INPhINIT 2020 Incoming Fellowship: "Mars habitability: mapping the ground water reservoirs."

Application deadline:

The Doctoral INPhINIT Incoming fellowship offers 3-year contracts for early-stage researchers of any nationality to carry out a PhD project in research centres accredited with the Spanish Seal of Excellence Severo Ochoa, María de Maeztu or Health Institute Carlos III, on STEM disciplines. Centro de Astrobiología (CSIC-INTA), Unidad de Excelencia “María de Maeztu”, offers the following PhD position: The most important condition for the present-day habitability of Mars is the presence of water, either in the form of pure ice, or brines (transient liquid salty water). Furthermore, having access to water reservoirs is a key factor for the future human exploration of Mars which requires In-Situ-Resource-Utilization (ISRU) methods to provide critical products on Mars. In particular, H2O is essential for life support systems as well as for the production of O2 and H2, (spacecraft propulsion gases). A number of orbiter-based Mars observation missions have delivered information about the diurnal and seasonal range of surface temperatures, and the density, emissivity and thermal inertia of the ground all over the planet. These properties determine the penetration of the thermal wave on the Martian bedrock and regolith. Additionally, a set of orbiter and surface-based missions have monitored, planet-wide, the atmospheric water vapor, and the subsurface H-signal and Cl-signal. These observations together with global circulation models, can be used to make a prediction of the subsurface water activity. This research project will assimilate data from multiple NASA and ESA Mars observations missions, including those where this research group participates as science team and with instruments, into thermal models of the upper meters of the Martian ground and in global circulation models of the atmosphere. This will be used to find the regions that allow for stable water reservoirs, as pure ice, permafrost or brines. These maps will be inputs to update the definition of the Special Regions which are critical for the protocols of Planetary Protection. We shall compare the water activity with the present-day thermal range to asses which regions are compatible with Terrestrial microbial life forms. Additionally, this research will allow to find mid-to-low latitude sites with accessible water, near the surface, for its use in future landed missions. Contact: Dr. María-Paz Zorzano Mier. E-mail: zorzanomm@cab.inta-csic.es