Copyright © 2005 by David J. Thomas. Published by the Mars Society with permission.
EARLY RESULTS OF ECOPOESIS EXPERIMENTS IN THE SHOT MARTIAN ENVIRONMENT SIMULATOR
David J. Thomas, John Boling, Robert G. Gregerson, Amon Holt, III,
Tiffany McSpadden, and Laura McWilliams
Lyon College, Science Division, 2300 Highland Road, Batesville, AR 72501
Penelope J. Boston
Complex Systems Research, Inc., P.O. Box 1320, Boulder, CO 80301
and New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology,
Dept. of Earth and Environmental Science, Socorro, NM 87801
Space Hardware Optimization Technology, Inc., 7200 Highway 150, Greenville, IN 47124 Kathy A. Campbell
Cedar Ridge High School, 1500 North Hill Street, Newark, AR 72562
Humanity is on the verge of having the capability of constructively directing environmental changes on a planetary scale. One could argue that we are making these changes on Earth today, but in a negative manner. Within the foreseeable future, we will have the technology to modify Mars' environment, and make it a habitable planet. However, we do not have enough information to determine the course of such an event. SHOT has designed and built a test-bed apparatus that can replicate most of Mars' environment conditions (with the notable exceptions of gravity and cosmic radiation) within a 5.6 liter chamber. Here, we present the results of initial experiments to determine the suitability of specific microorganisms as pioneering life-forms for Mars. Included among the potential pioneers were five genera of cyanobacteria (Anabaena, Chroococcidiopsis, Plectonema, Synechococcus and Syenechocystis), and three partially-characterized eubacterial strains that were isolated from Chile's Atacama Desert (two species of Bacillus and Klebsiella oxytoca). During these initial trials, we used a present-day mix of martian atmsospheric gases, but at a pressure of 100 mbar (10 times Mars's current atmospheric pressure). Organisms were inoculated into samples of JSC Mars-1 soil stimulant and exposed to full-spectrum simulated martian sunlight. Day/night temperature cycled from 26ĄC to -80ĄC and back. Experiments included a 24-hour, brief-exposure trial, a 7-day trial, a14-day trial and a 5-week trial to determine the survival and growth of our potential martian pioneers.