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2013 Annual Science Report

Astrobiology Roadmap Objective 2.2 Reports Reporting  |  SEP 2012 – AUG 2013

Project Reports

  • Project 1: Looking Outward: Studies of the Physical and Chemical Evolution of Planetary Systems

    We continue to apply theory and observations to investigate the nature and distribution of extrasolar planets both through radial velocity and astrometric methods, the composition of circumstellar disks, early mixing and transport in young disks, and late mixing and planetary migration in the Solar System, and Solar System bodies.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 1.2 2.2 3.1
  • Life Underground

    Our multidisciplinary team from USC, Caltech, JPL, DRI, and RPI is developing and employing field, laboratory, and modeling approaches aimed at detecting and characterizing microbial life in the subsurface—the intraterrestrials. We posit that if life exists, or ever existed, on Mars or other planetary body in our solar system, evidence thereof would most likely be found in the subsurface. This study takes advantage of unique opportunities to explore the subsurface ecosystems on Earth through boreholes, mine shafts, and deeply-sourced springs. Access to the subsurface, both continental and marine, and broad characterization of the rocks, fluids, and microbial inhabitants is central to this study. Our focused research themes require subsurface samples for laboratory and in situ experiments. Specifically, we seek to carry out in situ life detection and characterization experiments, employ numerous novel and traditional techniques to culture heretofore unknown intraterrestrial archaea and bacteria, and incorporate new and existing data into regional and global metabolic energy models.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 2.2 3.1 3.3 4.1 5.1 5.2 5.3 6.1 6.2 7.2
  • Task 1.1.1: Leaching of Radiogenic Potassium From Titan’s Core Into Its Ocean

    Working with graduate student Jason Hofgartner and NAI collaborator Christophe Sotin, we modeled the equilibrium chemistry of potassium at high pressure in the interior aqueous media in Saturn’s moon Titan to determine the extent of potassium leaching. This, in turn, allows us to test the hydrated silicate core model proposed by J. Castillo-Rogez and NAI Titan deputy PI Jonathan Lunine.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 2.1 2.2 3.2 7.1
  • Advancing Methods for the Analyses of Organic Molecules in Sediments

    Eigenbrode’s research focuses on understanding the formation and preservation of organic and isotopic sedimentary records of ancient Earth and Mars. To this end, and as part of GCA’s Theme IV effort, Eigenbrode seeks to overcome sampling and analytical challenges associated with organic analyses of samples relevant to astrobiology. She modifies and develops methods of contamination tracking, sampling, and analysis (primarily gas chromatography mass spectrometry, GCMS) that improve the recovery of meaningful observations and provide protocol guidance for future astrobiological missions.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 2.2 7.1
  • Cosmic Distribution of Chemical Complexity

    This project explores the connections between chemistry in space and the origin of life. It is comprised of three tightly interwoven tasks. We track the formation and evolution of chemical complexity in space starting with simple carbon-rich molecules such as formaldehyde and acetylene. We then move on to more complex species including amino acids, nucleic acids and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The work focuses on carbon-rich species that are interesting from a biogenic perspective and on understanding their possible roles in the origin of life on habitable worlds. We do this by measuring the spectra and chemistry of analog materials in the laboratory, by remote sensing with small spacecraft, and by analysis of extraterrestrial samples returned by spacecraft or that fall to Earth as meteorites. We then use these results to interpret astronomical observations made with ground-based and orbiting telescopes.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 2.2 3.1 3.2 3.4 4.3 7.1 7.2
  • Investigation 1: Habitability of Icy Worlds

    Habitability of Icy Worlds investigates the habitability of liquid water environments in icy worlds, with a focus on what processes may give rise to life, what processes may sustain life, and what processes may deliver that life to the surface. Habitability of Icy Worlds investigation has three major objectives. Objective 1, Seafloor Processes, explores conditions that might be conducive to originating and supporting life in icy world interiors. Objective 2, Ocean Processes, investigates the formation of prebiotic cell membranes under simulated deep-ocean conditions, and Objective 3, Ice Shell Processes, investigates astrobiological aspects of ice shell evolution.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 2.2 3.2 4.1 5.1 5.2 5.3 6.2 7.1 7.2
  • Project 2: Origin and Evolution of Organic Matter in the Solar System

