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IN SEARCH OF LIFE ON MARS

July 2012 ISBN: 978-976-8233-58-5 by Lyall Winston Small #68 Welches Terrace, St Thomas Barbados All rights reserved No textual part of this book shall be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the permission of the owner.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Several individuals or entities contributed in various ways to the development of this ebook. Foremost amongst these were the following; NASA / JPL, for providing general public access to the raw images from its MER and other missions; Gil Levin; whose papers inspired me to search the MER 2004-2012 images for signs of the life I think he discovered in 1976; and Mark Carey for providing the MarsRoverBlog (MRB) forum that allowed me to interact with a number of other marsaholics. In addition several regular posters at MarsRoverBlog, headed by Hortonheardawho, Barsoomer, MPJ, Mann and Fred and with intermittent inputs from; Dishman, r_Page, Scidude, Fossils, a1call, Denis, Jamdix, r_lewis, Francisco Ogarzun, Mizar, JHD, Henry and Marsman, engaged in many hours of discussion that helped to concretize my ideas on Mars and provided many of the internet links that Ive used in the ebook. Thanks are also due to the just rock guys on the blog, especially Ben, Newboy, Brian, ArizonaSt and Serpens, who tried their best to keep me on a straight and narrow path of geological correctness. Thanks must also go to my family, especially to my son Eric for his encouragement and my wife Jean for her support when I was, in her words, on Mars. The interpretations of the images in this book are my own and should not be taken as having been derived from or approved by any Corporate entity or other individual person.

CONTENTS
1: Background. 1.2: Mars in myth and in 2012.

1.3: The 1976 Viking LR experiments. 1.4: The MER rovers. Opportunity and Spirit. 2: Extremophiles thrive on Earth so why not on Mars. 3: The significance of water to life and signs that liquid water currently exists sporadically on Mars surface. 4: What are the Opportunity Blueberries? 5: The MER wheel tracks and their possible significance in the search for life on Mars. 6 Other visual indicators of life imaged by the Rovers.

7: The future; What might Curiosity find? 8: Conclusions. 9: Glossary. List and credits for illustrations. References.

CHAPTER 1: Background
During the past eight years the Mars Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, have been exploring two small portions of the surface of Mars and sending back numerous detailed images of rocks and other components of the surface in a mission to characterize those surfaces from a geology perspective. During most of that time I have been a regular contributor to the discussions on the MarsRoverBlog forum that related to the possibility of microbial life existing on or near the surface of Mars at the present time and if one or both Rovers might have captured signs of such putative life. My main thrust in those discussions has been that if one assumes that Gil Levin succeeded in demonstrating metabolic signatures of life in his Viking LR experiments of 36 or so years ago, such life should exist and be thriving near the surface globally. Microbial life should therefore be ubiquitous in the subsurface. However it would be virtually undetectable by current and past lander and rover instruments because they were not designed to discover or identify signs of current microbial life per se but instead for finding geochemical footprints of ancient water near the surface. Ive been collecting numerous raw images from the Pancam and Microscopic Imagers of both rovers over the last eight years and recently had the idea of writing an ebook about the various images that suggested to me that there might be extant life at both Gusev and Meridiani, hiding in plain view near the surface. Such signs of life might not necessarily be fossils or other macroscopic remains but instead could be visual effects of microscopic life on the rocks and on other components of the environment that would have been affected or produced by such life.

There were numerous observations that informed that speculation. Some of these were; The images from both rovers showed a dynamic vibrant surface of Mars. The surface did not look dry and lifeless despite all the remonstrations of a number of contributors who robustly championed the view that everything seen in the images were rocks and only rocks. The first images that Opportunity sent back revealed millions of predominantly spherical blueberries. These were explained to be haematite concretions that were formed billions of years ago in ancient crater lakes and, when the water vanished, they remained on the surface by an inanimate desert pavement uplift process which kept the heavy pebbles on the surface. Their remaining on the surface to this day, because replenishment was impossble, has been attributed to their immense hardness even though several images showed reasonably high proportions of degraded, split or otherwise damaged berries. Another observation was the occurrence of several microchannels in the images. These features, usually on crater walls or near craters, looked almost exactly as one would expect small channels that had carried water to look. However, these were also explained as being cracks in the bedrock that had become filled with very fine dust which gave an erroneous impression of water channels. Related to the above was the upsurge in the numerous demonstrations by NASA and other Planetary Scientists that current liquid water flows occur regularly on the surface e.g. the Slope Lineae observations and research. Observations of recently formed craters on the surface of Mars showing ice which sublimed over a short period, added to the evidence that current water can exist transiently on the surface of Mars.

Similarly, the chance observation and follow up work on the accidental trenching of soil in Columbia Hills, Gusev by Spirit and the exposure of salts near the surface and then the demonstration that water was lost from the exposed salts over a relatively short period, demonstrated that water was likely trapped just under the surface. Indeed Alian Yang has suggested that his work may demonstrate that habitable zones for microbes might be just below the surface in such areas. The tracks that were often left by MerB and MerA on certain soil surfaces were also suggestive of recent water flows or upwellings. The most noteworthy of these were the first impressions the rovers made on Mars by the Rovers airbags. The mudlike appearance of some wheel tracks was later explained as being related to a high content of fine soil particles, a fineness which, on its own, was apparently sufficient to explain why it would clump together, show the clear impressions of the wheel tracks, or airbags, and look essentially like mud on earth. The unexpected cohesiveness of the soil was another feature that was explained as probably being a result of electro magnetic attraction between particles and not of dampness or activity of microbes which would have explained such a characteristic in Earth soils. Another enigma was the strange patterns taken up by the SODs or Self Organizing Dust on mars surfaces. This dust generally clumps together to assume very regular repetitive shapes such as circles, chains, filaments, etc. The nature of the SODs was explained as also being a purely physical phenomenon related to electro magnetic attraction between fine soil particles.

This book is predominantly a presentation of a number of composite colour images developed from the NASA-JPL database of raw MER rover images, that illustrate each of the areas outlined above. I have attempted to use the images to make a case that, based on the results of the Viking LR experiments and the images sent back to Earth by the MER rovers, supplemented with the results of several studies by a variety of scientists on extremophile microbial species on Earth and also on simulations of Mars environmental conditions, it is more reasonable to conclude that it is possible that microbial life may exist just below the surface of Mars right now, than to make the usual judgements that Mars surface is dry, no surface water exists and that therefore it is impossible for any signs of microbial life to exist at the surface. I think life was discovered on Mars in 1976, through the Viking LR experiments and I think that, if one looks carefully, the MER rovers have provided visual evidence that suggests Levins claims are probably true. In any case there are no images that unequivocally suggest that Mars surface is sterile. This book is not a Scientific paper by any means. It is rather an attempt at a distillation of information in the public domain that suggests a possibility that microbial life exists on Mars surface. Indeed, I would hope it will demonstrate that contributions by persons on the Blogs can be as valuable as those by Scientists in their well equipped Laboratories. Anyone interested in the pure scientific aspects can go to marsroverblog where there are several posters who they can engage scientifically on any aspect of the topic and where posters scour the web to ensure that the latest relevant findings are discussed.

My hope is that readers will examine the various composites that I have assembled here from the raw images posted on the NASA/JPL MER rovers website and decide for themselves if there might or might not be another side to the apparent current scientific consensus that there can be no life on or near the surface of Mars. I dont think the MER images and much of the new published data support that conclusion. The illustrations provided in this ebook are primarily composites or other enhancements of the essentially public domain NASA/JPL raw images from the Mars Exploration Rover Mission. My colour composites are mainly combinations of raw L257 filter images which allow much greater visual resolution of different chemical components of a scene than the standard, almost monochrome, true colour images. Stereo images were made in Stereophotomaker. Stereo anaglyphs must be viewed using red and blue anaglyph glasses . A few images, posted to MRB by the incredibly prolific and talented Hortonheardawho, are included in this ebook. The ebook also includes a few public domain images from other web pages, usually for comparison with specific MER images. The sources of the images which were not assembled or processed by me are indicated and acknowledged in a list in the second last chapter. Many of the images in this book were cropped to try to ensure that the features being described could be clearly seen and to maximise the numbers of images presented. Many original images related to those in the ebook may be found at my smugmug picture page where they are freely available to the general public.

The dimensions of the objects in the Pancam images are not generally indicated on the illustrations in this ebook since the size of any particular object may vary significantly from one scene to another depending on the distance from the camera. However, since the average size of the berries is known and they are present in almost every image of the surface of Meridiani, this can be used to roughly estimate the sizes of other objects where berries are present. For MI images, a one mm wide reference scale is placed in some images. This scale is a 1 mm yellow and black line for 2D MIs and a coloured 3D box, 1 mm wide, for 3D anaglyphs. The width of the 3D box in some PanCam images bears no relationship to scale. Berries are between 0.7 and 6.6 mm in size in the images derived from MIs. Most of the chains, spherelets, etc. in those images are around 0.1 mm or 100um wide. The first 2 chapters in this book may be considered as a literature review of sorts as they seek to outline the currently understood situation on topics that are directly or intimately related to the possibility of life existing on Mars. That information is included as background to the information presented in the rest of the book. The ebook Microbes of Mars published in 2011 by Barry E Di Gregorio, provides a balanced presentation of the case for the current existence of life on Mars and is indeed an update on his seminal book; Mars, a living Planet. Many of the background topics that are presented in summary form in this ebook are more comprehensively dealt with in Mars, a living planet and the Microbes of Mars.

1.2: Mars in myth and in 2012


Mars, our nearest planetary neighbour, has been the subject of myth and speculation for as long as mankind first looked to the heavens and observed its enigmatic red brilliance as compared with the numerous other heavenly bodies. The Ancient Romans christened it Mars, the name of their God of War One of the most enduring myths about Mars is that intelligent life could be found there. This apparently started with the description of canals on the surface of Mars by Giovanni Schiaparelli, a nineteenth-century Italian astronomer. This was expanded on by Percival Lowell, an American astronomer, who theorized that a Martian civilization had built canals there. In the 1990s there was a claim that a "face" on the planet that was imaged by the Viking orbiter in 1976 was a monument left by an ancient civilization. More recent MGS images have shown that it is merely an effect of lighting on a martian mesa. Mars is the favourite extraterrestrial body for cinematic and other casting as being the main threat for alien invasion of our planet. H.G. Wells started this trend in 1898 in his The War of the Worlds. This book is not about that kind of life. It is instead about the possibility, or even likelihood, that life exists even now just below the surface of Mars, not as intelligent multicelled aliens but as microbes that have been existing there for perhaps billions of years in tune with an environment that is considered hostile or extreme to us but which, to them, would be as normal as a tropical environment is to us.

But what are the realities of Mars and the probability of there being any putative life there as pieced together from the various remote readings sent back by the various orbiters, landers and rovers of the last half century or so? Here is a brief outline of the characteristics of Mars that are relevant to life as we know it. These characteristics were pieced together from data gathered by the various missions that targeted Mars. However, during the past 8 years or so the Mars Exploration Rovers campaign of NASA/JPL has provided a large body of data that, in some cases, significantly modifies the older picture of Mars. How this could affect the current martian paradigm is dealt with in later chapters. Mars is one of the 9 planets in our Solar System. Mercury is the one nearest to the sun, Venus is the second nearest, Earth is the third and Mars is the fourth. Mars is quite similar to Earth in a number of respects. Its period of rotation and the inclination of its axis as it rotates are similar to Earth's and its density is comparable with, but less than Earths. Mars' atmosphere is significantly less dense than Earths. The inclination of Mars axis (24 degrees) results in regularlychanging polar caps and dust storms and gives rise to annual seasons, that are somewhat similar to Earths. However, the difference between Winter and Summer is more extreme on Mars due to the greater eccentricity of the Martian orbit and Mars experiences significant seasonal differences in the amount of sunlight impacting its surfaces during a year. The distance of Mars from the Sun ranges from 128.4 million miles to 154.7 million miles. Mars receives 40 percent more

sunlight during its southern Summer, when nearest the Sun, than during its southern Winter, when the Sun is most distant.. Mars has 2 natural satellites, Phobos and Deimos, as compared with Earths single moon. Mars is a geologically complex planet with scars of numerous craters, huge extinct volcanoes, an enormous rift valley and dried up remnants of ancient river beds. Mars has a very thin atmosphere, predominantly composed of carbon dioxide. The usual given composition of the martian atmosphere is 95 % CO2, 2.7% N2 and 1.3% O2. Compare this with the current given composition of the Earths atmosphere at 0.3% CO2, 78% N2, 21% O2 and 1.7% CH4. Mars surface temperature varies from -194 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Mars rotational period or day is only 37 minutes longer than Earth's. Prior to the last decade there was an overwhelming presumption that liquid water could not possibly exist on the surface of Mars. Based on the proliferation of life on Earth it has been proposed that habitability of a planet by life, as we know it, depends on a number of factors. Liquid water at the surface is the preeminent factor which also presupposes that the planet should lie in a habitable zone (the Goldilocks zone) in relation to the distance from its sun that proscribes the possibility of existence of liquid water at the surface. The current paradigm holds that only ice, perhaps mixed with dust, can exist on the surface of Mars at the present time, not liquid water.

Another factor lacking on Mars is the presence of a reasonably thick atmosphere to provide protection against small meteorite bombardments and against the deleterious effects of the solar wind as well as to provide enough atmospheric pressure to prevent ice at the surface from sublimating into a gaseous state. In addition it is thought that Mars is geologically inactive and so there is no recycling of minerals between its core and the surface, thereby restricting the availability of such minerals for use by living organisms. Mars therefore has at least three strikes going against it in the habitability stakes. However, satellite imagery suggests that certain niches on the planet may be more habitable than is currently thought possible. E.g. there have apparently been strong flows of liquid water on the surface evidenced by satellite images and other observations. It therefore may be more habitable than the scientific number crunching might suggest. The dominant mainstream position is that it is unclear if life ever took hold on Mars. The Viking landers included experiments for detecting microorganisms in Martian soil. There were apparently positive results based on the pre launch protocols but these were later deemed inconclusive. A reanalysis of that Viking data, in light of current knowledge that extremely hardy forms of life exist on Earth, has suggested that the Viking LR tests might have indeed identified life on Mars but this is still a very hotly debated topic.

In addition, organic compounds and associated objects resembling microbes have been found in the meteorite, ALH84001, which has been generally acknowledged to have come from Mars. It is still debatable if these compounds and objects are really signs of primitive life forms on Mars. Small quantities of methane and formaldehyde have been recently detected by Mars orbiters on a regular basis and it is being claimed that these are products of current metabolism of existing life on Mars as these chemicals would quickly break down in the Martian atmosphere if they were only products of a long dormant geological process. However there is a strong counter argument that the presence of these organic chemicals could just as feasibly be products of what has been interpreted as current low level volcanic activity or even of serpentization. Thus the question of whether or not there is microbial life on Mars has not been definitively settled and remains a hot topic of debate. This book takes the position that there is current life and that several of the images sent back by the MER rovers can be interpreted as showing signs of past or even extant life. A comparison of some Mars factoids that were generally accepted before the MERs mission with what is generally accepted today might give some idea of how knowledge on Mars has progressed since the MER missions began; The Maximum surface temperature was thought to be only about 8F; There had been no precipitation for billions of years; Liquid water could not exist on the surface, No carbonates existed on the surface and widespread super oxidants made life on or near the surface impossible .

Today there is a general realization that: the Martian atmosphere is significantly denser than previously thought; the maximum temperature near the ground at Meridiani Planum was 97F and, in the summer, near the equator, surface temperatures during the day were quite balmy. Snow has been observed, so too has been a variety of clouds; Frost has been observed; Liquid briny water can and does exist on the surface for appreciable lengths of time; and brine melt is the leading candidate as an explanation for the Transient Slope Lineae that have been imaged by orbiters on the sides of some craters. In addition, it has not been demonstrated that super oxidants can kill microbes protected by antioxidants or by a dust or rock surface cover. Numerous studies have also shown that several earth microbes can exist for long periods in experimental growth chambers that simulate the harshest presumptive Mars environmental conditions.

1.3: The Viking LR experiments


Dr. Gilbert V. Levin is the American microbiologist who arguably discovered that life existed near the surface of Mars in 1976 through the use of his Labelled Release (LR) experiment that looked for microbial mediated chemical reactions in NASAs Viking Mission to Mars. There were two Viking landing sites some 4,000 miles apart and the LR returned evidence of living microorganisms at both sites as determined by pre-test protocols. The results were however later deemed inconclusive by NASA primarily because the results of the separate Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GCMS) experiments had failed to find evidence of organic chemicals in the soil at the Viking sites. The 1976 Viking LR results had 3 apparently insurmountable obstacles to deal with that together indicated that there was a strong likelihood that there could be no extant life just below the surface of Mars. These presumptive factors were; 1) there were no organic chemicals on Mars because of the presence of theoretical superoxides that would destroy them; 2) the presence of liquid water at or near the surface was presumed to be an impossibility, and; 3) life as we know it could not exist in the very hostile environment of Mars surface. The inability to demonstrate organic chemicals on Mars (with the exception of Methane and Formaldehyde) prompted several scientists to seek to explain the Viking LR results as having been caused by chemical reactions between the LR nutrients and unspecified theoretical oxidants in the soil. However, some researchers are now producing evidence that organic matter is likely to be present there.

Research by Navarro-Gonzalez et al. suggested that thermal volatilization Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GCMS), the method used on the Viking missions for detection of organics, could have itself led to the destruction of any trace amounts of organic matter present in the sample. In the Viking GCMS studies, Martian soil was vaporized to break up organic molecules and the resultant gases and volatiles were analyzed. Water and Carbon dioxide were the only accepted products of the vaporization while traces of chloromethane and dichloromethane, that were also found, were considered to be terrestrial hitch hiking contaminants even thought the controls had shown no evidence of these chemicals at the levels found. The Phoenix Lander in 2007 discovered perchlorate at its landing site in Martian Arctic soil. Since then Gonzalez et al have shown that when Mars-like soils from the Atacama Desert containing measured amounts of organic carbon are mixed with 1% magnesium perchlorate and heated, nearly all the organics present are decomposed to water and carbon dioxide, but a small amount is chlorinated, forming small amounts of chloromethane and dichloromethane at 500C, thereby suggesting that the Viking GCMS results could be explained by the presence of perclorates in the soil and was not necessarily due to lack of organics. They developed a chemical kinetics model to predict the degree of oxidation and chlorination of organics in the Viking oven. This led to a reinterpretation of the Viking results which suggests that at 0.1% perchlorate there could have been between 1.56.5 ppm of organic carbon at landing site 1 and between 0.72.6 ppm of organic carbon at landing site 2.

