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2005 Annual Science Report

Astrobiology Roadmap Objective 3.2 Reports Reporting  |  JUL 2004 – JUN 2005

Project Reports

  • Bacterial Tubulin and the Evolution of the Eukaryotic Cell; Sea Ice Bacteria
    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 3.2 3.4 4.2 5.3 6.1
  • Genome Evolution and Innovation
    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 3.2 3.3 3.4 4.1 4.2 5.1 5.2 5.3 6.1 6.2 7.2
  • Planetary Biology, Evolution and Intelligence

    Chris Chyba, Cynthia Phillips, Kevin Hand- The project has two components. The first, an overview of the astrobiological potential of various geological features on Europa, is proceeding well — we are continuing study of various proposed formation mechanisms for different features types such as ridges, bands, and chaotic terrain. The second, a search for current geological activity by comparing Galileo images taken on different orbits, is also in progress. We have performed a first-stage search of the Galileo Europa images to find overlapping images, and are currently working on an automated search method to make sure that we find all possible comparison images. We are also working on automated processing techniques.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 1.2 2.1 2.2 3.1 3.2 4.1 4.2 5.1 5.2 5.3 6.1 6.2 7.1 7.2
  • An Astronomical Search for the Essential Ingredients for Life: Placing Our Habitable System in Context.

    Module 1: The Building Blocks of Life

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 1.2 3.1 3.2 4.3
  • Molecular Survey of Microbial Diversity in Hypersaline Ecosystems
    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 3.2 3.4 4.1 4.2 5.1 5.2 5.3 6.1 6.2 7.2
  • Project 4. Prebiotic Molecular Selection and Organization

    Studies in molecular self-organization focused on two types of amphiphilic molecules, which are molecules that possess both hydrophobic and hydrophilic regions. These molecules tend to self-organize spontaneously in an aqueous environment.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 3.1 3.2 3.4 4.1 7.1
  • Early Metabolic Pathways

    In order to generate laboratory models of protocellular protein catalysts, we have designed a novel, partially random protein library based on the DNA-binding domain of the human retinoid-X-receptor.

  • Darwinian Chemistry
    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 2.2 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 4.1 4.2 4.3 5.2 5.3 6.1 6.2 7.1
  • Project 7. Astrobiotechnology

    With continued support from NASA astrobiology instrument development funding (through the Astrobiology Science and Technology Instrument Development, or ASTID, Program), as well as NAI funding, Steele and colleagues continued to develop biotechnology instrumentation for solar system exploration

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 2.2 3.1 3.2 4.2 5.3 6.2 7.1
  • A Mechanism for the Association of Amino Acids With Their Codons and the Origin of the Genetic Code.

    The genetic code was elucidated forty years ago. Despite decades of effort, a satisfactory explanation why certain amino acids are assigned to certain codons has not been developed. A collaboration with Dr. Harold Morowitz of George Mason University and Dr. Eric Smith of the Santa Fe Institute has led to the proposal of a novel mechanism for the association of amino acids with their codons and the origin of the genetic code.

  • Formation of Astrobiologically Important Molecules in Water-Rich Environments

    Our goal ultimate goal is to investigate the formation of biological molecules in water-rich environments. Water ice serves as the energy-transfer medium and active participant in a variety of radiation-driven chemistry reactions thought to be important in either the interstellar medium or the primordial solar nebula.

  • Chiral Determinism and the Origin of Translation
    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 3.1 3.2 4.2
  • Evolution of Biocomplexity From an Ancient Autotrophic Lineage
    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 3.2 3.3 4.2 5.1 5.2 5.3
  • The Virtual Planetary Laboratory – The Life Modules

    Coupled model of the anaerobic, early Archean biosphere, prior to the origin of oxygenic photosynthesis (Kharecha, Kasting, and Siefert). This model includes organisms that metabolize using H2, H2S, and Fe++ as reductants. A primary goal was to estimate the production rate of methane.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 3.2 3.3 4.1 4.2 5.3 6.1 6.2 7.1 7.2