Mars surface 'more uninhabitable' than thought: study

July 6, 2017
Latest lab tests show salt minerals on Mars kill basic life form bacteria, implying the 'Red Planet' is more uninhabitable than previously thought

Hopes of finding life on Mars, at least on the surface, were dealt a blow Thursday by a study revealing that salt minerals present on the Red Planet kill bacteria.

In on Earth, the compounds known as perchlorates killed cultures of the bacteria Bacillus subtilis, a basic life form, a research duo from the University of Edinburgh's School of Physics and Astronomy reported.

Perchlorates, stable at room temperature, become active at high heat. Mars is very cold.

In the new study, Jennifer Wadsworth and Charles Cockell showed the compound can also be activated by UV light, without heat, in conditions mimicking those on the martian surface.

It killed bacteria within minutes, said the team, implying the planet was "more uninhabitable than previously thought."

"If we want to find life on Mars, we have to take this into consideration and look at trying to find sub-surface life that wouldn't be exposed to these conditions," Wadsworth told AFP.

Perchlorates are natural and man-made on Earth, but are more abundant on Mars where they were first recorded by NASA's Phoenix Lander in 2008.

The fact that perchlorates killed B. subtilis in the presence of UV radiation did not necessarily mean that all other life forms would similarly die, said Wadsworth. Further tests would have to be done to confirm this.

Perchlorates have previously been spotted in lines, thought to be brine streaks, on the surface of Mars.

Their presence was presented as evidence by scientists in 2015 of on the Red Planet.

But the new study said brine seeps, "although they represent local regions of water availability, could be deleterious to cells" if they contain perchlorates.

The findings do contain some good news.

They mean that organic contaminants left on Mars by robotic exploration, of which B. subtilis is a common one, are unlikely to survive long.

It is widely accepted that the Red Planet once hosted plentiful water in liquid form, and still has water today, albeit frozen in ice underground.

Liquid water is a prerequisite for life as we know it.

Explore further: Mars rover scientist hopes to find more evidence of liquid water

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bschott
2.6 / 5 (5) Jul 06, 2017
This can only come as a shock to those who believe we capture all of the variables in our "simulations".
katesisco
3 / 5 (2) Jul 06, 2017
How do perchlorates affect us human life?
antialias_physorg
4.4 / 5 (7) Jul 06, 2017
mythreetrees
1.3 / 5 (8) Jul 06, 2017
I say misinformation. Have these scientist never heard of Tardigrades or lichen ?
Dingbone
Jul 06, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
dmentgen
4.3 / 5 (6) Jul 06, 2017
Perchlorates are what make you a Jedi.
Shootist
1 / 5 (3) Jul 06, 2017
Perchlorates are poison, not that that matters one iota when it comes to colonization. Man will get it done, whether she speaks Engrish or not remains to be determined.
cfmill3r
3.2 / 5 (5) Jul 06, 2017
We settled Phoenix, people live there in the summer, Mars has to be easier.
Tenstats
3 / 5 (2) Jul 06, 2017
Perchlorates can be used to generate oxygen. This is useful to human life.
Uncle Al
1.4 / 5 (11) Jul 06, 2017
Shall we spend a $trillion to personally verify Mars is a crap hole? Add surface 30 rad/year from cosmic radiation - no magnetosphere, no atmosphere. $ocial intent!

