A microbe found living in California's Mono Lake just outside Yosemite National Park lives on arsenic, an element toxic to all previously known life forms. But this bacterium can not only survive on arsenic, but thrive on it.
"All life we know of is here so far, and if there's an organism on Earth doing something different, we've cracked open the door to what's possible for life elsewhere in the universe," said NASA research fellow Felisa Wolfe-Simon.
Scientists say all living things contain phosphorus, but a discovery of a being which uses arsenic in place of phosphorus is significant. They say it could result in new missions to Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, which is known for having traces of arsenic.
"We still don't know everything there is to know about what might make a habitable environment on another planet, or a satellite of another planet. We have to increasingly broaden our perspective," said NASA astrobiologist Pam Conrad.
This discovery also means there could be other life forms on Earth that have radically different DNA structure.
NASA says these finding have far-reaching implications when it comes to the discovery of aliens.
For the average person though, it may take a lot more convincing.
"As far as the whole alien thing goes, I think it's a big government conspiracy, like many other things," said La Crescenta resident Lauren Leone. "So I've never been much of a believer in it."
"It's tangible proof, I guess, of something we all have anticipated, that we're not alone in this big, giant universe of ours," said La Canada resident Darren Mattix.
NASA scientists say this discovery will definitely change future missions to Mars. They were previously looking for elements on that planet that would support human life. Now they say they'll have to think a lot more broadly.