    We conduct observational analytical research on the volatile and organic rich Solar System Bodies by focusing on astronomical surveying of outer solar system objects and performing in-house analyses of meteorite, interplanetary dust particle, and Comet Wild 2/81P samples with an emphasis on characterizing the distribution, state and chemical history of primitive organic matter. We continue to study the mechanism of formation of refractory organic solids in primitive bodies and determine the origin of isotopic anomalies in organic solids in primitive solar system materials.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.2 3.1 7.1
  • Habitability, Biosignatures, and Intelligence

    Understanding the nature and distribution of habitable environments in the Universe is one of the primary goals of astrobiology. Based on the only example of life we know, we have devel-oped various concepts to predict, detect, and investigate habitability, biosignatures and intelli-gence occurrence in the near-solar environment. In particular, we are searching for water vapor in atmospheres of extrasolar planets and protoplanets, developing techniques for remote detec-tion of photosynthetic organisms on other planets, have detected a possible bio-chemistry sig-nature in Martian clays contemporary with early life on Earth, developed a comprehensive methodology and an interactive website for calculating habitable zones in binary stellar systems, expanded on definitions of habitable zones in the Milky way Galaxy, and proposed a novel ap-proach for searching extraterrestrial intelligence.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 1.2 2.2 3.1 3.2 4.1 4.2 6.2 7.1 7.2
  • Task Titan Photochemical Model

    To develop a comprehensive model of the chemistry in Titan’s atmosphere including condensation of molecules onto grains, and sublimation back to the gas.

  • Advancing Techniques for in Situ Analysis of Complex Organics: Laser Mass Spectrometry of Planetary Materials

    This line of work within the Goddard Center for Astrobiology (GCA) seeks to connect key science objectives related to understanding organics in our solar system to specific techniques and protocols that may enable us to achieve those objectives with in situ investigations. In particular, laser mass spectrometry (MS) techniques are being developed for analysis of complex, nonvolatile organic molecules, such as those that might be found at Mars, Titan, comets, and other planetary bodies, with limited chemical sample manipulation, preparation, and processing (as may be required by flight missions). The GCA laser MS effort is complementary to both (i) instrument development work supported by NASA programs such as ASTID, PIDDP, and MatISSE, to forward the design and testing of new prototype spaceflight hardware, and (ii) ongoing research and development within Theme 4 of the GCA, concerning analytical chemical sample analysis as well as across GCA (particularly with Theme 3) to define combined analysis techniques that may affect future mission design. There are additionally aspects of this effort that relate to understanding synthetic pathways for certain complex organics in planetary environments. Areas of activity with GCA support during this period included: * Comparative study of prompt and two-step laser desorption MS (LDMS) analyses * Development of protocols for induced molecular dissociation and tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) * Mars analog analyses using laser TOF-MS, ion trap MS, and SAM-like protocols

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 2.2 3.2 7.1
  • Investigation 2: Survivability on Icy Worlds

    Investigation 2 focuses on survivability. As part of our survivability investigation, we examine the similarities and differences between the abiotic chemistry of planetary ices irradiated with ultraviolet photons (UV), electrons, and ions, and the chemistry of biomolecules exposed to similar conditions. Can the chemical products resulting from these two scenarios be distinguished? Can viable microbes persist after exposure to such conditions? These are motivating questions for our investigation.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 2.2 3.2 5.1 5.3 6.1 6.2
  • Disks and the Origins of Planetary Systems

    This task is concerned with the evolution of complex habitable environments. The planet formation process begins with fragmentation of large molecular clouds into flattened disks. This disk is in many ways an astrochemical “primeval soup” in which cosmically abundant elements are assembled into increasingly complex hydrocarbons and mixed in the dust and gas within the disk. Gravitational attraction among the myriad small bodies leads to planet formation. If the newly formed planet is a suitable distance from its star to support liquid water at the surface, it is in the so-called “habitable zone.” The formation process and identification of such life-supporting bodies is the goal of this project.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 1.2 2.2 3.1 4.1 4.3
  • Task Titan Photochemistry

    The Caltech effort has focused on the chemistry of hydrocarbons in the atmosphere of Titan and its relation to aerosols. We have an effort for analyzing the stellar occultation data from Cassini/UVIS instrument. The mean optical depth as a function of line of sight impact parameter is derived for the spectral range between 1700 and 1900 Å from stellar occultations.

