[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: An important goal of exobiological research is to determine if life arose on planets other than Earth. The only other planet known, to date, on which life may have arisen is Mars. The data suggest that the physical environment of early Mars (i.e., temperature, pressure, and radiation regimes) was suitable for life to arise. Thus far, the data also suggest that early Mars possessed sufficient quantities of the required building blocks and a number of the chemical compounds necessary for life to arise. It is not known, however, if water existed in the appropriate state (i.e., liquid) in sufficient quantities long enough for life to arise. Determining the mineralogy and components of the Martian soil through in situ analyses during missions to Mars will provide information from which an assessment can be made for the probability of the origin of life on Mars. Missions to Mars in the near future will be unmanned and capable of in situ analyses. Our studies have shown that differential thermal analysis coupled with gas chromatography (DTA/GC) is a more appropriate analytical technique than, x-ray fluorescence, x-ray diffraction, alpha-proton backscatter, gamma-ray spectrometry, differential scanning calorimetry coupled with mass spectrometry (DSC/MS), or DSC/GC to identify the mineralogy of the Martian surface material in situ. DTA/GC is an advancement over the pyrolytic techniques flown on previous missions that have supplied only limited mineralogical information (Biemann et al. 1977).
No preview · Article · Jul 1994 · Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Crystalline salt is generally considered so hostile to most forms of life that it has been used for centuries as a preservative. Here, we present evidence that prokaryotes inhabiting a natural evaporite crust of halite and gypsum are metabolically active while inside the evaporite for at least 10 months. In situ measurements demonstrated that some of these “endoevaporitic” microorganisms (probably the cyanobacterium Synechococcus Nägeli) fixed carbon and nitrogen. Denitrifecation was not observed. Our results quantified the slow microbial activity that can occur in salt crystals. Implications of this study include the possibility that microorganisms found in ancient evaporite deposits may have been part of an evaporite community.
No preview · Article · May 1994 · Journal of Phycology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Potential Martian soil components relevant to exobiology include water, organic matter, evaporites, clays, and oxides. These materials are also resources for human expeditions to Mars. When found in particular combinations, some of these materials constitute diagnostic paleobiomarker suites, allowing insight to be gained into the probability of life originating on Mars. Critically important to exobiology is the method of data analysis and data interpretation. To that end we are investigating methods of analysis of potential biomarker and paleobiomarker compounds and resource materials in soils and rocks pertinent to Martian geology. Differential thermal analysis coupled with gas chromatography is shown to be a highly useful analytical technique for detecting this wide and complex variety of materials.
No preview · Article · Feb 1992 · Advances in Space Research