As part of NASA’s Spaceward Bound Program I went to the Mojave Desert, with a side trip to Death Valley. We stayed at the California State University’s Desert Studies Center in Zzyzx, California. We studied how microbes survive in harsh environments like deserts. One way they do that is by living under translucent rocks and even salt crusts.
It was in Zzyzx that I first thought of the artificial hypoliths project. It lead to my going to Namibia and the United Arab Emirates with some of the same scientists, notably NASA’s Chris McKay, an astrobiologist, who started the Spaceward Bound movement. He is interested in this subject because NASA is going to have to prospect Mars for hidden microbes.