• Analysis and survival of amino acids in Martian regolith analogs

      Garry, James R. C.; ten Kate, Inge Loe; Martins, Zita; Nørnberg, Per; Ehrenfreund, Pascale (The Meteoritical Society, 2006-01-01)
      We have investigated the native amino acid composition of two analogs of Martian soil, JSC Mars-1 and Salten Skov. A Mars simulation chamber has been built and used to expose samples of these analogs to temperature and lighting conditions similar to those found at low latitudes on the Martian surface. The effects of the simulated conditions have been examined using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Exposure to energetic ultraviolet (UV) light in vacuum appears to cause a modest increase in the concentration of certain amino acids within the materials, which is interpreted as resulting from the degradation of microorganisms. The influence of low temperatures shows that the accretion of condensed water on the soils leads to the destruction of amino acids, supporting the idea that reactive chemical processes involving H2O are at work within the Martian soil. We discuss the influence of UV radiation, low temperatures, and gaseous CO2 on the intrinsic amino acid composition of Martian soil analogs and describe, with the help of a simple model, how these studies fit within the framework of life detection on Mars and the practical tasks of choosingand using Martian regolith analogs in planetary research.