Relatively recent work has also indicated that Perclorates are metabolized by some anaerobic microbes which also produce Oxygen in the dark. One such microbe is Dechloromonas sp. Recent work by Shkrob and Chemerisov and Shkrob et al., suggested that active removal processes are taking place that could also partially explain the conclusion that the martian surface is depleted of organics, as well as the production of the methane detected in the martian atmosphere. Several simulation studies on the likelihood of liquid water remaining for appreciable periods on Mars surface have indicated that liquid water can indeed form and persist there. Similarly, there have been several studies which have concluded that many earth microbes could survive for long periods under Martian environmental conditions. It therefore seems that all the premises under which the Viking LR results were deemed inconclusive have been essentially put to rest. In 1997 Dr. Levin published his conclusion that the LR had indeed discovered living microorganisms on the Red Planet. Levin also published a paper in 2011 which dealt with the ramifications of a sterile Mars. The abstract of that paper merits being reproduced below. The seldom considered ramifications of a sterile Mars are explored. Very much is now known about the environment on Mars. Herein, the individual and collective environmental parameters are examined with particular consideration of those that might be inimical to life as we know it, or as might reasonably be assumed to be so to alien life.

It is shown that no single measurement or combination of them precludes the ability of Mars to support even a wide number of terrestrial microbial species, let alone the likely greater tolerance and/or adaptability of possible alien life forms. Some yet unknown factor or combination of factors would have to be responsible for Mars failure to generate life or to successfully harbor viable forms received from space. Since Mars is so Earth-like, the red planets sterility could deliver a fatal blow to the growing concept of a cosmic Biologic Imperative, and would raise the daunting prospect that Earth is a unique or a very rare habitat. For arguments sake, if one accepts that the balance of evidence might now be on the side of a presumption that Levin did find life on Mars in 1976, what are the consequences of this acceptance? Shouldnt the MER rovers, that are capable of resolving discrete particles of about 100 microns diameter, have seen textures and other signs, at least in the near subsurface, that resemble textures of life, especially since it seems that the balance of the evidence now favours a small but observable water cycle on Mars? My view is that the rovers have indeed sent back several images that show such textures and forms but that they have all been authoritatively interpreted as fines or quaint rocks or ignored altogether. The remaining chapters of this ebook show or discuss a number of examples of such fabrics, textures and forms, from the MER imagery, that suggest that there is a distinct possibility that Levin might have indeed found life on Mars in 1976.

1.4; The MER rovers


The Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission is an ongoing robotic space mission involving two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, exploring Mars. It began in 2003 with the launching of the two rovers MER-A, Spirit and Mer-B, Opportunity, to explore the Martian surface. The mission is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, which includes three previous landers: the two Viking landers in 1976 and the Mars Pathfinder probe in 1997. The mission is managed for NASA by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) which designed, built, and is operating the rovers. The MER mission was to search for and characterize a wide range of rocks and soils that were expected to hold clues to past water activity on Mars. Included amongst the scientific objectives of the Mars Exploration Rover mission were the following that have some relevance to the subject of this book: Search for and characterize a variety of rocks and soils that hold clues to past water activity. Determine the distribution and composition of minerals, rocks, and soils surrounding the landing sites. Determine what geologic processes have shaped the martian terrain and influenced its chemistry. Search for iron-containing minerals, and identify and quantify relative amounts of specific mineral types that contain water or were formed in water, such as iron-bearing carbonates.

Search for geological clues to the environmental conditions that existed when liquid water was present on the surface of Mars. Assess whether or not those environments were conducive to life (as we know it on Earth). Opportunity and Spirit landed on Mars about 3 weeks apart in January 2004 and since then numerous images have been relayed back to Earth, along with other scientific data captured on the Microscopic Imager (MI) and the Pancam scientific cameras. In addition, other operational images were transmitted to Earth from the Navigation and Hazard Cameras on a practically daily basis. All the images were made available to anyone on Earth interested in the project. Well over million images from Spirit and Opportunity have been posted so far on the NASA/JPL Rovers website. On May 1, 2009, Spirit became stuck in soft soil on Mars. After months of attempts to get it back on track,NASA /JPL finally gave up trying to regain contact with the rover in May 2011 bringing the elapsed mission time for the MerA segment to over 25 times the original planned mission duration. Opportunity, however, is still roving and making more discoveries about geology and past water at Meridiani planum. NASA proposes to conduct a number of other missions to address whether life ever existed on Mars. The emphasis will be on determining if the Martian environment was ever suitable for life. Life, as we understand it, requires water, hence the history of water on Mars is critical to finding out if the Martian environment was ever conducive to life. The Mars Exploration Rovers do not have the ability to detect life directly but they

do offer important information on the habitability of the martian environment in the planet's history through the study of existing rocks. The Rovers enjoyed a full measure of success in quickly achieving the objectives of the mission. There were several discoveries of a variety of key minerals in the rocks examined which strongly suggested that water once flowed in the Meridiani region where Opportunity operated. Fig 4.1 is a map of Mars, courtesy NASA/JPL, showing where the Mars landers or Rovers were or are located on the Martian surface. It includes the positions of the Viking landers, the Pathfinder rover, the ill-fated Beagle II lander, the MER rovers and Curiositys planned landing site. The Rovers were well equipped to conduct their Geological mission of finding clues to the presence of ancient water on Mars. The equipment they carried for their scientific assays were: The Science instruments or the Athena Package: The dual (high resolution) panoramic camera) The Microscopic Imager (MI) The Miniature Thermal Emission Spectrometer (mini-TES) The Mossbauer Spectrometer (MB) The Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) The Rock Abrasion Tool (RAT) and the Magnet arrays The other operational cameras. were;

The dual front hazcams (hazard detection / avoidance cameras) The dual rear hazcams The dual navcams (navigational cameras) The science instruments were capable of identifying the various minerals and rocks along the rovers traverses of the martian terrain as well as the salts and other compounds that might contain bound water and thus fulfill their main mandate. The instruments were also capable of determining such environmental parameters as temperatures, wind speeds and relative humidity around the rovers. There were however no instruments in the rovers arsenal that were capable of directly identifying current free water on Mars or even directly identifying free ice on the surface or identifying organic moities. This was not their remit. The MI was not capable of providing images that could resolve fine differences between inanimate dust and microbial spores or individual cells in the size ranges of typical earth microbes and thus could not definitively determine if putative microbial fabrics might or might not be present in its images. None of the MER spectrometers are capable of identifying minerals or chemical moities at a depth of more than 300 microns below the surface of any object examined. Thus with an average diameter of blueberries of say 3 mm (or 3000 microns), the spectrometers could not definitively identify what constituted 73 percent of the volume of these small objects. With larger berries, of say 5 mm average diameter, the volume unavailable for examination jumps to 83%.

Of course with larger rocks which were amenable to the use of the RAT, the instruments could probe further, eg, to 300 microns below the depth of the RATTED hole from the surface. In adddition, the spectrometers can not target individual berries for examination and scientists have to rely on theoretical models to make approximate estimates of berry content. Indeed, there have been papers presented by reputable scientists that claim that at Meridiani the haematite dust cover pervades all surfaces, thus, even though it is possible that the berries could be entirely composed of haematite as is claimed, the instruments can not substantiate this definitively. That claim that the berries are totally made up of haematite is therefore an educated guess only and not an actual direct measurement of the haematite within the berry itself.

Fig 4-1; map of Mars showing landing sites - ex NASA

CHAPTER 2; Extremophiles
Extremophiles are living organisms that thrive under harsh environmental conditions which would normally be fatal for typical organisms on Earth. Such conditions include extreme low or high temperatures or pHs or salinity or pressure; living in toxic environments, eg. In arsenic laced solutions; living in nuclear reactors; living in microwaves, etc. Most extremophiles are micro-organisms such as archeae and bacteria since higher organisms generally are less adaptive to wide variations from the norm in their natural environment. In some cases extremophile metabolism thrives on the exotic variation in environmental conditions; in other situations, there is adaptive behavior such as metabolic diapause or formation of resistant resting structures, e.g, endospores. Upper limits of existence for carbon based lifeforms appear to be about 150 degrees Celsius, based upon the inherent thermal stabilities of the amino acids and polypeptides that are essential to the manufacture of DNA. Even though it is true that most extremophiles are microorganisms there are a number of multicellular organisms that may also be classed as extremophiles. These include Tardigrades or water bears, small animals that have been found to be able to tolerate the vacuum of space and can exist in a dehydrated state for months. Extremophiles are thought to have been some of the earliest lifeforms on earth, since such early organisms would have had to be adapted to harsh conditions, at least in comparison to present day environments. It may be possible that some Extremophiles may exist on other bodies in the solar system, such as Jupiter's moon, Europa or on Mars.

Certain types of bacteria thrive in hot waters. Most living bacteria and organisms are killed by simple pasteurization at about 63 to 72 C since such temperatures typically denatures the proteins that are part of all living membranes and also the enzymes that catalyze biochemical reactions. When cell membranes, enzyme or other cell protein structures are damaged, in one or more severe or critical ways, cells die. Bacteria that live and survive in hot, steamy waters and undersea vents are called thermophiles. Thermophiles have heat-protective proteins that allow them to do this. Thermophiles can be isolated from areas in and around steam vents, geysers, mud pots and hot springs. In the United States thermophiles thrive in multiple steamy sites in Yellowstone Park in northwestern Wyoming. In the oceans and seas "black smokers" of sea vents spew out dark, hot minerals and sulfur deposits which support large numbers of thermophilic bacteria and associated organisms. These special bacteria are members of the ancient bacterial kingdom named "Archaea". The modus operandi of thermophiles is that they have proteins that are heat-resistant and are not denatured when heated to high temperatures. Thermus aquaticus , a typical thermophile, has a polymerase enzyme which can be heated to 70 C and cooled multiple times and can still function after 20 or 30 such cycles. Over the past few years there have been a large number of Scientific papers reporting on various newly discovered capabilities of an ever expanding list of extremophiles.

Chloracidobacterium thermophilum is a new genus and species of bacteria that was discovered by workers from the University of Pennsylvania and described in Science July 27, 2007. Recently, NASA reported on a newly found group of extremophile that they called "arsenophiles". Arsenophiles isolated from Mono Lake in California, substitute arsenic for phosphorous in critical energy transfer molecules. Some extremophiles tolerate near freezing temperatures and low levels of oxygen and can grow in the absence of organic food. Under these conditions their metabolism is driven by the oxidation of iron from olivine, a common volcanic mineral found in the rocks of lava tubes. These factors, in the opinion of some researchers, would allow them to thrive in the subsurface of Mars and other planetary bodies. Several references are given which demonstrate our ever expanding knowledge of the apparently almost limitless capacities of extremophiles. It was persuasively argued in the past that the ambient conditions on Mars were too extreme, compared with Earths, to allow any life as we know it to thrive or even live there. Today it is becoming more and more evident that several extremophiles exist and thrive under even more extreme conditions than those adduced for Mars and that this argument is no longer tenable.

CHAPTER 3; The significance of water


Water is an essential medium for the existence of all living organisms on Earth. Life on Earth appears to be inextricably linked with the presence of water at some stage of its development. Thus all of the extremophiles found so far have had water associated with some aspect of their life cycles. The linkage of Life with water is so pervasive that it is generally accepted that wherever one finds water it will be teeming with at least microbial life. But is the same thing true for Mars or any other extraterrestrial body? Several scientists think so but the truth or otherwise of that aphorism has not been rigorously tested outside of Earth even though some meteorites, that have been accepted as having originated on Mars, have been shown to have fossil like structures and biochemicals in them that strongly suggest that life was present in the rocks from which they were blasted untold millions or billions of years ago. It is generally accepted that billions of years ago water flooded parts of theMartian surface and gouged enormous flood channels there but that most of the water that remained now lies frozen at the poles or covered by dust. Mars is now, almost by definition, a cold and dessicated place. But there is evidence that liquid water is flowing someplace on Mars even now Indeed, there has been a deluge of observations by NASA orbiters and landers as well as the Mars Express orbiter and numerous findings from scientific research that strongly suggest that it is almost certain that liquid water can and does exist at the surface of Mars and that the paradigm has changed. .

Some of the observations or Mars simulation chamber research results that indicate that liquid water currently exists on Mars are summarized below. Links to the relevant news stories and papers are provided in the references section of this book to allow those who might wish to further examine the above statement to see the source material. In the late 1990s the high-resolution camera on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) recorded narrow gullies meandering down the walls of some craters and many researchers surmised that they were the result of water periodically oozing out of cracks in the rock and trickling downslope. During the recent NASA Phoenix mission, it was noticed that little blobs were clinging to the craft's landing struts and it was argued that they might be liquid water droplets. However the debate on this is ongoing. The Hirise camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) captured dark rivulets forming, growing, and then fading in the planet's southern hemisphere. These Transient Slope Lineae (TSLs) have been explained as being formed by brines containing enough salt to depress their freezing points by more than 100F (50 to 60C). Fig 6-4 shows a typical TSL. Unlike the gullies seen by Mars Global Surveyor, these new finds occur only along sunwardfacing slopes and only form during midsummer. Below are just a few examples of the titles of a small sampling of the large outpouring of recent releases and new research findings which strongly suggest that liquid water currently exists on Mars, even if only in relatively small amounts;

Martian fog study finds thick haze diamond dust NASA lander adds to evidence of red planets water cycle. Spectral evidence for liquid water on Mars.

- NASA spacecraft reveals dramatic changes in Mars atmosphere. Wetter Mars atmosphere shakes up old climate models.

- Mars surprises - atmosphere is supersaturated with water vapour. Mars climate sounder confirms a martian weather prediction. Is water flowing on Mars?

- Currently active flow features on walls of Newton crater on Mars. - Subsurface water and clay mineral formation during the early history of Mars. Mountains and buried ice on Mars.

- Slope streaks could be brine runoffs from overnight frost deposition on salty rocks. - Evidence in favour of small amounts of ephemeral and transient water during alteration at Meridiani planum. Large amounts of water ice found underground on Mars.

- Salty soil can suck water out of the atmosphere; Could it happen on Mars?

At Gusev, studies on a time lapse series of spectra of salts exposed by Spirits bad wheel and as a consequence of the immobilization of Spirit at Samander point, indicated that water of crystallization was progressively lost to the atmosphere after that exposure. The studies above, as reported in papers in LPSC 2011 and 2012, described attributes in the pancam and apxs spectra of salts released to the surface by Spirits dragging wheel in Columbia hills that indirectly indicated the presence of water. These attributes were correlated with the amount of water held loosely in or on the salts. It therefore appears that water was released from some hydrated iron salts during a relatively short period of exposure to the atmosphere. Thus it may be possible that the water on some of these salt species might be loosely bound and available to putative microbes below the surface. When one reads and follows the links on the above news stories or scientific papers there seems to be a clear indication that the game has already changed. More and more scientists seem to be willing to accept that the results of Mars exploration of the past decade or so is painting a picture of a different Mars to the one envisaged in previous decades. So what is the science that underpins the former presumption that water cannot exist on the surface of Mars at the present time or the presumptive current one that it can exist ephemerally and sporadically? The major basis is the physics of the triple (or eutectic) point for existence of pure liquid water in an environment such as Mars. A diagram for the existence of one or other of the three phases of water, i.e. water ice, liquid water or water vapour, under different temperatures and pressures, is given in fig 6.2. It is

adapted from one in Gil Levins paper The Viking LR experiment and life on Mars. The diagram indicates under which combination of temperature and atmospheric pressure either of the phases would exist. The normal range of temperatures and pressures on Mars are indicated in the figure. The diagram indicates that under normal martian temperatures and pressures pure ice on the surface of Mars would sublimate directly into water vapour without passing through a liquid phase. This is the most likely common situation on the Martian surface. However, it has long been known that several salts (including the perchlorates that were found at the phoenix site) lower the triple point and therefore extends the lower end of the temperature range over which liquid water could exist on Mars. In addition, recent research has suggested that the normal atmospheric pressure on Mars may be a few times higher than what it has been adduced to have been previously. Indeed, Levin has pointed out (personal communication) that during the six years of monitoring by the Viking instruments the atmospheric pressure never fell below 6.1 mb. Also, the atmospheric pressure in deep craters is likely to be significantly higher than has been experienced at current landing sites. Fig 6.1 also shows that at Meridiani planum the temperature has often exceeded the expected Mars range of temperatures therefore also extending the possibility that liquid water could exist transiently on the surface there.

The science therefore supports the probability that water exists at Meridiani and a number of other places on Mars surface, perhaps even diurnally. Indeed, John Moores, a planetary scientist at York University in Canada, indicated in a study which demonstrated the existence of diamond dust type fog on Mars by the Spirit rover (linked in the references section here) that; The atmosphere is thin on Mars and there is nothing to keep in the heat overnight so the ground cools off very quickly. The air close to the ground gets colder and more water vapor in the atmosphere condenses into ice crystals and the fog gets thicker. The fog starts closer to the ground and rises in height over time, so the cloud gets thicker and thicker and higher and higher as the night goes on. Eventually an icy haze begins to shower the ground with a light sprinkling of snowlike particles. The shower is not quite snowfall but is perhaps more akin to the "diamond dust" that falls from the skies on some cold nights in Earth's Arctic regions. About 2.5 microns of frost coats the Martian surface by the time the sun begins to rise in the morning and some of that icy layer then sublimates directly to water vapour but some likely penetrates the soil and becomes part of the subsurface ground ice. This implies that dynamic hydrological processes are currently at work on Mars and there is a reservoir of water in the atmosphere interacting with subsurface water on a daily basis. Fig 6.3. is a diagram I made to represent what might constitute an ongoing water cycle on Mars.

