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Wind-Driven Saltation: An Overlooked Challenge for Life on Mars

Bak, E.N. and Larsen, M.G. and Jensen, S.K. and Nørnberg, P. and Moeller, R. and Finster, K. (2018) Wind-Driven Saltation: An Overlooked Challenge for Life on Mars. Astrobiology, 19 (4). Mary Ann Liebert Inc.. DOI: 10.1089/ast.2018.1856 ISSN 1531-1074

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1089/ast.2018.1856


Numerous studies have demonstrated that the martian surface environment is hostile to life because of its rough radiation climate and the reactive chemistry of the regolith. Physical processes such as erosion and transport of mineral particles by wind-driven saltation have hitherto not been considered as a life hazard. We report a series of experiments where bacterial endospores (spores of Bacillus subtilis) were exposed to a simulated saltating martian environment. We observed that 50% of the spores that are known to be highly resistant to radiation and oxidizing chemicals were destroyed by saltation-mediated abrasion within one minute. Scanning electron micrographs show that the spores were not only damaged by abrasion but were eradicated during the saltation process. We suggest that abrasion mediated by wind-driven saltation should be included as a factor that defines the habitability of the martian surface environment. The process may efficiently protect the martian surface from forward contamination with terrestrial microbial life-forms. Abrasion mediated by wind-driven saltation should also be considered as a major challenge to indigenous martian surface life if it exists/existed.

Item URL in elib:https://elib.dlr.de/123123/
Document Type:Article
Title:Wind-Driven Saltation: An Overlooked Challenge for Life on Mars
AuthorsInstitution or Email of AuthorsAuthors ORCID iD
Bak, E.N.Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Aarhus, DenmarkUNSPECIFIED
Larsen, M.G.Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Aarhus, DenmarkUNSPECIFIED
Jensen, S.K.Department of Chemistry, Aarhus University, Aarhus, DenmarkUNSPECIFIED
Nørnberg, P.Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Aarhus, DenmarkUNSPECIFIED
Moeller, R.Space Microbiology Research Group, Radiation Biology Department, Institute of Aerospace Medicine, German Aerospace Center (DLR), Cologne, Germany; Ralf.Moeller (at) dlr.dehttps://orcid.org/0000-0002-2371-0676
Finster, K.Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark and Stellar Astrophysics Centre, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Aarhus University, Aarhus, DenmarkUNSPECIFIED
Date:8 November 2018
Journal or Publication Title:Astrobiology
Refereed publication:Yes
Open Access:No
Gold Open Access:No
In ISI Web of Science:Yes
DOI :10.1089/ast.2018.1856
Publisher:Mary Ann Liebert Inc.
Keywords:Habitability, Erosion, Spores, Forward contamination, Saltation, Microorganisms
HGF - Research field:Aeronautics, Space and Transport
HGF - Program:Space
HGF - Program Themes:Research under Space Conditions
DLR - Research area:Raumfahrt
DLR - Program:R FR - Forschung unter Weltraumbedingungen
DLR - Research theme (Project):R - Vorhaben Strahlenbiologie
Location: Köln-Porz
Institutes and Institutions:Institute of Aerospace Medicine > Radiation Biology
Deposited By: Kopp, Kerstin
Deposited On:27 Nov 2018 09:07
Last Modified:06 Sep 2019 15:23

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