stop on the itinerary.
Curiosity’s next journey is to a place around10 kilometers away. He plans to start the trip around May but in the meantime has additional work to do in his immediate area and also the planetary alignment or Solar Eclipse has made communications to the rover somewhat difficult.
If Curiosity finds evidence from where it is able to go, perhaps sending robotic rovers that can climb down into the caves and break through the rock is the next step.