Preservation and detection of molecular signs of life under Mars analogue conditions

Thomas, Nick Rhys (2018) Preservation and detection of molecular signs of life under Mars analogue conditions. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The search for life on Mars continues apace, however the significant cost in time and resources involved in each robotic mission, whether orbiter, lander, or even rover, necessitates the use of terrestrial Martian analogue sites. Few regions on Earth are able to accurately simulate the conditions on Mars, yet locations such as the Atacama Desert of northern Chile and McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica offer invaluable opportunities to test experiments and equipment prior to missions, as well as to advance understanding of the survival of life at the limits of habitability. This study presents an exciting new analogue region in the Chilean Altiplano, offering a unique balance of Mars-like conditions not experienced in other terrestrial Mars analogues. Utilising this novel Martian analogue, the present study examines how signs of ancient life may be preserved in the soils and sediments of Mars, investigating the extent of protection afforded by soil coverage against the inhospitable conditions of the surface. In addition, this study presents a new approach to understanding the bacterial community which does survive in such a hostile environment on Earth, illustrating the effect of soil coverage on the survival of bacteria in a Mars-like environment. The rapidly-changing nature of hostile soil conditions with increasing soil depth was found have stark implications for the likelihood of success of upcoming missions such as the ESA 2020 ExoMars Rover, as well as advancing the understanding of life in extreme – and under reported – environments on Earth.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Original supervisor: Dr Vernon Phoenix, however he left the university during the project.
Keywords: Mars analogue, astrobiology, molecular fossils, space, microbial ecology, ESA, NASA, UKSA Chile altiplano extreme environment soil, extremophile.
Subjects: Q Science > QE Geology
Q Science > QR Microbiology
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences > Earth Sciences
Funder's Name: UK Space Agency - Aurora Programme
Supervisor's Name: Toney, Prof. Jaime and Lee, Prof. Martin and Ijaz, Dr. Umer
Date of Award: 2018
Embargo Date: 20 February 2019
Depositing User: Mr NR Thomas
Unique ID: glathesis:2018-30741
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 22 Aug 2018 07:31
Last Modified: 16 Jun 2021 11:32

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