General Mars
  Implications of Life

  Definition of Life
  Martian Meteorite

Data Analysis
  Thin Section Analysis
  Isotope Analysis
  Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer
  Infrared Spectroscopy
  Alpha-Proton X-Ray Spectrometer
  Detection of Carbon Complexes
  Labeled Release
  Gas Exchange
  Pyrolytic Release
  Stimulus Response Experiments

Scientific Research and Design

The project of successfully sending a manned mission to Mars requires extensive research into many topics of biochemistry and geology, both to send men to Mars safely and to conduct controlled, useful experiments to detect life. Our most fundamental decision was to establish a practical definition of life in anticipation of the design of robot experiments to gather evidence for its existence or non-existence on Mars. Another critical decision that had to be made was where on the planet to land, conduct biological experiments, and search for fossils

Since harsh environments on Earth seem to cause bacteria to become smaller in order to adapt to the diminihsed resources and more extreme pH, temperature, and lighting conditions, bacterial life on Mars is likely to be smaller than terran life. Predicted Maritan life incldues bio-films and classic baterial mats. Generally, the smallest accepted size for bacteria is <200 nanometers. However, nanobes (at <100 nanometers) are sometimes accepted. 

The question of fossiled Martian life has arisen before. A meteorite called ALH84001 was found in Antarctica in 1997 that was thought to contain fossilized bacteria from Mars. It draws into question the accepted bacterial size limits, and is not considered conclusive evidence of Martian life. 

mitCopyright © 2000 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Comments and questions to Last updated: 10 December, 2000