  • Investigation 3: Detectability of Icy Worlds

    Detectability of Icy Worlds investigates the detectability of life and biological materials on the surface of icy worlds, with a focus on spectroscopic techniques, and on spectral bands that are not in some way connected to photosynthesis.The primary component of Investigation 3 is the field campaign in Barrow, AK to characterize and quantify methane release from the Alaskan North Slope region and to understand the origin and fate of the methane.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 2.2 5.3 6.1 6.2
  • Task Titan General Circulation Model

    The goal of this effort is to produce realistic Titan atmospheric profiles [winds, temperatures and densities] from the surface to ~1200km, for a variety of seasons and solar cycles, for use by members of the overall Titan NAI project.

  • Astrobiology in Icy Extraterrestrial Environments

    Scientists in the Cosmic Ice Laboratory with the Goddard Center for Astrobiology (GCA) study the formation and stability of molecules under conditions found in outer space. In the past year, studies of amino-acid destruction were continued, a project on the formation of sulfate ions was completed (related to Europa), measurements of the infrared band strengths were published for application to the outer Solar System, and the formation and chemistry of a particularly-versatile interstellar molecule were investigated. All of this work is part of the Comic Ice Laboratory’s continuing contributions to understanding the chemistry of biologically-related molecules and chemical reactions in extra-terrestrial environments.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 2.2 3.1 7.1 7.2
  • Biosignatures in Extraterrestrial Settings

    We are working on finding potentially habitable extrasolar planets, using a variety of search techniques, and developing some of the technology necessary to find and characterize low mass extrasolar planets. We also work on modeling and numerical techniques relevant to the problem of identifying extrasolar sites for life, and on some aspects of the prospects for life in the Solar System outside the Earth. The ultimate goal is to find signatures of life on nearby extrasolar planets.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 1.2 2.1 2.2 3.1 4.1 4.3 6.2 7.1 7.2
  • Exoplanet Detection and Characterization: Observations

    In this task, VPL researchers use astronomical instrumentation to detect and measure the properties of exoplanets. They also study terrestrial planets in our Solar System that can serve as practice targets for exoplanet observational techniques. These observations help us to develop and understand the techniques and measurements required to learn about planetary environments. Although many of these observations are now made on planets that are too large, or too close to their stars to be habitable, once proven, these techniques can then be adapted to help characterize the smaller, cooler planets that may be habitable.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.2 2.2 7.2
  • Investigation 4: Path to the Flight

    The (Field Instrumentation and) Path to Flight investigation’s purpose is to enable in-situ measurements of organics and biological material with field instrumentation that have high potential for future flight instrumentation. The preceding three Investigations provide a variety of measurable goals used to modify or “tune” instrumentation that can be placed in the field. In addition the members of this Investigation provide new measurement capabilities that have been developed with the specific goal of life-detection. The instrument arsenal goes beyond the commercially available instrumentation and brings next generation imaging spectrometers, chromatographic, and sample extraction devices.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 2.2 6.1 7.1
  • Task Shortwave Solar Flux at Titan’s Surface

    What can we learn about pre-biotic chemistry by studying Titan? The surface of Titan is a special place for the study of pre-biotic chemistry because that is where the organic haze sedimenting from the atmosphere can come in contact with liquid water (briefly, from cryovolcanic eruptions) to form amino acids and other molecules relevant to life. But an energy source is also needed, and this may come from short-wave (ultraviolet – blue) solar radiation that makes its way through Titan’s dense haze layer to the surface. In this study we calculated the amount of UV-blue solar flux at Titan’s surface based on measurements made by the Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer (DISR) instrument on the Huygens Probe coupled with radiative transfer models that include haze optical properties.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.2 3.1 3.2 3.3
  • Solar System Volatile Distributions – Icy Bodies

