An international team of researchers, which includes scientists from McMaster’s School of Geography & Earth Sciences, NASA, and others, is tackling one of the biggest problems of space travel to Mars: what happens when we get there?
A series of articles published today [March 7] in a special edition of the journal Astrobiology, focuses on the scientific, logistical, operational and communications challenges of sending astronauts to deep space.
It is the culmination of years of work in NASA’s BASALT research program, or the Biologic Analog Science Associated with Lava Terrains, which involves geologists, microbiologists, geneticists, engineers and astrobiologists from all over the world. (…)
Researchers simulated mission conditions on Mars in several scenarios which included conducting field work in the unforgiving, Mars-like terrain of Craters of the Moon National Park Monument and Preserve in Idaho and the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
These regions are rich in basalt, a fine-grained rock similar to rock found on Mars. Scientists hope samples can provide important clues in the ongoing search for life on Mars.
Supported by funding from the Canadian Space Agency, Allyson Brady, a postdoctoral fellow in McMaster’s School of Geography & Earth Sciences, who is working with her advisor Greg Slater on the project, is investigating organic biomarkers of microbial life associated with the rocks.
“When astronauts finally go to Mars, we need to identify the best place to potentially find evidence of life and to target the kind of basalt rock samples which may contain a lot of organic material, for example,” explains Brady. “There will be many, many limitations on Mars so we need to consider the best way to conduct research and gather samples including getting timely feedback from science experts on Earth.” [More at links]