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The Mojave Desert: A Martian Analog Site for Future Astrobiology Themed MissionsAstrobiological interest in Mars is highlighted by evidence that Mars was once warm enough to have liquid water present on its surface long enough to create geologic formations that could only exist in the presense of extended fluvial periods. These periods existed at the same time life on Earth arose. If life began on Mars as well during this period, it is reasonable to assume it may have adapted to the subsurface as environments at the surface changed into the inhospitable state we find today. If the next series of Mars missions (Mars Science Laboratory, the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter proposed for launch in 2016, and potential near surface sample return) fail to discover either extinct or extant life on Mars, a subsurface mission would be necessary to attempt to "close the book" on the existence of martian life. Mars is much colder and drier than Earth, with a very low pressure CO2 environment and no obvious habitats. Terrestrial regions with limited precipitation, and hence reduced active biota, are some of the best martian low to mid latitude analogs to be found on Earth, be they the Antarctic dry valleys, the Atacama or Mojave Deserts. The Mojave Desert/Death Valley region is considered a Mars analog site by the Terrestrial Analogs Panel of the NSF-sponsored decadal survey; a field guide was even developed and a workshop was held on its applicability as a Mars analog. This region has received a great deal of attention due to its accessibility and the variety of landforms and processes observed relevant to martian studies.
Document ID
20150005824
Document Type
Conference Paper
External Source(s)
Authors
Salas, E. (Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Abbey, W. (Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Bhartia, R. (Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Beegle, L. W. (Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Date Acquired
April 17, 2015
Publication Date
March 7, 2011
Subject Category
Lunar and Planetary Science and Exploration
Exobiology
Meeting Information
Lunar and Planetary Science Conference(The Woodlands, TX)
Distribution Limits
Public
Copyright
Other
Keywords
Mars analog sites
astrobiology