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2007 Annual Science Report

Astrobiology Roadmap Objective 3.2 Reports Reporting  |  JUL 2006 – JUN 2007

Project Reports

  • Planetary Biology, Evolution, and Intelligence

    The results of a two and a half day workshop on the topic of the Habitability of Planets Orbiting M Stars was published recently. Thirty scientists from nineteen institutions in the US and UK participated. Thirteen of the participants were from six other NAI Teams

    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
  • Module 1: The Building Blocks of Life

    Module 1 concerns the study of Astrochemistry and how it may have contributed to the development of living systems.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 3.1 3.2 4.3
  • Adaptation to Salinity in Microbial Communities

    The potential relevance of evaporative lakes as analogs for the late stage hydrosphere of Mars (see results of Manga and collaborators in the UC Berkeley team) is well established (e.g., Benison and Laclair 2003, Astrobiology v.3).

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 3.2 4.1 5.3 7.2
  • Early Metabolic Pathways

    We continue to employ both experimental and computational approaches to investigate the evolutionary origins of functional macromolecules. We conducted the first laboratory evolution of a completely new non-biological enzyme that joins two fragments of RNA into a single strand (it acts as an RNA ligase).

  • From Proto-Metabolism to the RNA World
  • Project 4. Prebiotic Molecular Selection and Organization


    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 3.1 3.2 3.4 4.1 7.1
  • Functional Genomics of Thioredoxins in Halobacterium Sp. NRC-1
    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 3.2 5.1 5.3
  • Evolution of Abiotic Environments to Ecosystems

    Field work in 2006-2007 included trips to the high Arctic and to the Precambrian Canadian Shield. Study sites were selected on the basis of temperature and contrasting levels of hydrogen. Study sites included environments impacted by permafrost and environments at latitudes south of persistent permafrost. The level of free hydrogen gas is temperature-dependent and appears to be an important controlling factor on microbial processes.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 2.2 3.1 3.2 3.3 5.1 5.2 5.3 6.1 6.2 7.1 7.2
  • Project 7. Astrobiotechnology

    Co-Investigator Andrew Steele and colleagues have continued to develop the Modular Assays for Solar System Exploration (MASSE) concept, which uses microfluidic technology to incubate a DNA or protein microarray. This year has been a milestone in the use of this technology in space with involvement in two missions, one to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard the STS 116 shuttle launch, the other a Biopan low earth orbit exposure mission that will launch in September.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 2.2 3.1 3.2 4.2 5.3 6.2 7.1
  • Membrane RNAs
    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 3.2 3.3 3.4
  • Philosophical Issues in Astrobiology
    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 3.2 3.4 4.1 5.1 5.2
  • Laser Mass Spectrometry for Planetary Analog and in Situ Chemical Analyses

    Work on laser time-of-flight mass spectrometry (TOF-MS) techniques continues at JHU/APL in collaboration with the Goddard Center for Astrobiology (GCA) team and external partners.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 2.2 3.1 3.2 7.1
  • Origin and Evolution of Organics

    This research is part of the NASA Goddard Astrobiology Node. Our outgassing models predict the composition of first-formed atmospheres on the Earth and other rocky planets in our own and other solar systems formed from chondritic material. Chondritic material forms in any protoplanetary disk with solar or near-solar composition.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 1.2 3.1 3.2