The NASA Astrobiology Program funds groundbreaking research around the globe, developing unique instruments to investigate some of Earth’s most remote and extreme environments. One such project is the Planetary Lake Lander, which is a prototype lander being tested in the high lakes of the Andes with an eye toward the exploration of Europa. In this series of videos, meet the researchers and learn about their work in unique and dramatic areas on Planet Earth.
Source: [NASA Astrobiology]May 14, 2014 / Written by: Daniella Scalice
Please join us in welcoming four new fellows to the NASA Astrobiology Minority Institution Research Support (MIRS) Program!
The goal of the NAI MIRS Program is to help train a new generation of researchers in astrobiology and to increase diversity within the astrobiology community. Over the past ten years, the program has provided opportunities for faculty members and students from minority-serving institutions to partner with astrobiology investigators.
One of the program’s main objectives is to engage more faculty from under-represented schools in astrobiology research and increase the number of students pursuing careers in astrobiology.
The four newest MIRS partnerships ...May 13, 2014 / Written by: Daniella Scalice
Methane bubbles rising from the seafloor. Credit: NOAA-OER/BOEM/USGS
In 2011, Jennifer Glass joined a scientific cruise to study a methane seep off of Oregon’s coast. In these cold, dark depths, microbes buried in the sediment feast on methane that seeps through the seafloor.
A product of their metabolism, bicarbonate, reacts with calcium in seawater to form tall rocky deposits. The chemical energy these organisms extract from methane supports a vibrant underworld — an eclectic blanket of microbial mats, clam fields and tube worms.
“It’s such a beautiful landscape,” says Glass, an alumnus of NASA’s Astrobiology post-doctoral ...
Cape Armitage, Antarctica (approximate coordinates: -77.850261, 166.708475). Credit: Honeybee Robotics
Scientists supported by the Astrobiology Technology for Exploring Planets (ASTEP) and Astrobiology Instrument Development Programs (ASTID) have outlined the proposed 'Icebreaker’ mission to Mars in a recent paper in the Journal of Field Robotics.
Icebreaker would send a robotic lander to the same region of Mars visited by the Phoenix mission in 2007. After landing at Mars’ polar latitudes, Icebreaker would use its tools to penetrate the surface and excavate samples. The goal is to see what is hiding beneath the ice caps, and whether or not Icebreaker ...April 22, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
The research team, from right to left, co-authors Eoghan Reeves, Jill McDermott, and Jeff Seewald and their WHOI colleagues Frieder Klein and Sean Sylva used isobaric gas-tight samplers (IGTs) to collect and analyze samples of hydrothermal vent fluids (Jason pilot Scott Hansen peeks out from the background) on a cruise to the Cayman Trough in 2012. Seewald developed the samplers to collect fluids, some exceeding 700°F, and return them to the surface under pressure to preserve their physical and chemical composition. Credit: Julie Huber, copyright Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Astrobiologists studying hydrothermal vents have tested a theory that simple ...April 16, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Victoria Orphan. Credit: mbari.org
Victoria Orphan, Professor of Geobiology at the California Institute of Technology, will be presenting the next NAI Director’s Seminar on April 21, 2014, at 11AM PDT.
Orphan is a specialist in molecular microbial ecology. She studies anaerobic microbial communities involved in carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur cycling. The title of her talk is “Methane-Based Life in a Deep-Sea Concrete Jungle.”
For more information and details on how to join the event, click here.April 15, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Sara Walker, assistant professor at Arizona State University. Credit: BEYOND, ASU
Astrobiologist Sara Walker is exploring ways to measure the transition from non-living to living matter. Her approach could broaden our understanding of how unique—or common—life might be in the Universe.
The story of life’s origin is one of the great unsolved mysteries of science. The puzzle boils down to bridging the gap between two worlds—chemistry and biology. We know how molecules behave, and we know how cells work. But we still don’t know how a soup of lifeless molecules could have given rise to ...
