Astrobiology (general): July 2011

The goal of NASA's Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology (EXOB) program is to understand the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the Universe. Research is centered on the origin and early evolution of life, the potential of life to adapt to different environments, and the implications for life elsewhere. This research is conducted in the context of NASA's ongoing exploration of our stellar neighborhood and the identification of biosignatures for in situ and remote sensing applications.

This amendment delays the proposal due date for C.17 Astrobiology: Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology (EXOB). To better synchronize the EXOB evaluation and selection cycle with the Federal budget process, Exobiology grants should start near the beginning of the Federal fiscal year (October 1). To achieve this, the Exobiology proposal due date will be moved to the June time frame. To minimize the impact of this move, it will be done in two steps. The first step is to move the due date for ROSES 2011 (this solicitation) to early March. NASA's ROSES-2012 call will not include a solicitation for Exobiology proposals. EXOB solicitations will resume in ROSES-2013, with a proposal due date of June 2013.

Emily Knowles: The eighth annual Astrobiology Graduate Conference (AbGradCon) was held at Montana State University (MSU) in Bozeman, MT from June 5-8, 2011. AbGradCon is unique in that it is organized and targeted toward graduate students and postdocs, no more than three years from receiving their PhD, from across the sub-disciplines of astrobiology. This year's conference organization required two years of collaboration between students in Colorado and Montana, with great results.

In total there were 72 attendees at AbGradCon, including 8 international attendees from 7 different countries (Australia, Canada, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, and Scotland). The disciplines of the attendees were well distributed across astrobiology, with representation from the geological sciences (20 attendees), biological sciences (19), chemistry (15), astronomy and physics (12), and engineering/other (6). All attendees presented their work either with a 12-minute talk or a two-minute lightening talk and a poster.

The scientific program for AbGradCon 2011 consisted of two full days of talks, broken into eight different sessions on fairly broad topics, followed by afternoon poster sessions. All of the talks were broadcast live online in an Adobe Connect Meeting Room and recorded, and are now available on the conference website. The conference program also included three different career development activities. The first was "NASA Night", an informal and very popular presentation and discussion by Dr. Shawn Domagal-Goldman (NASA HQ) about opportunities for graduate and postdoctoral fellowships, research grants and programs, missions, and other opportunities with NASA. Second, the invited speaker for the conference banquet, Dr. Kevin Hand (JPL), gave an inspirational talk about his career path titled "Adventures in Astrobiology: A Random Walk to a Known Goal." The third career development opportunity was the "Europa Collaborative Session." This was an informal presentation by Dr. James Kinsey (WHOI) titled "Analogues for Astrobiological Exploration in the Earth's Deep Oceans with the National Deep Submergence Facility Vehicles: Current ASTEP Programs and Future opportunities". The feedback from conference participants was that these events were very useful for learning about opportunities, as well for starting conversations with each other about future research and outreach projects.

58% Believe Life Exists On Other Planets,

Survey of 1,000 Adults

* 58% of American Adults think it's at least somewhat likely life exists on other planets; 34% do not believe it's likely
* That number includes 33% who say it's Very Likely life exists outside of Earth and 8% who believe it's Not At All Likely
* 49% say it's likely that a human will walk on Mars in the next 25 years, down slightly from December 2006
* 42% think it's unlikely a human will make it to Mars, that includes 20% who say it's Very Likely and 8% who believe it's Not At All Likely

From: "New, Michael H. (HQ-DG000)
Subject: Exobiology 2010 Update #4
Date: July 22, 2011 5:04:32 AM GMT+08:00

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Toward providing greater stability and certainty in the Astrobiology Program, we are shifting proposal deadlines and funding cycles for some Astrobiology Program elements. Today I am writing to you about the Exobiology Program. Changes to other programs are in the works, and I will update you when we have solid plans in place.

As you know, federal spending is under intense scrutiny. In addition, the timing of the federal budget review and approval process has been less than ideal. These developments have affected our ability to manage Astrobiology Program funds as effectively as we would like. Over the past decade, the proposal due date for the Exobiology Program has moved from June to August, then to September, and, finally, to October. This shift has moved starting dates for new grants later into the federal fiscal year and thus placed greater budget pressure on the Astrobiology Program.

To relieve these pressures, new Exobiology grants need to start near the beginning of the federal fiscal year, ideally in November. To achieve this goal, we need to move the Exobiology proposal due date back to June. To minimize the impact of this change on our community, Michael New and I have decided to make the change in steps.

First, the due date for ROSES-2011 proposals in Exobiology will move up from October 2011 to March 2012. Second, NASA's ROSES-2012 call will not include a solicitation for Exobiology proposals. Third, Exobiology solicitations will resume in ROSES-2013, with a proposal due date of June 2013.

We are currently in the process of making our selections from the ROSES-2010 solicitation; notifications will be made soon and awards will start early November 2011. We intend to make awards for selected proposals from ROSES-2011 in 2012 and from ROSES-2013 in 2013 and every subsequent year for the foreseeable future.

Thank you for your patience and support,

Mary & Michael
Michael H. New, PhD
Astrobiology Discipline Scientist
Lead Discovery Program Scientist
Planetary Science Division
NASA Headquarters