At night the atmosphere is supersaturated with water. That water vapour descends to the cold surface and forms a layer of frost (which has been captured in various images at the Viking sites and at Meridiani planum by the lander/rovers). With daylight, the atmosphere warms up and initially the frost layer melts providing small amounts of liquid water that wets the soil and perhaps some of which gets trapped in the interstices of the soil or gets absorbed onto salts. Later in the day the water left at the surface sublimates directly to water vapour as the upper atmospheric column warms up. The cycle repeats diurnally. But what is the ground truth on the possible existence of water on the surface of Mars as seen by the rovers, Opportunity and Spirit, and even Viking and Phoenix? I am proposing that several images have indeed shown clear signs of the existence of such water but that science has convincingly explained these signs as being merely the expression of the properties of fines i.e. very fine particles of the regolith concentrated in certain areas and giving the impression of water flows down crater sides, puddles, etc. I think that the channels etc., that look as if water was recently there, actually reflects reality and the remainder of this chapter will attempt to demonstrate this using a sample of these images to allow readers to judge for themselves . Some of the images are 3D anaglyphs for which the reader will need to use red and blue anaglyph 3-D glasses. Chapter 5 in this book shows images that suggest that liquid subsurface water was disturbed by rover tracks or other means

and left mud or stains on the disturbed surfaces after the release and evaporation of that water by rover action. Only a few of the numerous examples are shown here because of space and time constraints. Readers may follow the links in the references to get a more in-depth look at the originals of the images provided. The following photosites, maintained by regular posters on the Marsroverblog community, have many examples of composite, 3D and other images from the MER rovers that show features in MER images that might be signs of liquid flows on Mars or may be related to life and its putative modification of its environment. LWS smugmug photopage; Hortonheardawhos Flickr page and Manns smugmug photopage The URLs of the photosites above are listed in the references.

Fig 6-1; T emperatures at Meridiani (max/min), by sol - ex Nasa

Fig 6-2; Triple point for pure water; ex Chemical Rubber Handbook

Fig 6-3; A basic atmospheric water cycle model for mars

Fig 6-4 Transient slope lineae (TSLs) on Mars ex NASA

Clouds, frost, ice etc The images on the following pages show water in either its ice or gaseous phases as taken by one or other of the MER Rovers. Fig 6.5 shows clouds imaged by Opportunity. During the MER mission several pictures of clouds have been taken. These clouds have always been interpreted as being composed of tiny crystals of ice, not water vapour. Fig 6.6 shows an early morning frost at one of the Viking sites in 1976. Both Opportunity and Spirit, as well as Phoenix, have also managed to capture images of frost on their instrument panels or the ground on a number of occasions. Fig 6.7 shows a trench dug by the phoenix lander in which water ice was inferentially identified on the basis of its visual appearance and the fact that it sublimated quickly after exposure and that, based on the temperature in the environment of phoenix, that it could not have been CO2 ice. Phoenix, like the MER rovers, had no means of directly and definitively identifying ice using the available payload. Fig 6.8 is one of my favourite images. It shows a scene in which reflections appear to be emanating from what looks like translucent channels. I interpret the image as showing lightly dusted ice in the micro channels at the surface. There are several images captured by Opportunity that show what appears to be very similar situations with putative ice in microchannels that often have an appearance of being damp or wet and that follow similar paths to those one would expect channels produced by very small nightly water flows to exhibit. These present themselves as dust engulfed ice in the day.

Fig 6-5; Clouds over Meridiani, Mars; sol 756, Opportunity

Fig 6-6 Frost at Viking site. - White balanced NASA image

Fig 6-7; trench at Phoenix site showing exposed ice

Fig 6-8; Translucent? microchannels suggestive of Ice; sol 658

Bounce, Puddles. When Opportunity bounced down on Meridiani planum from space one of the objects its air bags landed on and dislodged from its resting place was a meteorite rock named Bounce . Fig 6.9 is a colour composite of Bounce. If that rock was on Earth there would be no argument that the stain that is prominent on its surface must have been caused by a liquid. On Mars it is a different story. In my view, the rock clearly shows a situation where it was dislodged from intimate contact with a near surface environment where liquid brine was present. The microseconds of the action allowed the liquid to splash onto one side of the rock and stain its surface and then evaporate into the thin atmosphere. I think it is a clear sign of liquid water having been present for a very short time on the surface. Fig 6.10 is another image that shows the effect of the impact of the airbags on the Mars soil. Here, an area where the airbags bounced and left their unmistakeable marks imprinted on the soil are shown. The surficial berries were pressed into the soil but most importantly the exact imprints of the stitches of the air bags are clearly seen on the affected surface. The most reasonable explanation for this is that the soil was fluidized or made muddy as a result of the force of the airbags. Fig 6.11 shows a close up of the muddy appearance of another landing bag mark. Fig 6.12 is an example of a puddle that MerB encountered and imaged on sol 97. On sol 89 MerB imaged another apparent puddle but a closer look suggested that it might have been a blowhole of some sort where excess water was forcibly ejected through a hole at the surface.

Fig 6-9; The meteorite bounce with stain, sol 65

Fig 6-10; airbag marks made on landing, sol 52

Fig 6.11 I m prints left by MerBs airbags, sol 10

Fig 6.12; 3D of puddle at Meridiani, sol 97

Microchannels, Mud; From very early after Opportunitys landing in Eagle crater small, sinuous channels could be seen, seemingly flowing down between rocks but apparently populated by dust only. The dust however looked damp but this damp look was interpreted as being due to the extreme fineness of the particulates of which it was composed. MRB regulars call them microchannels. Most of the images in the following few pages show microchannels from Meridiani. The microchannels give the distinct impression of channels cut out by fluid flows from either mini acquifers or from other elevated sources. They have an appearance of being visually damp and are often seen (in 3D) to be below the level of the surrounding rock or soil surface. Fig.6.13, 6.14, 6.15, 6.16, and 6.18 show a few of the numerous microchannels encountered by Opportunity. They all show the characteristics described above. Fig 6.15, 6.16 and 6.18 show another characteristic of the microchannels of Meridiani. Opportunitys wheels usually appear to express and transport mud which retains a muddy look and conformation when they roll over areas in which microchannels are found. Fig 6.15 shows a mud ball that was presumably taken up by Opportunitys wheel and deposited in a typical smooth blob on the surface of a rock. The other two images show mud picked up and compressed by the rover wheels as they passed over the micro channels.

Fig 6.17 shows an apparent muddy goo sticking on the surface of a rock broken, overturned and exposed by Spirit. It may be recalled that one of the first observations by a NASA scientist on the mud like nature of the airbag marks and other early tracks made by Opportunity was that it looks like mud but it cant be mud. The phenomenon was later ascribed to extremely small amounts of water being wicked up to the subsurface by capillary action through the tiny soil interstices and forming what appeared to be the mud which could not be mud. It should be emphasized that mud is a material that results from the activities of microbes on wet or damp soil particles, humus, etc., and exhibits stickiness, cohesiveness, plasticity and other well known properties. Mud cannot exist in dry conditions. The putative martian mud appears to exhibit all the essential visual properties of mud from the images produced by Opportunity and Spirit. I think that the images above show that there is indeed mud or something which looks, tracks, and puddles exactly like mud on the surface of Mars. NASA was also puzzled by the apparent anomalous strong cohesiveness of the surface layer of the soil. I think that the cohesiveness noted by NASA might be partly due to the activities of putative microorganisms present just under the surface during periods when liquid water is present.

Fig 6.13; stream emerging from aquifer, s122, MerB

Fig 6.14 A typical Meridiani microchannel, sol 2667

Fig 6.15; mud dropped from MerBs wheel onto evaporite rock, s314

Fig 6.16 Mud with berries in microchannel

Fig 6.17; Sticky mud on a upturned rock surface; MerA, sol 820

Fig 6.18; Mud tracked by MerB to pavement rock, s175

Berry matrix in dark streak area of Victoria crater When Opportunity approached Victoria crater it had the benefit of satellite images that showed areas that appeared to be dark streaks emanating from the crater rim and dissipating down the apron of the crater. Opportunity made what appeared to be a quite cursory examination of one of these dark streaks and then moved on without, as far as I know, fully explaining what caused the dark streaks (See fig. 7.19). Fig 6.19 and Fig 6.20 are crops from colour composites made from pancam images taken in the dark streak area of Victoria. The major difference between these images and most other images of soil surfaces that Opportunity has visited is the colouration and liquid appearance of the matrix from which the berries are always seen to emerge. Here the matrix is purplish dark and has the distinct appearance of being a fluid. In most other cases the matrix appears dry. Could it be that the dark streak areas appear to be different because of an enhanced amount of moisture in that area and perhaps the area might be ideal for exploitation by putative near surface microbial mat organisms that might provide the anomalous colouration? The other area examined by Opportunity that showed anomalous images of the berry matrix and the berries themselves was the popcorn berry area in Endurance crater. The berry matrix was also of a similar dark colouring and the berries themselves showed various phases of covering by what appears to be light evaporite material.

Fig 6.19; Rock , showing overturned surface with berries, s1143

Fig 6.20; Berry matrix in dark streak area, Victoria, s1151

Pecularities of distribution of berries on the Meridiani evaporite pavement rocks . The Meridiani evaporite rock surfaces are usually heavily populated by berries. In practically all cases the berries are associated with cracks on the surface and always emanate from a dark matrix on the rock. In addition they are never seen to be clumped together on the pavement rocks and always form discrete groups on the surface of the rocks. The very distinctive pattern of distribution of the berries on these rocks has been explained as being largely due to wind movements. Two interesting patterns of distribution of berries on rocks are shown in Figs 6.21 and Fig 6.22. Fig 6.21 is a 3D anaglyph of a scene imaged by the twin Navcam cameras . It clearly shows what appears to be predominant distribution of berries along the sides of channels cut by a flowing liquid medium. Fig 6.22 is another 3D anaglyph from sol 2673. This Pancam image shows the berries concentrated on dark areas of the rock. It also shows mini flow channels that seem to restrict the population of berries to the sides of the channels and several cup-like clear objects, predominantly in the channels, that appear to have been holders for berries. NB such repetitive objects are possibly bio markers Figs 6.23 and 6.24 shows another attribute of the pavement rocks that might be associated with water. Fig 6.23 is an MI of the ratted surface of an evaporate rock taken on sol 156. It shows the typical Meridiani SODs with their chaotic shapes that are arguably produced by the salts in the rock losing water due to the heat and various other effects of the ratting process. The rock is relatively soft and yet the resistance to ratting was

unexpectedly high. Such a reaction is understood to be characteristic of high water content during the lapidiary process. Fig 6.24 seeks to illustrate significant changes in a Meridiani evaporite rock surface that occurred after the hole was left for 3 days after initial ratting on sol 546. The changes in the RAT hole evoked an official comment from NASA that they were caused by gusts of winds which deposited the crud seen in the sol 549 image. That might indeed be possible but I would like to present an alternative rationale for the differences seen. The sol 546 image shows a flat ratted surface characterized by the presence of a few cracks and very dark areas which might be due to the slicing of berries in the evaporite rock matrix. The sol 549 image shows a surface essentially covered with SOD like material and also showing a drastic clearing and overgrowth, not covering, of the underlying areas that were very dark at sol 546. In addition, the sol 549 image does not appear to be a surface filled by passive covering by dry sods through wind movement but of growth, from below, through the former dark spots, of a coherent layer of sod type material. Could this be an example of a rapid self healing process by a disturbed surface reacting to the breaching of that surface? Could moisture have been involved in that process? This is not a singular example. It is perhaps not too late for Opportunity to test this speculation through conducting a simple time lapse examination of some ratted holes and monitoring microclimatic wind speeds and dust accumulation in the vicinity of RATTED holes while at Endurance crater. If a similar situation arises with Curiosity, more in depth studies should be done to determine if this phenomenon is real.

Fig 6.21; Berries & drip channels on pavement overlooking crater

Fig 6.22; 3D of berries on surface with translucent berry holders; s2673

Fig 6.23; Evaporite rock showing SODs removed by RATTtng, s156

Fig 6.24; Changes on same ratted surface of hole over 3 days

Fluid expressed by MerB tracks There are several direct signs from the MER library of images that indicate that free liquid water is held in the near subsurface of some areas on Mars. None are as clear as the following two images sent back by Opportunity. On sol 1232 MerBs wheels fortuitously exposed a subsurface environment that I interpret as containing a liquid brine. That brine quickly evaporated on exposure to the atmosphere but in doing so left a thin layer of its blue coloured constituent salt precisely and evenly layered over some rocks and soil in the track. In addition, it left clear signs of the brine itself absorbed onto the compressed track as well as nearby soil. Fig 6.25 is a pancam composite of the sol 1232 images that shows this phenomenon. On sol 992 MerBs track also exposed another Meridiani subsurface that, imo, contained liquid brine. In this case however, the images show a much clearer picture of the liquid involved and actually suggests that it might have remained on the surface for a bit longer than in the sol 1232 situation after its subsurface environment was breached. Here, the remnant signs of the violet blue brine are clearly seen on the rover tracks from the areas where they had erupted as well as on some smaller foreground areas that look as if the brines were so shallowly placed that the rovers action resulted in small amounts of the coloured brine exuding onto the surface leaving light stains on the compacted soil. These images are, imho, amongst the clearest MER images that actually show liquid waters impact on the surface.

Fig 6.25; Thin salt skein and stain expressed on MerBs track, sol 1232

Fig 6.26; Stain from evaporating brine released by MerBs tracks, sol

Conclusions on current water on Mars. There are numerous experiments that have been carried out in martian simulation chambers to test the paradigm that liquid water cannot exist on Mars. None of those experiments have corroborated that hypothesis. Instead, the evidence is clear that water brines can indeed exist for extended periods on the surface of Mars. A sampling of reports on these simulation experiments are linked in the references on chapter 6. The relatively recent reports on slope lineae, that have been championed by NASA, also indicates that liquid water flows in the summer months on some crater slopes on Mars. It has been suggested that the water in the martian topsoil identified by the orbital remote readings over Mars (between 2 to 15%) is bound in immovable hydroxyl ions. I do not think this is correct as the gusev discovery of salts almost at the surface, and their subsequent loss of water to the atmosphere, allied with the findings that salts suck moisture from the atmosphere when it is supersaturated, shows clearly that there is an exchange of water between the atmosphere and the Martian surface. It seems unlikely that a "regolith cover which has a fairly high thermal inertia" would be enough to protect a cache of moisture for 3 billion years. This implies a recharge mechanism within relatively recent times. Practically all the visual cues from the pancams point to the recent passage of liquid water on the surface from the very beginning of the MerB mission.

Our eyes can, on their own, tell the difference between pictures of a dry soil and a wet or damp one as we have a lifetime of experience doing this using cues that go beyond reflectance. It is also true that as frost or ice is warmed it remains at the zero degree point until it re-acquires the latent heat of fusion of ice. So as long as the pressure is even slightly above the triple point pressure, there should be at least a brief liquid phase, perhaps for enough time to form a brine with any salt that is present. In my view, the images presented in this chapter show strong and consistent signs of current water on Mars. Many of the images sent back by MerB, and to a lesser extent by Spirit, suggests that the rovers have captured images of the results of recent water flows or puddling on Mars and that mud indeed exists at various times and places. It now seems reasonable to expect that the default position should be that water does flow sporadically on the surface of Mars. However, the question that will be asked is why have the rovers, which provided ground truth for well over a decade of combined time on the surface of Mars, not found clear and unequivocal signs of liquid water flows on Mars if water is indeed there just under the surface? I have strugged with this question for the past 8 years and I think the answer lies in the fact that all of us have been conditioned to recognize liquid water only as we see it on earth, as waterfalls, seas, lakes, rain, etc. We do not take into account the fact that Mars frigid daytime surface environment does not allow for such observations.

In my view, the water cycle is a fact but its major aspect generally occurs almost always when the rovers are not actively (night times) taking photographs and when it is actually counterintuitive to expect liquid water to be on the surface. In the daytime the rovers however record the omnipresent effects of the recent presence of water such as, the muds, the cohesive surfaces and the seemingly icy microchannels cascading down crater rock channels, and we say, it looks like water but it cant be water. These indications of water are denied as even though they might fit with what water should look like to our eyes, they go against what we would expect the instruments on the rovers to record since these instruments are silent as to if water is there or not. We seldom reflect that the rover instruments cannot detect current water that might be hidden under just 300 microns of dusty surfaces. We also do not factor in the information from the Orbiters that the surface layers at Meridiani contain up to 15% W/V of water equivalent and seek to have our models locate all that water onto salts that are interpreted as holding the water tightly. We fail to recognize that a soil on earth that holds 15% of water is a wet one, damp, and often muddy and that if the Orbiter results are true the answers to the major questions that the MERs were sent to solve were right there before our eyes from the very beginning when Opportunity demonstrated the presence of those microchannels mimicking water on the surface, as well as the muds. In my view, practically all the images sent back by Opportunity corroborates the deluge of scientific observations that there is indeed a measurable water cycle ongoing on Mars. The

standard explanation that every image that shows what looks like water activity must have been due to the presence of dust flows or fines should probably be seen as being born of a need to conform to the expectations of the current paradigm. If water is indeed there it would allow other explanations for some of the apparent anomalies we see in the images. For example, could we be seeing the current expression of a wide area of past, or even current, stromatolitic growth (Mars style) at Meridiani? Could some of the berries, just below the surface, be part of an exotic martian climax microflora playing a role in maintaining an alien type of water balance on Mars. The MerB images and other allied data suggests the following working hypothesis on the dynamics of the current state of water on Mars to me:Mars last had voluminous flowing water a few billion years ago in the age of catastrophic impacts when its surface might have been generally warm and wet. Since then there has been a relatively steady state, cold and essentially dry environment where there have been occasional relatively slight flows of water or brines on the surface. However, there might have been fairly significant but relatively short lasting water flows during the periods of pole shifts when Mars would have experienced periods of higher surface temperatures and pressures compared to the present. The current and other steady state environments would be characterized by a steady diurnal water cycle involving only very small amounts of water (by earth standards) but which,

over billions of years, has built up and maintains a subsurface environment in which liquid brines are often present. That near subsurface environment is maintained separate from the martian atmosphere by, inter alia, the activities of endemic microbes there. The metabolic products of the putative microbes act to bind the surface, producing the strong cohesive effect that NASA marvelled at in the early days of the MER mission. These putative microbes would also provide the conduits through which water vapour enters and leaves the subsurface. Also contributing to this water balance and conservation are the salts which bind water somewhat loosely to their micelle structures. It is possible that this water could be made available for activities of microbes under certain circumstances. The loss of water at the surface over several days by iron salts at Gusev as reported by the Alian Wang team, suggests that this might be possible. When there are impacts or other activities which lead to a breaching of the surface any liquid brine in the breached subsurface quickly evaporates but water of crystallization of various salts may take a bit longer to be lost to the atmosphere. In the subsurface, especially in the near equatorial summers, brines exist on an ongoing basis. It is this water that produces the TSLs and even the dark streaks that the MER rovers have imaged in several craters visited. The streaks would then be the result of gradual nightly small flows, hinted at in several Oppy images, that become dark because of the activities of putative organisms that utilize the damp environment for aspects of their metabolism.