    One of the forefront areas of science related to the early solar system, and highlighted in the Plane-tary Decadal Survey, is the need to understand the source of volatiles for planets in the habitable zone and the role that primitive bodies played in creating habitable worlds. Comets, which have escaped the high-temperature melting and differentiation that asteroids experience, are “astrobio-logical time capsules” that have preserved a valuable record of the complex chemical and physical environment in the early solar Nebula. In the early 1970’s we were at the threshold of a new era of asteroid physical studies. After four decades the asteroid population is yielding information about compositional gradients in the nebula, aqueous alteration processes in the protoplanetary disk and the early dynamic environment as the giant planets formed. Similarly, large surveys of Kuiper belt objects have lead to a new understanding of the dynamic solar system architecture and of the outer solar system composition and collisional environment. Surveys are beginning to yield information on comet physical properties, including spectroscopic measurement of volatile comet outgassing at optical and IR wavelengths, nucleus sizes and activity from space and from the ground. As these surveys obtain small solar system body data, they enable a new science that involves studies of clas-ses, secular evolution of physical characteristics and processes. Our team is undertaking several studies to directly observe the volatiles in small bodies and the mechanisms of their activity, to dis-cover and characterize objects that may represent previously unstudied reservoirs of volatiles and to discover the interrelationships between various classes of small bodies in the context of the new dynamical solar system models.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 2.2 3.1
  • Habitability of Water-Rich Environments, Task 1: Improve and Test Codes to Model Water-Rock Interactions

    Dr. Mikhail Mironenko collaborated with colleagues and completed a code to compute chemical equilibria in low-temperature aqueous systems with salts, CO2 hydrates, and liquid CO2. The code could be used to calculate changes in phase composition during freezing or melting in icy cold environments on Mars, large asteroids, icy moons, comets, and trans-neptunian objects. Dr. C. Glein and Dr. E. Shock have published a model to calculate phase chemical equilibria between several hydrocarbons and N2. The model can be used to explore gas-liquid-solid phase equilibria on Saturn’s moon Titan. Another model has been developed by Dr. Mironenko to calculate condensation of gases in ices and clathrates in the outer solar nebula.

  • Fischer-Tropsch-Type Reactions in the Solar Nebula

    We are studying Fischer-Tropsch-Type reactions in order to investigate the formation of complex hydrocarbons by surface-mediated reactions using simple gases (CO, N2, and H2) found in the early Solar Nebula. Although several theories exist as to how hydrocarbons are formed in the early Solar System, the compelling nature of this type of reaction is that it is passive and generates a wide variety of complex hydrocarbons using commonly available components (gases/grains) without invoking a complex set of conditions for formation. This method for generating hydrocarbons is important because it provides insight or potential as to how comets, meteorites, and the early Earth may have obtained their first hydrocarbon inventory. From this study, we have expanded the FTT experiments into several related areas of interest, of which the formation of amino acids and the trapping of noble gases are two examples.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 2.2 3.1 3.2
  • Task 3.2: Longer Wavelength Photochemistry of Condensates and Aerosols in Titan’s Lower Atmosphere and on the Surface.

    This study focuses on the condensed phase photochemistry on Titan. In particular, we focus on understanding longer wavelength photochemistry of solid hydrocarbons to simulate photochemistry that could occur based on the UV penetration through the atmosphere and on the evolution of complex organic species in astrobiologically significant regions on Titan’s surface. Here we investigate the oxygenation chemistry involving the condensed Titan’s organic aerosols with water-ice on Titan’s surface – induced by high energy photons simulating the cosmic ray induced chemistry on Titan’s surface.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 2.2 3.1 3.2 3.3
  • Task 3.3.1: Solubility of Organics in Simulated Titan Lake Solutions

    Widespread lakes of liquid methane and ethane were discovered on Titan by the Cassini mission in 2006, which naturally motivates questions about the solubility of surface materials in the liquid. Our goal is to measure the solubilities of Titan surface and atmospheric species in cryogenic liquid hydrocarbons, in order to constrain the composition of the hydrocarbon lakes, and provide an understanding into the nature of erosion and sedimentation on Titan. To date, we have measured the solubilities of argon and krypton in liquid methane and ethane, and the solubilities of benzene, naphthalene, and biphenyl in liquid ethane. Relatively high organic solubilities suggest that liquid hydrocarbon based weathering and sorting of surface organics should be occurring on Titan.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 2.2 3.1 3.2
  • Fundamental Properties Revealed by Parent Volatiles in Comets

