Survey for Life-related Species During a Planetary Surface Exploration; System Type I - UV Stimulated Fluorescent SensorThe widely accepted minimum requirements for life on Earth include the presence of water and accessible sources of carbon. We assume that the same criteria must hold for putative life on past or present Mars. The evidence for CO2 and H2O at or near the Martian surface, carbon in Martian meteorites, aqueous alteration, and probable hydrothermal activity suggest that conditions conducive to the origin and evolution of life on Mars may have existed for long periods of time and may still obtain at present. Surface exploration on Mars that enables the direct detection of water in minerals and of organic carbon (including not just organic and biogenic materials but their degradation products such as kerogen-like hydrocarbons and graphitized carbon) that might be products or residues of biologic activity, is crucial. The search for evidence of life, past or present, will nevertheless be difficult. The lack of direct evidence for organic carbon and the low amounts of water found in the soils at the Viking sites demonstrated the difficulties. Recent results of GRS experiment of Odyssey mission indicated the existence of abundant water ice beneath the Mars surface. Mineralogical evidence for the presence of carbonate, sulfates, or clay minerals, products of weathering and aqueous deposition, have not been identified unambiguously on Mars. Rocks such as shales and, more particularly, limestones, which we associate with moist and benign environments on Earth, are evidently not abundant. Presumably, then, neither were the photosynthetic organisms that might have produced them. In addition, the harsh present environment on Mars (e.g., dryness, low temperatures, large temperature cycles, high level of UV light on the surface, frequent dust storms, etc.) can both destroy carbon- and water-bearing materials and hide them. Therefore, directly detecting life-related materials on Mars was likened to seeking and examining proverbial needles in haystacks. We argue that survey type instruments, that can frequently and quickly check a relatively large amount of material at many locations during a mission, are essential.
Wang, Alian (Washington Univ. Saint Louis, MO, United States)
Haskin, L. A. (Washington Univ. Saint Louis, MO, United States)
Gillis, J. J. (Washington Univ. Saint Louis, MO, United States)