Mars Analogue Research

Ladakh: Cold, very high altitude, dry desert environment

Lonar Crater: Preservation of Ancient Life in Basaltic Targets

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Early Mars Analogues: Habitability and Biosignature Preservation in Hypersaline Lakes and Permafrost

Several saline lakes present in Ladakh’s high-altitude, rain-shadowed region are potential analogues to lakes that existed on early Mars (>3 Ga), formed by evaporation of briny surface lakes. Over 600 small (∼<25 km2) individual light-toned chloride deposits have been observed across the surface of Mars and appear to be associated with the fine-scale polygonal pattern, topographic lows and fluvial channels. They are relevant to planetary geomorphologists studying early Mars and have astrobiology significance in relation to the habitability of groups studying microbial life in briny environments and salt deposits. Our group is studying Tso Kar, Ladakh as an Early Mars Analogue and exploring in-situ analysis of samples, testing of hand-held/rover-based instruments for biosignature studies. We published an overview of Ladakh's astrobiology potential here

Investigations of Multiple Planetary Analogue Crater Terrains (IMPACT)

Our Centre and Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences (BSIP) Lucknow are involved in conducting a planetary analog study at Lonar Crater, a rare impact crater in basalt hosting a similar lake-delta system to the one in Jezero Crater, Mars. Our goal is to assess organic preservation potential in deltaic and lacustrine sediments and, to a lesser extent, in gullies inside and outside of the crater rim. Our scientific objectives include characterization of the habitability and preservation potential of three distinct crater terrains at Lonar: (1) a delta fan and lake shoreline in Lonar Crater, (2) inner crater gullies, and (3) gullies external to the crater, formed in the ejecta blanket. Our Centre is developing relevant concepts of operations (ConOps) and decision-making flow pathways relevant for future planetary mission activities by conducting science-driven field operations under imposed, Mars Mission-like constraints of duration and range.

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