NASA Astrobiology Institute: May 2011

The Nordic Network of Astrobiology Graduate Schools is coordinated from Stockholm University and currently comprises six Nordic universities, one in the Baltic States (Estonia), and one in the US. The Nordic Network is formally now an Affiliate Partner of the NAI. The universities and local coordinators of the Network are:

* University of Bergen, Norway (Dr. Nicola McLoughlin)
* University of Aarhus, Denmark (Dr. Liv Hornekaer)
* University of Turku, Finland (Dr. Kirsi Lehto)
* University of Copenhagen, Denmark (Dr. Uffe Grae Jorgensen)
* University of Iceland/IMO (Dr. orsteinn orsteinsson)
* University of Tartu, Estonia (Prof. Kalle Kirsimaee)
* University of Hawai'I, USA (Prof. Karen Meech)
* Stockholm University, Sweden (Dr. Wolf Geppert, Network Coordinator)

The Nordic Network has been engaged in a variety of activities, mainly focused on graduate training. In addition, many Network members are active in interdisciplinary astrobiology research, in many cases in collaboration with US investigators.

The NAI and the Nordic Network envision that the partnership will focus initially on the following areas:

* participation of Nordic and U.S. students and young scientists in courses organised by the Nordic Network and the NAI, such as the prior Nordic-NASA Summer/ Winter Schools;
* participation of Nordic researchers in NASA Astrobiology Focus Groups;
* exchanges of U.S. and Nordic scientists and students to perform research at each other's institutions;
* exchanges of U.S. and Nordic scientists for lecture presentations; and
* organization of Nordic/NASA workshops in astrobiology.

For more information:

The NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) is accepting proposals to the 2011 NAI Director's Discretionary Fund (DDF).

Priority in selection for the NAI 2011 DDF will be given to proposals that are characterized by one or more of the following:

* Integrates the research of and realizes synergies among the current NAI teams
* Expands the scope of NAI research (and the NAI community) in innovative ways, accepting some risk in return for high pay-off potential
* Responds in a timely way to new scientific results or programmatic opportunities
* Develops connections between astrobiology research and other NASA science programs, particularly NASA's Earth Science Program - see,
* Directly supports flight programs, particularly through instrument development
* Uses funding particularly effectively, for example through leveraging or building on past investments
* Supports early career investigators

Schedule: Proposals will be accepted at any time until June 30, 2011.

For more information:

Date/Time: Monday, May 23, 2011 11:00AM Pacific
Presenter: Mark Allen (Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Caltech)


The ESA/NASA ExoMars/Trace Gas Orbiter (EMTGO) mission, with a planned launch in 2016, is based on a concept that can be traced back to the NAI. EMTGO is also the first truly international mission in which NASA is a participant; the contributions from ESA and NASA are closely intertwined.

The primary objective of EMTGO is to characterize the chemical composition of the Martian atmosphere, particularly trace species that may be signatures of extant biological and/or geological processes, and its variability in space and time. It is hoped that these measurements, along with a good understanding of the contemporaneous atmospheric state, may allow localization of the surface source(s) of the "exotic" trace gases.

The international science payload selected for this mission has the capability to inventory the atmospheric composition with more sensitivity than has flown on previous deep space planetary missions. One measure of this capability is the ability to detect three cows on Mars belching methane.

Several of the NAI principal investigators and co-investigators are members of the payload science teams.

For more information and participation instructions: