Dr. Nathalie Cabrol

December 19, 2006

"From Habitability to Life"


Building upon the results of the MER mission, and of our theoretical, experimental, and field work in high-altitude lakes, we bring the focus of this new proposal to the transition from habitability to life. The MER mission has demonstrated that Mars was habitable for life as we know it (in its microbial form) in its early geological history. But habitability does not equate to life, and critical questions have yet to be answered. A sample of those are:

This project plans to document critical aspects of those questions and presents a synergetic research focusing on the theme of the transition from habitability to life from various and complementary perspectives as shown in the four tasks summarized in the following table:

Task and Sub-Task No.



1. Exploration and Characterization of the Surface of Mars


Mars MER investigation and rover surface operations

N. A. Cabrol


Geological investigation of Mars from orbital remote sensing: Topography and basin deposits of the Martian highlands

J. M. Moore

2. Experimental Studies of Brines and Evaporites as Applied to Mars


Brine formation experiment

J. M. Moore


Mars-Analog evaporite formation experiment

J. M. Moore

3. Potential Habitats and Life Adaptation Strategies Against Environmental Extremes Relevant to Mars: Their Characteristics and Signatures


Effect of high-UV radiation on life in high-altitude lakes: Analogy to Mars

N. A. Cabrol


Biological and geological signatures of extreme microbiolites in early Mars analog environment

N. A. Cabrol

4. Development of Detection Strategies for the Robotic Search for Life on Mars and Applications to Upcoming NASA Missions


Robotic astrobiology (the Life in the Atacama “LITA” project)

N. A. Cabrol


Analysis of science operations for the search for life on Mars

N. A. Cabrol