Life on Mars in a Box

The environmental requirements for life are:

  1. A source of molecules from which to build its own cellular structures and for reproduction
  2. A source of energy to maintain biological order and to fuel the many chemical reactions that occur in life
  3. A liquid medium – most likely liquid water – for transporting the molecules of life

Source: Beyond UFOS, by Jeffrey Benner, 2008, Princeton University Press

The box contains illustrations of research results that show these requirements are met on the planet Mars:

  1. The picture of the volcanoes on Mars shows an energey source (as well as cosmic rays, UV rays, etc. coming from space)
  2. The dark minetal (Goethite) and the light mineral (Gypsum) show hydrothermal groundwater circulation during the early history of Mars (Ehlmann et al, Nature, 2011)
  3. The piece of the Murchison meteorite, which contains non-biological carbon in the form of amino acids, shows the availability of life-building molecules (Kvenvolden et al, Nature, 1970)
  4. The piece of the Shergottite meteorite from Mars, which contains non-biological carbon created by volcanic action during the early history of Mars, shows a second source of life-building molecules (Steele et al, Science, 2012)
Life on Mars in a Box Exhibit

Life on Mars in a Box Exhibit

The key to this puzzle is whether all these ingredients for life came together in the right proportions at the right time (conversation with Pamela Conrad, NASA astrobiologist and assistant principal investigator of the SAM instrument on the Mars Science Laboratory, which landed on Mars in August, 2012)

Exhibit prepared by Robert Bruner

Denver Museum of Nature and Science volunteer

bobbruner40 -at- hotmail.com