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Proceedings Paper

The hydrogen peroxide-water hypothesis for life on Mars and the problem of detection
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Paper Abstract

The conditions on Mars imply an evolutionary advantage for organisms employing a mixture of H2O2 and H2O in their intracellular fluid: the H2O2-H2O eutectic freezes at -56.5°C, is hygroscopic and a source of oxygen. Contrary to common belief, H2O2 is used for a variety of purposes in terrestrial biochemistry. The Viking Lander Biology Experiments have often been interpreted as the result of inorganic oxidants in the Martian soil. Here, we interpret the Viking findings as the result of the reactions of H2O2-H2O based life. Several hitherto puzzling findings are explained by the H2O2-H2O hypothesis. The lack of detected organics is the result of autooxidation of the organisms as these were gradually heated. Supportive observations were made in the PR and LR experiments. Our interpretation is that the addition of water vapor at a relatively high temperature could only be withstood by the organisms for a short time, as they perished due to hyperhydration. The evolution of oxygen in the GEx experiment is explained by the high oxidative content of the organisms as they perished in this experiment. The PR experimental conditions were most Mars-like and carbon assimilation could be detected but no growth. Particularly, the GEx experiment allows the calculation of biomass in the Martian soil based on measured evolution of reaction products. Further properties of the suggested organisms such as metabolic reactions and by-products may be detected by future Mars missions.

Paper Details

Date Published: 1 October 2007
PDF: 10 pages
Proc. SPIE 6694, Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology X, 66940N (1 October 2007); doi: 10.1117/12.732889
Show Author Affiliations
Joop M. Houtkooper, Justus-Liebig Univ. of Giessen (Germany)
Dirk Schulze-Makuch, Washington State Univ. (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 6694:
Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology X
Richard B. Hoover; Gilbert V. Levin; Alexei Y. Rozanov; Paul C. W. Davies, Editor(s)

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