Deeper down in the soil profile there is a posssibility that water could also exist as ice. This is suggested by the mounds of ice, imaged in craters by orbiters after recent impacts, that persist for several days. The occurrence of such significant ice deposits is also suggested by the results of the characterization of water moities by remote imaging from the various satellites that have studied Mars over the past few decades. So yes, I think that the presence of an ongoing significant water cycle on Mars is substantially proven. The current paradigm only awaits the input of some young brave planetary scientists to lay it to rest.

CHAPTER 4: The Opportunity Blueberries


Sometime before Opportunity landed at Meridiani planum on Mars it was predicted by one of the MER principal investigators that it would find haematite in the form of small concretions on the surface. That prophecy came true. The Meridiani blueberries were seen to dominate the Martian surface from the first images sent back to earth by Opportunity (MerB). These blueberries were essentially spherical balls ranging in diameter from 1 to 6.6 mms, and were found to be substantially composed of haematite. They were present in millons on every surface that MerB examined except the recent Cape York surfaces on an Endeavour crater slope which are themselves similarly dominated by small relatively irregularly shaped haematitic cobbles. The almost total cover of all the surfaces at Meridiani visited by Opportunity, to my mind, had only one parallel on Earth, the total cover of pristine Earth landscapes by vegetation. However, the MerB blueberries were almost immediately characterized by the scientists as haematite concretions and analogues were suggested from a number of earth sites, such as the navajo desert where roughly similar nodules, the moqui marbles, exists. A number of scientists initially had different ideas about the mechanism by which the berries were formed making such proposals as; ooids, lapilli, impact spherules, Fe-Mn lake bed nodules, etc., However, these alternatives were soon silenced. Some of the early papers that suggested an alternative provenance for the berries are listed in the references here.

The original theory for the development of the berries was that they were formed about 3 billion years or so ago when the Meridiani area was thought to have undergone episodes of catastrophic flooding with the eventual formation of large shallow lakes. As water evaporated from these lakes, spherical haematite concretions were formed within rock layers at the lake bottoms by an abiotic chemical process. Following the total drying out of the area. Meridiani was swept by winds, meteorite strikes, etc, which left the surface we see today with a monolayer of the previously formed berries in a desert pavement which itself ensures that this layer stayed on the surface and is still there without replenishment after billions of years because of the extremely hard nature of the grey haematite of which they are composed. Soon after the above scenario was proposed it was probably recognized that there was not enough evidence to support the ancient lake idea since, inter alia, it required the existence of millions of years of a surficial lacustrine situation to be credible. The hypothesis was therefore modified from one large lake to an ancient playa type evaporative situation where evaporation from putative less massive underground water sources would have provided the main environment for the production of the berries. There was no consideration given to any possibility that life might have been involved in any of these two scenarios. In my view, there are several things that are still unexplained in the current official Meridiani blueberry scenario. Why are the blueberries, that are not regenerated, still there on the surface, billions of years after their putative formation?

The desert pavement thesis does not explain this especially since many images show damaged and deteriorating berries or pebbles, crushed berries and berries neatly sliced by the MerB RAT indicating that the haematite component of the berries is not as durable or pervasive as is required in that hypothesis. Perfect, complete berries are indeed the exception. Is it possible that the current observations at Meridiani might be due to the relatively recent formation of stromatolitic rock types? Could the current berries and the observed layering be due to fossilization of ancient life adapted to an environment of limited water availability but with highly efficient microbes implementing the process rather than by a purely sterile process of evaporation and production of evaporites trapping the berries in the interstices where they formed billions of years ago? Alternatively, is there a remote possibility that some berries are being produced in the near subsurface of Meridiani right now as a consequence of an ongoing and very ancient water cycle that provides small amounts of liquid water for utilization by the putative microbes in that environment? Could this explain the persistence of the apparent monolayer of berries on soil surfaces between the craters. Why are the well formed spherical berries characterized by a strict limit in size that is usually characteristic of living organisms and not of inanimate concretions? What constrained the sizes of the berries on Mars? Could it be a paucity of available subsurface water to support larger berries over the eons that Mars climate was substantially the same as we see now through our remote eyes and instruments? In other words if the berries were formed billions of years ago with adequate water available they should exhibit a much greater range of

sizes. They dont. Could this be because they are being continuously produced in an environment with constant and very limited water availability? Since many concretions on earth are formed in wet lacustrine environments and are usually associated with organic matter as starters for the concretion process, could there have been a biological aspect of the formation of the Meridiani blueberries even within the tenets of the concretion theory? Adversarial rationales to the above questions and others can be seen throughout the ongoing discussion on the Meridiani berries on the Marsroverblog. The remainder of this chapter seeks to describe the Meridiani berries and show, where possible, that the mystery of the blueberries has not yet been fully solved. There is yet a possibility that when adequate research is done using purpose designed instruments, the Meridiani berries may be found to have been significantly associated with living organisms at some stage of their development.. Figs 7.1 and 7.2 are presented to give some idea of the range of shapes and other characteristics of the typical Meridiani blueberry. Fig 7.1 shows a range of blueberries imaged by the Opportunity Microscopic Imager (MI) . Fig 7.2 is a colourized crop from an MI mosaic that used a template of an L257 Pancam image as a colour source . Fig 7.3 is a colour composite derived from raw L257 pancam images of sol 257 taken in a popcorn berry area. A number of interesting characteristics of the berries can be seen in these images.

- Berries on evaporite rocks are practically always seen on a dark matrix, not on light areas. . - Berries, in popcorn berry areas and in a few others, are often found partially encapsulated in a pale, sometimes translucent covering. This covering is often present as a cup like base. One of the distinguishing features of berries seen from very early in the mission was the presence of relatively long stalks or stems that gave the berries an appearance of hanging precariously off the edges of the evaporite rocks. Fig 7.4 is a pancam colour composite from raw sol 88 pancam images that shows the often disputed stalks attached to berries. The stalks are clearly seen emanating from, bending, stretching above the matrix and attached to the blue berries. They resemble some of earths fungal or algal fruiting bodies rising from a substrate by means of stalks. The berry stalks have however been explained as being the remnants of wind tracks formed in the lee of prevailing winds when the berries were on the surface of rocks or soil before being indurated in evaporite material. Since the rocks are proposed as the cradles for the berries this would mean that berries with stalks, emanating from the side of layers in the evaporite rocks, were not formed in situ in the rocks but on the surface, a situation that is totally at odds with the theory. The sol 214 image in fig 7.11 shows one of the characteristic attributes of berries in that they often have well delineated split planes where they split into 2 or 3 sections leaving the split segments of the sphere on the ground. I wonder if this could be a mechanism for dispersal of something inside them when conditions are just right.

Fig 7.1; berries and fragments, 3D anaglyph, sol 84

Fig 7.2; colourized berries and pebbles, sol 806

Fig 7.3; Popcorn Berries on dark matrix, s257, MI pano

Fig 7.4; berries with curved stalks, s88, pancam

Figs 7.5 and 7.6 seek to highlight the appearance of the surfaces of typical berry images as seen through the MIs. Such images usually show the berries as having distinct muted textures. Fig 7.5 is an image of some other berries. These were taken on sol 221 and show the intricate ornamentation of the berry surfaces. It seems to be quite a stretch to imagine that surfaces like these might have been exposed to the martian environment for a few billion years as called for by the current paradigm. Fig 7.6 is an image showing a range of shapes of berries, some of which are suggestive of a biological nature. They do not have the inert look of say, the moqui marbles or other earth concretions, but have a uniformity of appearance reminiscent of life. The images were taken by the MI on sol 182 Figs 7.7 and 7.8 illustrates some other aspects of the berry stalks. The berry stalks are not usually (as seen in MIs) one per berry but can often be seen as double or triple channels emanating from different ends of the berry. This suggests that the usual wind trail explanation for them is probably not applicable in such cases as the wind trail should be in one direction only and be more amorphous in appearance. Fig 7.7 is a 3D anaglyph made from MIs taken on sol 40. The stalks can be seen to be emanating from 2 opposite ends of the berry. In addition the ornamentation on the berry can be seen. Fig 7.8 is also a 3D anaglyph but here there is a largish smooth cobble which dominates the image. The berry can also be seen to have 2 stalks emanting from opposite ends.

Fig 7.5; Berries showing distinct surface ornamentation and stalk, s221

Fig 7.6; Berries, including doublet, suggestive of budding s182

Fig 7.7; 3D of berry showing surface and stalks, s40

Fig 7.8; Berry with surface stalk near to large smooth clast, s62

The images shown in Figs 7.9 to 7.16 illustrate another aspect of the nature of berries. The interior of all berries is not composed entirely of a hard haematite mass . That may be true for some, as seen in fig 7.9, where two brushed berries have been captured in a 3D anaglyph made from two MI s from sol 401. The anaglyph shows that the brushing process has removed parts of the dark hard interior structure of one of the berries leaving significant damage on the presumably hard remaining structure and showing that the interior is composed of discrete small dark and pale particles. Fig 7.10 is an anaglyph showing the insides of a berry that has been sectioned while lying in the soft evaporite rock matrix of a typical Meridiani rock. Three conclusions are possible from this image. 1) the berry is not as hard as one would expect if the interior was totally composed of hard haematite as its appearance, as well as the fact that the RAT did not dislodge it from the relatively soft evaporite matrix, suggests that its interior is relatively soft. 2) the interior of the berry is composed of numerous, seemingly discrete, very small objects that lie just below the resolution of the MI. 3) there is no distinct internal concentric layering of the berry contents, unlike earth concretions. Figs 7.11 and 7.12 show similar fine internal structures as compared with the berries of fig 7.10. They do not resemble my concept of what haematite would be expected to look like. Figs 7.13 and 7.14 show berries which have lost their internal contents leaving partial external shells. This surely is not the image that is portrayed of the hard haematite concretion that is proposed as being practically impervious to degradation over billions of years of martian environmental abuse.

Fig 7.9; 3D of berries, outer layer removed by brush, sol 140

Fig 7.10; 3D of Berry sectioned by RAT, sol 149

Fig 7.11; brushed berry with split plane sol 214

Fig 7.12; berry contents exposed by brush, sol 1103

Fig 7.13; highly degraded berry with hollow interior, sol 210

Fig 7.14; Another berry with hollow interior, sol 715

The Marsroverblog posters collaborated in a project that was coordinated by a former regular poster, Henry, to measure the range of sizes of berries to determine if they fitted a statistical distribution that is typical of living organisms or fossils or of inanimate objects. Several members measured the diameters of berries from the MI images and these were then fitted into a statistical distribution by Henry, Marsman and Denis Royer. The study concluded that the berries indeed fitted a statistical distribution, a left tailed size limited weibull distribution profile, that is characteristic of living things and fossils. Fig 7.17 gives some idea of the range of sizes of typical Meridiani berries over the progress of Opportunity from Eagle crater, where it landed, to Erebus crater. In general the berry sizes diminished as Opportunity moved further and lower down the Meridiani gradient. However, some large berries were also seen at some of the other craters that Opportunity visited after Erebus. Blueberry diameters range between 1 and 6.6 mms. A number of similarly sized and coloured but irregularly shaped clasts or pebbles are normally intermixed with the berries. I would speculate that perhaps 10 percent only of the berries captured on Opportunitys PanCam images might have any relationship with life. The others are likely to be concretions, clasts or some other product of haematite generation, breakdown and spread on the plains of Meridiani. Fig 7.18 shows a rock that was imaged on sol 1150. The picture was taken in the dark streak area of Victoria craters annulus. There was significant rover activity near this rock since a Moessbauer x-ray spectrometer reading was taken very close to it. The rock itself shows the signs of a recent dislodgement in that the side nearest to the camera must have been previously

anchored in the soil. A number of observations and inferences may be valid from an examination of this picture. 1) The soil was unaffected by or appears to have healed itself from any recent disturbances as there is no clear imprint of the rock, or where it came from, on the soil. There are also no rover tracks seen in the related NavCam images 2) The near undersurface environment supported a larger number of berries than are evident on the surface itself as gauged by the relatively large number of berries that can be seen sticking to the now exposed side of the rock that was previously embedded in the soil. 3) the rock was, characteristically very shallowly emplaced in the soil. Figs 7.19 and 7.20 extends the observations above. Fig 7.19 shows the dark streak areas on a map of Victoria. Fig 7.20 compares the berries on the surface on sol 1143 with those on sol 1150. There was an appearance of a number of new, clean, fully formed berries in the highlighted area some time between sol 1143 and sol 1150. The appearance of these berries has been ascribed to wind movements and the motion of the Rover between the times these images were taken.. There are a number of observations which suggest that wind and rover motion might have been influential but may not of themselves give the full picture of what might have ensued.. 1) The Moessbauer imprint can be seen in the area highlighted for sol 1143. That imprint has dissipated even further (to the point of being very difficult to discern) in the sol 1150 image.

2) Martian winds have not been observed to be capable of moving berries any significant distances, except downslope and 3Ds do not show an appreciable downslope in this area. 3) Opportunity tracks are not evident in the immediate vicinity of this area in the original images so the rover itself did not physically add soil containing berries to the area in question 4) A few of the berries that seem to appear in the sol 1150 image can be seen peeping out of the soil in the sol 1145 MI of the area as compared with the sol 1148 MI image. It therefore seems that some of the new, clean berries that appeared between sols 1145 and 1148 (as based on MI images shown in Figs 7.21 and 7.22 ) originated from below the surface. This could have happened if soil was somehow moved from around the berries or had settled. Such a massive movement of soil would have likely displaced the original berries and there is no evidence of this. Could settling of soil due to water seeping into it have been the cause? Another possibility, however remote, might be the emergence of previously buried berries. Berries emerging from the soil by some unknown mechanism would be consistent with my conjecture that some agency in the soil (physical or otherwise) is capable of quickly mobilizing the emergence of berries in disturbed materials as seen at purgatory (to be discussed later); This is seen in the Opportunity airbag marks on sol 52; and in the Opportunity cross tracks that have consistently shown the repopulation of areas created by MerB tracks that were initially apparently denuded of observable berries.

Fig 7.17; range of berry sizes from eagle to erebus

Fig 7.18; 3D of side of rock former subsurface berrries on overturned rock, s1150

Fig 7.19 map of victoria showing dark streak areas

Fig 7.20; Berries appear between sols 1143 (L) and 1150 (R )

Fig 7.21; MI of area with original surface berries, sol 1145

Fig 7.22; MI of area with old and newly appearing berries, sol 1148

Emergence or exposure of some purgatory berries;


During Opportunitys trek to Victoria it got stuck in a ripple named Purgatory, and remained there for several days before it was freed. During that time, in trying to extricate itself, it made a number of relatively deep trenches in the ripple material. A number of Pancam and Navcam Images were taken of the sides of the trenches at different times during the debacle. Some of the Pancam images showed pebbles or berries being exposed as time went by or, alternatively, emerging from the newly exposed sides of the trenches. Fig 7.23 is a montage of pancam images of the track wall that show that over relatively short timescales, berries or pebbles that would have normally been covered, seem to be quickly extending into the new environment. It also shows that the track surfaces also quickly becomes repopulated with large numbers of smaller berries after only a few weeks exposure on the surface. The Fig 7.24 image shows the exposed track, and apparently emerging from it, right down the track wall, a large number of berries or pebbles on stalks. These stalks seem unlikely to have been the result of current wind trail activity but they might be from past wind activity when the berries/clasts were scattered in the top soil and later covered by several layers of berry filled dust which had not yet become indurated. But if that is so why dont we now see evidence of current wind tail stalk-forming activity at the current plains surfaces? The emergence of berries from deep down the track sides also suggests that berries are not necessarily only a monolayer on the plains soil surfaces as seems to be the accepted norm.

Fig 7.23; numerous berries emerged or exposed in just 32 days

Fig7.24; berries emerging from MerB purgatory track wall, sol 496

Other peculiarities of the Evaporite pavement rocks; From the time that Opportunity landed in Eagle crater one of the dominant features on the landscape was the evaporite rocks which bore numerous berries on their surfaces as well as emerging from the layers seen on their exposed sides. On the plains between, and usually near to, the craters the pavement rocks were often seen, surrounded by a veritable sea of encroaching berries but almost always populated by just a few berries on their top surfaces. Such a distribution seems to be consistent with such evaporite rocks being formed from below in an environment already filled with berries. Figs 7.25, 7.26 and 7.27 show the typical surfaces of evaporite rocks taken from sols 632, 559 and 1131 respectively. The surfaces are often convex and usually exhibit radial, circular or other regularly shaped cracks. The pictures also show the microchannels. The figures also show what is another typical attribute of the inter crater pavement rocks. Those that have been upturned seem to be generally not deeply placed but to be quite shallow and are often very susceptible to breakage by the rovers weight which normally results in the rocks edges being shifted and showing a dark disconnect from the near undersurface. Fig 7.28 is an image of living stromatolites from the Shark Bay world heritage site in Australia. The image is included only to show that the Meridiani pavement rocks appear to share a few of the physical / morphological characteristics of the Earth stromatolites.

