Section

Astrobiology in Missions

Big Questions of Astrobiology
Mission/R&A ProgramHow did life originate and evolve?Are we Alone?What is the future of life beyond Earth?
Cross-Divisional
NExSSNASA Earth Science Division global climate models are applied to other rocky planets in the Solar System in order to broaden our understanding of planetary habitability, which informs the possibility of water and life on diverse planets orbiting other stars (exoplanets). (1, 2, 4, 5, 6)
Heliophysics
Living with a StarLWS explores how the history of the Sun relates to the evolution of habitability and life on Earth. It also investigates the planetary implications of stellar activities, and the history and dynamics of types of stars other than our Sun and their influence on exoplanetary evolution and potential habitability. (2, 3, 4, 5)
Astrophysics Division Missions
Keplersearch for Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone of their host star (5)
TESSsearch for exoplanets transiting nearby bright stars; focused on Earth- and SuperEarth-sized planets (5)
NASA’s Great Observatories (Hubble, Spitzer, and Chandra) and JWSTformation and distribution of elements and molecules relevant to the origin of life (1, 6)study stellar nurseries, the centers of galaxies, and exoplanetary systems (4)comparative planetology for understanding life's potential in the Solar System (5)
Planetary Science Division Missions
Cassini-Huygensstudy of potential habitability of moons of giant planets in the Solar System (5)study of Titan relevant to comparative planetology (1, 4, 6)
Dawnstudy of materials from the early Solar System that could have been used in the formation of planets and the origin of life (1, 6)
O/OREOSevolutionary mechanisms of life in extreme environments (2)
Europa Clipperdetailed reconnaissance of Jupiter’s moon Europa and study of potential habitability (5)
Mars Exploration Program: MER, Phoenix, MRO, MSL, 2020MER laid the groundwork for MSL to investigate Mars’ habitability, studying its climate and geology. 2020 will explore a potentially habitable site, seek signs of past life, fill a returnable cache with compelling samples, and demonstrate technology needed for the future human and robotic exploration of Mars (4, 5, 6)
MAVENinsights into the history of Mars’ atmosphere, climate, liquid water, and planetary habitability (4, 5)
LADEEcompared the lunar atmosphere to similar processes elsewhere in the Solar System, including moons of outer planets which may have been or currently are habitable (5)
LCROSSdiscovered water in permanently shadowed craters, and that the Moon is chemically active a nd has an active water cycle in lunar shadows (1, 4)
InSight Mars landerunderstanding the processes that shaped the rocky planets of the inner Solar System including Earth (4)
OSIRIS-RExcollect samples relevant to our Solar System's formation and origins of life (4)
New Horizonsdata from primitive icy worlds at the edge of our Solar System address the chemical endowment of all the planets including Earth (1, 4, 6)
Junoformation of giant planets and their role in planetary system formation and habitability (4, 5)study conditions of the Jupiter system relevant to the habitability of Jupiter's moons (4, 5)
Themes from the Astrobiology Strategic Plan:

1 - Abiotic Sources of Organics,
2 - Co-Evolution of Life and the Physical Environment,
3 - Early Life and Increasing Complexity,
4 - Constructing Habitable Worlds,
5 - Habitable Environments,
6 - Macromolecules and the Origin of Life