2006 Annual Science Report

NASA Ames Research Center Reporting  |  JUL 2005 – JUN 2006

Executive Summary

The Ames Research Center Team conducted investigations to understand how habitable planetary systems and environments develop, how biological systems arise and affect their planetary environment, and how changing environments might affect our biosphere. These investigations broadly address NASA’s current Astrobiology Roadmap and strengthen NAI participation in flight missions, NASA’s new vision for exploration, and education and public outreach. The Team’s strong involvement in several NASA missions provides context, motivation, and resource-sharing opportunities for the research, education and public outreach efforts. The Ames Team research and education and public outreach activities are highlighted in their website at http://www.amesteam.arc.nasa.gov .

We investigated the processes that influence the formation of planetary systems and the evolution of planetary atmospheres. Photoevaporation processes in protoplanetary disks around young stars can clear a disk and thus affect the likelihood that habitable planets might form. We extended our model ... Continue reading.

Field Sites
38 Institutions
7 Project Reports
0 Publications
0 Field Sites

Project Reports

  • Early Metabolic Pathways

    In the effort to understand the evolutionary origins of functional biological macromolecules we have evolved, for the first time, a new enzyme having a catalytic activity that has not been observed in nature. The ability to evolve novel enzymatic activities from relatively small libraries of randomized sequences suggests that the evolution of functional proteins may not have been a difficult or slow stage in the early evolution of life.

  • Hindcasting Ecosystems

    We investigate an analog of a biosphere and focus on hind-casting its biogeochemical cycles. The carbon cycle is most important in the biosphere and is reflected by the Net Primary Production (NPP). NPP varies with climate and life variables. We reconstruct the history of NPP in South America over the last 2,500 years at 8-km spatial resolution and 1-year time resolution in order to understand past ecosystem process and provide larger time windows for future prediction. Our model is formulated to circumvent the shortcomings of the fossil record and adjusted for prediction as the major drivers of climate vary.

  • Biosignatures in Chemosynthetic and Photosynthetic Systems

    During the past year, our team has made strong contributions in research, mission involvement, synergistic community activities, and education & public outreach.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 4.1 5.1 5.2 6.1 7.1 7.2
  • Interplanetary Pioneers
  • Ecosystem to Biosphere Modeling

    The newly completed methanogenesis component of the model MBGC (MicrobialBioGeoChemistry) was used to examine the effects of competition between methanogens and sulfate-reducing bacteria on metabolism and gas flux in the microbial mat.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 4.1 5.3 6.1 7.2
  • Prebiotic Organics From Space
    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 3.1 3.4 4.3 7.1 7.2
  • Habitable Planets
    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 1.2 2.1 4.1 4.3