Jonathan Shumway; Scott George, Brigham Young University
Until 2011, researchers knew of only two scenarios where life could exist on Mars: underwater aquifers that were remnants of ancient Martian seas and melting ice at the Martian poles. Yet, evidence now strongly suggests additionally the presence of liquid water on Mars through a phenomenon called reucurrent slope lineae (RSL). Through the action of deliquescence of hydroscopic salts such as magnesium perchlorate, water is likely collected from katabatic winds, forming salty brines on the surface of Mars. RSL sites are found predominantly in the Martian equatorial region. Because RSL provide a setting for liquid water to exist, they may serve as a habitable niche on Mars. To assess this scenario, we independently created RSL analogs and impregnated them with Antarctic microbial extremophiles. The design of our RSL analogs is based on a suite of water concentrations and magnesium perchlorate concentrations, allowing us to represent the variety of RSL geochemical compositions that could be possible on Mars. Since RSL analogs are based a Martian Mojave simulant that is both autoclaved and baked at 250 -, we minimized the possibility of bacterial or amino acid contamination. Current and future studies on RSL will be enhanced based on the foundation that our project provides.