Early Career Seminar: Paula Welander
Hopanoid Biosynthesis and Function in Methanotrophic Bacteria
Paula Welander of Stanford University will be presenting the next Early Career Seminar on April 7, 2014, at 11am PDT. Welander studies molecular fossils in order to better understand how microbial communities in the past altered the Earth’s surface environment and impacted life’s evolution on our planet.
Details of Welander’s upcoming talk can be found here.
Source: [Early Career Seminars]March 31, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Earth’s thin atmosphere is all that stands between life on Earth and the cold, dark void of space. Credit: NASA
The next Early Career Seminar will be presented on April 14 by Mark Claire of the University of East Anglia. Claire will present research undertaken as a member of the NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP). His work focuses on the atmospheric composition of the early Earth, and identifying constraints beyond the absence of oxygen.
Claire’s talk is part of a series of seminars where NASA Astrobiology NPP Fellows who have completed their fellowships present their results. Please join us ...March 16, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Photo of RAD flight model in the lab (left) and an artist's impression of the Curiosity rover on Mars. Credit: NASA / JPL
Scientists have published the first thorough analysis of radiation readings from the surface of another planet. Using its Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD), NASA’s Curiosity rover measured radiation exposure during its journey to Mars, and the amount of radiation present at the planet’s surface.
Radiation and its variations impact not only the planning of human and robotic missions, but also the search for extraterrestrial life. Without substantial atmospheric protection, powerful particles entering the air can penetrate ...
The image to the left shows Jennifer Glass working in a chamber where she can control the oxygen levels to mimic the deep sea environment. On the right is an example of marine gas hydrates on the sea floor. Credit: Rob Felt (left image); US Department of Energy (right image)
On March 3, 2014, Dr. Jennifer Glass of the Georgia Institute of Technology (GA Tech) will present the second in our series of talks from alumni of the NASA Astrobiology NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP). In her talk, “Microbes, Methane and Metals: Insights From Geochemistry, Omics and Single Cell Imaging,” Glass ...February 11, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Voyager Views Titan's Haze. There is a lot of interesting chemistry occurring in Titan's dense atmosphere. Credit: Voyager Project, JPL, NASA
Henderson (Jim) Cleaves of the Carnegie Institution of Washington will present the next talk in the NAI Director’s Seminar Series on February 10 at 11:00 AM PST.
Amino Acid Analysis of Titan Tholins and Comparison With Other Prebiotic Reaction Systems
Titan’s atmospheric chemistry produces a host of discrete organic chemical products. It is likewise well known than Miller-Urey type reactions produce a host of complex discrete organic products. We have examined various complex reaction ...February 4, 2014 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
As we are rapidly approaching the end of the end of this stage of the Astrobiology Strategy planning, we would like to thank everyone that has participated as a presenter or author, commented on a white paper or at a webinar, or even just listened in to one of the presentations. If you have not yet had the opportunity to listen to a particular webinar or comment on a particular white paper, they are all available on the website astrobiologyfuture.org. However, please visit the website soon, as we will be closing the papers to comments on Friday, February 14th ...February 1, 2014 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
A TextureCam analysis of a Mars image is able to distinguish rocks from soil. Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech/Cornell
Researchers supported by the ASTID element of NASA’s Astrobiology program are designing algorithms and instruments that could help future robotic missions make their own decisions about surface sites to explore on other planets. One such instrument is the TextureCam, which is currently being tested with Mars in mind. The technology will improve the efficiency of planetary missions, allowing rovers to collect more data and perform more experiments in less time.
“Roughly speaking, instead of telling the rover to “drive over ...January 23, 2014 / Written by: Aaron Gronstal
Astrobiology: The Story of our Search for Life in the Universe, Issue #4. Image Credit: NASA Astrobiology / Aaron Gronstal
Issue #4 maintains the gorgeous look and feel of the series, and continues the captivating story of Exo and Astrobiology. This installment explores astrobiology’s role in missions to the outer Solar System. See how science helped shape the exploration of gas giants and icy worlds beyond our system’s main asteroid belt.
While spacecraft plied the distant corners ...January 21, 2014 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal