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NASA’s Astrobiology Program and Planetary Exploration Mary A Voytek, NASA HQ COSPAR/PEX Workshop Washington, DC 2 March 2011 Astrobiology The study of life in the context of the Universe, focusing on three fundamental questions: • How does life begin and evolve? • Does life exist elsewhere in the Universe? • What is the future for life on Earth and beyond? Astrobiology is guided by a Roadmap (1963-2008) • There are 7 goals, each multi-decadal in scope: – Habitable Planets – Life in our Solar System – Origins of Life – Earth’s Early Biosphere and its Environment – Evolution, Environment and the Limits of Life – Life’s Future on Earth and Beyond – Signatures of Life • 18 objectives, multi-year in scope, measurable. • http://astrobiology.arc.nasa.gov/roadmap/index.html 3 11 Jan 07 What can we learn about searching for life, by studying the Earth? 1. Life is tough (extremophiles) 3. Life is tenacious (long survival times) 5. Life is metabolically diverse (it eats anything, it breaths anything !!) Astrobiology Program Taxonomy Exobiology & Evolutionary Biology (1960) Astrobiology Science & Technology Instrument Development (ASTID; 1988, 2001) Astrobiology Science & Technology for Exploring Planets (ASTEP; 2001) NASA Astrobiology Institute (1998) Astrobiology Small Payloads (2008) Exobiology & Evolutionary Biology Program • Currently funding 17 (90) tasks on biology in extreme environments. • ~$15M • Environments include: – Ice-covered lakes in Antarctica – Various hypersaline environments (Guerro Negro, Mono Lake) – Glacial ice – Basaltic acid-weathering terranes – Silica- and carbonate-rich hot springs – Simulated Mars conditions Topics include: • Dessication resistance in algae (“leap to land”) • Methanogenesis in hypersaline environments (Guerro Negro) Dessication & radiation resistance • Community structure and diversity in microbialites and microbial mats under a variety of conditions (perennially ice-covered lakes in Antarctica) • Arsenic-respiring bugs in volcanic, hypersaline environments (Mono Lake) • D-amino acid accumulation in endolithic communities (Negev, etc.) More Topics include: • Cold adaptation in extreme halophiles • Microbial communities in the Atacama • Life in surface glacier ice (Svalbard) • Microbial diversity in a basaltic acid-weathering environment (Cerro Negro volcano) • Community diversity in silica-rich hot springs (YNP) • Analyses of anoxygenic phototrophic bacteria in hot spring mats (YNP) Signatures of Life in Ice (SLIce): A multidisciplinary investigation of organic signatures and habitat of life in surface glacial ice Dr. Karyn Rogers collecting sediments at an active vent at Cerro Negro. Bryan Hynek condensing steam at Cerro Negro in a novel approach to microbial analysis. Cryptoendolithic communities from 3 desert environments , seem to accumulate D-amino acids! • Diverse set of environments in the hot springs at YNP Great Fountain Canary Spring * * Grand Prismatic Spring * * ** * Porcelain Spring Silica encrustation of tightly packed, vertically growing Calothrix filaments at Fountain Paint Pots, YNP Lithifying Phormidium mat. cyanobacterial filaments (upper left) coating surface clay; acid percolates from muddy potholes Astrobiology Science & Technology for Instrument Development (ASTID) • Funds development of a variety of instruments focused on astrobiology goals. • Instruments intended to be flown in space to planets such as Mars, Titan, and Europa • In FY2010, total of $7.3M invested. • Most instruments are for in situ analysis, especially of organics and inorganic biosignatures – Sample acquisition, processing and handling – Chemical separation (mostly chromatographies) – Chemical analysis (MS, IR, LIBS, XRD/XRF) – Nano- and micro-fluidic analysis systems ASTID goes to Mars • Of the instruments selected for Mars Science Laboratory, both analytical instruments have ASTID and ASTEP heritage: – CheMin: x-ray diffraction/x-ray fluorescence for definitive mineralogy – SAM: GC/MS + TLS for isotopes (H2, CH4, CO, CO2, OCS, H2O2) SAM Mini/Micro Reflectron Time of Flight M/S Paul Mahaffy, Goddard Space Flight Center 3µm Assembled 50g (!) TOF MS Microscale patterned CNT Micro-leak valves for front prototype ready for testing. Field emitter substrate end processor Integrated MEMS ion lens Multi-channel plate ion detector. Planetary Drills 2009 Field Test Results: ASTID development of automated low- - power/low-mass rotary-percussive sampling drill for astrobiology missions, 1-4m class, 30kg NASA Ames, Honeybee Robotics team Analog field tests on impact breccia permafrost, Haughton Crater; Mars chamber at Honeybee Ultra-low-power (10W total drill) Total depth 8.55m, over 7 boreholes at same site, July 22-30, 2009 Astrobiology Science and Technology for Exploring Planets (ASTEP) • Promotes scientifically-driven robotic exploration of extreme environments that are analogous to suspected habitable environments on other planetary bodies • Goals: expand the known limits to life on Earth, develop methodologies for detecting past and present life, and learn how to explore a rugged, novel environment while meeting astrobiology science objectives • 22 science-driven field campaigns and/or advanced instrument projects based at US research institutions, universities, and NASA Centers. • 7 activities receiving PY10 fund, ~4 FY11 Some ASTEP Attributes • Instrument suites for in situ identification and analysis of biomarkers (prove them in the field!); • Long-term and in-depth characterization of life-supporting environments, as well as non-life-supporting environments (compare with space environments); • Integration of science instrument suites with mobile platforms (rovers & humans); • Autonomous instrument deployment and placement (does it really work?); • Autonomous recognition of unexpected science phenomena (always difficult even with humans in-the-loop); • Self-contained mobile science systems (develop, test, apply); • Mobile science platforms (develop, test, trust); and • Sample acquisition systems (work? clean enough?) ASTEP ENDURANCE x – Peter Doran, University of Illinois, Chicago Lake Bonney has two chemically stratified lobes The water beneath the chemoclines of both lobes is cold (below zero centigrade) and saline (more than 3 times seawater). The lake is 130 feet deep. Ice thickness is 3.5 - 4.5 m. ASTEP Environmental Sample Processor – Chris Scholin, MBARI In situ detection of marine bacterioplankton AUTONOMOUS EXPLORATION, DISCOVERY, AND SAMPLING OF LIFE IN EXTREME DEEP SEA ENVIRONMENTS (Yoerger and German, WHOI) Gulf of Mexico dissolved methane distribution within the water column (3 meters above the Plot identifying biochemical seafloor) and at the sediment activity of a marine organism water interface. (barrel sponge) based on changes in concentrations of carbon dioxide, oxygen, and nitrogen gas isotopes. ASTEP AMASE (Arctic Mars Analogue Svalbard Expedition) – PI: Andrew Steele, GL, Carnegie Institution AMASE Conducts Research & Tests instruments, technologies and protocols Instruments LAL ATP PCR Protein Microarrays EXO-MARS Raman/Libs Panoramic Camera (PanCam) Ground Penetrating Radar (WISDOM) Infra-Red Spectrometer (MIMA) Microscopic Imager Life Marker Chip (SMILE) MSL CheMin (MSL) SAM (MSL) Platforms Rovers/FIDO Cliff Climbing Robot (CliffBot) Sample Prep and Handling Sample Caching System Drill Aseptic Liquid Sample Handling Astrobiology Small Payloads Goal: Develop and fly small astrobiology payloads to address fundamental astrobiology objectives, using a variety of launch opportunities from small free flyers to suitcase-sized payloads Objectives: 1. Define high-payoff experiments that can be accommodated in payloads for 1) low-Earth-orbit, 2) high-Earth-orbit or beyond (L1, lunar orbit, etc.), and 3) for the lunar surface. 2. Identify common-carrier capabilities that will accommodate the greatest number of the defined experiments on the greatest variety of launch opportunities. 3. Fly payloads, accomplish experiments, publish results. O/OREOS Nanosat Organism/ORganic Exposure to Orbital Stresses • Launch: Nov. 19, 2010, Minotaur IV, Kodiak Launch Complex, Alaska – 5.5 kg nanosat deployed from PPOD @ 650 km, 72°, 98-min orbit – 1st science nanosatellite above the thermosphere • P/L 1: Space Environment Survival of Living Organisms Biology Payload (SESLO) – 2 different biological specimens – 3 growth initiation times (test periods) – optical measurement of growth, metabolic activity Data from orbit Organics Payload (SEVO) – 4 different organic molecules as thin films • P/L 2: Space Environment Viability of Organics – 4 reaction-cell-supported environments – UV-visible spectroscopic characterization Data from orbit NAI Overview • ‘Virtual’ distributed institute ‘without walls’ • NAI requires the formation of broad interdisciplinary teams to address questions in astrobiology requiring collaboration between diverse disciplines and resources beyond those typical of most grant programs • 14 competitively-selected interdisciplinary teams • ~600 members at ~130 participating institutions ~400 “senior” scientists ~200 post-docs and students • Funded through Cooperative Agreements • Managed by a central office at NASA Ames Research Center • Budget $18M funds teams and $7M “overhead” 29 Other NAI Programs • Focus Groups • Postdoctoral Fellowship Program • Minority Institution Research Support Program • The Lewis and Clark Fund for Exploration and Field Research in Astrobiology • Research Scholarship Program • Conference and Workshop Fund • Education and Public Outreach NAI Team Research Field Environments: • Deep sea sediments-ODP • Deep terrestrial subsurface (African Gold Mines) • Acidic Environments (Iron Mountain) • Dark life (le Grotte di Frasassi, SW caves) • Atacama Desert • Serpentinizing systems (terrestrial, Cedars and deep sea, Lost City) • Yellowstone Hot Springs 31 Questions ? ? ? !
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