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  • 1.
    Beaty, D.W
    et al.
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology.
    Fernández-Remolar, David
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering, Space Technology.
    Zorzano Mier, María-Paz
    Centro de Astrobiologia.
    The potential science and engineering value of samples delivered to Earth by Mars sample return2019In: Meteoritics and Planetary Science, ISSN 1086-9379, E-ISSN 1945-5100, Vol. 54, no 3, p. 667-671Article in journal (Refereed)
  • 2.
    Beaty, D.W
    et al.
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology.
    Fernández-Remolar, David
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering, Space Technology.
    Zorzano Mier, María-Paz
    Centro de Astrobiologia.
    The potential science and engineering value of samples delivered to Earth by Mars sample return: International MSR Objectives and Samples Team (iMOST)2019In: Meteoritics and Planetary Science, ISSN 1086-9379, E-ISSN 1945-5100, Vol. 54, no S1, p. 3-152Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Executive Summary: Return of samples from the surface of Mars has been a goal of the international Mars science community for many years. Affirmation by NASA and ESA of the importance of Mars exploration led the agencies to establish the international MSR Objectives and Samples Team (iMOST). The purpose of the team is to re-evaluate and update the sample-related science and engineering objectives of a Mars Sample Return (MSR) campaign. The iMOST team has also undertaken to define the measurements and the types of samples that can best address the objectives. Seven objectives have been defined for MSR, traceable through two decades of previously published international priorities. The first two objectives are further divided into sub-objectives. Within the main part of the report, the importance to science and/or engineering of each objective is described, critical measurements that would address the objectives are specified, and the kinds of samples that would be most likely to carry key information are identified. These seven objectives provide a framework for demonstrating how the first set of returned Martian samples would impact future Martian science and exploration. They also have implications for how analogous investigations might be conducted for samples returned by future missions from other solar system bodies, especially those that may harbor biologically relevant or sensitive material, such as Ocean Worlds (Europa, Enceladus, Titan) and others. Summary of Objectives and Sub-Objectives for MSR Identified by iMOST: Objective 1 Interpret the primary geologic processes and history that formed the Martian geologic record, with an emphasis on the role of water. Intent To investigate the geologic environment(s) represented at the Mars 2020 landing site, provide definitive geologic context for collected samples, and detail any characteristics that might relate to past biologic processesThis objective is divided into five sub-objectives that would apply at different landing sites. 1.1 Characterize the essential stratigraphic, sedimentologic, and facies variations of a sequence of Martian sedimentary rocks. Intent To understand the preserved Martian sedimentary record. Samples A suite of sedimentary rocks that span the range of variation. Importance Basic inputs into the history of water, climate change, and the possibility of life 1.2 Understand an ancient Martian hydrothermal system through study of its mineralization products and morphological expression. Intent To evaluate at least one potentially life-bearing “habitable” environment Samples A suite of rocks formed and/or altered by hydrothermal fluids. Importance Identification of a potentially habitable geochemical environment with high preservation potential. 1.3 Understand the rocks and minerals representative of a deep subsurface groundwater environment. Intent To evaluate definitively the role of water in the subsurface. Samples Suites of rocks/veins representing water/rock interaction in the subsurface. Importance May constitute the longest-lived habitable environments and a key to the hydrologic cycle. 1.4 Understand water/rock/atmosphere interactions at the Martian surface and how they have changed with time. Intent To constrain time-variable factors necessary to preserve records of microbial life. Samples Regolith, paleosols, and evaporites. Importance Subaerial near-surface processes could support and preserve microbial life. 1.5 Determine the petrogenesis of Martian igneous rocks in time and space. Intent To provide definitive characterization of igneous rocks on Mars. Samples Diverse suites of ancient igneous rocks. Importance Thermochemical record of the planet and nature of the interior. Objective 2 Assess and interpret the potential biological history of Mars, including assaying returned samples for the evidence of life. Intent To investigate the nature and extent of Martian habitability, the conditions and processes that supported or challenged life, how different environments might have influenced the preservation of biosignatures and created nonbiological “mimics,” and to look for biosignatures of past or present life.This objective has three sub-objectives: 2.1 Assess and characterize carbon, including possible organic and pre-biotic chemistry. Samples All samples collected as part of Objective 1. Importance Any biologic molecular scaffolding on Mars would likely be carbon-based. 