The Amazing Adventures of AstrobioBot: Series 1

Welcome to the first feature of Astrobiology Magazine's Astrobio Comics Presents! This series of Astrobio Comics tells the tale of an exploration mission - all through the eyes of a little robotic instrument and his journey to becoming a full-fledged Astrobiology adventurer. Here is The Amazing Adventures of AstrobioBot!

Welcome to the first feature of Astrobiology Magazine’s Astrobio Comics Presents! This series of Astrobio Comics tells the tale of an exploration mission – all through the eyes of a little robotic instrument and his journey to becoming a full-fledged Astrobiology adventurer. Here is The Amazing Adventures of AstrobioBot!

Keywords from Episode 1:

NASA Robotics Ames Robotics JPL Robotics

In Episode 2, AstrobioBot struggles to free himself from the shelf… but there’s a bit of a problem. Click away for more of AstrobioBot’s adventures here at!

In Episode 3, AstrobioBot attracts the attention of the laboratory’s postdoc. She questions his intelligence, but she’s not going to slow him down!

AstrobioBot get some new wheels and speakers. This off-the-shelf technology will help him for now, but he will need special wheels if he wants to get all the way to Mars.

Keywords from Episdoe 4 – Pimp my robot:

Off-the-shelf technology
Robot Communication

AstrobioBot doesn’t have a budget and he attracts the attention of the Budget Cuts. He’s forced to flee before they strip him of his new wheels in order to satisfy their hunger!

Keywords from Episode 5 – The Budget Cuts:

Budgeting Space Missions Changing Budgets for Space

AstrobioBot flees with the Budget Cuts hot on his heels. He struggles to find a place to hide, then slips into an empty office just in time. But the office isn’t empty for long…

Keywords from Episode 6 – The Chase:

Chris McKay

AstrobioBot’s luck is improving as he meets a new friend that might be able to help him in his quest for Mars.

Keywords from Episode 7 – A helping hand:

Chris McKay Constellation Program

Chris McKay quickly uses his discretionary funds to submit a proposal for AstrobioBot to join him on an expedition to the Mojave Desert. It’s only a small amount of funding, but it comes just in time!

Keywords from Episode 8 – The Rescue:

Mojave rover tests
NASA science in the Mojave

AstrobioBot joins the kids of Spaceward Bound in California’s Mojave Desert. Amidst the barren rocks, Chris McKay teaches AstrobioBot about the search for life on Mars.

Keywords from Episode 9 – Into the Desert:

Spaceward Bound Krebs Cycle Mojave Desert

Astrobiobot uses his magnifying lens to find life in the desert, and is amazed by what he sees.

Keywords from Episode 10 – Life in the Lens:

Microbes Mars Microbes Searching for life

Ignoring Chris McKay’s warning, AstrobioBot roamed deep into the Mojave and studied all the microbial colonies he could find. However, alone in the harsh desert, his curiosity could bring an end to his mission…

Keywords from Episode 11 – Lost in the Mojave:

Cyanobacteria Nitrogen Fixers Microbial Communities

As his battery power slowly drains away, the desert begins playing tricks on AstrobioBot. Is there any way out of danger for our stranded hero?

Keywords from Episode 12 – Desert Visions:

Mars Exploration Rovers Martian Microbes

Stranded in the Mojave, AstrobioBot is visited by a vision of his own ‘Spirit guide’, the Mars Exploration Rover (MER), Spirit. Spirit explains that it’s not just living cells on Mars that AstrobioBot must search for, but also signs of past life that could prove whether or not ancient Mars was habitable.

Keywords from Episode 13 – Vision Quest:

Spirit Ancient Mars Warm Mars

Spirit explains his own mission, which provided many clues about the presence of liquid water in Mars’ past. Spirit’s mission lasted for more than six years, and was full of difficult challenges and scientific suprises.

Spirit recounts his struggles and fantastic discoveries. Even a broken wheel provided further insight into the potential for life on ancient Mars. Spirit struggled through the sand to find a safe resting place for the winter. His solar panels needed to be in a good position to catch what little sunlight was available… otherwise, he wouldn’t wake up in the spring.

Meanwhile, Chris McKay and the kids of Spaceward Bound hatch a rescue plan using the “Doing Research at Extreme Altitudes by Motivated Students” (DREAMS) project. Luther Richardson, a high-school teacher from Columbus, GA, who heads the DREAMS project and the kids of Valley View Elementary in Pleasanton, CA, quickly attach a camera and other instruments to a high-altitude balloon. Hopefully, a view from above will help them spot AstrobioBot in the vast desert… but the harsh environment of the Mojave could foil their plans!

