Simulating martian environments for microbial growth experiments

Ramkissoon, Nisha K.; Macey, Michael C.; Schwenzer, Susanne P.; Pearson, Victoria K. and Olsson-Francis, Karen (2018). Simulating martian environments for microbial growth experiments. In: 12th International Congress of Extremophiles, 16-20 Sep 2018, Ischia, Naples.

URL: https://www.extremophiles2018.org/index.php

Abstract

Today the martian surface is unable to sustain liquid water. However, there is evidence on the surface of Mars which suggests that water may have once been present. If this is the case, habitable environments may have once existed on Mars, which merits further investigations. Therefore, we will be conducting a series of simulation experiments to mimic lacustrine environments that may have once been present on Mars.

Biotic and abiotic experiments will be conducted to identify geochemical changes that may occur due to the presence of microbial activity. An enriched microbial community capable of growth in a simulated martian chemical environment, developed from using sediment from the Pyefleet mudflats in the Colne estuary (Essex, UK), will be used to inoculate the experiments. To mimic the chemical martian environment four new regolith simulants have been developed and thermochemical modelling has been utilised to derive fluid compositions for each simulant. These will be added to a bench top reaction vessel, which will be used to simulate the physical conditions found in these lacustrine environments.

Results from these experiments will allow us to identify geochemical changes that may occur as a result of microbial life, which could be used as indicators for life by future exploration rovers. We will present the details of the enriched community and initial results from these simulation experiments.

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