Researchers have conducted experiments to better understand the photochemistry of bacterial DNA under simulated martian surface conditions. The team compared bacterial DNA that was unprotected and DNA that was protected within Bacillus subtilis spores. DNA is being studied as a biomarker for life-detection missions on Mars, and the differences in photochemistry between unprotected and spore DNA could have implications in planning future missions.

The paper, “The Photochemistry of Unprotected DNA and DNA inside Bacillus subtilis Spores Exposed to Simulated Martian Surface Conditions of Atmospheric Composition, Temperature, Pressure, and Solar Radiation,” was published in the journal Astrobiology. The work was supported in part by the Planetary Protection Office. The NASA Astrobiology Program provides support for Planetary Protection in regard to proposals relevant to astrobiology research.