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Life Sci Space Res. 1967;5:174-86.

Effect of reduced barometric pressure on water availability related to microbial growth.

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ITT Research Institute, Chicago, Illinois, USA.


Data obtained from Mariner IV indicate that the barometric pressure on Mars is considerably lower than previously estimated. Current estimates from Mariner IV indicate a range from 4 to 7 mb and by near infrared spectroscopy 33-56 mb. Inasmuch as the pressure has a marked influence on availability of water, this should affect the existence of Martian life. At the maximum temperatures recorded on Mars, namely 25 degrees C, a barometric pressure of 30 mb is required for the retention of free water. The lower pressure, 4 mb, would suggest that the moisture is present as a vapor above the freezing point and consequently it is not available for utilizing by living cells. The lower estimates of barometric pressure also inversely affect the carbon dioxide concentration in the Martian atmosphere. Our previous studies have demonstrated that spores of Bacillus cereus survive, germinate and grow in a simulated Martian environment (2.4% CO2, 98 mb) supplemented with moisture. The studies described in this paper were designed to determine the effect of low barometric pressures (10 to 98 mb Hg) and high concentrations of carbon dioxide (37 to 100%) in the simulated Martian environment on survival and growth of B cereus. The organism was inoculated into a felsite-limonite soil at 8% moisture level. The temperature cycles used were 8 hr at -65 degrees C and 16 hr at 25 degrees C, or 20 hr at -65 degrees C and 4 hr at 25 degrees C. The data suggest that the organism after achieving maximum growth in the simulated Martian environment (2.4% CO2, 98 mb) immediately enters into the growth phase upon reinoculation into fresh soil. These data reflect upon the possibility of contamination through air movements. Based upon currently available Martian environmental data, the probability of contamination of Mars by terrestrial micro-organisms will be discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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