New Science Teams for Astrobiology

Categories: Missions News Brief

NASA has selected seven teams to join the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI). The new recipients of five-year grants join five currently active teams at the NAI.

Dr. Michael J Mumma. Credit: NASA

Dr. Michael J Mumma. Credit: NASA

“The intellectual scope of astrobiology is vast, from understanding how our planet went from lifeless to living, to understanding how life has adapted to Earth’s harshest environments, to exploring other worlds with the most advanced technologies to search for signs of life,” said Mary Voytek, director of NASA’s Astrobiology Program in a recent press release. “The new teams cover that breadth of astrobiology, and by coming together in the NAI, they will make the connections between disciplines and organizations that stimulate fundamental scientific advances.”

The newly selected teams include:

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Michael Mumma leads the GSFC team, which will study how the delivery of water and organics to the early Earth could be connected to the origins of life on our planet.

Selected stories featuring Michael Mumma:

Methane Debate Splits Mars Community

The Martian Methane Surprise

A New Breed of Comet

3-D Study of Comets Reveals Chemical Factory at Work

UC Berkeley Physicist, Dr Andrew Westphal (left), with NASA Ames Astrophysicist, Dr Scott Sandford (right). Credit: NASA ARC

UC Berkeley Physicist, Dr Andrew Westphal (left), with NASA Ames Astrophysicist, Dr Scott Sandford (right). Credit: NASA ARC

NASA’s Ames Research Center

Scott Sandford and his team will study the chemistry behind organic molecules that could have been delivered to the early Earth by small bodies from space.

Selected stories featuring Scott Sandford:

A Drop in the Bucket

Building Life from Star-Stuff

Uracil Made in the Lab

Scientists Find Clues That Life Began in Deep Space

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Isik Kanik leads a team that will study the habitability of icy worlds like Europa and Enceladus through laboratory experiments and field research in environments on Earth.


Isik Kanik. Credit: NASA

Selected stories featuring Isik Kanik:

Bubbling Organics in an Ocean Vent Simulator

The SETI Institute

Nathalie Cabrol’s team will conduct studies to better understand where and how to search for life, and what biosignatures to look for, all in preparation for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover.

Selected stories featuring Nathalie Cabrol:

Interview with Nathalie Cabrol

Astrobiologists Set UV Radiation Record

Picking on Mars

Arrival at Laguna Negra

Launching the Lake Lander

Nathalie Cabrol. Credit: NASA

Nathalie Cabrol. Credit: NASA

University of Colorado in Boulder

Alexis Templeton’s team will study how interactions between rock and water can power living systems on Earth and on other worlds like Mars.

Selected stories featuring Alexis Templeton:

Water-Rock Reactions Could Be ‘Food’ for Life on Mars

University of California, Riverside

Timothy Lyons’ team will study the history of oxygen in the atmosphere and oceans of Earth, and its relationship to habitability on our planet.

Selected stories featuring Timothy Lyons:

Ancient Earth, Alien Earths

Earth’s Breathable Atmosphere Tied to Plate Tectonics?

Oxygen’s Ups and Downs on Early Earth

The Ups and Downs of Early Atmospheric Oxygen

Alexis Templeton. Credit: NASA

Alexis Templeton. Credit: NASA

Evidence for an Iron-Rich Early Ocean


University of Montana in Missoula

Frank Rosenzweig will lead a team studying how small ‘units’ involved in chemical reactions transitioned to self-organizing, self-reproducing, and energy-gathring systems (from cells to ecosystems).

For more information on the NASA Astrobiology Program and the NASA Astrobiology Institute, visit: