Astrobiology @ NASA
Dr. Mary A. VoytekNASA Senior Scientist for Astrobiology
Astrobiology @ NASA
NASA supports research that leads to a better understanding of how life emerged and evolved on Earth, what conditions make any environment in our universe capable of supporting life, and what is the potential distribution of habitable worlds and life itself beyond Earth. Within the NASA Science Mission Directorate there are many Research and Analysis programs that solicit proposals from the research community that include astrobiology research. Results from these programs guide our strategy, inform our missions, and continue the quest to answer these fundamental questions: How does life begin and evolve? Is there life elsewhere in the Universe? What is the future of life on Earth and beyond?
Funding through the NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD)Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Science (ROSES)
The NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) supports Research and Analysis programs that solicit proposals from the research community. Scientists and engineers who plan to propose or have submitted a proposal to a research solicitation from SMD can find more information through Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Science (ROSES), found at: https://science.nasa.gov/researchers/sara/grant-solicitations. The solicitations for programs that include astrobiology research are found below.
Letter to the Astrobiology CommunityA notice to the astrobiology research community regarding the current state of funding
For all of us, for many reasons, 2020 has been a tough year and its impacts will be felt in many ways in 2021 and beyond.
Interdisciplinary Consortia for Astrobiology Research (ICAR)
NASA’s Planetary Science Division solicits Interdisciplinary Consortia for Astrobiology Research (ICAR) to support the goals of the NASA Astrobiology program in the study of the origins, evolution, and distribution of life in the Universe. Principal Investigators selected as a result of proposals to this program element will become members of the Astrobiology Program Research Coordination Networks that are relevant to their selected research.
Supports research into the origin and early evolution of life, the potential of life to adapt to different environments, and the implications for life elsewhere.
Carries out research using knowledge of the history of the Earth and the life upon it to determine the processes which create and maintain habitable environments, search for ancient and contemporary habitable environments, and explore the possibility of extant life beyond the Earth.
Conducts research centered on understanding the formation and early evolution of the Solar System (the Sun’s family of planets, satellites, small bodies and rings), as well as planetary systems in general.
Instrument Development Programs PICASSO & MatISSE
These programs are structured to ease the full development and maturation of instrument technologies. PICASSO will support instruments Technical Readiness Levels (TRLs) 1 through 3, and MatISSE will support instruments TRLs 4 through 6.
Promotes the responsible exploration of the solar system by implementing and developing efforts that protect the science, explored environments, and Earth.
Planetary Science and Technology from Analog Research (PSTAR)
Conducts integrated interdisciplinary field experiments on Earth in order to develop a sound technical and scientific basis to conduct planetary research on other solar system bodies.
Laboratory Analysis of Returned Samples (LARS)
Maximizes the scientific return from samples provided by missions through development of laboratory instrumentation and advanced analytical techniques required for the complete analyses of the samples.
Planetary Data Archiving, Restoration, and Tools (PDART)
Increases the amount and quality of digital information and data products available for planetary science research and exploration, and to produce tools that would enable or enhance future scientific investigations.
Where do I apply for support if I’m interested in…
The Astrobiology FAQs provides a guide to programs that support astrobiology research.
Astrobiology Research Coordination Networks (RCNs)
The programmatic structure of the NASA Astrobiology Program includes virtual collaboration structures called “research coordination networks” (RCNs). These RCNs are designed to enable the research community to self-organize, collaborate, communicate, and network across organizational, divisional, and geographical boundaries. The RCNs will not themselves be a source of research funding for the community. Instead, participation in an RCN is voluntary and open to awardees funded under the established research programs in Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Science (ROSES) found above.
Prebiotic Chemistry and Early Earth Environments
Members of the Prebiotic Chemistry and Early Earth Environments (PCE3) Consortium are striving to transform the origins of life community by breaking down language and ideological barriers, and enhancing communication across the disciplinary divide between early earth geoscientists and prebiotic chemists. The objective is to provide a network of communication and intellectual cooperation that fosters innovation across the community and gives rise to novel research avenues and encourages out-of-the-box thinking.
The Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS)
Researches the determination of compositions, dynamics, energetics and chemical behaviors of extrasolar planets, and the detection and characterization of other planetary systems. (shared with the Astrophysics Division)
Network for Life Detection
Members of the Network for Life Detection (NfoLD) will investigate life detection research, including biosignature creation and preservation, as well as related technology development. This RCN will support the next step in PSD’s strategy for life detection in building and managing the Ladder of Life Detection and will be responsive to the Congressionally mandated 2018 NAS study on NASA’s strategy in the search for life. This network has the potential to expand to include research funded by the Science Mission Directorate (SMD)’s Earth Science as well as the NSF Division of Ocean Sciences (OCE).
Network for Ocean Worlds
NASA has formed the Network for Ocean Worlds (NOW) to advance comparative studies to characterize Earth and other ocean worlds across their interiors, oceans, and cryospheres; to investigate their habitability; to search for biosignatures; and to understand life—in relevant ocean world analogues and beyond. The network is designed to accelerate ocean worlds research by facilitating communication among active research teams funded across NASA divisions and by expanding community-wide engagement.
NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI)
The NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) was a virtual institute dedicated to collaborative interdisciplinary research across a geographically dispersed community, addressing all aspects of astrobiology in concert with the national and international science communities. An archive of the NAI website is available here.
The NASA Astrobiology Strategy
The 2015 Astrobiology Strategy identifies questions to guide and inspire astrobiology research.
NASA Astrobiology FAQ
Answers to frequently asked questions at the NASA Astrobiology Program. Click here to find answers about the structure of the Astrobiology Program, funding opportunities, and the Research Coordination Networks (RCNs). More Info…