1. Helmholtz Alliance: Planetary Evolution and Life

    Website: www.dlr.de/hgf_alliance_pel

    Prof. Tilman Spohn
    Institute of Planetary Research
    German Aerospace Center (DLR)
    Berlin, Germany

    Recent & Upcoming Activities of the Helmholtz Alliance

    Brochure: Helmholtz Alliance Brochure
    Introductory Presentation: Planetary Evolution and Life

    About the Helmholtz Alliance

    The Helmholtz Alliance: Planetary Evolution and Life became an affiliated partner of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) in early 2013. The Alliance was established in 2008 to study the interactions between life and the evolution of terrestrial planets. The main partners of the Alliance in Germany are the Institute of Planetary Research of the German Aerospace Center in Berlin, Alfred Wegener Institute, the Technical University Berlin (TUB), the Free University Berlin (FUB), the Berlin Museum of Natural History, the Max-Planck Institutes for Solar System Research in Lindau and Biogeochemistry in Jena, and the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster. Internationally, the Space Research Institute in Graz, the Nice Observatory, and Yale University in New Haven are major partners. The Alliance includes about 150 scientists.

    The Alliance is organized along six scientific topics:

    • Biosphere-Atmosphere-Surface interactions and Evolution
    • Interior-Atmosphere Interaction, Magnetic Field, and Planetary Evolution
    • Impacts and Planetary Evolution
    • Geological Context of Life
    • Water and Life Under Extreme Conditions
    • Tools and Strategies for Exploration Missions for Planetary Habitability

    Research methods used include numerical modeling of processes such as planet formation, planetary climates, plate tectonics, the inner structure of planets, the origin of magnetic fields and the influence of impacts. Laboratory experiments investigate the survival of terrestrial microorganisms under Martian and space conditions, the properties of interfacial water and brines as well as the general detectability of microorganisms on planetary surfaces. Geological mapping with data from space missions and field work are used to shed light on the environmental conditions of the early Earth, Mars, and Titan, and to help constrain possible habitable environments on Mars.

    In addition, the Alliance supports graduate students and young scientists through dedicated training activities. It also communicates its scientific results to the public through media offices of the Alliance’s partners, the internet, exhibitions at major conferences and public events.