Fig 7.25; 3D of pavement polygons and convex surfaces; Sol 632

Fig 7.26; pavement rock, rind, berries eroding out of rock, sol 559

Fig 7.27; shallow dislodged pavement rocks sol 1131, 3D

Fig 7.28; Living Stromatolites, Australia. Ex. Everything Everywhere

The Cape York Unconformity


In July 2011 Opportunity approached Endurance crater after a long trek from Victoria crater . The first target was Cape York, a small raised area on the Craters edge, which was known to have some surfaces that were rich in phyllosilicates. It was soon recognized that the Cape York surface was the first that Opportunity had encountered that was not dominated by the ubiquitous spherical blueberries. The typical evaporite rocks were also absent. Taking the place of the berries were large numbers of similarly sized but irregularly shaped clasts that mimicked the colour of the blueberries. No papers have yet been seen that details the geochemistry of these clasts. The major find by Opportunity at Cape York has been the numerous gypsum veins on a number of surfaces. The existence of gypsum veins strongly suggests that water flowed through Cape York surfaces sometime in the past and there is also a possibility that microbes might have been involved in the formation of the Gypsum. The following two images compare the features of the surface soil in the transition zone between Meridiani proper and Cape York (fig. 7.29) with soil in a typical Cape York area (fig 7.30). Fig 7.29 shows some typical spherical berries and fig 7.30 shows practically no typical berries. Hardly any typical evaporite rocks are also seen at CY. Why is this? Are the sulphate rich evaporites essential to the formation of typical spherical berries? Are the irregular clasts produced by a different process? Were the spherical berries easily erodable?

Fig 7.29; Soil in transition area near CY, sol 2986

Fig 7.30; Typical Clasts. Cape York, sol 2791

Conclusions on Berries
The Meridiani berries are considered by most scientists to be mere concretions without any semblance of life being involved in their formation. However, the pictures of berries shown in this chapter suggests that some berries may be a bit more than just mere concretions. Most Meridiani berries that have been fortuitously sliced or somehow have their internal structure exposed, show that such structures are not comparable with the internal arrangements of typical earth concretions. The images presented in this chapter have demonstrated that many berries; 1) display external ornamentation that is generally absent from earths concretions; 2) have contents that appear dissimilar to the earths berry analogues; 3) are not necessarily composed entirely of Hematite; 4) give the appearance of fairly rapid emergence from disturbed surfaces and; 5) follow a statistical size limited distribution that are characteristic of living organisms, fossils or their products. The jury should therefore still be out re. definitively stating that the berries are rocks. They might indeed be concretions but, imo, life was probably involved in the formation and the impressive spread of the berries on the Meridiani surfaces. Indeed, the work of Aubrey et al on the San Diego Ironstone concretions may have found the closest earth analogue to the blueberries. His concretions used life as a starting agent. Perhaps the Meridiani berries also used life in a similar manner and not just 3 billion years ago only. Perhaps berries will be found on Mars wherever similar conditions of evaporite rocks, low pHs and equatorial ambient temperatures coexist.

CHAPTER 5; Significance of the rover tracks


Several exposures of the near subsurface of Mars by the rover wheels while making tracks on the surface or overturning rocks or even by other disturbances to the soil, painted a picture of a subsurface environment which is quite different to the Martian surface that is directly exposed to daily sunlight. The current paradigm would imply that this should not be so. Since, with no liquid water on the planet for the past 3 billion years or so, the subsurface should be expected to present as featureless, bone-dry, and sterile areas that should be practically indistinguishable from the surface itself. But the images of the areas exposed by the rovers show instead a subsurface that appears to be a quite dynamic one in which there is a hint of active chemistry or biochemistry going on whenever there is a breach of the surface. The few pictures that show the same area at different times also appear to indicate that many changes may be occurring there and quite quickly. Practically all the rover tracks, when rendered in colour, present an appearance that seems to be more consistent with current active processes that suggest true soil formation in a damp microclimate than with being sterile areas in a featureless dry sub surface untouched by the activities of living organisms. The subsurface does not present as fine lifeless regolith. Instead it has practically all the visual characteristics of an earth soil and a loamy one at that. The following images have been selected to show a range of what the rover tracks have revealed of the nature of the martian subsurface.

Fig 8.1 shows an area of crossed Opportunity wheel tracks that were made as Opportunity entered and exited Endurance crater. The earlier tracks were made about 225 days before being reimaged on sol 319. This image shows a fairly rapid repopulation of the track with berries over that time. The repopulation seems to be most evident and heaviest on the sides of the tracks which would have undergone the most disturbance by the rover wheels, i.e. Some of these berries might have been brought to the surface at the time Opportunity made the original tracks. The other berries that were pushed out of view have, by and large, not reappeared but there are several, apparently new, small berries in the disturbed track areas. Were they somehow pushed up from below by some unknown mechanism which might be related to a desert pavement type maintenance of armoured clasts on earths sandy desert surfaces? Fig 8.2 shows another crossed track at Victoria crater. The old track was made on sol 952 and the new one on sol 1289. There appears to be significant repopulation of the old track. Berries are much smaller than the sol 319 berries and again the high repopulation is most evident on the sides of the track which would have been most disturbed by the rover wheels. The mechanism that causes the repopulation is uncertain. A detailed look at the berry distribution in the sol 319 crossed tracks, using imageJ to estimate the numbers of berries and the areas involved, demonstrated that there were higher densities of berries on the edges of the old track as compared with nearby unaffected surfaces and inner portions of the old track. It also suggested that berry sizes were generally smaller on the tracks

than on the unaffected surfaces. A figure summarizing that study is shown in my Smugmug photosite. Fig 8.3 is an anaglyph of the sol 319 crossed tracks in the lug area. It shows a very friable looking area of soil that was exposed by the wheel lugs and also show a number of interesting organic looking shapes. This image should be examined closely using Stereophotomaker. It looks almost identical to a very fertile earth soil, minus the berries. The appearance of the soil in the central areas of the old track also suggest a settling and smoothening of the track surfaces. It is unlikely that berries from the nearby unaffected surface were transported there by wind. Fig 8.4 is another Opportunity track made in the dark streak area of Victoria craters annulus. The image was taken on sol 1138. The track is a new one and shows quite clearly that the dark streak soil is apparently different to the other plains soils that Opportunity tracked across as it appears to be less amenable to producing clods and settles very quickly into a smooth looking surface. Could there have been moisture or some other unknown agency involved in this? Figs 8.5 and 8.6 show two tracks made by Spirit at Columbia Hills, Gusev. They illustrate some of the general features that are characteristic of the deep tracks caused there by Spirits damaged stuck wheel. 1) The stuck wheel turned up salts that appear to have been shallowly placed in the subsurface. 2) They sometimes show a monolayer of what might be a blue salt that covers contiguous areas in what appears to have been

a fluid movement. The blue, apparently very thin layer, suggests to me that the rover wheels might have suddenly exposed a small subsurface brine resevoir containing a blue salt to the dessicating atmosphere. The water would have quickly evaporated leaving the thin monolayer deposit of salt. This might also explain a similar situation often seen in several Opportunity track images as well. 3) There are usually a number of different colours of exposed salts in the Gusev examples suggesting that there are a variety of salt species present in the subsurface. 4) In one example of salts unearthed by Spirit at least one of them sits on the crest of a ripple. This salt is very difficult to explain as having been formed a few billion years ago. Several discrete globular salt nodules can be seen(see fig 8.6). The Fig 8.6 image also shows some interesting shapes that lie just underneath the soil surface. These shapes are either filamentous or of variable lengths of joined spheres. Those shapes are best seen when the image is magnified. An example of salt nodules that formed overnight in the back yard of MRB contributor, R_Page, is provided for comparison only (fig 8.7). Could the salt seen in some of the martian images have been very recently formed in situ just under the surface at the crest of slopes at Gusev? And if this is so, could it be another example of a continuing water cycle at work that is not limited by typical water tables? 5) Fig 8.8 shows what might be another interesting subsurface phenomenon. Here, in the foreground, a dark coloured, seemingly viscous, layer of muck can be seen apparently emerging from under a displaced rock that has several holes.

The muck does not appear to be a pure salt, nor does it seem to be typical surficial soil. It seems to have exuded or flowed enmasse from under the displaced rock as inferred from the relatively straight sides of the flow and its appearance of having flowed over the salt laden soil next to and underneath it. The muck also has the appearance of being a fluid mixture of a number of components with one part being a blue stained mix and the other being dark brown.

Fig 8.1; MerB crossed tracks, lug area, sol 319, 3D anaglyph

Fig 8.2; Crossed MerB tracks Sols 952 & 1289, Victoria

Fig 8.3; MerB crossed tracks, lug area, sol 319, 3D anaglyph

Fig 8.4; MerB new Track, sol 1138, Victoria 3D anaglyph

Fig 8.5 Spirit track with salt unearthed, sol 1300

Fig 8.6; Spirit salt exposed with nodules on ripple crest, sol 797

Fig 8.7; R_pages rapidly formed salt berries

Fig 8.8; Soil exuding from track made by spirit rover., sol 721

Fig 8.9 shows another characteristic feature of some of MerBs tracks where the wheels were used to heap and crush the soil in order to study the soil profile. In this particular image, taken on sol 929, Opportunity had scuffed and heaped up the soil as it had done several times previously but here there was a clear effect that had only been muted in previous earlier images of Opportunity tracks. The graded and compacted soil surfaces that were left by the wheels showed a clear deposit of what might have been crushed berries on the surface. In earlier images of similar operations, berries appeared to have been pushed into the subsurface leaving no trace. Here they seemed to have been crushed and left on the surface. If they were crushed it would suggest that the berries here were not strongly armoured with a haematite covering or had been badly degraded prior to Opportunitys wheel trenching. Alternatively, what might have happened was exposure of a blue brine which evaporated quickly leaving a blue stain. This would be another example of Opportunitys wheels producing such an effect. Fig 8.10 compares two Opportunity wheel tracks taken mere seconds apart on sol 2953. The image processing was done by Hortonheardawho. The interesting aspect of this image is the disappearance of the white irregular spots that could clearly be seen in the first, leftmost, image and is indicated by an arrow. It is conjectured that the spots were patches of ice exposed by Opportunitys wheels which sublimated quickly between the two exposures. No salts or other white substance would be expected to give such a reaction.

Fig 8.9 MerB track showing berries crushed by wheel, sol 929

Fig 8.10; comparison of rover track taken at 2 different times on s2953

CHAPTER 6: Other visual indicators of life


There were several images sent back by the rovers that showed objects, textures, colours, situations, etc., that suggested that a second look should have been taken of them. Most of these possible anomalies were bypassed in the search for ancient water or in the interest of reaching the next major goal quickly. I collected some of these images, most of them being MIs and they are presented here in an effort to illustrate my contention that some of them might be signs of life on Mars. A miscellany of stains According to the current paradigm the last liquid water seen on Mars was at least 3 billion years ago. According to that paradigm there are no microbes on Mars at the present time. However, several of the images show what appear to be clear signs of stains on soil surfaces, around rocks, on rocks and even on the rover instrument deck itself. Such stains suggests that a solution, an emulsion or some other homogenous liquid mixture of a chemical or biochemical came into contact with a surface on which it became absorbed or adsorbed and left discolourations on the affected surface. A material that is known to produce stains on rocks on Earth is haematite. Mann, a regular poster on MRB on matters related to life on Mars made the following statement on stains on Mars; Hematite is rust. The darker blue greys we see in bands, under the edges of rocks, on rocks, coming from the sides of craters, all this is Martian rust and a sign of interaction with moisture, Martian style. I think he might be essentially right.

The following are some pictures that show signs of stains on various soil or rock surfaces on Mars. At both Gusev and Meridiani there are numerous examples of staining around rocks and indeed staining of rocks themselves. Fig 9.1 and 9.2 show clear examples of various different coloured stains around crater rocks at Gusev and Meridiani. In fig 9.1 there are the usual blue stains but there are also brown, green and yellow stains as well, possibly indicating that there are different types of chemicals or biochemicals that make up the stain. Fig 9.2 shows that the blue stains are present at Meridiani just as they are at Gusev. Fig 9.3 and 9.4 show the blue or dark streaks that might be signs of recent flows of liquid brines down the sides of craters. Fig 9.3 shows Endurance crater and Fig 9.4 Gusev. Could it be that these stains might be signs of metabolic reactions of putative microbes populating these damp streaks? Fig 9.5 shows what appears to be a drip stain on a rock imaged at Gusev. It shows the usual blue drip around a portion of the rock and also what appears to be a darker blue drip emanating from a horizontal crack in the rock. Fig 9.6 shows what appears to be an analagous situation on a Meridiani rock. The blue drip stain is on the left of the foreground rock. I expect that these stains would be explained as being merely dust. But, might it not be possible with a diurnal water cycle acting over millenia, that stains are being produced by water mediated chemistry and that they manifest themselves exactly where one would expect to see them on the soil, in drip patterns on rocks, etc.,?

Fig 9.1; rocks in a Gusev crater showing coloured stains, s490

Fig 9.2; Crater edge rocks at Meridiani showing blue stains, s479

Fig 9.3 More slope streaks in Endurance crater, sol 97

Fig 9.4; Stains on crater rocks at Gusev, sol 1308

Fig 9.5 Blue stain exuding from a rock at Gusev, s648

Fig 9.6; Blue stain exuding from rock at Meridiani, s1178

Figs 9.7 to 9.10 show other stains, some of which have been the subject of much discussion on MRB. Fig 9.7 is a Hortonheardawho image of the stain on MerBs instrument deck. The NASA explanation for that stain is that it is merely a manifestation of dust accumulation on the affected area alternating with intermittent cleaning events. The pro-life posters contend that it is indeed a stain which remains in evidence after wind events and grows between those events. Lots of energy and arguments have gone into the stain on MRB and interested readers might wish to check out the detailed arguments there re. the pros and cons of it being a stain. Fig 9.8 shows a scene from a sol 80 pancam image of rocks disrupted by Spirits wheels which left a trail of what looks like a gooey greenish material from underground on most of the rocks touched by the wheels. The trail left by the substance is indicated by the imposed arrows. It seems unlikely that the substance could be dry dust. It therefore appears that Spirit touched a sticky substance which it later transferred to a number of rocks. Fig 9.9 is another image of the MerB stain . Here it can be seen that the colour of the stain matches with a blue colouration around some nearby rocks. Full pancam reflectance spectra indicated that the two spectra matched for all pancam filters. Fig 9.10 shows another fortuitous removal of a rock that revealed an interesting subsurface. In this case Spirit exposed a level blue area that contrasted with the colouration of the surface. Could this be a view of a general situation where a fluid might be found just below the surface?

Fig 9.7; Stain on MerBs instrument deck ex. Horton

Fig 9.8; Stains from subsurface left on rocks by MerA , s80

Fig 9.9; stain on MerB instrument panel and disturbed rock, sol 2161

Fig 9.10; rock broken by spirit showing level blue area below, sol 560

Wefts, coverings, sporulations, textures etc The surfaces of several rocks imaged by the MI appear to show striations or slightly raised filamentous areas that are reminiscent of rhizomorphs. These ropy areas are explained as being striations made by wind movement as the winds eroded soft areas of the surfaces of these rocks over eons. Figs 9.11 to 9.13 shows some examples of such raised areas. Fig 9.11 is an area on the surface of a meteorite at Meridiani. Of interest here is the weft like strands seen on the rock surface and the dirt like appearance of the nearby hollow in the rock. Fig 9.12 is another example of raised filamentous areas on the surface of a Meridiani rock. These areas interlock and meander down the surface and give the impression of being organic. Fig 9.13 is another example of raised filaments on the surface of a rock. The filaments are seen only on one side of the rock. During the 2012 winter stopover at Cape York, Opportunity imaged several examples of apparent filaments on rocks there. Some of these can be seen on Hortonheardawhos flickr site as well as on mine. Fig 9.14 is an example of another type of filamentous structure inside eroded rock surfaces in a Spirit MI. Here, the edges of the internal rock surfaces appear to be populated by chains of small spheres (about 100 um in diameter) that seem to be present on most edges seen. My speculation here is that perhaps we might be seeing the effects and signs of the activities of some putative endolithic or lithotrophic organisms.

Fig 9.11; Strange strands on a rock , MerB sol 641

Fig 9.12: Strands on another rock , MerB sol 1198

Fig 9.13; Strands on a meteorite rock, MerB sol551

Fig 9.14; Vesiculated rock showing strands and chains, MerA sol 663

Other small objects that make one go; Hmmm! Many of the MI images of eroded surfaces of rocks at both Meridiani and Gusev sites show objects that seem to be anomalous for a dry sterile Mars. The following figures are some examples of MIs that show such apparent anomalies. Fig 9.15 is one such example taken from an MI of an Opportunity rock surface of sol 649. It shows what appears to be a small berry and a 2X magnification of it with the somewhat indistinct particles that appear to be forming the small berry. The image is presented as a 3D anaglyph. Several MI images show similar structures, particularly around the period of the Erebus campaign. Fig 9.16 is a 3D anaglyph made by Hortonheardawho of an MI of a hole in a Gusev rock. Here, several white particles can be seen as well as some dark ones. Are these particles merely SODs or could they be something else?

