Dr. John Marshall

December 21, 2006

Mars Analog Research and Technology Experiment (MARTE)

Funded by NASA Ames Research Center

The Mars Analog Research and Technology Experiment (MARTE) team is using the search for life in the subsurface of the Rio Tinto as a learning experience for guiding the development of technology for drilling, sample handling and instrumentation to be used in the eventual search for subsurface life on Mars.

The MARTE project is a collaboration between the Spanish Centro de Astrobiologia (CAB) and NASA. CAB is a member of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. Both NASA and CAB are contributing scientific and engineering expertise and money to the project.

MARTE, a three-year project, has two main objectives:

(1)  To search for and characterize subsurface life at the Rio Tinto;

(2)  To build and test the drilling, sample handling and instrument technologies that will be needed to search for life on Mars.

In the first phase of the project (during 2003) scientists are using a local commercial drilling company and laboratory analysis of samples to search for life. Samples of rock obtained from the drilling are being analyzed to determine if they are inhabited by microorganisms. This part of the project will be used to help our team design a drilling, sample handling and instrumentation system that will be demonstrated at the Rio Tinto in a later phase of the project. The system will be remotely controlled and data will be analyzed by scientists at NASA in California and CAB in Madrid in a simulation of a Mars mission.