Study of the origin and water cycle on Mars during the first billion years of the planet’s geological history, and its astrobiological implications.

PI: Alberto González Fairén

CO-Is: Armando Azúa Bustos (CAB), Francesco Salese (CAB), Antonio Molina Jurado (CAB), Laura García Descalzo (CAB), Miguel Ángel Fernández Martínez (McGill University)

PhD students: Cristina Robas García (CAB)

There is now broad agreement that a complex hydrological cycle existed on the surface of ancient Mars, including the presence of large glacial masses, the formation of extensive river valleys, the accumulation of liquid water on the surface in the form of lakes and seas, and a long history of climate change and drying of the planet’s surface and atmosphere. However, there are still outstanding questions whose complexity has eluded a definitive answer to date, such as determining the original amount of water on Mars and its evolution on a global and regional scale, quantifying whether there was more liquid water or more ice, understanding how water interacted with the bedrock, defining what geomorphologies and mineralogies generated the presence of ice and water, and advancing the possible implications that all these factors may have had on the possible origin and evolution of life on Mars.

Our research will begin by analysing the processes that brought liquid water and ice to the Martian surface; how, where and when that water was mobilised; what kind of geological formations, sediments and mineralogies generated the liquid water; and what implications this cycle may have had for the origin and early evolution of life on Mars. To achieve these goals, we will use data from current and past Mars missions, investigations on terrestrial analogues, computer models, and laboratory experiments.

The expected outcome of this project is to provide a new definition of the physical evolution, chemical alteration and potential habitability of the surface and subsurface environments of early Mars.

The aim of this project is to study the origin and water cycle on Mars during the first billion years of the planet’s geological history, and its astrobiological implications.

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Related publications

Organic chemistry on a cool and wet young Mars
Inhabited subsurface wet smectites in the hyperarid core of the Atacama Desert as an analog for the search for life on Mars
Constraining the preservation of organic compounds in Mars analog nontronites after exposure to acid and alkaline fluids
Deposits from giant floods in Gale crater and their implications for the climate of early Mars
Crystalline water in gypsum is unavailable for cyanobacteria in laboratory experiments and in natural desert endolithic habitats
The Complex Molecules Detector (CMOLD): A Fluidic-Based Instrument Suite to Search for (Bio)chemical Complexity on Mars and Icy Moons
Can Halophilic and Psychrophilic Microorganisms Modify the Freezing/Melting Curve of Cold Salty Solutions? Implications for Mars Habitability
Extraformational sediment recycling on Mars
Origin and composition of three heterolithic boulder- and cobble-bearing deposits overlying the Murray and Stimson formations, Gale Crater, Mars.


Planetology and Habitability Department
Telephone: +34 915 20 14 24

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