Notice: This is an archived and unmaintained page. For current information, please browse

2005 Annual Science Report

Astrobiology Roadmap Objective 7.1 Reports Reporting  |  JUL 2004 – JUN 2005

Project Reports

  • Biosignatures in Chemosynthetic and Photosynthetic Systems
    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 4.1 5.1 5.2 6.1 7.1 7.2
  • Subsurface Biospheres

    Members of our team at UNC Chapel Hill focus on molecular studies of deep subsurface communities

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 2.2 4.1 4.3 5.2 5.3 6.1 7.1 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
  • Project 3. Prebiotic Chemical and Isotopic Evolution on Earth

    The first focus of this project has been on the Archean sulfur cycle and understanding the significance of mass-independent sulfur isotope signals.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 3.1 4.1 7.1
  • Microbial and Biogeochemical Characterization of a Terrestrial Analogue Site for Mars.

    Vertical and horizontal excavations at the Lupin gold mine in northern Canada allow access to a 500-meter thick permafrost/rock environment overlying a methane-bearing brine/rock environment.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 2.2 5.1 5.2 5.3 6.1 6.2 7.1
  • Iron and Sulfur-Based Biospheres and Their Biosignatures
    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 5.1 5.2 5.3 6.1 6.2 7.1 7.2
  • Chemistry Models for Extrasolar Planets
    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 1.2 2.1 2.2 3.1 6.1 7.1 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
  • Prebiotic Organics From Space
    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 3.1 3.4 4.3 7.1 7.2
  • Biogeochemical Cycling and Resources on Mars
  • Re-Tracing Steps Towards a Habitable World: The Biogeochemical Evolution of Sulfur on the Early Earth.
    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 3.1 4.1 4.2 5.2 5.3 6.1 7.1
  • Origins and Signatures of Biogenic and Abiogenic Hydrocarbons.

    Completed experimental results showed δ2H of H2 can only be used as an indicator of in-situ water radiolysis for groundwater with relatively young ages and low temperatures.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 4.1 4.2 7.1 7.2
  • Searching for Ancestral Biosignatures

    Our major objective and one of the objectives of the Astrobiology roadmap is “Biosignatures to be sought in Solar System materials search for signs of life in the Solar System and beyond”. We are developing techniques which can be used for direct in situ measurements on future missions.

  • Astrobiology Winter School
    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.2 3.1 6.1 7.1
  • Project 6. Molecular and Isotopic Biosignatures

    Steele and Postdoctoral Fellow Marc Fries used the new WiTec Raman imaging system to begin the examination of in situ carbon formation in a variety of samples, including Precambrian rocks and samples from a Mars analog site in Svalbard

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 3.1 4.1 4.2 6.1 6.2 7.1 7.2
  • Recognition of Theoretical Environments on Mars

    The diverse iron and sulfate mineralogy, and its associated complex biology, at Rio Tinto is an analog for possible environments on Mars

  • 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
  • Cosmic Ice Laboratory: Organic Synthesis in Energetically Processed Ices

    In the Cosmic Ice Laboratory we simulate the low-pressure and temperature environment of space using a high-vacuum chamber and a cryostat. Ice samples condensed onto a cooled mirror inside the cryostat are irradiated with 1-MeV protons, to simulate cosmic-ray bombardment, or are photolyzed to simulate vacuum-UV exposure.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.2 3.1 7.1
  • The Impact of Atmospheric Particles on Life
    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 2.1 2.2 3.1 4.1 4.3 7.1
  • 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
  • Icelandic Subglacial Volcanic Habitats

    Successful field test of drill in June 2005. We expect drill to be fully operational for planned June 2006 expedition.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 2.2 5.3 6.2 7.1
  • Laser Mass Spectrometry Technique Development for Analysis of Complex Organics in Cometary and Meteritic Materials

    Theme 4 work at JHU/APL using laser time-of-flight mass spectrometry (TOF-MS) techniques continues in collaboration with the GCA team and external partners.

  • Subseafloor Basement (Basalt) Biosphere Studies

    This project involves studies of the deep subseafloor basement biosphere. We are utilizing Ocean Drilling Program borehole (CORK) observatories to access the fluids that circulate through the ocean basin wide environment, where temperatures (2-100°C) and chemistry are conducive to a very broad range of aerobic and anaerobic and heterotrophic and chemolithotrophic metabolisms and survival strategies.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 5.3 6.1 7.1 7.2
  • Miniature Mass Spectrometer Development

    NAI support has contributed to the development of a center for mass spectrometer development at UH, with systems under development for chemical measurements using electron impact (for gases), electrospray (liquids), laser ablation resonance ionization (isotope and elemental abundance in solids), and secondary ionization (a standard for geochemical assays).