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Preservation of Reduced Carbon on Mars: Implications for Understanding HabitabilityUpcoming Mars missions (e.g., Mars Science Laboratory, ExoMars, Astrobiology Field Laboratory, and Mars Sample Return) will search for evidence of extant and fossil microbial habitats and the potential for future habitation. Understanding the distribution and composition of reduced carbon (or organic carbon) is critical for unraveling the Martian carbon cycle, potential for life, and possible biosignature record. Reduced carbon may be produced from biological, geochemical, or interstellar processes; however, evidence for reduced carbon on Mars is lacking with the exception of parts per billion of atmospheric methane. In contrast, abundant atmospheric carbon dioxide may reflect surface oxidation of reduced carbon and accumulation over geological timescales. This suggests that there is an undetected or lost pool of reduced carbon - a pool that may host molecular biosignatures, a characteristic of extant or extinct habitability. In this presentation, we will evaluate factors influencing the preservation potential for organic molecules in rocks on Earth and Martian. We,draw examples from organic molecules in sulfates, basalts, and ancient shales from Mars-analog settings to show how the distribution of organics and their structural patterns will aid Mars habitability studies.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Conrad, Pamela (Jet Propulsion Lab. United States)
Fogel, Marilyn (Carnegie Institution of Washington United States)
Steele, Andrew (Carnegie Institution of Washington United States)
Summons, Roger E. (Massachusetts Inst. of Tech. United States)
Date Acquired
August 24, 2013
Publication Date
April 14, 2007
Subject Category
Lunar and Planetary Science and Exploration
Meeting Information
Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon)(California)
Distribution Limits