NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
02/2009 - 01/2015 (CAN 5)

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Origin and Evolution of Organics in Planetary Systems

Exogenous organic material and water were delivered to Earth in great amounts during the late heavy bombardment, and small amounts arrive even today. Intact examples abound in meteorite collections and their analysis provides a key window on source regions within 5 AU of the young sun. Major mass flux also arrived from beyond 5 AU, and this source can be evaluated by measuring the organic composition of comets. The central research question of the NAI GSFC Team is: Did delivery of exogenous organics and water enable the emergence and evolution of life?

The research of the team is organized into four main areas:

  • Establish the taxonomy of icy planetesimals and their potential for delivering pre-biotic organics and water to the young Earth and other planets
  • Investigate processes affecting the origin and evolution of organics in planetary systems
  • Analyze the formation, distribution, abundance, and isotopic composition of complex organics in authentic extraterrestrial samples and advanced laboratory simulations
  • Develop analytical protocols and techniques for in situ analysis of complex organics on planetary missions

Annual Reports