We prepare to look for traces of life on Mars
13-10-2014

A CAB research group is part of one of the teams selected by the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) in its new program to study the origin, evolution, distribution and future of LIFE in the Universe.

Understanding the phenomenon of LIFE in the Universe is a constant of human thought. Astrobiology is the science that studies it from different perspectives: define and establish its limits, locate its origin on Earth, seek its existence in the rest of the Universe and understand the relationship between the Universe and its appearance as part of its evolution. The search for life outside the Earth has mobilized space agencies with their programs of planetary exploration. NASA, in particular, with the Curiosity rover characterizing the potential habitability of Mars, the Kepler mission discovering new planets outside of our Solar System and the Mars2020 mission on the horizon is posing a next step with its new and ambitious (endowed with 50 million of dollars) program to five years.

Recently, the NAI has made public the result of the competition that it opened to select the projects that would be part of this program. The SETI Institute, in Mountain View, California, is one of the seven American institutions that will participate in this program with its Changing Planetary Environments & amp; the Fingerprints of Life on Mars (Modification of Planetary Environments and Traces of Life on Mars) in which Víctor Parro, Head of the group of "Biomolecules in Planetary Exploration" and the Department of Molecular Evolution of the CAB is included as international co-investigator. "The most fascinating part of this program is that we are preparing to look for traces of possible life on Mars," says Parro.

The keys to the study of this project, led by Nathalie Carbol, an expert in geology planetary, are how you can identify the traces left by life not only on Earth but also in other places like Mars and how the presence of life on a planet can change its conditions. In short, understand where to look for life, what to look for, and how to recognize the evidence of past or present life. The ultimate goal is to prepare for the Mars2020 mission.

A very important part of this project will be the field work on the terrestrial analogs of Mars, places on Earth where conditions are similar to those on Mars. The idea is to explore these places from satellites, from the air and on land analyzing their conditions microscopically to understand how life there changes the environment and, therefore, what unequivocal footprints it leaves.

The other six institutions Selected are NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA's Ames Research Center, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, The University of Colorado in Boulder, University of California and University of Montana in Missoula. The average funding for each institution will be approximately $ 8 million. Likewise, the interdisciplinary teams will become members of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. These interdisciplinary teams will contribute their knowledge and experience to the NAI program and will be integrated into the NAI collaborative structure generating a very productive interaction with the other members of the NAI.

Contact

Víctor Parro García , Head of the Departments of Evolution & nbsp; Molecular, Center for Astrobiology (CSIC-INTA)

Scientific Culture Unit from the CAB: Luis Cuesta

 

Fuente: UCC-CAB

 

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