Mars life detection

Affiliation(s)PI/CoPIFunded by
DEES Sun, Henry

Nevada Space Grant Office and NASA Ames Research Center

Project Description

The Labeled Release experiment (LR) that was sent to Mars as part of the 1976 Viking biological investigation showed that Mars soil could decompose added sugar. The activity could not be definitively assigned as biological because inorganic oxidants, such as peroxide, could also destroy organics. We are developing a chiral version of LR that would admister D- and L-isomer of a chiral substrate (e.g. glucose) separately to soil. Biological activity would degrade only one of the isomers, whereas abiotic redox reactions would oxidize both. My lab is validating the concept while collaborators at Arizona State University are developing a device for a mission.

Hubble snapshot of Mars, 08.27.2003. Image Credit: NASA
Hubble snapshot of Mars, 08.27.2003. Image Credit: NASA