The Present-Day Habitability of Mars
This two-day conference will examine the present-day habitability of Mars. The history of Mars exploration can be characterized by a series of exciting discoveries that have dramatically overturned previously held beliefs about the planet. Until very recently, the dominantly held position within the scientific community was that while geologic and climatic conditions during Mars’ distant past may have been conducive to the potential origin and evolution of life, conditions on Mars today offer slim hope for life as we know it due to the unlikely existence of near-surface liquid water environments. However, recent results from from NASA’s Phoenix Lander and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter missions suggest that present-day Mars may in fact contain a range of potential liquid water environments associated with perchlorates in near-surface soil layers and seasonally recurring slope lineae. The purpose of this conference is to review observations and theories relating to the current habitability of Mars, and to broadly discuss the implications for future Mars science and exploration.
The first two days of the conference will consist of a set of 30-minute invited and contributed talks interspersed with discussions. The entire conference will be open to remote participation via NASA’s Astrobiology Institute “All Access” webcast. On February 6th, there will be an optional field trip to JPL, which will include a tour of the Mars Science Laboratory facilities.