While Chris McKay and the Spaceward Bound team struggle to mount a rescue mission, AstrobioBot continues his vision quest with the Spirit rover. Now that Spirit has taught him about her experience on Mars, AstrobioBot reveals a bit about his own origins.

Keywords from Episode 17 – Origins:

Intelligent Robots Miller-Urey Computational Astrobiology

AstrobioBot finishes recounting the story of his ‘birth.’ As Spirit fades away into the Mojave, she gives AstrobioBot one last piece of advice. Now, will AstrobioBot be strong enough to hang onto life until rescue comes?

Keywords from Episode 18 – Primordial Awakenings:

Primordial Ooze Spirit's End A Second Rescue Attempt

Using a spare balloon, the DREAMS team manages to successfully spot AstrobioBot in the Mojave. Chris McKay and the Spaceward Bound participants rush to the scene, but AstrobioBot’s batteries are out of juice and he is barely holding on. Will they be in time to save him?

Keywords from Episode 19: A DREAMS Rescue:

DREAMS team Powering Rovers

The quick re-charge of AstrobioBot’s batteries may have scrambled his circuits – or maybe he’s just intent on the next phase of his mission. He almost rushes away once again in order to pursue his goal of finding Steve Squyres, but Chris McKay tries to hold him back.

Keywords from Episode 20 – Back to Reality:

Spirit Rover Steve Squyres Squyres and preparations for Mars

With AstrobioBot reeled in, the DREAMS team packs up their equipment. Now that the field trip is finished, AstrobioBot and McKay need to get moving… because the Budget Cuts are always one step behind!

Keywords from Episode 21 – When funding runs dry:

DREAMS Steve Squyres Mars Rovers Chris McKay

AstrobioBot and Chris McKay race through the dunes of the Mojave, just beyond the grasp of the Budget Cuts. Chris has a plan – but where will their escape take them?

Keywords from Episode 22 – Through the dunes:

Steve Squyres Mojave

Chris McKay and Astrobiobot make a narrow escape by boarding an airplane and taking to the sky. But they have to land sometime… and where can they go to escape the Budget Cuts?

Keywords from Episode 23 – Escape at 35000 feet:

Airplanes Sky Magazine Cover Chris McKay in the field

AstrobioBot and Chris McKay escape to a remote location in British Columbia, Canada. Hopefully this will buy them some time before the Budget Cuts track them down. At Kelly Lake, they meet up with members of the Pavilion Lake Research Project, who are exploring unique habitats for microbial life deep below the waves.

Keywords from Episode 24 – The Remote North:

Pavilion Lake Research Project Darlene Lim Kelly Lake Pavilion Lake

AstrobioBot sank deep into the cold waters of Kelly Lake, discovering an amazing world of aqueous life. However, while roaming across the lake’s floor, he stumbled on a frightening sight!

Keywords from Episode 25 – The lakebed:

Kelly Lake Underwater Life Water Worlds

AstrobioBot explores the floor of Kelly Lake, stumbling upon an amazing microbialite colony. He tries to head back up to tell Darlene Lim about his discovery… but unfortunately, he can’t swim!

Keywords from Episode 26 – Underwater Explorer:

Microbialite Darlene Lim Kelly Lake

While AstrobioBot explores the floor of Kelly Lake, Chris McKay and Darlene Lim come up with a plan to retrieve him. Using some clever programming, Darlene hopes to find AstrobioBot using one of the DeepWorker subs… but a storm is brewing on the horizon.

Keywords from Episode 27 – Reprogramming:

Mapping Kelly Lake xGDS software Brewing storm Mobile Control Center

While AstrobioBot struggles to drive out of Kelly Lake, he searches his database for ‘Ocean Worlds.’ Suddenly, he is flooded with data on a myriad of worlds in our solar system that could host oceans on or below their surfaces.

Keywords from Episode 28 – Ocean Worlds:

Enceladus Titan Water on Titan Europa

AstrobioBot daydreams about the search for life on Europa and realizes that the microbialites of Kelly Lake could help astrobiologists identify signs of life on other worlds. He decides to collect a sample for Darlene Lim… but it may be more than he can handle.

Keywords from Episode 29 – Europa’s Sea:

Europa Europa's Ocean Drilling Europa Microbialites Darlene Lim

AstrobioBot is trapped beneath a heavy microbialite sample. Luckily Darlene Lim has finished scanning the floor of Kelly Lake in search of the intrepid robotic explorer. AstrobioBot is some 65 meters below water on the floor of the lake… but luckily the DeepWorker sub is capable of diving up to 2000 meters! The arm of the DeepWorker comes to AstrobioBot’s rescue… and gets an excellent microbialite sample in the mix!

