2001 Annual Science Report

NASA Ames Research Center Reporting  |  JUL 2000 – JUN 2001

Chemical Building Blocks

4 Institutions
3 Teams
0 Publications
0 Field Sites
Field Sites

Project Progress

Chemical Building Blocks (dm)

We investigated formation of biogenic compounds in cosmic ices and have found evidence for the production of many very interesting biogenic compounds with and without polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The PAH carbon compounds are widespread throughout space. Our team is the first to study their ice photochemistry under interstellar (IS) and early Solar System conditions. Our publication on producing self-organizing, membrane-forming (primitive protocell?) molecules under harsh IS conditions generated enormous public response. We also made significant progress on PAH photochemistry in ices, studying sidegroup addition and isotopic enrichment. Together, these results may have important implications for the origin of life.

  • PROJECT INVESTIGATORS:
  • PROJECT MEMBERS:
    Louis Allamandola
    Co-Investigator

    David Deamer
    Collaborator

    Richard Zare
    Collaborator

    Jason Dworkin
    Postdoc

    Max Bernstein
    Research Staff

    Scott Sandford
    Research Staff

  • RELATED OBJECTIVES:
    Objective 1.0
    Determine whether the atmosphere of the early Earth, hydrothermal systems or exogenous matter were significant sources of organic matter.

    Objective 2.0
    Develop and test plausible pathways by which ancient counterparts of membrane systems, proteins and nucleic acids were synthesized from simpler precursors and assembled into protocells.

    Objective 11.0
    Determine (theoretically and empirically) the ultimate outcome of the planet-forming process around other stars, especially the habitable ones.

    Objective 13.0
    Define an array of astronomically detectable spectroscopic features that indicate habitable conditions and/or the presence of life on an extrasolar planet.