2001 Annual Science Report
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Reporting | JUL 2000 – JUN 2001
Coevolution of Life and Planets
Coevolution of Life and Planets (dm)
We have shown that magnetism in martian meteorite ALH84001 is at least 4 Gy old, demonstrating that Mars had a geodynamo within 500 million years of its formation. We have provided strong evidence that seven characteristics of the magnetites in ALH84001 are actually only known elsewhere among magnetites produced by magnetotactic bacteria. We have characterized the climatic and biological changes resulting from the Snowball Earth episodes: the Paleoproterozoic Snowball Earth may have been the chief stimulus that led to the evolution of oxygenic photosynthesis and the rise of atmospheric oxygen. And we have expanded our understanding of the terminal Neoproterozoic history of southwestern North America and the origin of bilaterians.
PROJECT MEMBERS:Joseph Kirschvink
RELATED OBJECTIVES:Objective 2.0
Develop and test plausible pathways by which ancient counterparts of membrane systems, proteins and nucleic acids were synthesized from simpler precursors and assembled into protocells.
Expand and interpret the genomic database of a select group of key microorganisms in order to reveal the history and dynamics of evolution.
Describe the sequences of causes and effects associated with the development of Earth's early biosphere and the global environment.
Define how ecophysiological processes structure microbial communities, influence their adaptation and evolution, and affect their detection on other planets.
Identify the environmental limits for life by examining biological adaptations to extremes in environmental conditions.
Search for evidence of ancient climates, extinct life and potential habitats for extant life on Mars.
Determine the presence of life's chemical precursors and potential habitats for life in the outer solar system.
Understand the natural processes by which life can migrate from one world to another. Are we alone in the Universe?
Determine (theoretically and empirically) the ultimate outcome of the planet-forming process around other stars, especially the habitable ones.
Define climatological and geological effects upon the limits of habitable zones around the Sun and other stars to help define the frequency of habitable planets in the universe.
Determine the resilience of local and global ecosystems through their response to natural and human-induced disturbances.
Refine planetary protection guidelines and develop protection technology for human and robotic missions.