Fig 9.15; Rock surface showing small berry, MerB sol 649

Fig 9.16; sol 551 MI -black and white particles; ex horton

Fig 9.17 is an MI of Martian soil deliberately unearthed by Opportunity on sol 25. That series of images showed a very sparse population of berries in the subsurface but also showed that these subsurface berries were bright and apparently clean. However, the most noteworthy aspect of one of these images was what appeared to be strings in the soil that appeared to be made up of discrete particles joined together. If the image is real it would suggest that some agency in the soil is acting to bind some particles together. Life would be one of the candidates for such an agent. Fig 9.18 is an image of the central crater ripples of one of the craters in Meridiani that Opportunity visited. Such ripples are present in every medium sized or large crater that the rovers visited. The rovers never took the chance of being entrapped in any of the ripples and only carried out remote spectrometer readings to characterize them. Some bloggers considered that their brilliant colours and sleek polished appearance suggested that ice was somehow involved in their formation, however this was never corroborated. There was, however, a recent paper that suggested that several crater ripples showed a central area which was populated by volcanic glass and that such areas might be prime candidates as habitats of microbial life. Fig 9.18 shows particles that mimic the appearance of the glasses shown in that paper. If they are indeed volcanic glass it may be another sign that life might be existing on the martian surface. Fig 9.19 is an anaglyph of an MI taken from Gusev images. The well ordered small particles on the edges of the protruding rock might be discrete soil particles that aggregated in chains and somehow stuck on the rock surface. However, there is also a possibility that they might be resting propagules of some unknown organism.

Fig. 9.20 is an example of a similar situation, but with rocks at the Cape York Opportunity winter haven. On approaching this area Opportunity showed several small rocks all of whose surfaces, away from the crater, had a tan material stuck on them. Fig 9.20 is an MI anaglyph of one of these spots. Like Fig 9.19, the spots appear to be made up of chains of discrete particulates of roughly 100 um diameter each. The sizes of the particles in the fig. 9.19 image and this one appear to be comparable. Fig 9.21 is an image of spots captured on one of MerBs magnets on sol 1223. These spots do not resemble the typical magnetic dust that is routinely captured on the magnets. Instead they look like dark, perhaps viscous, liquid spots. In addition the location where they were captured was in the vicinity of the Victoria dark streak area, where it might be within the realm of possibility that they could be related to wind mediated movement of particles that might themselves have been associated with moisture. Fig 9.22 is an image of a rock at Gusev, taken on sol 1252, that shows a definite thick rind that has fallen off from a portion of the rock The rind surface shows features reminiscent of an algal or fungal covering on earth.

Fig 9.17; Strings of soil in soil profile at Meridiani; sol 25

Fig 9.18; Volcanic glass and ripples inside a crater, sol 688

Fig 9.19; gusev rock with small objects attached MerA

Fig 9.20; Tan coverings at CY, MerB, s2805

Fig 9.21; Greasy looking spots on MerB magnet sol 1223

Fig 9.22; Rind on Spirit rock; MerA s1252

Rock Varnish? The origins of Rock Varnish on Earth and its possible relationship to similar varnish like coverings on Mars, as seen in several images of rocks on Mars, is a hotly researched topic following its broaching by Barry DiGregorio in his book Mars, the living planet in 1997. Rock varnish is defined as a micron scale coating of manganese, iron oxides and clays on rock surfaces in deserts and elsewhere. The manganese component of the varnish is the main subject of interest and ferromanganese metabolizing bacteria are the microbial agents implicated in the formation of varnish over long periods of time. Several papers have posited that manganese metabolizing microbes are essential to the process while others have proposed that microbes are an inessential element since some research has shown that rock varnish can be formed in the Laboratory without microbial input. The jury is therefore still out re. the absolute necessity for microbial intervention in the development of rock varnish on Earth. What seems to be clear, however, is that practically all natural occurrences of rock varnish on earth has a microbial component. Fig 9.23 is but one example of several, from both Gusev and Meridiani, that shows the colouration and texture of typical rock varnish. An Earth rock partially covered in rock varnish is shown, for comparison, in Fig 9.24. If the ubiquitous dark coloured rocks seen by both MERs on Mars are associated with putative martian rock varnish it would mean that widespread occurrence of microbes on and near the surface of Mars is a given.

Fig 9.23 Rock Varnish,on Mars? MerB sol 2157

Fig 9.24;Rock Varnish - Earth

Spirit SODs, etc; The appearance of the dust produced by the RATting or brushing process that was captured on several MI images of rocks examined by both rovers, was somewhat peculiar. The dust appeared to aggregate in distinct repeatable geometric patterns but there seemed to be distinct differences between such dust patterns from Opportunity targets (primarily the sulphate enriched evaporite pavement rocks) as compared with dust patterns from Spirit targets, usually basaltic rocks. These dust patterns were christened Self Organizing Dust or SODs by MRB posters. In addition to the SODs there were a number of dark particles in the 100 um range that were seen in some of the Spirit images. Figs 9.25 and 9.26 are examples of some of these. These do not appear to be characteristic of the SODs born of RAT droppings . These images show distinct repeating shapes. Fig 9.26 is a 2X magnification of one of the fig 9.25 objects. The shapes of the objects can be seen more clearly there. Fig 9.27 is an MI of pebbles on an undisturbed surface at Gusev taken on sol 52. The pebbles appear to be partially covered by discrete, pale, amoeboid shaped objects that appear to be sticking to the rock surfaces. Several other Spirit pebbles from other areas and sols appear to be populated by similar objects. It is possible that these are merely SODs but the resolution of the Spirit MI makes it impossible to be sure. Fig 9.28 shows a portion of MerAs deck that was covered in a dust containing some raised filamentous objects on sol 640.

Fig 9.25; Comparison of dark spirit shapes on different images

Fig 9.26; Spirit shapes , MerA s529

Fig 9.27 Pebbles with pale objects, Gusev, MerA MI , sol 52

Fig 9.28; MerA deck covered in black dust, sol 640

Evaporite rocks and Stromatolites Ive had a niggling thought, since MerB touched down on Meridiani planum, that the evaporite rocks and the berries they contain, as well as the veritable sea of berries around them might be manifestations of some sort of association with life. Ive wondered if the calcareous fossil stromatolites seen around several shallow coastlines on Earth might be models for the formation of the Meridiani berries but only in the sense that on Mars, miniscule amounts of water, on a relatively constant diurnal basis, might be involved in the maintenance of a relatively water rich environment near the subsurface and the ongoing formation from that environment of the evaporite rock and berries over eons of time up to the present. Such a scenario might explain some of the enigmatic aspects of evaporite rocks such as; the shallow placement of all such rocks that have been dislodged by Opportunitys wheels; the apparent persistent monolayer of berries on the plains surfaces despite the evident relative fragility of the berries; and also the suggestion that berries and matrix materials apparently quickly emerge from damaged surfaces to repopulate and heal such surfaces. Several of these possibilities are very easy for Opportunity to test even at this stage of its Mission. Fig 9.29 is just one example of an image of an Opportunity pavement rock, in 3D, from sol 614, that bears some superficial resemblance to living stromatolites. Fig 9.30 is an image of a transverse section of a stromatolite that resembles similar images of the Meridiani evaporite rocks with even concretion like spheroids being evident.in the mix.

Fig 9.29; evaporite rock with exposed berries, MerB s614

Fig 9.30; Stromatolite, showing cross section of layers with concretions

The Concepcion and other rinds When Opportunity visited Concepcion crater, also called the fresh crater, one of the things which stood out was the presence of light blue coloured rinds (in L257 images) on the surfaces of several rocks. These rinds had apparently not been observed before by the rover. NASA later ascribed them to impact melt surfaces on rocks. However, there were a few geologist posters on MRB who questioned this characterization. Fig 9.31 is a typical PanCam image of a Concepcion rind. The relatively thin flaky crust was generally seen to support flattened or otherwise distorted sub spherical bodies which were conjectured to have been berries. There were no comprehensive MIs done of the area to get an idea of the range of visual characteristics of the rind structures. Fig 9.33 gives some idea of how the surfaces appear in 3D. One of my speculations was that the rinds or impact melts were reminiscent of some algal bodies and fruiting structures and I wondered if there was any possibility that they could be fossils of pre-impact organisms that might have lived in the fill in the vertical cracks between the evaporite rocks Figs 9.32 and 9.34 are images of an Earth lichen and of a stromatolite viewed from the top of the layers. They are provided for rough visual comparison with the putative melt structures that are in the same orientation. Fig 9.35 shows what appears to be a rind and Fig 9.36 shows a nearby similar rind imaged by Opportunity on sol 88 on the rim of Fram crater. These rinds have characteristics that are suggestive of life. The discrete objects of which they are composed all have similar shapes; the same colouring; surfaces

that exhibit a consistent, smooth texture; and many of them have short protuberances. The Fig 9.36 objects are essentially the same in all respects as those in Fig 9.35. These repeating characteristics are consistent with being bio markers. In addition, in Fig 9.35, the pale smooth milky looking area on the top right of the objects and the blue fluid like areas below heighten the impression that the objects might not be typical evaporite rock fragments. The images were taken on sol 88 on the rim of Fram crater near Endurance crater. The context image in fig 9.36a is suggestive of Fram being a fresh crater and it might therefore be possible that the rinds could represent life forms blasted out of the crater in the not too distant past. No MIs nor Right eye filters were taken done by Opportunity for this series of images. Hence no close-ups or 3D views are possible. The images were taken towards the end of Opportunitys first winter season on Mars. The maximum temperature at that time was around 10 deg. C and the minimum -70 deg. C. The context image in Fig 9.36a indicates where the two rinds were found. Fig 9.36b is a ratio colour image by Hortonheardawho that shows a number of anomalous features. The most likely explanation that might be given for these objects is that they are merely atypical evaporite rock fragments that have fortuitously been juxtaposed in a manner that is suggestive of life. But, could it be that on sol 88 Opportunity imaged two separate examples of groups of a multicellular martian life form that had been blasted by a small impact from a fairly shallow depth in the ground near Endurance crater? Large Martian Tardigrade types come to mind.

There is also another type of rock that was quite common at Concepcion but uncommon in Opportunitys previous visits to craters. These rocks had blackened, rough textured surfaces and pale interiors. Such characteristics are typical of lichen covered rocks on Earth. Fig 9.37 shows a rock with blackened rough surfaces that was apparently split into two sections lying close together. The interior of the rock is evidently quite different in texture and colour to its exterior. One of the typical Concepcion rinds can also be seen on the rock, indicating that the rind was probably formed there after the rock developed its rough black surface Fig 9.38 shows another rock with a small circular portion of its surface blackened and rough. The blackened surface here appears a bit different in texture to the surface of the rock in fig 9.37 in that it appears to be predominantly made up of short, black, spiny filaments. Small portions of the typical blue Concepcion rinds can also be seen on the rock. It seems somewhat amazing that Opportunity did not examine the surfaces of these rocks a bit more thoroughly. Not even an MI was done. Might it be possible that the black rough surfaces were produced through the charring of the rock surfaces by the heat of the impact? If so, could those surfaces have had a significant organic component at that time? Concepcion Crater was estimated as being the youngest crater to be examined by either MER rover so far. The various rinds might be clues to relative freshness of craters if seen on rocks near to craters. They seemed interesting enough at Conception crater to justify more time being spent there on detailed examinations, even if only through a few MIs.

Fig 9.31; Rind on a Concepcion rock, sol 2160

Fig 9.32; A typical lichen from Waynes Word rock lichens

Fig 9.33; MI of Rind on a Concepcion rock; 3D, s2158

Fig 9.34; Algal fossils on stromatolite rock, transverse section.

Fig 9.35; Large Rinds with discrete smooth surfaces, MerB, sol 88

Fig 9.36; Small rinds resembling large ones above, sol 88

Fig 9.36a; Context of rind locations on Fram Crater rim, sol 88

Fig 9.36b; Fram rim with peculiar rocks, sol 88 - ex Horton

Fig 9.37; Concepcion Rock with rough black surface, sol 2192

Fig 9.38; Concepcion rock with round blackened surface, s2159

Anomalous looking rocks Fig 9.39 is one of Hortonheardawhos MI composites that was imaged on sol 2554. It might be just a fortuitous assemblage of rocks that looks like an earth fossil when viewed from a particular angle at a particular time of day. However, purely for comparison purposes Fig 9.40 is presented as well. Fig 9.40 is an image of a well known Earth fossil, a trilobyte. The probability of Opportunity finding a trilobyte fossil at the surface of Meridiani is practically zero at this time. Therefore it is likely that the assemblage of rocks is indeed what it appears to be at second glance, purely an assemblage of rocks.

Fig 9.39; sol 2544 MI -ex Horton; MerB

Fig 9.40; Trilobyte from Virtual Fossil Museum

The Gypsum veins at Cape York One of the outstanding achievements of the MERs was the find of the Homestake gypsum veins at Meridiani by MerB. That find added a new confirmatory data point to previous indications that water had indeed flowed or percolated at Meridiani in the past. It also let in the possibility that not only had liquid water been central to the establishment of the numerous gypsum veins found at Cape York, but that there was a possibility that microbial action was also involved in their formation since various papers indicate that a number of phototrophic microbes are associated with gypsum and depend on it for various aspects of their metabolism and also for protection from deleterious effects of their environment. Fig 9..41 shows a piece of a gypsum vein on earth that was shown to be colonized by a range of blue green algae. Fig 9.42 is another Hortonheardawho colouration of a sol 2776 MI that shows regions of unspecific colours in the Homestake gypsum vein that was found by MerB. Could these coloured regions have once supported (or even now supports) microbial analogues of blue green algae on Mars?

Fig 9.41; gypsum vein on Earth, microbe populations

Fig 9.42; Coloured MI of Gypsum vein Homestake -ex Horton, s2776

The Popcorn Berry area Between sols 200 and 260 Opportunity was operating in and near the slopes of Endurance crater when it found several examples of berries that showed some important differences from others it had encountered before. The main difference was that several of these berries were imaged while encapsulated in the material of their salt laden matrix and gave the appearance that they were now being eroded from that matrix. I had at first thought that these berries could just as easily have been captured in the act of being encapsulated. However, the MI images from sol 199 and sol 257 indicate that it is more likely that they were being eroded. Fig 9.43 shows a well formed uneroded berry from sol 199 with distinct surface ornamentation and a texture suggesting that it was relatively uneroded itself while its capsule of pavement matrix material was. It is possible that the berry surface shows the hard material which covers a softer internal area. Fig 9.44 shows some other berries from sol 257 that contrasts sharply with the sol 199 one. The berries here are typical of the partly eroded ones seen all over Meridiani. Their surfaces are definitely different in ornamentation, texture and colour to the sol 9.39 example and there are clear signs of erosion of these surfaces. Both of these images are 3D anaglyphs. These images may provide some insight into the provenance of haematite on the blueberries. On the plains surfaces the blueberries are covered with a sprinkling of haematite but while encapsulated in the rocks they appear to have a different covering that is eroded at the surface and are then sprinkled with the ubiquitous haematite dust.

Fig 9.43 MI view of Popcorn berry area, 3D, sol 199, note berry surface ornamentation and relative colouration

Fig 9.44; MI of some eroded popcorn berries, sol 257

Suggestive images from Phoenix The NASA lander, Phoenix, undertook a mission near the north pole of Mars in 2007. That mission was quite succesful but not on the scale of the MER missions. The mission identified an ice layer near to the surface, possible liquid water on the struts of the lander and perclorate that might have been implicated in the apparently inconclusive results of the 1976 Viking experiments that were interpreted as showing no organic chemicals at the Viking sites. Fig 9.45 is a composite pancam image from Phoenix showing an area in the vicinity of the lander. The area is clearly hummocky and provides ground truth for the polygons that were imaged at the site by the orbiters. These polygons have been interpreted as being evidence of underground water effects that create such landscapes through alternate freeze, thaw cycles. That they are present suggests that even though the top subsurface might be covered in almost permanent ice, below this might be areas of liquid water brines facilitated through the presence of perclorates and other hygroscopic salts. Morning frost was also imaged in this area. Fig 9.46 is a crop from the OM microscopic imager that took images of dust particles captured on the stage of the instrument. Several images were taken that showed identifiable gemstone type minerals but this image shows some of the dust particles as well as a provocative object that should definitely not be there. It is most likely that it is a chance aggregation of dust that only mimics the form of an earth object.

Fig 9.45; Polygons resembling microchannels at the phoenix site

Fig 9.46 An image from the Phoenix OM

Conclusion on putative life signs This chapter has attempted to show a number of possible anomalies that were captured in various MER images and which suggested to me, that, taken in their totality, there might be a valid alternative to the currently accepted conclusion that all life-like textures and morphologies such as chains, filaments, spheres, etc., should only reasonably be interpreted as products of geology and not of life. This presentation seeks to show that structures which might have had their origin in some sort of life process are in clear sight in some of the MER images. It is suggested that some of the signs seen in these images might have been produced by analogues of earths endolithic microbes that might feed on rock constituents leaving clear signs of that process on the interior or exposed surfaces of the rocks on which they feed. The rinds from Concepcion and elsewhere are a definite anomaly and should also have been of greater scientific interest to MerBs handlers than was actually evidenced. In addition, the consistent repeating theme of spheres and filaments of various sizes and levels on and in rocks and soil might not necessarily only be geological but might also be signs of life finding the most efficient way to protect itself and also to be as close as possible to opportunities to disseminate itself. It is my hope that some readers will go away from this ebook with the feeling that perhaps there might be a valid alternative to the current paradigm which vigorously claims that there is no life on Mars and that therefore the MER MIs can only show signs of a dry sterile martian surface that has been there in that same state, from time immemorial.

CHAPTER 7 : What will Curiosity find?


The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), aka Curiosity, left Earth in November last year and is slated to be set down in Gale Crater, Mars on August 6th this year. Much has been written about MSL and data on all aspects of its mission and instrumentation is available from the links given in the References to this book. The primary goal of the MSL mission is to assess the overall habitability of the areas to be examined. To reach that goal the following four objectives are listed in the MSL Press Kit: Assess the biological potential of at least one target environment by determining the nature and inventory of organic carbon compounds, searching for the chemical building blocks of life and identifying features that may record the actions of biologically relevant processes. Characterize the geology of the rovers field site at all appropriate spatial scales by investigating the chemical, isotopic and mineralogical composition of surface and nearsurface materials and interpreting the processes that have formed rocks and soils. Investigate planetary processes of relevance to past habitability (including the role of water) by assessing the long timescale atmospheric evolution and determining the present state, distribution and cycling of water and carbon dioxide. Characterize the broad spectrum of surface radiation, including galactic cosmic radiation, solar proton events and secondary neutrons.