    We detected prebiotic molecules in the atmosphere of the distant comet C/2006 W3 (Christensen), which has spent its entire orbital period well outside the zone of active water sublimation. We also integrated our spectral-spatial measurements of H2O emission in comet 73P/ Schwassmann-Wachmann 3B with state-of-the-art 3D physical models of the inner cometary atmosphere, leading to new insights on a previously unidentified heating of coma gas from vaporizing icy grain mantles. And, we published a fluorescence model needed to interpret emission from deuterated methane released from cometary nuclei. These projects aim at improved understanding of cometary chemistry – a test bed for the contribution of comets to the delivery of exogenous prebiotic organics and water to early Earth, hypothesized as a precursor event to the emergence of the biosphere.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.2 3.1 4.3
  • Habitability of Water-Rich Environments, Task 2: Model the Dynamics of Icy Mantles

    One of Jupiter’s moons, Europa, is one of the few places in the solar system in which the physical and chemical conditions may be suitable for sustaining life. Europa is composed on an outer H2O layer, comprised of rigid ice overlying a liquid water ocean. It is this liquid water ocean which has been hypothesized as having the ingredients necessary for life, but it is shielded from our observation by the thick ice layer. However, under certain conditions, the ice layer is expected to undergo convection, possibly transporting chemicals from the liquid ocean to the surface, where we may be able to detect them. We perform computer modeling of ice/ocean convection to investigate how ocean material is carried up through the ice layer and whether it is expected to reach Europa’s surface. This work provides guidance for future missions which may probe the chemistry of the ice surface.

  • Habitability of Water-Rich Environments, Task 3: Evaluate the Habitability of Europa’s Subsurface Ocean

    Mikhail Zolotov, Co-Investigator (Co-I) has provided arguments and performed numerical modeling to explain the presence of sulfates on Europa’s ocean and carbonaceous asteroids (chondrites), which could have been the building block of Galilean satellites. Sulfates could have formed through sulfide oxidation by O2 and H2O2 accreted with ices irradiated in the solar nebula.

  • Task 3.3.2: Trapping of Methane and Ethane in Titan Surface Materials

    We demonstrate that solid benzene can trap significant amounts of ethane and methane within its crystal structure at Titan surface temperatures. Experiments also suggest that liquid ethane can diffuse into solid benzene, resulting in the formation of a co-crystalline structure. This implies that lake edges and evaporite basins on Titan may hold important quantities of ethane. These results can help explain the release of methane observed at the Huygens landing site, and point toward a large possible reservoir of methane and ethane hidden within Titan’s surface organics.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 2.2 3.1 3.2
  • Long-Term Variation of High Energy Activity of Young Stars in Mass Accretion Outburst and Quiescence

    High-energy photons in the young stellar environment are known to stimulate chemical reactions of molecules and producing prebiotic materials that might later be incorporated in-to comets, and through them into young planets. Observational tests are sorely needed to assess the significance of such processing for Astrobiology, and to guide development of theoretical models for chemical evolution in protoplanetary environments.

  • Task 3.4.1: Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy Studies of Titan Organic Analogues: Analytical Potential

    Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) has tremendous potential for the quantitative identification of solar system organic molecules of simple to complex nature with absolute structural identification. We have investigated its potential for the elucidation of very complex mixtures of Titan aerosol haze analogues (Tholins) with identification of the major components of modest complexity using 1, 2 and 3 dimensional spectral techniques. We have also performed studies of the utility of low resolution NMR on low temperature liquid hydrocarbon mixtures analogous to Titan lake liquids towards the development of multidimensional NMR instrumentation capable of future flight missions to solar system bodies of organic composition.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.2 3.1 3.2
  • Habitability of Water-Rich Environments, Task 5: Evaluate the Habitability of Small Icy Satellites and Minor Planets

    The first goal of this project is to determine the internal structure of small icy bodies. Co-I Steve Desch is especially considering Pluto and its moon Charon, which are Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs). The possibility exists that these icy bodies may contain liquid water at great depths, despite their frigid surface temperatures and small sizes, because radioactive isotopes heat them and their ices might contain antifreezes like ammonia. These models are also extended to the dwarf planet Ceres. Pluto and Ceres are both targets of two NASA missions in 2015: New Horizons and DAWN.