The same feat was accomplished in Harlem, Baltimore, Camden, urban Washington, DC; Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago, Pacoima...- though it cost $10 trillion during the Obama administration.
shoshonite
1 / 5 (1) Jul 06, 2017
Perchlorates....as in Sodium Perchlorate, sold as "Staffel's Weed Killer". Also worked as a rocket propellant when mixed with other substances. Launched many rockets with it. So...it seems mars is covered with 1) weed killer and 2) an essential ingredient for rocket fuel.
stevden1967
4.2 / 5 (5) Jul 06, 2017
We would be better served trying to colonize Antarctica than Mars.
If Earth has 100 apocalyptic events it would still be thousands of times more hospitable than Mars.
dkjack
1 / 5 (2) Jul 06, 2017
As a practical matter, the first explorers will rig for Mars as if it were as dead as the Moon -- zero atmosphere, food and water. Any mitigating factor will just be a bonus. Also, this may be a local phenomenon. It may not apply to the whole planet.
snoosebaum
Jul 06, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Ellray
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 06, 2017
My parents used to brew coffee in a perchlorator.
omegatalon
5 / 5 (1) Jul 06, 2017
So much for Hollywood's idea of living on Mars like Martian as setting up a colony on Mars may need to be dialed back with something on the Moon first; then lessons learn after spending a few years on the Moon might a manned mission to Mars possible.
Bongstar420
4.3 / 5 (6) Jul 06, 2017
Or course Bacillus subtillis was killed by perchlorates. That is a common microbe.

You need mircrobes that live in acide mine waste
Bart_A
1 / 5 (8) Jul 07, 2017
Not surprised at all. Life just doesn't happen to appear from non-life. Period. Even given the best of the best of the best conditions. No one possibly reproduce this. Yet we are spending billions and billions of tax dollars trying to find something that doesn't exist.

Really, only lunatics would even give a thought that life could have existed on Mars.

Dingbone
Jul 07, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Dingbone
Jul 07, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
PaulPaulPaulPaul
1 / 5 (4) Jul 07, 2017
OK, I'm on Mars.
1. Where is my air?
2. Where is my water?
3. Where is my food?
4. What will stop me from going crazy from isolation after 6 months?
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (6) Jul 07, 2017
1. Where is my air?

If you have a copious energy source you can split carbon dioxide to get oxygen. In any case you should try for a closed system because the filler (nitrogen, which we can't use but is essential to prevent either oxygen or carbon dioxide poisoning) is not readily available on Mars. You want to preserve nitrogen as much as you can.

2. Where is my water?

Potentially at the poles. If you have really a lot of energy at your disposal you can create it out of thin...erm..air and rock.

3. Where is my food?

That one is tricky. Hydroponics might be an answer.

What will stop me from going crazy from isolation after 6 months?

Same as the guys working in Antarctica. Do something you love - in this case explore and homestead on a new world - and there's little chance of going insane.
bobbysius
5 / 5 (1) Jul 07, 2017
Shall we spend a $trillion to personally verify Mars is a crap hole? Add surface 30 rad/year from cosmic radiation - no magnetosphere, no atmosphere.


The martian surface average is more like 8 Rad/year, which can be further mitigated by choice of landing site. The radiation environment in Hellas planitia for instance is some 4 rad/year, still quite a bit more the the 0.6rad/year we get on Earth, but roughly the same as our astronauts are exposed to on the ISS. This also assumes astronauts are just hanging out on the surface without any protection. At the end of the day, radiation isn't the most serious concern in colonizing Mars.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (5) Jul 07, 2017
Not surprised at all. Life just doesn't happen to appear from non-life. Period. Even given the best of the best of the best conditions. No one possibly reproduce this. Yet we are spending billions and billions of tax dollars trying to find something that doesn't exist.

Really, only lunatics would even give a thought that life could have existed on Mars.

Only an idiot would make a statement like that. Or a religionist. Same thing.
torbjorn_b_g_larsson
4.4 / 5 (5) Jul 07, 2017
[Ha, Charles Cockell, who held an astrobiology MOOC I too, is truly productive.

@bscott: "This can only come as a shock to those who believe we capture all of the variables in our "simulations"."

It may come as a shock to those who believes that the purpose of simulations is to capture "all" variables instead of deepening understanding by capture system behavior. Especially if they do not see that this was a necessary experimental study (which can lead up to simulations).

@Al: "Shall we spend a $trillion to personally verify Mars is a crap hole?"