Keywords from Episode 30 – Sample Collection:

Storms at Kelly Lake DeepWorker Sub Microbialites

The team rushes through the rain to the Mobile Command Center. In the lab, Darlene Lim begins to examine AstrobioBot’s microbialite sample. In the meantime, Chris and AstrobioBot begin to plan their next move to keep ahead of the Budget Cuts.

AstrobioBot and Chris McKay fly across the Canadian north to Haughton Crater on the remote Devon Island. Haughton is a popular test-bed for Mars exploration, and Steve Squyres is there testing new concepts for Mars rovers. However, Squyres is not sure if AstrobioBot is up to the task of becoming a Mars explorer.

Keywords from Episode 32 – Training Grounds:

Haughton Crater Testing Grounds Mars Testing Steve Squyres

AstrobioBot is put through the ropes by Steve Squyres. The workout is intense, and AstrobioBot has to keep pace with all of the other advanced-concept rovers. Will he have the strength to prove himself to Squyres?

The concept rovers dash to climb the wall of Haughton Crater. Whoever makes it to the top will prove they have what it takes for a mission to Mars! However, the cliff is steep and many of the rovers come tumbling back down. Will AstrobioBot have what it takes to make it to the top?

Keywords from Episode 34 – Climbing the Steps to Mars:

Devon Island Haughton Crater Zöe rover MER-FIDO Cliffbot Hyperion Dante II Steve Squyres

AstrobioBot is ready for the big-time, but if he’s going to have success at Mars… he needs an instrument make-over! Steve Squyres takes him to scientists around the country who are working on projects for the Astrobiology Science & Technology Instrument Development (ASTID) program. A new Mars mission is on the horizon in 2011, and there’s a new suite of instruments that might be perfect for AstrobioBot!

Keywords from Episode 35 – An Astrobiology Makeover:

ASTID Program Lens Imagers Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS)

The Principal Investigators continue with AstrobioBot’s rover makeover. He’s traumatized by the loss of his wheels, but his worries are quickly dispelled as the scientists administer a range of treatments to test AstrobioBot’s new instruments. First is the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument. SAM will allow AstrobioBot to study carbon chemistry and organic compounds on Mars. Next is the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD), built with contributions from the German Space Agency. This instrument will characterize radiation at the martian surface. Then there’s a small weather station contributed by the Spanish government – the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS). Finally, AstrobioBot is given a chance to test the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument, which lets him study mineralogy to characterize past or present habitats for life!

Keywords from Episode 36 – Instrument Treatments:

SAM Mineralogy RAD and REMS

Has AstrobioBot put too much trust in the mission planners? Without his wheels, there is no escape as they continue with his re-design!

Keywords from Episode 37 – Eyes on Mars:

Full color on Mars Eyes on Mars

Luckily, AstrobioBot’s Halloween surprise is more ‘treat’ than ‘trick’ … the principal investigators have fitted him with a brand new pair of eyes! As his new instruments come into focus, the treats continue for our intrepid little adventurer.

Keywords from Episode 38 – Seeing Things Anew:

MastCam ChemCam Rover Wheels Gale Crater

AstrobioBot learns what his mission on Mars will entail. He’s so close to his goal of reaching Mars that he can imagine what it will be like on the surface!

Keywords from Episode 39 – Mission briefing:

Sky Crane Gale Crater Preparing for the Surface

AstrobioBot is taught about the dangers of a mission to Mars – dangers that were highlighted by the recent difficulties of the Phobos-Grunt mission. Is he still willing to face the risks in order to reach his beloved Mars?

Keywords from Episode 40 – Landing Risks:

Phobos-Grunt Phobo-Grunt Struggles Landing on Mars Touching down on Mars

With his instruments ready and his training complete, AstrobioBot heads to the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center. Will he realize his dream of becoming a Mars explorer?

Keywords from Episode 41 – Ready for Launch:

Ready for Launch Pre-launch Preparations Old Friends

The Budget Cuts reveal a shocking secret about AstrobioBot’s origins as they try to stop his launch to Mars! But all is not lost. AstrobioBot’s friends are joined by Jim Green and the NASA Administrators in an epic battle against the Budget Cuts. Can they get the Budget Cuts under control in time to deliver AstrobioBot safely to the launch pad?

As the battle rages on, AstrobioBot flees to the Atlas V. Can he make it before the launch window closes?

Keywords from Episode 43 – Countdown:

MSL Launch

The launch of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission is a huge success! AstrobioBot braces against the pressure of the blasting rockets, but once he’s outside of Earth’s atmosphere, the spacecraft is released with out a hitch. The planet Mars is still a long way away, but AstrobioBot’s dream is now in sight. He will spend the next six months coasting through space… but soon he will reach his beloved Mars.