Searching for Extant Life on Mars – The ATP-Firefly Luciferin/Luciferase Technique
R. K. Obousy; A. C. Tziolas; K. Kaltsas; M. R. Sims; W. D. Grant (2000), JBIS, 53, 121-130
Keywords: Mars, astrobiology, life detection, microbiology, sample return, biological assay.
We have investigated the use of the ATP-Firefly Luciferin/Luciferase (FFL) enzymic photoluminescent reaction as a possible means of detecting extant life in the Martian environment. Experiments carried out by the authors illustrate the capacity of the method to successfully detect extant forms of life on Mars assuming ATP is an intrinsic part of the biochemistry of such life-forms. A photodiode based apparatus, built to test the assumptions and applicability of the ATP-Firefly Luciferase/Luciferin technique to an exobiologically inclined mission to Mars, revealed the adequate resolution and reproducibility of the methodology plus areas of improvement. Also detailed are extraction, delivery and analysis system concepts, proposed for future Mars missions.