Successful Simulation of Mission to Search for Life on Mars Is Reported in Astrobiology Journal

Press Release From: Mary Ann Liebert Inc.
Posted: Friday, January 9, 2009


New Rochelle, NY, The success of a robotic drilling mission to search for subsurface life has demonstrated that robotic core sampling combined with remote laboratory analysis is both technically feasible and could be used for life detection on Mars, according to a report in the latest issue (Volume 8, Number 5) of Astrobiology, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. Several key papers in the issue are available free online at

Promising results from the Mars Astrobiology Research and Technology Experiment (MARTE) have led scientists to conclude that it would be possible to use robotic coring drills to collect subsurface samples from Mars. The findings also hold promise for applying state-of-the-art bioanalytical tools to detect biosignatures and identify life forms.

In the paper, "The 2005 MARTE Robotic Drilling Experiment in Rio Tinto, Spain: Objectives, Approach, and Results of a Simulated Mission to Search for Life in the Martian Subsurface," an international group of scientists describes the methods used to simulate a robotic drilling mission to Mars. An autonomous coring drill mounted on a simulated lander collected 21 core samples over a 30-day period near the headwaters of the Rio Tinto River in southwest Spain. The researchers detected biosignatures in 12 of 15 samples analyzed and were able to interpret correctly the composition of the samples.

Carol Stoker and colleagues from the NASA Ames Research Center (Moffett Field, CA) co-authored the report with collaborators from CSIC/INTA (Madrid, Spain), Honeybee Robotics Spacecraft Mechanisms Corp. (New York, NY), the University of Oklahoma (Norman), NASA Johnson Space Center (Houston, TX), SETI Institute (Mountain View, CA), University of New Brunswick (Canada), University of California (Berkeley), Princeton University (NJ), University of Florida (Gainesville), and the Mars Institute (Moffett Field, CA).

"The challenges faced by this international collaborative drilling mission simulation underscore the need for parallel advances in life detection technology and in situ characterization of specimens that might harbor evidence of life in field and laboratory settings," says Sherry L. Cady, PhD, Editor of Astrobiology and Associate Professor in the Department of Geology at Portland State University. "Drilling a martian site with hallmark indicators of habitability and high preservation potential could provide key evidence of life beyond Earth."

Astrobiology is an authoritative peer-reviewed journal published bimonthly in print and online increasing to 10 issues per year. The Journal provides a forum for scientists seeking to advance our understanding of life's origins, evolution, distribution, and destiny in the universe. A complete table of contents and a full text for this issue may be viewed online at

Astrobiology is the leading peer-reviewed journal in its field. To promote this developing field, the Journal has teamed up with The Astrobiology Web to highlight one outstanding paper per issue of Astrobiology. This paper is available free online at and to visitors of The Astrobiology Web at

Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. ( is a privately held, fully integrated media company known for establishing authoritative peer-reviewed journals in many promising areas of science and biomedical research. Its biotechnology trade magazine, Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN), was the first in its field and is today the industry's most widely read publication worldwide. A complete list of the firm's 60 journals, books, and newsmagazines is available at

Contact: Vicki Cohn, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., (914) 740-2100, ext. 2156,

Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. 140 Huguenot St., New Rochelle, NY 10801-5215
Phone: (914) 740-2100 -- (800) M-LIEBERT -- Fax: (914) 740-2101

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