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Proceedings Paper

Early Mars and early Earth: paleoenvironments for the emergence of life
Author(s): S. J. Mojzsis; Gustaf Arrhenius
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Paper Abstract

There are good reasons to believe that environmental conditions on the martian surface during the first 500 million years (Ma) of its history were dramatically different from those at present. At or before the time at which the early Earth first supported both liquid water and life, before 3850 Ma, Mars apparently underwent erosional processes that strongly suggest a warmer, wetter climate and an operating hydrologic cycle. Martian life may have later become extinct as surface conditions gradually became intolerable, primarily due to atmosphere loss. If it is assumed that life is a 'cosmic imperative', constrained by appropriate environmental conditions conducive to the stability of liquid water, it becomes logical to extend the search for geochemical evidence of past life on the ancient martian surface; a surface that is as old or older than the oldest rocks on Earth. The search fortraces of such life via sample return missions from Mars could be focused on investigating the chemofossil record in ancient water-lain sediments such as paleo-lake beds, fossil hydrothermal fields, and stream channels. Alternatively, martian organisms could have disappeared into the crust, sequestered in discrete P-T microenvironments where liquid water remains stable. Such environments would include deep hydrothermal systems and groundwater aquifers; perhaps such regions continue to support organisms up to the present time.

Paper Details

Date Published: 11 July 1997
PDF: 2 pages
Proc. SPIE 3111, Instruments, Methods, and Missions for the Investigation of Extraterrestrial Microorganisms, (11 July 1997); doi: 10.1117/12.278769
Show Author Affiliations
S. J. Mojzsis, Scripps Institution of Oceanography (United States)
Gustaf Arrhenius, Scripps Institution of Oceanography (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 3111:
Instruments, Methods, and Missions for the Investigation of Extraterrestrial Microorganisms
Richard B. Hoover, Editor(s)

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