Searching for an Acidic Aquifer in the Rio Tinto Basin: First Geobiology Results of MARTE ProjectAmong the conceivable modern habitats to be explored for searching life on Mars are those potentially developed underground. Subsurface habitats are currently environments that, under certain physicochemical circumstances, have high thermal and hydrochemical stability [1, 2]. In planets like Mars lacking an atmospheric shield, such systems are obviously protected against radiation, which strongly alters the structure of biological macromolecules. Low porosity but fractured aquifers currently emplaced inside ancient volcano/sedimentary and hydrothermal systems act as excellent habitats  due to its thermal and geochemical properties. In these aquifers the temperature is controlled by a thermal balance between conduction and advection processes, which are driven by the rock composition, geological structure, water turnover of aquifers and heat generation from geothermal processes or chemical reactions . Moreover, microbial communities based on chemolithotrophy can obtain energy by the oxidation of metallic ores that are currently associated to these environments. Such a community core may sustain a trophic web composed of non-autotrophic forms like heterotrophic bacteria, fungi and protozoa.
Fernandez-Remolar, D. C. (Instituto Nacional de Tecnica Aeroespacial Torrejon de Ardoz, Spain)
Prieto-Ballesteros, O. (Instituto Nacional de Tecnica Aeroespacial Torrejon de Ardoz, Spain)
Stoker, C. (NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA, United States)
August 21, 2013
January 1, 2004
Publication: Lunar and Planetary Science XXXV: Astrobiology: Analogs and Applications to the Search for Life