Special Issue "Planetary Exploration: Habitats and Terrestrial Analogs"
Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 May 2014
Prof. Dr. Dirk Schulze-Makuch
School of the Environment, Webster Hall 1148, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164, USA
Phone: +1 509 335 1180
Interests: planetary habitability; astrobiology; evolutionary biology; extreme environments; geobiology; space missions
Dr. Alberto G. Fairen
Department of Astronomy, Cornell University, 426 Space Science Bldg, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
Phone: +1 607 255-5907
Interests: mars evolution; exploration; hydrogeology; geochemistry; mineralogy; astrobiology
Planetary exploration is moving at a fast pace as we learn about environmental conditions on various planetary bodies in our solar system and beyond. Habitable conditions at some time during the history of the solar system have been proposed to have existed on Mars, Venus, and a number of icy moons of the outer solar system, some of which may still exist today. For this “LIFE” Special Issue, we particularly encourage submissions describing habitable conditions on planetary bodies and of how life could have interacted with them; also a description of analog environments on Earth from which we can learn about possible adaptations and life strategies on other planets and moons.
Prof. Dr. Dirk Schulze-Makuch
Dr. Alberto G. Fairen
Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. Papers will be published continuously (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.
Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are refereed through a peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Life is an international peer-reviewed Open Access quarterly journal published by MDPI.
Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 300 CHF (Swiss Francs). English correction and/or formatting fees of 250 CHF (Swiss Francs) will be charged in certain cases for those articles accepted for publication that require extensive additional formatting and/or English corrections.
- analog environment
The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.
Type of Paper: Review
Title: Río Tinto as a Geochemical Terrestrial Analogue of Mars
Author: Ricardo Amils
Affiliation: Centro de Astrobiología, INTA-CSIC, Torrenjón de Ardoz, Madrid 28850, Spain;
Abstract: The geomicrobiological characterization of Río Tinto (Huelva, Southwestern Spain) has proven the importance of the iron and the sulfur cycles, not only in generating the extreme conditions of the habitat (low pH, high concentration of toxic heavy metals), but also maintaining the high level of microbial diversity detected in the basin. It has been proved that the extreme acidic conditions of the Tinto basin are not the product of 5000 years of mining activity in the area but the consequence of an active underground bioreactor that obtains its energy from the massive sulfidic minerals existing in the Iberian Pyrite Belt. Two drilling projects, MARTE (2003–2006) and IPBSL (2011–2015), have been developed to provide evidence of subsurface microbial activities and the potential resources to support these activities. The oxidants that drive the system appear to come from the rock matrix. These resources need only groundwater to launch different microbial metabolisms. There are several similarities between the vast deposits of sulfates and iron oxides on Mars and the main sulfide bioleaching products found in the Tinto basin. These similarities have given to Río Tinto the status of geochemical Mars terrestrial analogue.
Type of Paper: Article
Title: Mud Volcanoes of Trinidad as Astrobiological Analogs for Martian Environments
Authors: Riad Hosein 1, Shirin Haque 2,* and Denise Beckles 1
Affiliation: 1 Department of Chemistry, University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad, West, Indies; Email: email@example.com (R.H.); firstname.lastname@example.org (D.B.)
2 Department of Physics, University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad, West Indies; Email:email@example.com
Abstract: Mud volcanoes in Trinidad emit methane. If this methane is biogenic in origin (i.e., is generated from subsurface microbes), the mud volcanoes can act as analogs for Martian environments and provide insight into the possibility of Mars harboring microbial life. The chemical profiles of eleven mud volcanoes (located in the southern region of Trinidad) were investigated in terms of their chemical, mineralogical, and soil properties; such factors were analyzed to determine whether mud volcanic soil microbes could exist. Methane Gas Analysis, pH analysis, Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC), and Percentage Water Content Analysis were performed on soil samples from the mud volcanoes. Chromium, strontium, and silicon were found in the mud volcanic soil; these elements all play a role in the proliferation of microbial life. Samples from three of the volcanoes were used to successfully culture bacterial colonies under anaerobic conditions. A general comparison of the mud volcanic soil in Trinidad with Martian soil indicates that similar processes may enable Mars to harbor microbial life.
Type of Paper: Article
Title: The Vast Subsurface: The Role of Caves and Mines as Terrestrial Analogs for Planetary Environments
Author: Penny Boston
Affiliation: Earth & Environmental Sciences Dept., New Mexico Institute of Mining & Technology, Socorro, New Mexico 87801, USA; E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Abstract: The role of caves, vugs, and mines in providing terrestrial analogs for near subsurface environments on other planets is a major new direction for analog studies. The use of such underground terrain has been slow to develop, perhaps because most investigators are not experienced in entering natural and artificial cavities, or because they are unacquainted with the tremendous varieties of geochemistries, mineralogies, physical parameters, and microbial communities that are found in such environments.
There is a cave or mine environment that provides an example of almost all major environmental challenges, with the obvious exceptions of ultraviolet wavelengths and ionizing radiation. Cave temperatures range from extremely high (e.g., ~ 40–60 °C) to subfreezing, depending upon the location and altitude of the cavity and its proximity to geothermal sources. The cave air ranges from ordinary ambient Earth gas constituents to extremely exotic mixtures of CO2, CO, H2S, SO2, CH4, aldehydes, and other compounds. Caves can be found in almost every lithology expressed in the Earth’s crust, including carbonates (e.g., limestone, dolomite, and marble), evaporates (e.g., gypsum, anhydrite, and halite), silicates (e.g., quartzite and sandstones), volcanic basalts and tuffs, igneous rocks (e.g., granite), water ice, and even unconsolidated sediments. Dominant pH values for caves and mines depend upon the interaction of the geo- and atmospheric chemistries of a cavity with the life that it contains; pH levels range from hyperacidic (pH = 0–3) to alkaline (pH ~ 8–9.5). Some caves have extensive hydrological input: sometimes, even major rivers flow through them. In contrast, some caves occur in hyperarid deserts, including the Atacama. Some caves are at high altitudes, and some are at low altitudes. Some caves are so immense that they even house their own rain clouds, while some are so tiny that direct human entrance is not possible. Nevertheless, all of these caves provide a comprehensive menu of conditions that can be germane to various planetary environments.
The microbial communities that inhabit this vast array of subterranean real estate are extremely unusual, and in many instances, unique. The number of novel strains that appear in virtually every assessment of caves and mines far outstrips the number of known strains in our databases (as determined by both non-culture dependent and culturing techniques). The stringent partitioning of subsurface habitats (because of limited opportunities for transport), the very slow intrinsic “pace of life” of many subsurface organisms, and the often high degree of heterogeneity of relevant geochemical and physical parameters within the subsurface habitats all appear to contribute to the apparent high degree of endemism.
A suite of similarities unifies subsurface microbial communities, even though the lithologies, geochemistries, and identities of individual organisms may be radically different from one cave to another. The ecological, energetic, and evolutionary consequences of inhabiting the subsurface also contribute to a unifying set of principles that can be applied broadly in the subsurface.
The physical depth to which microbial inhabitants can exist in either the continental or marine crust has not yet been established. However, the deep continental subsurface (to depths of 4 km) has yielded not only microorganisms, but also a multicellular eukaryote. The cavities through which we as humans may go are only the most accessible part of a much greater, biologically rich environment: the rock fracture habitat. This habitat is found throughout the continental and island land masses, and increasingly in ocean drilling samples.
In summary, this “hidden” part of our planet’s biosphere may rival, in terms of both diversity and biomass, other biomes on the Earth’s surface.
Last update: 10 March 2014