    The second goal of this project is to evaluate the chemical composition of aqueous solutions that could have formed shortly after formation of asteroids, KBOs, and moons of giant planets. Co-I Mikhail Zolotov has considered stability of aqueous minerals on the surface of dwarf planet Ceres and suggested formation of the minerals through impacts of ice-rich surface rocks. If correct, this hypothesis implies water-rock differentiation of Ceres by ~3.9 Ga. Zolotov also argued for formation of asteroidal and Europa’s sulfates through low-temperature aqueous oxidation of sulfides by strong oxidants (O2, H2O2) formed through radiolysis of water ice. Desch, in collaboration with JPL scientist Julie Castillo-Rogez, through ASU graduate student Marc Neveu, is considering the geochemistry of subsurface water on Ceres.

    Another of our tasks is to estimate chemical composition of methane-rich liquids that are present at the surface of Titan at extremely low temperatures. We are also helping to develop a concept for a mission to return samples from the plumes of Enceladus.

  • Task 3.5.1: Titan as a Prebiotic Chemical System

    Six years ago, NASA sponsored a National Academies report that asked whether life might exist in environments outside of the traditional habitable zone, where “weird” genetic molecules, metabolic processes, and bio‐structures might avoid the water‐based biochemistry that is found across the terran biosphere. In pursuit of this “big picture” question, we turned to Titan, which has exotic solvents both on its surface (methane‐hydrocarbon) and sub‐surface (perhaps super‐cooled ammonia‐rich water). This work sought genetic molecules that might support Darwinian evolution in both environments, including non‐ionic polyether molecules in the first and biopolymers linked by exotic oxyanions (such as phosphite, arsenate, arsenite, germanate) in the second. Further, we asked about the possibility that Titan might inform our understanding of prebiotic chemical processes, including those on “warm Titans”. Our experimental activities found few possibilities for non‐phosphate-based genetics in subsurface aqueous environments, even if they are rich in ammonia at very low temperatures. Further, we showed that polyethers are insufficiently soluble in hydrocarbons at very low temperatures, such as the 90‐100 K found on Titan’s surface. However, we did show that “warm Titans” could exploit propane as a biosolvent for certain of these “weird” alternative genetic biopolymers; propane has a huge liquid range (far larger than water). Further, we integrated this work with other work that allows reduced molecules to appear as precursors for more standard genetic biomolecules, especially through interaction with various mineral species.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 1.2 2.2 3.1 3.2 4.1 4.2 5.3 6.2 7.1 7.2
  • Task 3.6.1: A New Titan Chamber for Advancing Technology

    The objective of this project is to develop a cryogenic chamber capable of simulating Titan’s lake conditions (1.5 bar N2 atmosphere, liquid mixtures of methane-ethane-propane in variable concentrations), and provide an experimental volume of 10 L. The purpose of this facility is to provide an environment for testing components and small instruments. Such a facility currently does not exist but is needed for achieving Technology Readiness Levels of 5/6. It will also be available to the community for scientific investigations such as measuring the equilibrium composition of lakes under realistic conditions, and exchanges between lakes and atmosphere.

  • The Astrobiology Walk

    The Goddard Center for Astrobiology (GCA) has completed the development and installation of a permanent outdoor exhibit at the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) Visitor Center as a major public outreach effort. The “Astrobiology Walk” is designed to showcase the latest scientific discoveries from the GCA research theme “Search for the Origin and Evolution of Organics” in the context of a timeline for the evolution of the Universe and the Solar System. The exhibit consists of ten outdoor stations situated on the circular pathway around the Visi-tor Center’s “Rocket Garden”, each with a memorable iconic 3D object to convey the main scientific message. QR codes link each placard to web sites relevant to that topic.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 1.2 2.1 2.2 3.1 3.2 4.1 4.3 7.1 7.2