Lithotrophic microbial communities and biosignatures in geothermal environments at Kverkfjöll: an analogue for Mars life (Arola Moreras).

Category: Use of Extreme Environments to advance the exploration and settlement of space

Institution: University of St Andrews

This cross-disciplinary project was focused on identifying active metabolisms in Mars analogue environments and the resulting stable isotope biosignatures preserved in mineral and organic products. Just as terrestrial geological processes can be used as analogues for their Martian counterparts, terrestrial biology can serve as a proxy for Martian biota. To explore the biogeochemistry consistent with the geological observations of ancient Mars, it is necessary to find terrestrial environments that are depleted in oxygen and substantial organic matter, with elevated carbon dioxide, S, and Fe. Such environments exist at the Kverkfjöll subglacial basaltic volcano in Iceland, which has unique ice-fed geothermal systems. Geochemical inputs for these environments are similar to early Mars, including volcanic degassing of carbon dioxide,
hydrogen sulfide, and hydrogen, and dissolution of basalt to release mobile elements such as Mg, Fe, and Ca.

This geochemical similarity to Martian environments allows Mars-analogue biogeochemistry to be investigated. This project is therefore directly relevant to the Earth and Space Foundation’s vision, which includes understanding microbial life in extreme environments on Earth and beyond.


Attendance at the Space Studies Programme at the International Space University (Anna Wojdecka)

Category: Applying new space technologies to solve environmental problems on Earth.

Institution: Royal College of Art and Imperial College London.

My goal is to apply the latest new, exponential technologies to address global challenges, innovation, new exponential technologies. At NASA Ames, Singularity University, I’ve expanded my knowledge on new exponential technologies. I want to contribute my multidisciplinary skills to the rapid development of the space sector. This year I’ve been honoured to be accepted to Space Studies Programme at the International Space University, where I will develop a space focused project within a team. I see ISU as a crucial step in my career to design for space. My strongest asset is the ability to applying the principles of design and innovation across new disciplines.

I am particularly interested in the applying new space technologies to solve environmental problems on Earth, like air pollution. Utilising technologies like hyperspectral imaging and microsatelite swarms opens new opportunities to detect, identify and visualise toxic gases globally. As I believe humans are bound to become multi planetary species, I am also very passionate about designing solutions to enhance Space Exploration. During the time at ISU an interdisciplinary and intercultural team will be formed to bring together design, engineering, science, humanities and passion for Space.