2.2 Assay for the presence of biosignatures of past life at sites that hosted habitable environments and could have preserved any biosignatures. Samples All samples collected as part of Objective 1. Importance Provides the means of discovering ancient life. 2.3 Assess the possibility that any life forms detected are alive, or were recently alive. Samples All samples collected as part of Objective 1. Importance Planetary protection, and arguably the most important scientific discovery possible. Objective 3 Quantitatively determine the evolutionary timeline of Mars. Intent To provide a radioisotope-based time scale for major events, including magmatic, tectonic, fluvial, and impact events, and the formation of major sedimentary deposits and geomorphological features. Samples Ancient igneous rocks that bound critical stratigraphic intervals or correlate with crater-dated surfaces. Importance Quantification of Martian geologic history. Objective 4 Constrain the inventory of Martian volatiles as a function of geologic time and determine the ways in which these volatiles have interacted with Mars as a geologic system. Intent To recognize and quantify the major roles that volatiles (in the atmosphere and in the hydrosphere) play in Martian geologic and possibly biologic evolution. Samples Current atmospheric gas, ancient atmospheric gas trapped in older rocks, and minerals that equilibrated with the ancient atmosphere. Importance Key to understanding climate and environmental evolution. Objective 5 Reconstruct the processes that have affected the origin and modification of the interior, including the crust, mantle, core and the evolution of the Martian dynamo. Intent To quantify processes that have shaped the planet's crust and underlying structure, including planetary differentiation, core segregation and state of the magnetic dynamo, and cratering. Samples Igneous, potentially magnetized rocks (both igneous and sedimentary) and impact-generated samples. Importance Elucidate fundamental processes for comparative planetology. Objective 6 Understand and quantify the potential Martian environmental hazards to future human exploration and the terrestrial biosphere. Intent To define and mitigate an array of health risks related to the Martian environment associated with the potential future human exploration of Mars. Samples Fine-grained dust and regolith samples. Importance Key input to planetary protection planning and astronaut health. Objective 7 Evaluate the type and distribution of in-situ resources to support potential future Mars exploration. Intent To quantify the potential for obtaining Martian resources, including use of Martian materials as a source of water for human consumption, fuel production, building fabrication, and agriculture. Samples Regolith. Importance Production of simulants that will facilitate long-term human presence on Mars. Summary of iMOST Findings: Several specific findings were identified during the iMOST study. While they are not explicit recommendations, we suggest that they should serve as guidelines for future decision making regarding planning of potential future MSR missions. The samples to be collected by the Mars 2020 (M-2020) rover will be of sufficient size and quality to address and solve a wide variety of scientific questions. Samples, by definition, are a statistical representation of a larger entity. Our ability to interpret the source geologic units and processes by studying sample sub sets is highly dependent on the quality of the sample context. In the case of the M-2020 samples, the context is expected to be excellent, and at multiple scales. (A) Regional and planetary context will be established by the on-going work of the multi-agency fleet of Mars orbiters. (B) Local context will be established at field area- to outcrop- to hand sample- to hand lens scale using the instruments carried by M-2020. A significant fraction of the value of the MSR sample collection would come from its organization into sample suites, which are small groupings of samples designed to represent key aspects of geologic or geochemical variation. If the Mars 2020 rover acquires a scientifically well-chosen set of samples, with sufficient geological diversity, and if those samples were returned to Earth, then major progress can be expected on all seven of the objectives proposed in this study, regardless of the final choice of landing site. The specifics of which parts of Objective 1 could be achieved would be different at each of the final three candidate landing sites, but some combination of critically important progress could be made at any of them. An aspect of the search for evidence of life is that we do not know in advance how evidence for Martian life would be preserved in the geologic record. In order for the returned samples to be most useful for both understanding geologic processes (Objective 1) and the search for life (Objective 2), the sample collection should contain BOTH typical and unusual samples from the rock units explored. This consideration should be incorporated into sample selection and the design of the suites. The retrieval missions of a MSR campaign should (1) minimize stray magnetic fields to which the samples would be exposed and carry a magnetic witness plate to record exposure, (2) collect and return atmospheric gas sample(s), and (3) collect additional dust and/or regolith sample mass if possible.

  • 3.
    Fernández-Remolar, David
    et al.
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering, Space Technology.
    Banerjee, Neil
    Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX), Department of Earth Sciences, University of Western Ontario.
    Gómez-Ortiz, David
    ESCET-Área de Geología, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos.
    Izawa, Matthew
    Institute for Planetary Materials, Okayama University, Misasa.
    Amils, Ricardo
    Planetology and Habitability Department, Center of Astrobiology (INTA-CSIC) .
    A mineralogical archive of the biogeochemical sulfur cycle preserved in the subsurface of the Río Tinto system2018In: American Mineralogist, ISSN 0003-004X, E-ISSN 1945-3027, Vol. 103, no 3, p. 394-411Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    The search for extinct and extant life on Mars is based on the study of biosignatures that could be preserved under Mars-like, extreme conditions that are replicated in different terrestrial analog environments. The mineral record in the subsurface of the Río Tinto system is one example of a Mars analog site that has been exposed to weathering conditions, including the biogeochemical activity of Fe and S chemolithotrophic bacteria, for millions of years. The SEM-EDAX analysis of different samples recovered in the Peña de Hierro area from four boreholes, ranging from 166 to 610 m in depth, has provided the identification of microbial structures that have affected a suite of hydrothermal minerals (~345 Ma) as well as minerals likely produced by biological activity in more recent times (<7 Ma). The hydrothermal minerals correspond to reduced sulfur or sulfate-bearing compounds (e.g., pyrite and barite) that are covered by bacilli- or filamentous-like microbial structures and/or secondary ferrous carbonates (e.g., siderite) with laminar to spherical structures. The secondary iron carbonates can be in direct contact or above an empty interphase with the primary hydrothermal minerals following a wavy to bent contact. Such an empty interphase is usually filled with nanoscale, straight filamentous structures that have a carbonaceous composition. The occurrence of a sulfur and iron chemolithotrophic community in the Río Tinto basement strongly suggests that the association between sulfur-bearing minerals, dissolution scars and secondary minerals of biological origin is a complex process involving the microbial attack on mineral surfaces by sulfur reducing bacteria followed by the precipitation of iron-rich carbonates. In this scenario, iron sulfide compounds such as pyrite would act as electron donors under microbial oxidation, while sulfate minerals such as barite would act as electron acceptors through sulfate reduction. Furthermore, the formation of siderite would have resulted from carbonate biomineralization of iron chemoheterotrophic organims or other microorganisms that concentrate carbonate through metabolic pathways. Although the distribution of the mineral biosignatures at depth clearly follows a redox gradient, they show some irregular allocation underground, suggesting that the geochemical conditions governing the microbial activity are affected by local changes associated with the fracturing pattern of the Río Tinto basement. The abundance of sulfur- and iron-bearing minerals in the Mars crust suggests that the Río Tinto mineral biosignatures can be useful in the search for extant and extinct subsurface life on the red planet

  • 4.
    Fernández-Remolar, David C.
    et al.
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering, Space Technology.
    Harir, Mourad
    Research Unit Analytical Biogeochemistry, Department of Environmental Sciences, Helmholtz Zentrum München, Neuherberg, Germany.
    Carrizo, Daniel
    Centro de Astrobiología (INTA-CSIC), Torrejón de Ardoz, Madrid, Spain.
    Schmitt-Kopplin, Philippe
    Research Unit Analytical Biogeochemistry, Department of Environmental Sciences, Helmholtz Zentrum München, Neuherberg, Germany.
    Amils, Ricardo
    Centro de Astrobiología (INTA-CSIC), Torrejón de Ardoz, Madrid, Spain. Centro de Biología Molecular Severo Ochoa, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Madrid, Spain.
    Productivity contribution of Paleozoic woodlands to the formation of shale hosted massive sulfide deposits in the Iberian Pyrite Belt (Tharsis, Spain)2018In: Journal of Geophysical Research - Biogeosciences, ISSN 2169-8953, E-ISSN 2169-8961, Vol. 123, no 3, p. 1017-1040Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    The geological materials produced during catastrophic and destructive events are an essential source of paleobiological knowledge. The paleobiological information recorded by such events can be rich in information on the size, diversity, and structure of paleocommunities. In this regard, the geobiological study of late Devonian organic matter sampled in Tharsis (Iberian Pyrite Belt) provided some new insights into a Paleozoic woodland community,which was recorded as massive sulfides and black shale deposits affected by a catastrophic event. Sample analysis using TOF-SIMS (Time of Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometer), and complemented by GC/MS (Gas Chromatrograph/Mass Spectrometer) identified organic compounds showing a very distinct distribution in the rock. While phytochemical compounds occur homogeneously in the sample matrix that is composed of black shale, the microbial-derived organics are more abundant in the sulfide nodules. The co-occurrence of sulfur bacteria compounds and the overwhelming presence of phytochemicals provide support for the hypothesis that the formation of the massive sulfides resulted from a high rate of vegetal debris production and its oxidation through sulfate reduction under suboxic to anoxic conditions. A continuous supply of iron from hydrothermal activity coupled with microbial activity was strictly necessary to produce this massive orebody. A rough estimate of the woodland biomass was made possible by accounting for the microbial sulfur production activity recorded in the metallic sulfide. As a result, the biomass size of the late Devonian woodland community was comparable to modern woodlands like the Amazon or Congo rainforests.

  • 5.
    Molina, Antonio
    et al.
    Centro de Astrobiología (INTA-CSIC), 28850 Torrejón de Ardoz, Madrid. Spain.
    López, Iván
    Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, 28933 Móstoles, Madrid. Spain.
