Report to MEPAG on The Present-Day Habitability of
Report to MEPAG on The Present-Day Habitability of Mars Workshop David Paige (UCLA) and Charles Cockell (UK Centre for Astrobiology) 2/27/13 NOTE ADDED BY JPL WEBMASTER: This content has not been approved or adopted by, NASA, JPL, or the California Institute of Technology. This document is being made available for information purposes only, and any views and opinions expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of NASA, JPL, or the California Institute of Technology. Present-Day Habitability of Mars The present-day habitability of Mars is relevant to a number of issues relating to Mars Science, Planetary Protection, and Human Exploration. The history of Mars exploration can be characterized by a series of exciting discoveries that have dramatically overturned previously held beliefs about the planet. Until very recently, the dominantly held position within the scientific community was that while geologic and climatic conditions during Mars distant past may have been conducive to the potential origin and evolution of life, conditions on Mars today offer slim hope for life as we know it due to the unlikely existence of near-surface liquid water environments. However, recent results from NASAs Phoenix Lander and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter missions suggest that present-day Mars may in fact contain a range of potential liquid water environments associated with perchlorates in near-surface soil layers and seasonally recurring slope lineae. The purpose of the workshop is to review observations and theories relating to the current habitability of Mars, and to broadly discuss the implications for future Mars science and exploration. Conference Details Conference Sponsors: UCLA Institute for Planets and Exoplanets (IPLEX) UK Center for Astrobiology NASA Astrobiology Institute (NASA ABI) Conference Organizers: David Paige (UCLA), Charles Cockell (UK Centre for Astrobiology) Sessions and Session Chairs: Current Mars Liquid Water Activity: Alfred McEwen (UA) Early MSL Results: Ashwin Vasavada (JPL) Mars Salts and Perchlorates: Selby Cull (Brin Mawr) Redox Potentials for Martian Life: Claire Cousins (UCL) Implications for Mars Planetary Protection Policies: Catharine Conley (NASA) Conference Format: Two-day conference at Royce Hall on the UCLA Campus 30-minute invited talks and 15-minute contributed talks Half-Day field trip to JPL Astrobiology All Access webcast for remote international participation Conference Web Site with videos of all sessions via Adobe Connect: http://planets.ucla.edu/meetings/mars-habitability-2013/ Conference Participation: 100 in-person participants and remote presenters >60 online participants In-Person Participants (Yellow indicates remote presenter) LAST NAME
FIRST NAME NOTES Aldrin Buzz NASA (retired) Amini Sadraddin UCLA - ESS Aye K.Michael UCLA - ESS Beaty David JPL Berezhnoy Alexy Sternberg Astronomical Institute, Moscow State Univ. Bryanskaya Alla Sternberg Astronomical Institute, Moscow State Univ. Budney Charles JPL Caron Ryan UCLA - ESS Catling
David Univ. of Washington Case Elizabeth UCLA Daily Bruin Chen Yixin UCLA - ESS Chevrier Vincent Univ. of Arkansas Clark Robert Widener Univ. Cockell Charles Univ. of Edinburgh Conley Catharine (Cassie) NASA Headquarters Coradini Marcello ESA Cousins Claire Birbeck College, Univ. of London Crow Carolyn
UCLA - ESS Cull Selby Bryn Mawr College LAST NAME FIRST NAME NOTES Isbell Doug JPL Janetzke Ronald Southwest Research Institute Karunatillake Suniti Louisiana State Univ. Kereszturi Akos Research Center for Astronomy and Earth Sciences, Hungary Kim Min Sung UCLA - ESS Kite Edwin Caltech Kleinboehl Armin
JPL Kochemasov Gennady IGEM of the Russian Academy of Sciences Kounaves Samuel Tufts Univ. Kral Timothy Univ. of Arkansas Kumar Maditav UCLA - Economics Larson Brandon Cal. State Fullerton Lawson Michael UCLA - ESS Loyd Sean UCLA - ESS Marlow Jeffrey Wired Magazine Martinez Germn Univ. of Michigan
Matson John Scientific American McBride Karen NASA McKay Chris NASA Ames Research Center LAST NAME FIRST NAME NOTES McEwen Alfred LPL, Univ. of Arizona McKeegan Kevin UCLA - ESS Mering John UCLA - ESS Miller Laurence USGS Moehlmann Diedrich DLR
Monson Nate UCLA - ESS Nicholson Wayne Univ. of Florida Nuding Danielle Univ. of Colorado - Boulder Nuno Raquel UCLA - ESS Ojha Lujendra Georgia Tech Orenstein Nick USC Paige David UCLA - ESS Pappalardo Robert JPL/Caltech Parish Helen UCLA - ESS Petryshyn
Vicky USC Pikelnaya Olga UCLA - AOS Pinto Joo UCLA - ESS Portyankina Ganna UCLA - ESS Pyle Rod Space.com LAST NAME FIRST NAME NOTES Ratliff Taylor Houston UCLA - Astronomy Saraf Kanav UCLA Daily Bruin Schuerger Andrew Univ. of Florida Schulze-Makuch
Dirk Washington State Univ. Scully Jennifer UCLA - ESS Sefton-Nash Elliot UCLA - ESS Soni Chandini UCLA Daily Bruin Spry Andy JPL Stein Alec UCLA - Astronomy Stillman David Southwest Research Institute Stoker Carol NASA Ames Research Center Stubailo Igor UCLA - ESS Toillion Mike
