IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/gam/jsusta/v2y2010i7p1969-1990d8873.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

The Search for Sustainable Subsurface Habitats on Mars, and the Sampling of Impact Ejecta

Author

Listed:
  • Magnus Ivarsson

    () (Department of Palaeozoology, Swedish Museum of Natural History, Svante Arrheniusväg 9, P.O. Box 50007, SE-104 05 Stockholm, Sweden)

  • Paula Lindgren

    () (Department of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow, Gregory Building, Lilybank Gardens, Glasgow, G12 8QQ, UK)

Abstract

On Earth, the deep subsurface biosphere of both the oceanic and the continental crust is well known for surviving harsh conditions and environments characterized by high temperatures, high pressures, extreme pHs, and the absence of sunlight. The microorganisms of the terrestrial deep biosphere have an excellent capacity for adapting to changing geochemistry, as the alteration of the crust proceeds and the conditions of their habitats slowly change. Despite an almost complete isolation from surface conditions and the surface biosphere, the deep biosphere of the crustal rocks has endured over geologic time. This indicates that the deep biosphere is a self-sufficient system, independent of the global events that occur at the surface, such as impacts, glaciations, sea level fluctuations, and climate changes. With our sustainable terrestrial subsurface biosphere in mind, the subsurface on Mars has often been suggested as the most plausible place to search for fossil Martian life, or even present Martian life. Since the Martian surface is more or less sterile, subsurface settings are the only place on Mars where life could have been sustained over geologic time. To detect a deep biosphere in the Martian basement, drilling is a requirement. However, near future Mars sample return missions are limited by the mission’s payload, which excludes heavy drilling equipment and restrict the missions to only dig the topmost meter of the Martian soil. Therefore, the sampling and analysis of Martian impact ejecta has been suggested as a way of accessing the deeper Martian subsurface without using heavy drilling equipment. Impact cratering is a natural geological process capable of excavating and exposing large amounts of rock material from great depths up to the surface. Several studies of terrestrial impact deposits show the preservation of pre-impact biosignatures, such as fossilized organisms and chemical biological markers. Therefore, if the Martian subsurface contains a record of life, it is reasonable to assume that biosignatures derived from the Martian subsurface could also be preserved in the Martian impact ejecta.

Suggested Citation

  • Magnus Ivarsson & Paula Lindgren, 2010. "The Search for Sustainable Subsurface Habitats on Mars, and the Sampling of Impact Ejecta," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 2(7), pages 1-22, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:2:y:2010:i:7:p:1969-1990:d:8873
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/2/7/1969/pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL: http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/2/7/1969/
    Download Restriction: no

    More about this item

    Keywords

    subsurface biosphere; hydrothermal systems; impact ejecta; life on Mars;

    JEL classification:

    • Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics
    • Q0 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q3 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:2:y:2010:i:7:p:1969-1990:d:8873. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (XML Conversion Team). General contact details of provider: http://www.mdpi.com/ .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.