[meteorite-list] NASA Selects New Science Teams for Astrobiology Research
From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Mon, 6 Oct 2014 15:25:41 -0700 (PDT)
October 6, 2014
NASA Selects New Science Teams for Astrobiology Research
NASA has awarded five-year grants totaling almost $50 million to seven
research teams nationwide to study the origins, evolution, distribution, and
future of life in the universe.
"With the Curiosity rover characterizing the potential habitability of Mars,
the Kepler mission discovering new planets outside our solar system, and Mars
2020 on the horizon, these research teams will provide the critical
interdisciplinary expertise to help interpret data from these missions and
future astrobiology-focused missions, " said Jim Green, director, Planetary
Science Division, at NASA Headquarters, Washington.
Average funding for each team will be approximately $8 million. The
interdisciplinary teams will become members of the NASA Astrobiology
Institute (NAI), headquartered at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett
The selected teams are:
* NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland. Team lead is
Michael Mumma. Research will investigate one theorized source of Earth's
water and the organic molecules needed for life: comets and the other
small bodies in our solar system. The results of this research will inform
the search for habitable environments in our solar system and habitable
planets around other stars.
* NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California. Team lead is Scott
Sandford. Research will address the chemistry which occurred to create the
organic molecules that may have been brought to the early Earth by comets
and other small bodies.
* NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. Team lead is
Isik Kanik. Research will conduct laboratory experiments and field
research in environments on Earth, such as The Cedars in Northern
California, to understand the habitability of extraterrestrial icy worlds
such as Europa, Ganymede and Enceladus.
* The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Mountain View,
California; Team lead is Nathalie Cabrol. Research will produce guiding
principles to better understand where to search for life, what to search
for, and how to recognize finding evidence of past or current life. The
goal of the proposed research is to best prepare for NASA's Mars 2020
* The University of Colorado in Boulder. Team lead is Alexis Templeton.
Research will study what scientists call "Rock-Powered Life." Rocky
planets store enormous amounts of chemical energy that, when released
through the interaction of rocks with water, can power living systems on
Earth, as well as on other planets such as Mars.
* University of California, Riverside. Team lead is Timothy Lyons. Research
will examine the history of oxygen in Earth's atmosphere and ocean
between 3.2 and 0.7 billion years ago. This is a time range in which the
amount of oxygen present is thought to have increased from almost nothing
to the amounts present today. This work will address the question of how
Earth has remained persistently inhabited through most of its dynamic
history and would provide NASA exploration scientists a template to
investigate the presence of habitable conditions on Mars and other
* University of Montana in Missoula. Team lead is Frank Rosenzweig. Research
will look to unlock the secrets of life's transitions from small "units"
conducting simple chemical reactions to self-organizing, self-reproducing,
energy-gathering systems that range in complexity from single cells to
"The intellectual scope of astrobiology is vast, from understanding how our
planet went from lifeless to living, to understanding how life has adapted to
Earth???s harshest environments, to exploring other worlds with the most
advanced technologies to search for signs of life," said Mary Voytek,
director, astrobiology program, NASA Headquarters. "The new teams cover that
breadth of astrobiology, and by coming together in the NAI, they will make
the connections between disciplines and organizations that stimulate
fundamental scientific advances."
The seven new teams join five continuing teams at the University of
Washington in Seattle; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge;
University of Wisconsin, Madison; University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign;
and University of Southern California, Los Angeles.
For more information about the new teams, NAI, and NASA's astrobiology
dwayne.c.brown at nasa.gov
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
rachel.hoover at nasa.gov
Received on Mon 06 Oct 2014 06:25:41 PM PDT