The UK Space Agency has endorsed an experiment proposal submitted to the NASA ROSES-2015: The Mars Science Laboratory Participating Scientist Program by a group of scientists including two members of BCAB, Barry E. DiGregorio and Gilbert V. Levin. Ronald I. Dorn a Professor of Geography of Arizona State University, in Tempe, Arizona, Giorgio Bianciardi a Researcher and Adjunct Professor at the Dept of Medical Biotechnologies at Siena University, Italy, and Robert Lodder, Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington Kentucky, are also participants. The proposal, titled “A search for extant endolithic and hypolithic microbial communities”, if selected by NASA and the UK Space Agency, would be the first effort to look for evidence of current life on Mars since Viking in 1976. Already endorsed but awaiting funding approval by the UK Space Agency, the new proposal would be a part of Curiosity’s Extended Mission objectives from October 2015-2019 as the rover makes the long climb to the top of the 8-kilometer Mount Sharp. The Buckingham proposal seeks to use the frequencies of special spectroscopic filters on the Mast Camera and MAHLI microscopic imager camera on the Curiosity to look for evidence of microorganisms. Photosynthetic pigments, portions of or intact microorganisms (endolithic microbes) that might be alive inside freshly broken or those living under rocks (hypolithic microbes) would be sought. The rover wheels sometimes break open or turn over rocks providing fresh surfaces. Read the full BCAB press release: University of Buckingham astrobiologists endorsed by UK Space Agency to look for life on Mars

Chandra Wickramasinghe

Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe