Meeting Location and Date
The Biosignature Preservation and Detection in Mars Analog Environments conference will be held May 16–18, 2016 at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe.
NASA employees and contractors should note that this event is classified as a conference, and therefore NASA Conference Tracking (NCTS) rules apply. This conference’s number is NCTS #24667-16. To assist efforts to forecast the number of NASA civil servants that will attend (and ensure that your institution is allotted sufficient attendees), please forecast your attendance in the NCTS system no later than Friday, February 12.
Purpose and Scope
Our objective is to focus strategies to detect a range of possible biosignatures on Mars in different categories of geologic settings by assessing the attributes and preservation potential of various biosignatures in different Mars-analog habitable environments on Earth. We are seeking a better understanding of three broad classes of ancient environments known to exist in the martian geologic record:
- Lacustrine and deltaic sediments,
- Near-surface chemical sediments (including hydrothermal and pedogenic), or
- Deep crustal rocks (including hydrothermally altered).
The ability to capture and retain information about ancient life in the form of fossil biosignatures in the geological record depends upon complex interactions between key biogeochemical variables, including those factors that control rates of organic matter degradation and rates of mineralization, mediated by the specific physical and chemical properties of the buried organic matter. In addition, post-depositional processes may dramatically affect the stability of geological materials and the biosignatures they contain, thereby challenging life-based interpretations.
How we interpret the presence or absence of life in these environments, and how these lessons might translate to the different physical conditions on Mars, could have a significant influence on our strategies and priorities for the astrobiological exploration of Mars. Much of the necessary information will come from study of either modern or ancient analogs here on Earth, and abstracts from both arenas are encouraged.
A significant part of our purpose will be to develop a conference report that summarizes what is known in this general topical area, so that any high-level conclusions can more be effectively used in making planning decisions — including potential landing site prioritization in the next round of the Mars-2020 landing site selection process in early 2017.