2013 Annual Science Report

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory - Icy Worlds Reporting  |  SEP 2012 – AUG 2013

Executive Summary

Our goal in the Astrobiology of the Icy Worlds Investigation is to advance our understanding of the role of ice in the broad context of astrobiology through a combined laboratory, numerical, analytical, and field investigations. Icy Worlds team will pursue this goal through four major investigations namely, the habitability, survivability, and detectability of life of icy worlds coupled with “*Path to Flight*” Technology demonstrations.

A search for life linked to the search for water should naturally “follow the ice”. Can life emerge and thrive in a cold, lightless world beneath hundreds of kilometers of ice? And if so, do the icy shells hold clues to life in the subsurface? These questions are the primary motivation of our science investigations which are as follows:

* Habitability of Icy Worlds investigates the habitability of liquid water environments in icy worlds, with a focus on what processes may give ... Continue reading.

Field Sites
9 Institutions
4 Project Reports
31 Publications
1 Field Site

Project Reports

  • Investigation 2: Survivability on Icy Worlds

    Investigation 2 focuses on survivability. As part of our survivability investigation, we examine the similarities and differences between the abiotic chemistry of planetary ices irradiated with ultraviolet photons (UV), electrons, and ions, and the chemistry of biomolecules exposed to similar conditions. Can the chemical products resulting from these two scenarios be distinguished? Can viable microbes persist after exposure to such conditions? These are motivating questions for our investigation.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 2.2 3.2 5.1 5.3 6.1 6.2
  • Investigation 3: Detectability of Icy Worlds

    Detectability of Icy Worlds investigates the detectability of life and biological materials on the surface of icy worlds, with a focus on spectroscopic techniques, and on spectral bands that are not in some way connected to photosynthesis.The primary component of Investigation 3 is the field campaign in Barrow, AK to characterize and quantify methane release from the Alaskan North Slope region and to understand the origin and fate of the methane.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 2.2 5.3 6.1 6.2
  • Investigation 1: Habitability of Icy Worlds

    Habitability of Icy Worlds investigates the habitability of liquid water environments in icy worlds, with a focus on what processes may give rise to life, what processes may sustain life, and what processes may deliver that life to the surface. Habitability of Icy Worlds investigation has three major objectives. Objective 1, Seafloor Processes, explores conditions that might be conducive to originating and supporting life in icy world interiors. Objective 2, Ocean Processes, investigates the formation of prebiotic cell membranes under simulated deep-ocean conditions, and Objective 3, Ice Shell Processes, investigates astrobiological aspects of ice shell evolution.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 2.2 3.2 4.1 5.1 5.2 5.3 6.2 7.1 7.2
  • Investigation 4: Path to the Flight

    The (Field Instrumentation and) Path to Flight investigation’s purpose is to enable in-situ measurements of organics and biological material with field instrumentation that have high potential for future flight instrumentation. The preceding three Investigations provide a variety of measurable goals used to modify or “tune” instrumentation that can be placed in the field. In addition the members of this Investigation provide new measurement capabilities that have been developed with the specific goal of life-detection. The instrument arsenal goes beyond the commercially available instrumentation and brings next generation imaging spectrometers, chromatographic, and sample extraction devices.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 2.2 6.1 7.1