2001 Annual Science Report

University of Colorado, Boulder Reporting  |  JUL 2000 – JUN 2001

Energetics of Life on Other Planets

4 Institutions
3 Teams
0 Publications
0 Field Sites
Field Sites

Project Progress

Energetics of life on other planets (dm)

The goal of this project is to understand the geochemical environment of other planets, Mars in particular, and the implications for geochemical resources to support potential life. We are exploring the chemical reactions available from interactions between water and rock on the Mars surface and in the subsurface and the amounts of energy released that could be utilized by putative martian organisms to support metabolism. Preliminary analysis using global estimates of the mineralogy and geochemistry indicate that there is a small but plausibly adequate supply of energy to support life. We are doing more detailed analysis of specific locations in order to better understand the constraints.

Progress so far has involved getting the EQ3/6 and SUPCRT92 software packages up and running at Colorado and understanding the subtle issues in how they work and what the calculations really mean. We have validated the models against previous calculations. We are applying the models to determine the energy available from reactions in the martian meteorites (starting with LEW 88516 as representative of the martian crust). Preliminary results indicate that chemical energy is relatively limited due to the comparatively small contrast, by terrestrial standards, in oxidation state between groundwater and hydrothermal fluid.


    Bruce Jakosky
    Project Investigator

    Stacy Varnes Farrar
    Graduate Student

    Objective 5.0
    Describe the sequences of causes and effects associated with the development of Earth's early biosphere and the global environment.

    Objective 8.0
    Search for evidence of ancient climates, extinct life and potential habitats for extant life on Mars.

    Objective 9.0
    Determine the presence of life's chemical precursors and potential habitats for life in the outer solar system.

    Objective 12.0
    Define climatological and geological effects upon the limits of habitable zones around the Sun and other stars to help define the frequency of habitable planets in the universe.