January 2007

Bruce Jakosky, PI of NAI's University of Colorado, Boulder Team, has been selected to develop his Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or MAVEN, mission proposal. His was one of just two proposals selected for future robotic missions to Mars.

Please join me in welcoming Wendy Dolci back to the NAI as our Associate Director for Operations. From 2000-2004, Wendy served as the NAI Operations Manager and then Assistant Director, and played a lead role, during the Institute's formative years, in developing its processes and working methods as a virtual organization. She is very happy to be working once again with the NAI science community and the NAI Central team at Ames.

The NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) first introduced the concept of Student Collaboration (SC) investigations in the Announcement of Opportunity (AO) for the Discovery Program 2006 (NNH06ZDA001O). The SC investigations might involve development of an instrument, investigation of scientific questions, analysis and display of data, development of supporting hardware or software, and/or other aspects of the mission. These activities might also involve flight, suborbital, or ground systems.

Using atmospheric chemical models of a Snowball Earth, scientists from NAI's Alumni Virtual Planetary Laboratory Team show that, during long and severe glacial intervals, a weak hydrological cycle coupled with photochemical reactions involving water vapor would give rise to the sustained production of hydrogen peroxide. The peroxide, upon release from melting ice into the oceans and atmosphere at the end of the snowball event, could mediate global oxidation events. Their results are published in the December 12th issue of PNAS. [Source: NAI Newsletter]

Production of hydrogen peroxide in the atmosphere of a Snowball Earth and the origin of oxygenic photosynthesis, PNAS

Speakers: Lisa Pratt (Indiana University) and T.C. Onstott (Princeton University)

Date/Time: Monday, January 29, 2007 11AM PST

Researchers from NAI's Carnegie Institution of Washington Team have published in Science their findings of a novel archaeon who's ability to fix nitrogen at 92 degrees Celcius has officially increased the upper limit of biological nitrogen fixation by 28 degrees Celcius. The hyperthermophilic methanogen was isolated from a hydrothermal vent. Thier findings could reveal a broader range of conditions for life in the subseafloor biosphere. [Source: NAI Newsletter]

Presentations were given by videoconference and WebEx to the teams of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) on December 1, 2006. The presenters were senior officials of the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) at NASA Headquarters.

The SETI Institute is pleased to announce that applications are now open for the 2007 REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) program in Astrobiology. Undergraduate students in fields such as astronomy, biology, geology, and physics are invited to apply to spend 10 weeks in the San Francisco Bay area working on a scientific research project in the field of astrobiology. Students receive a stipend, travel, and living expenses. Applications are due by February 2, 2007.

The following new papers have been published recently by NAI members. These and other recent NAI funded research are presented on the NAI member portal and collected in the NAI Research Highlights Archive

A special issue of Science (Dec 15) includes several papers reporting on various aspects of Stardust sample analysis including an organics survey, isotopic and elemental compositions, mineralogy and petrology, and infrared spectroscopy. Many NAI researchers contributed to this comprehensive analytical campaign, including members of NAI's Teams at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, NASA's Ames Research Center and Goddard Space Flight Center, and NAI's Alumni Team at the University of Washington. [Source: NAI Newsletter]

Scientists from NAI's University of California, Berkeley Team report in Science on their use of shotgun sequencing to uncover three novel archea present in all biofilms growing in pH 0.5 to 1.5 solutions within the Richmond Mine, California. Their results inform the problem of characterizing microbial communities and lineages which are difficult to cultivate. [Source: NAI Newsletter]