Curiosity, even moreso than the MER rovers, is very well equipped to study the current Martian environment at Gale crater. It will study the current environment in its landing region as well as the records left by past environments. Curiosity carries a weather station, an instrument for monitoring natural high-energy radiation and an instrument that can detect soil moisture and water-containing minerals in the ground beneath the rover. The investigations of organics and other potential ingredients for life will involve the analysis of samples of the soil for what nutrients would be available now to soil microbes. It also has the ability to check for methane in the atmosphere. The Science Payload consists of the following instruments:Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer, Chemistry and Camera, Chemistry and Mineralogy, Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons, Mars Descent Imager, Mars Hand Lens Imager, Mast Camera, Radiation Assessment Detector, Rover Environmental Monitoring Station, and Sample Analysis at Mars

All of the payload is relevant to the search for life (or habitability) on Mars. However, of particular relevance to the thrust of this ebook are the following instrument suites:The MastCams two cameras have very impressive specs. Their resolution is better than the MER cameras and they can produce 3Ds, videos and still pictures as well as true colour and white balanced images. The ChemCam incorporates a rock-zapping laser and a telescope . It also includes spectrometers and electronics inside the rover. The telescope can identify the chemical elements in a target using the laser. The Mars Hand Lens Imager, or MAHLI, resembles the Microscopic Imager of the MERS. However, it has significantly greater capabilities than the MERS, including; full color, lights and adjustable focus. It also has white lightemitting diodes for imaging at night or in deep shadow. The Chemistry and Mineralogy experiment, or CheMin, will be used to analyze powdered rock and soil samples delivered by Curiositys robotic arm. CheMin uses X-ray diffraction, to more reliably identify minerals than was possible with any instrument on previous missions. MSL will acquire rock samples with a percussive drill and soil samples with a scoop. The Sample Analysis at Mars investigation, or SAM, will study chemistry relevant to life. It will check for carbon-based compounds that, on Earth, are molecular building blocks of life. It will also examine the chemical state of other elements important for life. it can also check the recent hypothesis that

perclorates may have masked organics in soil samples that were heated during Viking tests. I think that the current evidence is very strong that there is an ongoing diurnal water cycle on Mars and that chances are excellent that Curiosity will corroborate this. If water is found, given Earths examples of lifes association with water in the harshest of environments, I would suspect it should also find some of lifes biochemicals and perhaps even clear signs of microbes in the subsurface. In all, Curiosity offers significant promise that it is capable of answering several of the niggling questions that have plagued the search for life and habitability on Mars so far. Indeed, if it shows that there is current water present in the subsurface as well as that complex biochemical molecules also exist there, it would have gone a major part of the way to providing positive corroboration of the disputed results of the 1976 Viking LR experiments. If in addition to this, it also finds that there is little evidence of damaging subsurface concentrations of the superoxides that were invoked to cast doubt on the Viking LR results, that would make the LR picture even clearer. The following images show the vicinity in the Gale crater where MSL is expected to land and conduct its analyses. Fig 10.1 Shows the most recent landing ellipse within the crater and Fig 10.2 is an annotated map showing the areas of major mineralogical interest near to the landing site. The areas of clays, sulphates and a fan that might be a site of past and even (perhaps) present brine flows are indicated. There is however, one issue with Curiosity and Life on Mars that might be of some importance re. future missions to search for life there. All contemporary missions on Mars have to

undergo a detailed sterilization process designed to drastically reduce the probability of viable Earth microbes being brought there as hitch hikers on the landers, rovers or other mission equipment. However, It appears that there were significant breaches in the observance of the sterilization protocols for the Curiosity drill bits and the drill itself that are to be used for taking samples. In addition, the sky crane process itself which delivers the rover directly onto Martian soil, has been called into question as, unlike previous lander and rover missions, direct contact with the Martian surface would not have the normal buffer of a waiting period of a few days during which exposure to Martian ambient UV rays should be adequate for sterilizing any hitch-hiking organisms on the wheels. In any case, there may be questions raised about the origin of any putative organism found near the Curiosity landing site and along its path by future missions, especially if Curiosity does not find such organisms itself. I dont think such concerns would be valid if Curiosity finds evidence of widespread biochemicals and perhaps signs of life itself, especially in the first several months of the Mission. Curiosity, if all goes well and it survives the nail biting sky crane process, should have an interesting 2 years ahead on Mars. I would not be surprised if signs of recent activity by martian relatives of Trilobytes, Lichens and Tardigrades and several other microbes get recorded by Curiosity.

Fig 10.1; Gale crater - most recent landing ellipse

Fig 10.2; Gale crater - strata near planned landing area

CHAPTER 8: Conclusions
This book has attempted to document some of the indications from the MER images that life exists just below the surface of Mars. Over the past eight years or so of the MER mission at Meridiani Planum and also at Gusev I had hoped that some unequivocal image of life as we know it would have been captured. That definitive aha! image is yet to come. However, through a sampling of the existing MER images, I have tried to present an outline of the visual evidence that suggests to me that Mars is not the sterile and dry planet of the current paradigm but is alive, even if not kicking. In my view, the numerous Mars simulation and other research activities related to life on Mars in various universities and in many countries, strongly suggest that there is an appreciable diurnal water cycle on Mars and that liquid water is present near the surface in certain environments and that therefore there is a high probability that microbial life also exists there. This reality is reflected in the images of the surfaces of Mars that have been disrupted by the rovers or by recent natural occurrences. These images show clear signs that a process which is likely to be life is ongoing just under the surface. In 2007 I made a prediction about water and life on Mars on Marsroverblog. It was as follows: I'm going to make a prediction that, when the dust settles on MerB's odyssey at Meridiani and all the data is collated and dispassionately studied, a new paradigm will emerge on the

hydrological cycle on Mars and particularly in the Meridiani planum area. It will be recognized that appreciable (even) if not substantial amounts of water are being cycled on a daily basis, from millions of years ago up to the present time, and that this process has led to the current and ongoing production of the (shallow) flat evaporite rocks seen throughout Meridiani even just under the berry strewn plains surfaces. It will also be recognized that the berries (some of them, not all) are partially biological entities produced (in the subsurface) and replenished on the surface through the workings of (impacts, wind and) the hydrological cycle in association with a microbiota that shares some features with some of Earth's extremophiles. I stand by that speculation and consider that the current situation re. Life on Mars is essentially as follows:It is almost certain that there is a current water cycle between the atmosphere and the topmost subsurface on Mars. I think that Opportunity and even Spirit have found signs of current moisture on the surface and near subsurface of Mars. I think that it is likely that the earth maxim that where there is water there is also life also holds true for Mars. Therefore the chances are good that there is current life on or near some martian surfaces. I think that the MER mission showed many signs of such life but that this has been largely unrecognized primarily because it was not its mandate to seek life and it was politically incorrect to even see any signs of water or life. Curiosity and its imminent mission in Gale crater should stand a better chance of accumulating more evidence that there is a

current water cycle on Mars since a large part of their mandate and payload is precisely to answer this and some of the other questions that bedevilled the former missions that sought life. The Gale crater site for the MSL Curiosity campaign offers an enhanced chance that there will be clearer signs of an active water cycle there when and if the rover becomes functional in that crater. If the inherent promise in the muted signs of liquid water and past biology at Meridiani and Gusev is anything to go by, the enhanced ability that Curiosity has to dig deeper into rocks and the subsurface and provide better information on the chemical and putative biochemical constituents of that subsurface should significantly increase the likelihood that it will also find clearer signs of current microbial life existing below the surface than the MER rovers found. Scenes of beautiful Martian landscapes abound on the blogosphere. However, scenes at the MI level are quite rare but in my view, are no less important. In writing this ebook I therefore attempted to partially fill this gap by assembling a fairly representative collection of MI images supporting my contention that life probably exists right now on the surface of Mars. I also sought to demonstrate, through the MER images, the likelihood that the Martian sub surface experiences regular exposure to current liquid water, and also to tease out a sampling of the signs that suggest that the presence of that disputed liquid water might have led to current microbial activity at or near the surface.

I know that some people who are totally sold on the paradigm of a cold, bone dry, martian surface, are unlikely to see anything but rocks in the images Ive presented here, but I hope that there are others who will carefully study the pictures, think on their implications and hopefully carry the process forward towards what I think will be the eventual overturn of the current paradigm of a dry, cold and lifeless Mars. I think in this process it is important to recognize that there is a growing community of Scientists and others who consider that it is indeed possible that there is current life existing on or near the surface of Mars. Indeed, I was surprised to learn that there is a group in NASA that has proposed a Mars Extant Life (MEL) strategy to coordinate the search for such life using an approach that identifies Earth Analog (EA) environments on Mars and to systematically search for life in the 13 EA environments identified so far. The very comprehensive paper that the group produced to support this initiative is listed in the references. It is probably noteworthy that if their strategy had been in effect for the MER rover mission, much closer looks would have been taken of several areas at both Gusev and Meridiani which were actually glossed over or bypassed in the search for ancient water. I hope to produce a second edition of this ebook that will extend the coverage to include images and theoretical insights that will hopefully be provided by Curiosity from the Gale crater in the near future. But of course that will depend on the success of the MSL Curiosity mission.

I think that the atmospheric and edaphic environment in and near the landing ellipse at Gale crater should be much more conducive to hosting clear signs of the existence of current water and thereby signs of fossil or even extant life, than was evident at Meridiani planum. Merely studying a slope streak or a fresh crater comprehensively might even be enough. The insights that are advanced in this eBook, quixotic though they may now appear to be, would not have been possible without the vehicle of Marsroverblog and the numerous discussions about life on Mars there. The inputs by Hortonheardawho, Barsoomer, Fred, MPJ, Mann, Serpens, Ben and Kye Goodin into this process are gratefully appreciated.

GLOSSARY
NASA-JPL MER MERA MERB NASA -Jet Propulsion Laboratory - US Government Mars Exploration Rovers, MerA and MerB Spirit Rover Opportunity Rover

Pancam Twin Panoramic Science Camera MI Microscopic Imager MRB The Mars Rover Blog internet forum Area on Mars in which MerB (Opportunity) landed

Meridiani planum Gusev

Area on Mars in which MerA (Spirit) landed

Blueberries Small grey-blue spheres dominating the landscape at Meridiani in both surface soil and within evaporite rocks TSL Transient Slope Lineae (TSL), lines of stained surfaces of slopes of certain equatorial craters on Mars SOD Self Organizing Dust; dust oriented in geometric patterns left around ratholes, particularly on Evaporite rocks GCMS Thermal volatilization Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry

LR Viking Labelled Release experiment RAT The process of grinding holes in a rock by the MER Rock Abrasion Tool (RAT) Brush The process of brushing surface material from rock targets with the RAT

Microchannels Small channels containing fine regolith in cracks between evaporite rocks, usually mimicking flows of a fluid

LIST OF NON-MER IMAGES


Fig 4.1; Map of Mars - NASA / JPL * Fig 6.1; Opportunity Max-Min Temperatures - NASA / JPL * Fig 6.4; Transient Slope Lineae (TSLs) - NASA / JPL * Fig 6.6; Frost at Viking site - NASA / JPL * Fig 7.19; Map of Victoria Crater with dark streak areas - NASA / JPL * Fig 7.28; Living Stromatolites - Public Domain, from Everything, Everywhere **. Fig 8.7: Salt berries - post to MRB by r_Page Fig 8.10; Oppy tracks comparison - Courtesy Hortonheardawho (MRB) Fig 9.16; Particles in Meridiani soil - Courtesy Hortonheardawho Fig 9.24; Desert Varnished rock - from Caltech edu web site ** Fig 9.30; Stromatolite - Courtesy Everyforkintheroad.org ** Fig 9.32; Typical Lichen thallus - Waynes Word Rock Lichens ** Fig 9.34; Stromatolite - Courtesy Everyforkintheroad.org ** Fig 9.36b; Rocks from rim of Fram crater. Courtesy Hortonheardawho Fig 9.39; Interesting rocks - Courtesy Hortonheardawho Fig 9.40; Trilobyte image - from the Virtual Fossil Museum** Fig 9.42; Colourized Homestake Gypsum Vein- courtesy Hortonheardawho Fig 10.1; Fig 10.2; Gale Crater Landing Ellipse - NASA / JPL * Gale Crater strata - NASA / JPL *

* These images courtesy of NASA/JPL. No endorsement of anything in this book by NASA/JPL is claimed or implied ** Source URL of image is linked in references.

INTERNET REFERENCES
GENERAL Marsroverblog forum website http://www.marsroverblog.com/mars-forum/forum.html Winston Smalls (LWS) smugmug photosite http://lws.smugmug.com Hortonheardawhos Flickr photosite http://www.flickr.com/photos/hortonheardawho/ Manns smugmug photosite http://mann.smugmug.com/Photography/mars/100790_sx82t6#!i=3743021&k=oPkZ7 Exploratorium edu MER images website http://qt.exploratorium.edu/mars/opportunity/ NASA/JPL MER Opportunity raw images website http://marsrover.nasa.gov/gallery/all/opportunity.html NASA/JPL MER Opportunity images, the MER analysts notebook http://an.rsl.wustl.edu/mer/merbrowser/default.aspx?m=MERB Stereophotmaker 3D viewer, http://stereophoto-maker.apponic.com/ ImageJ graphics package http://rsb.info.nih.gov/ij/

MARS IN MYTH AND THE PRESENT The Planet Mars in Ancient Myth and Religion by Ev Cochrane http://www.aeonjournal.com/mars.htm Cydonia (region of Mars), Wikipaedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cydonia_(region_of_Mars) VIKING AND THE LR EXPERIMENT RESEARCH ON MARS Papers by Gilbert V. Levin, Ph.D. http://gillevin.com/mars.htm Viking Experiment May Have Found Lifes Building Blocks on Mars After All by Nancy Atkinson, September 3, 2010. http://www.universetoday.com/72811/viking-experiment-may-have-foundlife%e2%80%99s-building-blocks-on-mars-after-all/#ixzz1wx7lKo3G Astrobiologist Dirk Schulze-Makuch says that extraterrestrial life has already been found. Seed Magazine.com http://seedmagazine.com/content/print/we_are_not_alone/ Low biotoxicities of analog soils suggest that the surface of mars may be habitable for terrestrial microorganisms. http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2012/pdf/1507.pdf Ramifications of a sterile Mars- Gilbert Levin, 2011 http://gillevin.com/Mars/SPIE_Paper_2011_as_Submitted.pdf Reanalysis of the Viking results suggests perchlorate and organics at mid latitudes on Mars; Rafael Navarro-Gonzlez http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2010/2010JE003599.shtml Astronomy Cast - Viking Landers transcript, may 2012 http://www.astronomycast.com/2012/05/ep-258-viking-landers/

The Viking labelled release experiment and life on Mars, gilbert. levin asu.edu http://gillevin.com/Mars/THE_VIKING_MISSION_AND_LIFE_ON_MARS.pdf Color and Feature Changes at Mars Viking Lander Site; gilbert v. levin and patricia ann straat http://gillevin.com/Mars/Reprint87-color-files/colorReprint87.htm THE MARS EXPLORATION ROVERS Mars Exploration rovers mission home; NASA JPL http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/home/index.html EXTREMOPHILES Encyclopedia of Earth, Extremophile article http://www.eoearth.org/articles/view/160977/ Surviving the conditions on Mars. by Staff Writers; Mars Daily, Apr 30, 2012 http://www.marsdaily.com/reports/Surviving_the_conditions_on_Mars_999.html Earths toughest life could survive on Mars; Mike Malaska, The Planetary Society. http://www.planetary.org/blogs/guest-blogs/20120515-earth-life-survive-mars.html Comparative Survival Analysis of Deinococcus Radiodurans and the Haloarchaea Natrialba Magadii and Haloferax Volcanii, Exposed to Vacuum Ultraviolet Irradiation: http://arxiv.org/abs/1109.6590 Scientists find microbes in lava tube living in conditions like those on Mars http://phys.org/news/2011-12-scientists-microbes-lava-tube-conditions.html. Extreme life at the bottom of a glacier; Space Daily. http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Extreme_Life_at_the_Bottom_of_a_Glacier_999. html Mars meteorite similar to bacteria etched rocks - Mars Daily

http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Mars_Meteorite_Similar_To_Bacteria_Etched_Ea rth_Rocks.html Anatomy of the endolithic sonoran desert lichen verrucaria rubrocincta breuss implications for biodeterioration and biomineralization http://www.mendeley.com/research/anatomy-of-the-endolithic-sonoran-desert-lichenverrucaria-rubrocincta-breuss-implications-for-biodeterioration-andbiomineralization/ Geomycology: fungi in mineral substrata; Euan p. Burford, martin kierans & geoffrey m. gadd http://www.fungi4schools.org/Reprints/Mycologist_articles/Post16/Environment/V17pp098-107fungi_in_minerals.pdf The benefits of looking at Mars close-up; Dr Beda A. Hofmann http://www.planete-mars-suisse.com/crbst_117.html Raman Spectroscopy Unveils Evidence for Microbes in Desert Rocks; Barry E DiGregorio. http://www.microbemagazine.org/index.php/01-2011-current-topics/3029-ramanspectroscopy-unveils-evidence-for-microbes-in-desert-rocks The toughest life on Earth; by Staff Writers; Space Daily June 25 2012. http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/The_toughest_life_on_Earth_999.html Mars Exploration Rover - Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Exploration_Rover Mars, Facts and Information about the Planet Mars http://www.space.com/47-mars-the-red-planet-fourth-planet-from-the-sun.html/ Bacterial mat the size of Greece found on Pacific floor; Fred Pearce, New Scientist http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20627574.100-bacterial-mat-the-size-ofgreece-found-on-pacific-floor.html Mars Extant-Life Campaign Using an Approach Based on Earth-Analog Habitats; Lawrence A. Palkovic, Thomas J. Wilson NASA.gov

http://trs-new.jpl.nasa.gov/dspace/bitstream/2014/39317/1/05-0706.pdf Life's molecules could lie within reach of Mars Curiosity rover; Space Ref, July 5th 2012 http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=37694 New Discovery Supports Possibility of Microbial Life on Mars by Nancy Atkinson on June 4, 2010; Universe today. http://www.universetoday.com/65823/new-discovery-supports-possibility-ofmicrobial-life-on-mars/ Possibilities for life on Mars - a surprising new microbe; R. G Clarke, Cosmoquest X Forums, 2005 http://cosmoquest.org/forum/showthread.php/15752-Possibilities-for-life-on-Mars-asurprising-new-microbe

