Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Searching salt for answers about life on Earth, Mars

Date:
August 9, 2012
Source:
Wichita State University
Summary:
Researchers have discovered that not only is there evidence of liquid water on Mars, but the planet is also rich with magnesium sulfate. One of the questions researchers are seeking to answer is whether microbial life on Earth can grow at high concentrations of magnesium sulfate.

Associate professor Mark Schneegurt had a paper published in the journal Astrobiology about microbial life on Mars.
Credit: Image courtesy of Wichita State University

Wichita State University associate professor Mark Schneegurt recently had a paper published in the journal Astrobiology. His paper focused on bacteria that live in environments that are salty, but not with sodium chloride -- the kind of salt we're used to. It has to do with magnesium sulfate, also known as Epsom salt.

Researchers have discovered that not only is there evidence of liquid water on Mars, but the planet is also rich with magnesium sulfate.

One of the questions Schneegurt is seeking an answer to is whether microbial life on Earth can grow at these high concentrations of magnesium sulfate.

"This impacts our understanding of what ancient or current life on Mars may be like," he said. "What single discovery could have a greater impact on our philosophy and culture, how we view ourselves in the universe, than finding life on another planet?"

Finding life on Mars?

Other questions his paper and research deal with include:

•Are there any microbes on Earth that may be able to survive on Mars?

•How can we protect our search for life on Mars by preventing terrestrial microbes from infecting Mars when a spacecraft lands?

•Are epsotolerant microbes a glimpse at what life may have been like -- or is like -- on Mars?

Schneegurt said it's been hypothesized that living in high magnesium sulfate may be the hardest part of living on Mars, but his contention is that it's not as difficult as some scientists think.

Part of his research also focuses on searching for life in lakes with high magnesium sulfate levels, as well as searching for similar life in spacecraft assembly facility clean rooms.

Schneegurt and his research team have been working at Hot Lake in Washington and Basque Lake in British Columbia, and have isolated hundreds of microbes that grow at high magnesium sulfate concentrations. The goal is to characterize those microbes and see if they can also find them in spacecraft assembly facilities.

"If we bring life with us and it can grow on Mars, this makes it more difficult to be sure that any life we find on Mars actually comes from Mars," he said. "It also will impact our efforts in forward planetary protection, where life from Earth contaminates Mars when a spacecraft lands."

Is this research important? NASA and the astrobiology community think so, Schneegurt said.

After receiving a small Kansas NASA EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) grant in 2009, Schneegurt received a NASA grant through the ROSES program and the Planetary Protection group at JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory).

Schneegurt said not only can his research teach us more about life on Mars. It can teach us about our own planet.

"Our work has relevance to the origins of life on Earth, since life may have arisen from a briny tidal pool." he said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wichita State University. The original article was written by Lainie Rusco. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J.D. Crisler, T.M. Newville, F. Chen, B.C. Clark, M.A. Schneegurt. Bacterial Growth at the High Concentrations of Magnesium Sulfate Found in Martian Soils. Astrobiology, 2012; 12 (2): 98 DOI: 10.1089/ast.2011.0720

Cite This Page:

Wichita State University. "Searching salt for answers about life on Earth, Mars." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 August 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120809151324.htm>.
Wichita State University. (2012, August 9). Searching salt for answers about life on Earth, Mars. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120809151324.htm
Wichita State University. "Searching salt for answers about life on Earth, Mars." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120809151324.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Russian Cosmonauts Kick Off Final Spacewalk of 2014

Russian Cosmonauts Kick Off Final Spacewalk of 2014

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 22, 2014) — Russian cosmonauts Maxim Suraev and Alexander Samokutyaev step outside the International Space Station to perform work on the exterior of the station's Russian module. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) — A comet from the farthest reaches of the solar system passed extremely close to Mars this weekend, giving astronomers a rare opportunity to study it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

AFP (Oct. 17, 2014) — Argentina launches a home-built satellite, a first for Latin America. It will ride a French-made Ariane 5 rocket into orbit, and will provide cell phone, digital TV, Internet and data services to the lower half of South America. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, October 17, 2014

This Week @ NASA, October 17, 2014

NASA (Oct. 17, 2014) — Power spacewalk, MAVEN’s “First Light”, Hubble finds extremely distant galaxy and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins