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Proceedings Paper

Methane and life on Mars
Author(s): Gilbert V. Levin; Patricia Ann Straat
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Paper Abstract

Mumma et al. 1 have confirmed earlier detections of methane in the Martian atmosphere, finding it localized and correlated with atmospheric water vapor. They determined that, because of the short half-life of methane, a continual replenishment is required to account for its presence. They also conclude that the dynamics of methane on Mars require a methane sink in the soil. It is suggested here that both phenomenon could be accounted for by an ecology of methane-producing and methane-consuming microorganisms. Such ecologies exist on Earth, where, generally, anaerobic methanogens live at depth and aerobic methanotrophs live at or near the surface. On Mars, with its essentially anaerobic atmosphere, both types of microorganisms could co-exist at or near the surface. It is possible that the Viking Labeled Release (LR) experiment detected methanogens in addition to other microorganisms evolving carbon dioxide since the LR instrumentation would detect methane, carbon dioxide, or any other carbon gas derived from one of the LR substrates. A simple modification of the LR experiment that could resolve the life on Mars issue is discussed.

Paper Details

Date Published: 3 September 2009
PDF: 16 pages
Proc. SPIE 7441, Instruments and Methods for Astrobiology and Planetary Missions XII, 74410D (3 September 2009); doi: 10.1117/12.829183
Show Author Affiliations
Gilbert V. Levin, Arizona State Univ. (United States)
Patricia Ann Straat, Retired, NIH (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 7441:
Instruments and Methods for Astrobiology and Planetary Missions XII
Kurt D. Retherford; Richard B. Hoover; Gilbert V. Levin; Alexei Yu. Rozanov, Editor(s)

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