WATER ON MARS Water on Mars - Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_on_Mars Mars Water? NASA Probe Shows Brown Streaks in Martian Craters; ABC news http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/nasa-mars-probe-finds-evidence-water-martiansoil/story?id=14233931 Kelly Beatty; Is water flowing on Mars; Sky and telescope, July 2012; http://www.skyandtelescope.com/community/skyblog/newsblog/117806243.html Spectral evidence for liquid water on Mars; 42nd LPSC (2011); N.O. Renna et al. http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2011/pdf/1537.pdf NASA spacecraft reveals dramatic changes in Mars atmosphere; SpaceRef april 2011 http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=33388 Wetter Mars atmosphere shakes up old climate models; Nola Taylor Redd; Space.com http://www.space.com/13126-mars-atmosphere-water-discovery.html Mars surprise - Atmosphere is supersaturated with water vapour; The daily Galaxy, September 2011 http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2011/09/mars-missing-athmosphere-newcauses-discovered.html Mars climate sounder confirms a martian weather prediction; Emily Lakdawalla - The Planetary Society. http://www.planetary.org/blogs/emily-lakdawalla/2011/3234.html Subsurface waters and clay mineral formation during the early history of Mars; Bethany L Ehlmann et al; Nature. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v479/n7371/full/nature10582.html

Mountains and buried ice on Mars; ESA Mars Express. http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Mars_Express/SEMUGI2XFVG_0.html Large amounts of water ice found underground on Mars; Irene Antonenko; Universe Today Jan 2012. http://www.universetoday.com/93059/large-amounts-of-water-ice-foundunderground-on-mars/ Mars may hold more than twice the water that was previously thought; AGU news june 2000. http://www.agu.org/news/press/pr_archives/2000/prrl0019.html Salty soil can suck water out of the atmosphere; Could this happen on Mars? Science Newsline Nature - Oregon University. http://www.sciencenewsline.com/nature/2012022801100028.html Salty soil on Mars could be slurping water from the atmosphere. Nancy Atkinson; Universe Today; Feb 2012. http://www.universetoday.com/93848/salty-soil-on-mars-could-be-slurping-waterfrom-the-atmosphere/ Evidence is piling up for water flowing on the surface of Mars; 109 we come from the future, March 2012. http://io9.com/5896293/evidence-is-piling-up-for-water-flowing-on-the-surface-mars National Geographic - Martian fog study finds thick haze diamond dust. NASA lander adds evidence to red planets water cycle. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/04/110404-nasa-mars-fog-watercycle-phoenix-space-science/ Evidence in favour of small amounts of ephemeral and transient water during alteration at Meridiani planum, Mars. Gilles Berger et al, Toulouse http://ammin.geoscienceworld.org/content/94/8-9/1279.abstract

ScienceDaily (Sep. 9, 2010) Liquid water has interacted with the Martian surface throughout Mars' history, measurements by NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander suggest. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100909141535.htm The Hunt for Liquid Water, Life and Landing Sites on the Surface of Mars Today; University of California, Berkeley; USRA http://www.lpi.usra.edu/publications/reports/CB-1063/UCB.pdf Simulations Show Liquid Water Could Exist on Mars. Nov 2005, PhysOrg news http://phys.org/news7981.html Geophysical research letters, vol 34, 2007; Sublimation rate of ice under simulated Mars conditions and the effect of layers of mock regolith JSC Mars-1 Vincent Chevrier, WG Sears, et al. http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2007/2006GL028401.shtml A mechanism for recent production of liquid water on mars. M. H. Hecht and N. T. Bridges, JPL. http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2003/pdf/2073.pdf mapping the water content of the martian surface using mars express omega r. e. milliken; lpsc 2005 http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2005/pdf/1370.pdf Mars's Ice Patchy, Water Cycle Quite Active, Study Reveals; Stefan Lovgren for National Geographic News, May 2, 2007 http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/05/070502-mars-ice.html Marsrover blog discussion on the blue rays of victoria http://www.marsroverblog.com/discuss-the-blue-rays-of-victoriapage2.html Mars water traces left by springs not seas, National geographic News. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/bigphotos/33898977.html

Water on Mars: Look just below the surface; TheStar.com, oct 07 http://www.thestar.com/sciencetech/article/268090 Water on Mars - Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_on_Mars Silica-rich deposits and hydrated minerals at Gusev Crater, Mars: Vis-NIR spectral characterization and regional mapping http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2010Icar..205..375R Evidence for amazonian liquid water on mars http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0032063308004029 Spirit Mars Rover Mission: Overview and selected results from the northern Home Plate Winter Haven to the side of Scamander crater http://web.mit.edu/mobility/publications/rea_spirit_2010JE003633.pdf Trapped Mars Rover Finds Evidence of Subsurface Water http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101028125634.htm Nature and origin of RSL: spectroscopy and detectability of liquid brines in the nearinfrared. M. Mass1, P. Beck et al http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2012/pdf/1856.pdf Comparison of possible recent water or brine related flow features on mars. A. Kereszturi, A. Sik http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2012/pdf/1787.pdf

A potential habitable zone within the subsurface at the equatorial region on Mars -Based on mission observation, lab experiment, and terrestrial analog site study-Alian Wang (Washington University in St. Louis) http://sese.asu.edu/content/spring-2011-colloquium-abstracts-alian-wang http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/abscicon2010/pdf/5400.pdf

ferric sulfates on mars: mission observations and laboratory investigations. J. J. Freeman, Alian Wang et al, 2009 http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2009/pdf/2284.pdf Hydration state of the Martian surface as seen by Mars Express; OMEGA: Water content of the surface http://www.planetary.brown.edu/pdfs/3597.pdf Water sorption on martian regolith analogs: near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy and thermodynamics. Antoine Pommerol, Bernard Schmitt http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2009/pdf/1608.pdf Extensive Water in Mars Interior; by Staff Writers Mars Daily. http://www.marsdaily.com/reports/Extensive_Water_in_Mars_Interior_999.html Nanoparticles found in moon glass bubbles explain weird lunar soil behaviour, Moon Daily, June 14, 2012 http://www.moondaily.com/reports/Nanoparticles_found_in_moon_glass_bubbles_ex plain_weird_lunar_soil_behaviour_999.html Exhumed rocks reveal Mars water ran deep; by Staff Writers; Mars Daily http://www.marsdaily.com/reports/Exhumed_rocks_reveal_Mars_water_ran_deep_99 9.html Young Mars craters contain water Ice - photos show, Zoe McDonald, Space.com http://www.space.com/9025-young-mars-crater-water-ice-photo-shows.html

THE MERIDIANI BLUEBERRIES Sedimentary concretions vs. impact condensates: origin of the hematitic spherules of Meridiani planum, mars. d. m. Burt1, L. P. Knauth, and K. H. Wohletz http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2007/pdf/1922.pdf impact surge on mars. L.P. Knauth, S. Bryan, D.M. Burt1, and K.H.Wohletz http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2007/pdf/1757.pdf Processes of formation of spheroidal concretions and inferences for blueberries in Meridiani planum sediments. Max Coleman, California Institute of Technology, Jet Propulsion Laboratory http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2005/pdf/2148.pdf Processes of origin and duration of growth of blueberries at Meridiani planum. Max Coleman1 1Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/7thmars2007/pdf/3057.pdf Hematite on the surface of Meridiani planum and gusev crater. J. Brckner et al http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2005/pdf/1767.pdf blueberries: a summary of the haematite concretions found at the opportunity landing site. W. Calvin, S. Squyres, et al http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/earlymars2004/pdf/8074.pdf groundwater-fed iron-rich microbial mats in a freshwater creek: growth cycles and fossilization potential of microbial features. J. Schieber http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2004/pdf/1369.pdf Hematite concretions from modern acid saline lake sediments as geochemical and astrobiological tombs. Brenda Beitler Bowen, Kathleen C. Benison http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/7thmars2007/pdf/3175.pdf Hematite spherules at Meridiani: Results from MI, Mini-TES, and Pancam W. M. Calvin; J. D. Shoffner, et al http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2008/2007JE003048.shtml

Marsroverblog discussion on A Prediction on Meridiani http://www.marsroverblog.com/discuss-52571-a-prediction-on-meridiani.html Earth Has Blueberries Like Mars Moqui Marbles Formed in Groundwater in Utahs National Parks http://www.unews.utah.edu/releases/04/jun/marsmarbles.html Marsroverblog; Back to the live blueberry thesis-LWS http://www.marsroverblog.com/discuss-23686-back-to-the-live-blueberry-thesis.html Ironstone concretions analogs to martian hematite spherules. A. D. Aubrey, E. Parker, J. H. Chalmers, D. Lal and J. L. Bada, Geoscience Research Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2007/pdf/2053.pdf Iron isotope biosignatures: Laboratory studies and modern environments Project Investigators: Clark Johnson; Astrobiology, NASA Astrobiology Institute http://astrobiology.nasa.gov/nai/library-of-resources/annualreports/2009/uwis/projects/iron-isotope-biosignatures-laboratory-studies-and-modernenvironments/ Microbial Reduction of Hematite Nanoparticles - Electron Transfer at HematiteMicrobe Interfaces; NSF-CHE-0431425 and NSF-BES-0404400: G.E. Brown, Jr. and A.M. Spormann, Stanford University http://emsi.stanford.edu/pdfs/06_Ha_Nugget.pdf

A MISCELLANY OF SIGNS OF LIFE Mars site may hold buried life. Victoria Gill, BBC NEWS; Science and Environment. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-10790648 Rocks on Mars may provide link to evidence of living organisms 4 billion years ago http://phys.org/news199638367.html Phoenix Lander Revealing a Younger, Livelier Mars; In Science 10 September 2010: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/reprint/329/5997/1267.pdf Building Blocks for Life on Mars Possibly Seen By Viking Probes; by SPACE.com Staff http://www.space.com/9018-building-blocks-life-mars-possibly-viking-probes-studysuggests.html First Results From Herschel Mars Observations, Mars Daily http://www.marsdaily.com/reports/First_Results_From_Herschel_Mars_Observations _999.html New Mars tests find possible life ingredients Viking lands on Mars in 1976 (NASA) By Marc KaufmanWashington Post Staff Writer http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2010/09/03/AR201009030291 9.html Alien life form is here on Earth Posted by Paul Sutherland on November 30th, 2010 http://www.skymania.com/wp/2010/11/alien-life-form-is-here-on-earth.html/ Rocking the Cradle of Life by Astrobiology Magazine staffwriter. http://www.astrobio.net/exclusive/1115/rocking-the-cradle-of-life eukaryote-dominated biofilms in extreme environments: overlooked sources of information in the geologic record sandra s. brake and stephen t. hasiotis http://palaios.ku.edu/23/3/brake.pdf

Islands of Life - Part One by Henry Bortman; for Astrobiology Magazine http://www.marsdaily.com/reports/Islands_of_Life_Part_One_999.html Life on Mars - Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_on_Mars Microbial life on Mars: Could saltwater make it possible? Aug, 2011; Physorg.com http://phys.org/news/2011-08-microbial-life-mars-saltwater.html Life Possible On 'Large Regions' of Mars. With higher pressures and warmer temperatures beneath the Martian surface, Earth-like microorganisms could thrive. Discovery news http://news.discovery.com/space/mars-life-habitability-regions-111212.html Making Sense of Mars Methane. Astrobiology Magazine http://www.astrobio.net/exclusive/2765/making-sense-of-mars-methane Desert Varnish on Mars - Astrobiology magazine http://www.astrobio.net/pressrelease/4071/desert-varnish-on-mars Barry E DiGregorio, Dorn and Krinsley "Rock varnish in New York: An accelerated snapshot of accretionary processes"; Geomorphology http://alliance.la.asu.edu/dorn/NewYorkVarnish.pdf Rock varnish as a habitat for extant life on Mars http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2002SPIE.4495..120D Astrobiological Implications of Rock Varnish in Tibet http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2009AsBio...9..551K Barry E DiGregorio; Microbes in cave appear to be a source of rock varnish; ASM Microbe Magazine, June 2010. http://www.microbemagazine.org/index.php/06-2010-current-topics/1853-microbes-incave-appear-to-be-source-of-rock-varnish

the effects of desiccation under mars-like conditions on the spectral detectability of gypsum associated endolithic communities. http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2012/pdf/1224.pdf Scientists: Mars 'egg' proof of life; The Sun http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/4284216/Egg-from-Mars-meteoriteTissint-is-proof-of-life.html Life on Mars? "Missing Mineral" Find Boosts Chances; Victoria Jaggard in San Francisco; National Geographic News http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/12/081219-mars-carbonate.html Unidentifiable bacteria precipitating gypsum crystals in in-vitro culture experiments http://www.springerimages.com/Images/RSS/1-10.1007_s00254-008-1413-y-7 An endoevaporitic microbial mat within a gypsum crust: zonation of phototrophs, photopigments, and light penetration; Oren A, Khl M, Karsten U http://www.int-res.com/abstracts/meps/v128/p151-159/ The chugwater formation, Gypsum veins http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chugwater_Formation Modern evaporites https://courses.washington.edu/sicilia/pdf/Charlotte_MODERNEVAPORITES.pdf Innovative use of thiobacillus ferrooxisans to biomachine metals. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/abio.370200202/abstract Frozen Microbes Reveal How To Test For Martian Life http://www.spacedaily.com/news/mars-life-05x.html Conditions on early mars might have fostered rapid an early development of Life; Everett K. Gibson, David S. McKay, et al. http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/7thmars2007/pdf/3071.pdf

Plant Physiol. 2005 April; The Mycorrhizal Fungus Gigaspora margarita Possesses a CuZn Superoxide Dismutase That Is Up-Regulated during Symbiosis with Legume Hosts; Luisa Lanfranco, Mara Novero, and Paola Bonfante http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1088323/ Bacterial Life and Dinitrogen Fixation at a Gypsum Rock; Gudrun Boison, Alexander Mergel, Helena Jolkver and Hermann Bothe http://aem.asm.org/content/70/12/7070.full Hamelin pool stromatolites ; Smugmug images; Public Domain http://www.smugmug.com/gallery/2770851_9Fj6cC#!i=147477292&k=kVDdc&lb= 1&s=O Unexpected Diversity and Complexity of the Guerrero Negro Hypersaline Microbial Mat; Ruth E. Ley http://aem.asm.org/content/72/5/3685.abstract The formation of antitaxial calcite veins with well-developed fibres, Oppaminda Creek, South Australia; Paul D. Bons, Michael Montenari Journal of Structural Geology 27 (2005) 231248 http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/projects/spacewardbound/australia2009/docs/Bons_Montenar i.pdf My Fossils; Paleozoic Era; Permian Period; Lykins Formation (~250 mya); Stromatolites; at Every Fork in the Road http://www.everyforkintheroad.org/NatSci/paleo/MyPaleo/paleo/perm/lykins/strom_2 0010406/ Stromatolites; Gary Arndt (EverythingEverywhere) Western Australia 2008 http://travelphotos.everything-everywhere.com/Australia/Western-Australia/WesternAustralia-2008/7492605_FGq7WW#!i=483611491&k=L6frg Desert Varnish - Caltech edu image http://minerals.caltech.edu/FILES/VARNISH/Varnish_side.jpg Desert Varnish and Lichen crust - Waynes word http://waynesword.palomar.edu/pljan98.htm#Desert

MSL-CURIOSITY Big pile in Gale Crater - red Planet report; March 2012. http://redplanet.asu.edu/?p=1637 Mars Science Laboratory launch, press kit; NASA, nov. 2011 http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/press_kits/MSLLaunch.pdf MSL Mission instruments - NASA JPL http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/mission/instruments/ Prof active in mission to determine climate change and life on mars. May 2012. http://www.marsdaily.com/reports/Prof_Active_In_Mission_To_Determine_Climate_ Change_And_Life_On_Mars_999.html Agle, D. C. (28 March 2012). "'Mount Sharp' On Mars Links Geology's Past and Future". NASA. http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-090 Mastcam multispectral imaging on the mars science laboratory rover: wavelength coverage and imaging strategies at the gale crater field site. j. f. bell http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2012/pdf/2541.pdf

Curiosity and the issue of planetary protection; Universe Today, June 14th 2012 http://www.universetoday.com/95819/curiosity-and-the-issue-of-planetary-protection/

THE AUTHOR Winston Small is a retired Environmental Biologist who has had an interest in Space Travel and Mars from childhood. The MER mission was an opportunity for him, and for many other marsaholics around the globe, to explore the surface of Mars using the eyes of the MER rovers, through the kind courtesy of NASA/JPL. From the onset of the mission, even while recognizing that it was a geology mission searching for signs of ancient water, it was clear to him that the images beamed from Mars appeared to be telling a story of a dynamic living Mars that was somewhat at odds with the paradigm of a dead planet. This ebook, through the use of several colour composites, seeks to show the other side of the story hidden in the MER images. SHORT REVIEW by MPJ Winston, thanks for your really interesting ebook. Your thoughts and observations written down here is what exploration should be about, to look over the rim of a tea cup (beyond the mission goals) especial in that fortunate situation of a vastly increased mission lifetime. I think you have no objections for me to share this with my academic peers. This ebook is a culmination of what makes this board (Mars Rover Blog (MRB)) my favorite discussion board regarding Mars - open minded, yet reasonable discussions about actual observations rather than just a competition for the prettiest Mars pictures.

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