Changing Planetary Environments and the Fingerprints of Life

The SETI Institute (SI) team is developing a roadmap to biosignature exploration in support of NASA’s decadal plan for the search for life on Mars – with the Mars 2020 mission providing the first opportunity to investigate the question of past life on Mars. In an ancient Mars environment that may have once either supported life as we know it, or sustained pre-biological processes leading to an origin of life, the Mars 2020 mission is expected to be a Curiosity-class rover that will cache samples for return to Earth at a later date. The SETI team will address the overall question “How do we identify and cache the most valuable samples?”. One of the greatest uncertainties in this question is the role that the unique early martian environment may have played in habitability, the formation of organic molecules, and the preservation of biosignatures.