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AST 383L








Astrobiology, Astrochemistry and the AstroBiology Explorer (ABE)

Kimberly Ennico
NASA Ames Research Center

I will give a brief overview of NASA Ames Research Center, Astrobiology and NASA, with emphasis on the strong astrobiology (particularly astrochemistry) science drivers behind the AstroBiology Explorer (ABE) MIDEX Mission Concept. Astrobiology is a interdisciplinary field geared to answer the questions of (1) How does life begin & develop? (2) Does life exist elsewhere in the Universe? and (3) What is life's future on Earth and beyond? Researchers in the related field of Astrochemistry investigate the evolution of materials from dying stars to interstellar organic compounds and molecules from which life evolves. This talk will highlight some of the research by members of the Ames Astrochemistry Lab and how it may relate to the field of Astrobiology. My work, which has been in the development and maturation of the AstroBiology Explorer (ABE) Mission Concept will be highlighted at the end.



Radiation-Driven Growth of Deinococcus radiodurans: Astrobiological Implications

Michael J. Daly
Dept. of Pathology
F.E. Herbert School of Medicine
Bethesda, MD

Recent reports suggest that a substantial number of subsurface microbes on Earth might be surviving solely by consuming a product of feeble radioactive decay lingering from before Earth's formation (Science 312, 14 APRIL 2006, p. 179). Such microbes may point the way to creatures that live entirely "off the grid," independent of the energy the sun supplies by means of photosynthesis. Extreme ionizing radiation (IR) resistance in the bacterium Deinococcus radiodurans is dependent on high intracellular concentrations of Mn(II). In vitro in the presence of IR, Mn(II,III) redox-cycling favors superoxide scavenging with intermediate release of hydrogen peroxide. In vivo, D. radiodurans exhibited physiological characteristics consistent with IR-driven Mn redox-cycling processes. We establish the feasibility of IR-driven microbial ecosystems by showing that IR in anaerobic culture conditions induces growth of the strictly aerobic D. radiodurans.


26 April 2006
Astronomy Program · The University of Texas at Austin · Austin, Texas 78712
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