Biosignature identification in habitable Martian environments

Delta like fan in Jezero crater, Perseverance Landing.
Credit
NASA/JPL/JHUAPL/MSSS/BROWN UNIVERSITY and ESA/Airbus/OU
Start Date
End Date

Organisers: Dr. Nisha Ramkissoon (Open University), Dr Peter Fawdon (Open University), Prof. Mark Burchell (University of Kent), Dr. Louisa Preston (NHM)

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In the early 2020’s the next generation of Mars rover missions will be driven by the search for evidence of life - NASA’s Perseverance rover caching samples at the sediment fan in Jezero crater,  and ESA’s Rosalind Franklin rover investigating samples from the near subsurface in Oxia Planum (now to be launched in 2022). These rovers will be equipped with a range of analytical instruments for geochemical and organic analysis to help achieve this goal through the identification of biosignatures. Therefore, is it important to have and understanding of the types of biosignatures that might exist, their preservation, subsequent alteration from surface processes and possible detection by current and future Mars missions.

Over the past decade we have gained better insight into the early aqueous environments of Mars, which has seen a shift from environments dominated by extremes of pH and volcanic activity to circumneutral environments that formed clays and possessed sedimentary cycles. This has informed extensive work on biosignatures formed in analogue environments and laboratory experiments, which explore the effects microbes can have on the geochemical environment and the specific morphological changes that can occur within biotic systems.

The aim of this meeting is to combine this extensive work on biosignature identification with the specific environmental context of Jezero crater and Oxia Planum, the landing sites of the Perseverance and future Rosalind Franklin rovers. We are keen to hear from researchers conducting work on the formation, identification and concepts of biosignatures, as well as those exploring possible habitable martian environments and terrestrial analogues. We would also like to encourage talks from members of instrument teams on current and future life detection missions.

We invite all those interested in presenting at the meeting to submit a title and short abstract (maximum half a side of A4) by 5pm Wednesday 9th September to Nisha Ramkissoon (nisha.ramkissoon@open.ac.uk)

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