We already know that, but it is the best crap hole after Earth for a lot of things such as robotic exploration of once habitable environments. And I doubt Jennifer and Charles had access to that much money
torbjorn_b_g_larsson
5 / 5 (6) Jul 07, 2017
@Bart_A: "Not surprised at all. Life just doesn't happen to appear from non-life."

Besides the non-sequitur, that is an erroneous claim. Not only have we seen it happen - Earth started out sterile, now it is not, so life appeared from sterile conditions - we have corroborating and yes, reproduced, evidence from bioinformatic studies of the geological conditions that resulted in emergence of life. [Weiss MC et al. 2016, The physiology and habitat of the last universal common ancestor. Nature Microbiology.; reproduced in: Williams TA et al. 2017. Integrative modeling of gene and genome evolution roots the archaeal tree of life. PNAS.]

Excitingly that geological system is known to have existed on Mars - Spirit found an example - but also in Enceladus - Cassini found that from its plumes, and can be a generic feature of small (chondrite core) *and* large (heated core) ocean moons that are not ice locked towards the core. (So not every ocean moon, unfortunately.)
Lex Talonis
1 / 5 (2) Jul 08, 2017
God created Earth, Sky and Satanic Rock Music....

Why not life on Marrs?
Zzzzzzzz
2.6 / 5 (5) Jul 08, 2017
Shall we spend a $trillion to personally verify Mars is a crap hole? Add surface 30 rad/year from cosmic radiation - no magnetosphere, no atmosphere. $ocial intent!

The same feat was accomplished in Harlem, Baltimore, Camden, urban Washington, DC; Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago, Pacoima...- though it cost $10 trillion during the Obama administration.


The addiction to fecal regurgitation is getting out of hand. Fecal regurgitators sure stink a place up.
Parsec
5 / 5 (1) Jul 08, 2017
It is hard for me to understand how the information in this article can be considered new or interesting. The toxicity of perchlorates is well known hand has been for at least a dozen decades.
Dingbone
Jul 08, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
rrrander
not rated yet Jul 08, 2017
Mars is a dead berg and a waste to send people to. Keep sending unmanned probes. Jupiter and Saturnian moons are a much better bet for potential life.
Osiris1
not rated yet Jul 10, 2017
Had a high school friend that tried to make gunpowder by substituting KClO4 for the KNO3. Result was quite unstable and dangerous to the point that its increased energy was not measurable with our primitive equipment. It is what you get when your best high school friend is the pharmacist's kid. BTW.... x-CLO4 compounds are the definition of 'per' in perChlorates.
Osiris1
not rated yet Jul 10, 2017
Mars is named after the Roman god of War, so why not send all our warmongering folks there as they are so full enough of themselves to not need space suits to live there. ISIS/Daesh is prime example. You supply the other candidates inasmuch as this comment section seems full of anal-retentives with little interest in physics.... or reality.

Марс назван в честь Римского бога войны, так почему бы не отправить все наши милитаристы люди там, как они и так достаточно о себе, чтобы не нужно скафандров там жить. ИГИЛ/Даиш является ярким примером. Вы поставить других кандидатов, поскольку в этом разделе комментарий, по-видимому, полный анал-retentives с небольшой интерес в физике.... или реальность.
TheGhostofOtto1923
not rated yet Jul 10, 2017
Mars is named after the Roman god of War, so why not send all our warmongering folks there
Religionists would love to occupy new lands where they could reproduce without limit. And as mars represents the high ground they would have a strategic advantage for conquering their home world, the 'holy land', basically by raining asteroids down upon it until we are all killed or converted.

Great idea.
ты сумасшедший?
manfredparticleboard
not rated yet Jul 10, 2017
This little factoid could have made some interesting chemical drama for The Martian. Whoops...spilled some hydrazine on the soil... BOOOM!
Tak interestna!

(ok I don't have a keyboard configured for cyrillic...)
wardrho9
not rated yet Jul 14, 2017
We settled Phoenix, people live there in the summer, Mars has to be easier.

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