2014 Annual Science Report
NASA Ames Research Center Reporting | SEP 2013 – DEC 2014
Mineralogical Traces of Early Habitable Environments
The goal of our work is to understand how habitability (potential to support life) varies across a range of physical and chemical parameters, in order to support a long-term goal of characterizing habitability of environments on Mars. The project consists of two main components: 1. We are examining the interplay between physicochemical environment and associated microbial communities in a subsurface environment dominated by serpentinization (a reaction involving water and crustal rocks, which indicated by surface mineralogy to have occurred on ancient Mars). 2. We are working to understand how mineral assemblages can serve as a lasting record of prior environmental conditions, and therefore as indicators of prior habitability. This component directly supports the interpretation of mineralogy data obtained by the CheMin instrument on the Mars Science Laboratory.
Work in this project year focused principally on the serpentinite borehole observatories at McLaughlin Natural Reserve, which were established in project year 3. We completed sequencing and analysis of metagenomes from cored material and recovered well fluids, X-ray diffraction analysis of cored materials, and 18 months of seasonal monitoring. Additionally, we installed and recovered a first round of down-hole microbial colonization experiments, and conducted an initial suite of enrichment culturing experiments. Results were published in Frontiers in Microbiology and Scientific Drilling, and presented at the Tenth International Symposium on Subsurface Microbiology and the American Geophysical Union Fall meeting.
PROJECT MEMBERS:David Blake
RELATED OBJECTIVES:Objective 2.1
Biochemical adaptation to extreme environments