NASA Astrobiology Institute Toner Jonathan Univ. of Washington Tripati Aradhna UCLA - ESS Vasavada Ashwin JPL/Caltech Walker Matt UCLA - ESS Wang Alian Washington Univ. St. Louis Watkins Jessica UCLA - ESS LAST NAME FIRST NAME NOTES Woods-Robinson Rachel UCLA - Astronomy Wray James
Georgia Tech Yin An UCLA - ESS Yu Jiano UCLA - ESS Zent Aaron NASA Ames Research Center Online Participants (Partial List) Berivan Esen Candy Hansen Cindy Elbaz Cynthyia Dinwiddie Ed Rivera-Valentin Gavriil Michas Jean-Pierre Williams Jennifer Hanley JP Kirby Kim Kuhlman Margaret Race Mark Allen Martin Robinson Matt Siegler (JPL) Michaela Shopland Mohit Melwani Rebecca Mickol Rebecca Wolsey Vasilis Dalianis Alkos Keresturi Alexey Berezhoy Anerew Plenet Bob Papalardo Edgard Reviera-Velentin Eldar No-Debora Ewan Monahan Jennifer Hanley Jon Bapst Kim Killman Melissa Lane Aaron Novell Andrew Scheurger Arwen Dave
Asmin Pathare Cathy Weitz Cindy Elaz Ed Goolish Junfreng Gong Kim Kuhlman Lisa Landsberg Mark Allen Mark Sykes Martin Robinson Stephen Wood Tony Reichhart Vasilis Dalianis Session 1: Current Mars Liquid Water Activity Results from Phoenix mission: Thin films of briny water are likely based on several lines of evidence. This water would be too cold today for metabolic activity (reviewed by C. McKay in a later session) Recurring Slope Lineae (RSL): These form only at the warmest times and places on Mars Surface temperatures often exceed 273 K, above freezing point for pure water Most worker favor briny watermuch easier to explain subsurface flow and why the slopes havent completely dried out Many RSL now confirmed in equatorial Valles Marineris Need to reconsider COSPAR special regions for planetary protection Current theories for RSL formation require water, but water has not been directly detected 3 PM orbit of MRO is about the direst time of day Observations in early AM would be best. MRO CRISM does show interesting spectral variability affected by RSL activity Laboratory experiments have great promise for understanding briny water on Mars today Session 3. Salts & Perchlorates Perchlorate likely forms atmospherically; however, the details of the mechanism remain unknown. Computer models of Earth-like formation produce orders of magnitude less perchlorate than is observed. Due to the difference between the deliquescence humidity and the efflorescence humidity, perchlorate brines remain liquid far below the eutectic (down to T=180K, for some). Reanalysis of Phoenix data suggests that most of the Phoenix landing site perchlorate is Ca- or Mg-perchlorate Perchlorate does not seem to kill most microbes, though it can inhibit their growth Session 4: Redox Potentials for Martian Life Importance of uninhabited habitats on Mars. Whilst not common on Earth, isolated or
transient habitable habitats may be common on Mars, where either life never evolved, or where life was too disconnected to be transported. Cockell et al. Plausible microbial metabolisms on Mars are likely driven by subsurface geochemical redox couples. Mars has electron acceptors for S- and Fe-reduction (sulphates, ferric minerals), but lacks donors (organic C, H2). In contrast, electron donors exist for S- and Fe-oxidation (sulphides, ferrous minerals), but electron acceptors (e.g. nitrates) are lacking. Cousins et al. Polar desert environments there are lower limits of metabolic rates within environments that are cold and dry, even where redox couples exist. This can be used to constrain the habitability of similar Martian localities. McKay Actively metabolising photosynthetic cyanobacteria and methanogenic archea survive simulated Martian conditions. de Vera et al. Regions within Terra Sabae and Nili Fossae on Mars could be promising areas for anaerobic oxidation of methane, with serpentinisation being the methane source Marlow & LaRowe Session 5: Implications for Mars Planetary Protection Policies Earth organisms can grow in simulated Mars-like conditions: Under non-drying culture conditions, organisms that can grow in Mars-like pressure (7mbar), temperature (0C), and atmospheric composition are common (Schuerger) Halophiles have broader ranges of metabolic activity than previously understood (Bryanskaya) Diurnal cycling of humidity and temperature provide transient crossover periods during which Earth organisms can grow (prior sessions) Considerations for policy: Low-temperature brines have the potential to facilitate subsurface transport, raising additional issues for forward contamination control Current mission assembly practices provide for effective cleaning of spacecraft to access most regions on Mars (Spry) Periodic reassessment of special regions parameters to take place at a COSPAR workshop in late 2013 Samples undergoing life detection experiments require additional contamination control measures: results from life-detection protocols will inform both policy and science Future Plans and Recommendations Call for papers for special issue of Astrobiology Second Present-Day Habitability Conference in 2014 Briefing to 2020 rover SDT regarding presentday habitability issues and opportunities New MEPAG study team to define strategies for investigating the present-day habitability of Mars and links to human exploration
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