2002 Annual Science Report

NASA Ames Research Center Reporting  |  JUL 2001 – JUN 2002

Life Beyond the Planet of Origin

4 Institutions
3 Teams
0 Publications
0 Field Sites
Field Sites

Project Progress

During this funding period work continued on several fronts. Several team members (Warren-Rhodes, Rettberg, and Lloret y Sanchez) have isolated halophiles from nature, and testing has begun to determine radiation resistance. Kelly joined the team and has begun his master’s thesis with Rothschild on the DNA damage resistance of Dunaliella salina, an extremely halophilic eukaryotic alga. He has tested a dozen strains for resistance to oxidative damage. Rothschild’s lab has focused on developing new techniques to assess damage resistance. Additionally, a student in Rothschild’s lab began work on two animals that should be particularly resistant to the space environment, tardigrades and brine shrimp.

Previous experiments have shown that halophilic organisms isolated from salterns and the intertidal can survive a two-week exposure to the space environment. Using the space simulation facility at the DLR in Cologne, Germany, Mancinelli, Rettberg and Horneck have completed a series of ground simulation experiments using a halophilic cyanobacterium from the genus Synechococcus spp., and Deinococcus radiodurans, as well as a number of Archaeael halophiles. Using these facilities they have exposed this organism to vacuum desiccation and ultraviolet (UV) radiation. These experiments reveal that the cyanobacterium and the Archaeael halophiles are more UV and desiccation resistant then Deinococcus radiodurans. In addition, we have shown that halophilic Archaea and Synechococcus can survive exposure to UV radiation and vacuum desiccation for at least six months, and probably longer. The simulation facilities were used in January 2002 in support of this work.

With the death of one team member, David Wynn-Williams, work on Antarctic samples has been halted for the moment.

  • PROJECT INVESTIGATORS:
  • PROJECT MEMBERS:
    Lynn Rothschild
    Project Investigator

    Rocco Mancinelli
    Co-Investigator

    Gerda Horneck
    Collaborator

    Jeff Johansen
    Collaborator

    Antonio Lazcano
    Collaborator

    Peter Pilewskie
    Collaborator

    Petra Rettberg
    Collaborator

    Peter Schultz
    Collaborator

    Stephen Smerdon
    Collaborator

    Ray Wolstencraft
    Collaborator

    Oliver de Peyer
    Postdoc

    Kimberly Warren-Rhodes
    Postdoc

    Richard Weinstein
    Postdoc

    Lourdes Sanchez
    Doctoral Student

    Kevin Kelly
    Graduate Student

  • RELATED OBJECTIVES:
    Objective 5.0
    Describe the sequences of causes and effects associated with the development of Earth's early biosphere and the global environment.

    Objective 6.0
    Define how ecophysiological processes structure microbial communities, influence their adaptation and evolution, and affect their detection on other planets.

    Objective 7.0
    Identify the environmental limits for life by examining biological adaptations to extremes in environmental conditions.

    Objective 8.0
    Search for evidence of ancient climates, extinct life and potential habitats for extant life on Mars.

    Objective 10.0
    Understand the natural processes by which life can migrate from one world to another. Are we alone in the Universe?

    Objective 12.0
    Define climatological and geological effects upon the limits of habitable zones around the Sun and other stars to help define the frequency of habitable planets in the universe.

    Objective 14.0
    Determine the resilience of local and global ecosystems through their response to natural and human-induced disturbances.

    Objective 15.0
    Model the future habitability of Earth by examining the interactions between the biosphere and the chemistry and radiation balance of the atmosphere.

    Objective 16.0
    Understand the human-directed processes by which life can migrate from one world to another.

    Objective 17.0
    Refine planetary protection guidelines and develop protection technology for human and robotic missions.