    Prieto-Ballesteros, Olga
    Centro de Astrobiología (INTA-CSIC), 28850 Torrejón de Ardoz, Madrid. Spain.
    Fernández-Remolar, David
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering, Space Technology. British Geological Survey, Nicker Hill, Keyworth NG12 5GG. United Kingdom.
    Ángel de Pablo, Miguel
    Universidad de Alcalá, 28871 Alcalá de Henares, Madrid. Spain.
    Gómez, Felipe
    Centro de Astrobiología (INTA-CSIC), 28850 Torrejón de Ardoz, Madrid.
    Coogoon Valles, western Arabia Terra: Hydrological evolution of a complex Martian channel system2017In: Icarus (New York, N.Y. 1962), ISSN 0019-1035, E-ISSN 1090-2643, Vol. 293, p. 27-44Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Coogoon Valles is an intricate fluvial system, and its main channel was formed during the Noachian period through the erosion of the clay-bearing basement of the Western Arabia Terra. This region is characterized by a thinner crust compared to the rest of the highlands and by the occurrence of massive phyllosilicate-bearing materials. The origin of this region is still under discussion. Its surface has been exposed to a large-scale volcanism, and several episodes of extensive denudation were primarily controlled by fluvial activity. In this regard, the study of the oldest channels in Arabia Terra is crucial for understanding the global geological evolution of early Mars. The reactivation of the hydrological system by sapping followed by aeolian erosion had reshaped the channel, as well as exposed ancient materials and landforms. The examination of the bed deposits suggests an old episode of detrital sedimentation covering the Noachian basement followed by an erosive event that formed the current Coogoon Valles configuration. A complex system of deltas and alluvial fans is situated at the termination of this channel, which has been proposed as a landing site for the upcoming ExoMars and Mars 2020 missions.

  • 6.
    Sánchez-García, Laura
    et al.
    Centro de Astrobiología (CSIC-INTA), Madrid.
    Aeppli, Christoph
    Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, Maine.
    Parro, Victor
    Centro de Astrobiología (CSIC-INTA), Madrid.
    Fernández-Remolar, David
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering, Space Technology.
    García-Villadangos, Miriam
    Centro de Astrobiología (CSIC-INTA), Madrid.
    Chong-Diaz, Guillermo
    Department of Geological Sciences, Universidad Católica del Norte, Antofagasta.
    Blanco, Yolanda
    Centro de Astrobiología (CSIC-INTA), Madrid.
    Carrizo, Daniel
    Centro de Astrobiología (CSIC-INTA), Madrid.
    Molecular biomarkers in the subsurface of the Salar Grande (Atacama, Chile) evaporitic deposits2018In: Biogeochemistry, ISSN 0168-2563, E-ISSN 1573-515X, Vol. 140, no 1, p. 31-52Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    The Late Miocene–Pliocene aged hyperarid evaporitic system of Salar Grande is a unique, halite-rich sedimentary basin in the Cordillera de la Costa of the Central Andes (Chile) whose bio-sedimentary record is poorly understood. The persistence of hyperacidity over millions of years, the hypersalinity, and the intense UV radiation make it a terrestrial analogue to assess the potential presence of organic matter in the halite deposits found on Mars. We investigated the occurrence and distribution of biomolecules along a 100-m depth drill down to the ~ 9 Ma old detrital deposits topped by La Soledad Formation (ESF). We have identified two well-defined mineralogical and geochemical units by X-ray diffractometry (XRD) and ion chromatography: a nearly pure halite down to 40 m, and a detrital one down to 100 m depth. One-dimensional GC–MS and two-dimensional GC × GC-TOF–MS gas chromatography–mass spectrometry techniques allowed us to detect a variety of lipidic compounds (n-alkanes, n-alkanols, isoprenoids, steroids, and hopanoids), and a relative abundance of functionalized hydrocarbons (n-fatty acids or n-aldehydes), mostly in the upper halite. We also detected biopolymers and microbial markers by fluorescence sandwich-microarray immunoassays. A dominant prokaryotic origin was associated with halophile bacteria and archaea, with minor contributions of lichens, macrophytes, or higher plants. The lipidic record was also imprinted by oxic (high pristane over phytane ratios) and saline (squalane, and mono-methyl n-alkanes) signatures. The vertical abundance and distribution of biomarkers in the Salar Grande was explained by a generalized effect of xeropreservation, combined with salt encapsulation in the upper halite deposits, or with protective organics-mineral interactions in the deeper detrital unit. The results contribute to the interpretation of terrestrial bio-sedimentary records of halite deposits and their association to environmental conditions. The high potential for preservation of biosignatures at Salar Grande suggests that similar evaporitic deposits in Mars should be priority targets for searching for signs of life.

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