ASGSB 2003 Annual Meeting Abstracts


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THE COLLECTION AND INVESTIGATION OF ARCTIC EXTREMOPHILES AT AN ANALOG MARS SIMULATION STATION IN THE ARCTIC. P.H.U. Lee1 and C.S. McDaniel2. 1Brown Medical School, Providence, RI, and 2Reactive Services, Ltd, Austin, TX.

    Extremophile research on Earth is an important precursor to studies in astrobiology and exobiology. Additionally, the search for life on Mars by a human crew will require a clear understanding of the limitations of direct field investigations in a Martian environment. The objectives of this study were to 1) isolate extremophile organisms from a harsh Arctic environment to investigate any unique biological characteristics they may have, and to 2) carry out extensive biological field investigations in full Martian simulation.
   A seven-member crew spent a full three weeks in Martian simulation at the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS) on Devon Island, Nunavut Territory, Canada. All field expeditions were carried out in simulated space suits, including space helmets and gloves. Samples collected from a variety of Arctic environments and returned to FMARS were either preserved for processing at the home institutions, or processed on site. On site samples were ground and studied by light and fluorescent microscopy, whereas those sent to home institutions were more extensively evaluated.
   Samples from a wide variety of environments revealed a vast array of biological activity.  Field collection in space suits proved to be significantly impaired and difficult, yet clearly possible with adequate preparation and tools. 
   The discovery of numerous organisms in the harsh Arctic environment supports previous findings regarding the ability of extremophiles to live in such environments.  The search for life on Mars will be compromised by the extreme environments and constraints. Long-term Mars simulations at analog stations such as FMARS are a critical component of actual human Mars mission planning.

 

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