The current framework for life detection for Mars exploration uses the ancient biosignatures paradigm where robust organics and former lacustrine environments provide assessments of habitability. This framework does not provide the science community with direct evidence of extant life potentially inhabiting these regions. With the recent Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey emphasizing a focus on extant life searches, it is critical to revisit and update our scientific investigations and datasets to more definitively interpret potential extant biology outside of our terrestrial biosphere.
The proposed ordinated sets of experiments and biological measurements decided during the team’s first workshop (July 2023) will be now integrated into the latter two goals for this workshop series. While still maintaining their science-driven approach for biological validation, this team will incorporate and organize the necessary astrobiology and life detection measurements into a measurement, instrument, and sample frameworks necessary for biological validation for in-situ and returned samples from outside our terrestrial biosphere. This incorporation will include the results from their first workshop, protocols necessary for agnostic and terrestrial biology, and pave the way for the future ‘search for life’ mission concepts that will utilize our biological validation set of experiments.