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Applicant -- METHANE ON MARS:  Where to look and why

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Methane on Mars is a subject of longstanding interest because of the possibility that releases of methane could be indications of microbial life.  It is a subject of particular current interest because of the recent detections of methane by the Curiosity rover coupled with upcoming results from ESA ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) which will scan for methane in the martian atmosphere and should begin returning data in 2017.  

My background includes a 22-year career in the petroleum industry, where I specialized in organic matter in sedimentary rocks, the formation of oil and gas at depth, and seepage of methane to the surface. Applying this background to Mars, I will outline the kinds of sites where methane could be produced (by both biogenic and/or abiotic processes) and then released to the atmosphere.  An understanding of this information should aid interpretation of data from TGO and other orbital and landed missions designed to detect trace gases.

I also will also discuss my work at Johnson Space Center on biosignatures, emphasizing results from NanoSIMS and SIMS and how they could be used to identify fragmentary remains of potential biogenic organic matter in martian samples returned to Earth.

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