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Habitability on Early Mars and the Search for Biosignatures with the ExoMars Rover

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Astrobiology

Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.

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      Abstract

      The second ExoMars mission will be launched in 2020 to target an ancient location interpreted to have strong potential for past habitability and for preserving physical and chemical biosignatures (as well as abiotic/prebiotic organics). The mission will deliver a lander with instruments for atmospheric and geophysical investigations and a rover tasked with searching for signs of extinct life. The ExoMars rover will be equipped with a drill to collect material from outcrops and at depth down to 2 m. This subsurface sampling capability will provide the best chance yet to gain access to chemical biosignatures. Using the powerful Pasteur payload instruments, the ExoMars science team will conduct a holistic search for traces of life and seek corroborating geological context information. Key Words: Biosignatures—ExoMars—Landing sites—Mars rover—Search for life. Astrobiology 17, 471–510.

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      Most cited references 247

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        Global mineralogical mapping of Mars by the Observatoire pour la Mineralogie, l'Eau, les Glaces et l'Activité (OMEGA) instrument on the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft provides new information on Mars' geological and climatic history. Phyllosilicates formed by aqueous alteration very early in the planet's history (the "phyllocian" era) are found in the oldest terrains; sulfates were formed in a second era (the "theiikian" era) in an acidic environment. Beginning about 3.5 billion years ago, the last era (the "siderikian") is dominated by the formation of anhydrous ferric oxides in a slow superficial weathering, without liquid water playing a major role across the planet.
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          A serpentinite-hosted ecosystem: the Lost City hydrothermal field.

          The serpentinite-hosted Lost City hydrothermal field is a remarkable submarine ecosystem in which geological, chemical, and biological processes are intimately interlinked. Reactions between seawater and upper mantle peridotite produce methane- and hydrogen-rich fluids, with temperatures ranging from <40 degrees to 90 degrees C at pH 9 to 11, and carbonate chimneys 30 to 60 meters tall. A low diversity of microorganisms related to methane-cycling Archaea thrive in the warm porous interiors of the edifices. Macrofaunal communities show a degree of species diversity at least as high as that of black smoker vent sites along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, but they lack the high biomasses of chemosynthetic organisms that are typical of volcanically driven systems.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [ 1 ]ESA/ESTEC , Noordwijk, the Netherlands.
            [ 2 ]CNRS-OSUC-Centre de Biophysique Moléculaire , Orléans, France.
            [ 3 ]Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL), University College London , United Kingdom.
            [ 4 ]DLR Institut für Planetenforschung , Berlin, Germany.
            [ 5 ]Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IKI) , Moscow, Russia.
            [ 6 ]LATMOS/IPSL, UVSQ Université Paris-Saclay, UPMC Université Paris 06, CNRS, Guyancourt, France.
            [ 7 ]SPACE-X, Space Exploration Institute , Neuchâtel, Switzerland.
            [ 8 ]Istituto di Astrofisica e Planetologia Spaziali INAF , Roma, Italy.
            [ 9 ]Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale (IAS) , Orsay, France.
            [ 10 ]Unidad Asociada UVA-CSIC, Universidad de Valladolid , Spain.
            [ 11 ]Max-Planck-Institut für Sonnensystemforschung (MPS) , Göttingen, Germany.
            [ 12 ]NASA Goddard Space Flight Center , Greenbelt MD, United States.
            [ 13 ]Université Paris-Est Créteil , Laboratoire Interuniversitaire des Systèmes Atmosphériques (LISA), Paris, France.
            [ 14 ]University of Bradford , United Kingdom.
            [ 15 ]McGill University , Ste. Anne de Bellevue, Quebec, Canada.
            [ 16 ]Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) , Madrid, Spain.
            [ 17 ]Space Research Centre , University of Leicester, United Kingdom.
            [ 18 ]DLR Institut für Planetenforschung , Berlin, Germany.
            [ 19 ]International Research School of Planetary Physics (IRSPS) , Pescara, Italy.
            [ 20 ]Centre for Earth Evolution and Dynamics, University of Oslo , Norway.
            [ 21 ]Université Lyon 1 , Ens de Lyon, CNRS, Villeurbanne, France.
            [ 22 ]Vernadsky Institute , Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia.
            [ 23 ]Planetary Science Institute , Waunakee WI, United States.
            [ 24 ]Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie (IRAP) , Toulouse, France.
            [ 25 ]Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique (LMD), Institut Pierre Simon Laplace Université Paris 6 , Paris, France.
            [ 26 ]TsNIIMash , Korolev, Russia.
            [ 27 ]NPO S. Lavochkin, Khimki, Russia.
            [ 28 ]Thales Alenia Space, Torino, Italy.
            [ 29 ]Université Nice Sophia Antipolis , Institut de Chimie de Nice, Nice, France.
            [ 30 ]CSIC-Universidad de Granada , Spain.
            [ 31 ]Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES) , Toulouse, France.
            Author notes
            Address correspondence to: Jorge L. Vago, ESA/ESTEC (SCI-S) Keplerlaan 1, 2200 AG Noordwijk, The Netherlands

            E-mail: jorge.vago@ 123456esa.int
            Contributors
            Role: Pasteur Instrument Teams:
            Role: Landing Site Selection Working Group:
            Role: Other Contributors:
            Journal
            Astrobiology
            Astrobiology
            ast
            Astrobiology
            Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. (140 Huguenot Street, 3rd FloorNew Rochelle, NY 10801USA )
            1531-1074
            1557-8070
            01 July 2017
            01 July 2017
            01 July 2017
            : 17
            : 6-7
            : 471-510
            5685153 10.1089/ast.2016.1533 10.1089/ast.2016.1533
            (Collab), (Collab)
            © Jorge L. Vago et al., 2017; Published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.

            This Open Access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited.

            Counts
            Figures: 7, Tables: 1, Equations: 1, References: 258, Pages: 40
            Product
            Categories
            Special Collection of Papers: ExoMars Rover Mission

            Guest Editor: Jorge L. Vago

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