Tuesday, 9 February 2016
The NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) Carnegie Team focuses on life’s chemical and physical evolution, from the interstellar medium, through planetary systems, to the emergence and detection of life by studying extrasolar planets, solar system formation, organic rich primitive planetary bodies, deep sequestration of CHON volatiles in terrestrial planets, prebiotic molecular synthesis through geocatalysis, and the connection between planetary evolution to the emergence, and sustenance of biology. This program attempts to integrate the sweeping narrative of life’s history through a combination of bottom-up and top-down studies. On the one hand, this team studies processes related to chemical and physical evolution in plausible prebiotic environments – circumstellar disks, extrasolar planetary systems and the primitive Earth. Complementary to these bottom-up investigations of life’s origin, they will continue this field and experimental top-down efforts to document the nature of microbial life at extreme conditions, as well as the characterization of organic matter in ancient fossils. Both types of efforts inform the development of biotechnological approaches to life detection on other worlds.