Did delivery of carbon-containing molecules and water to the early Earth enable the emergence and evolution of life? If so, how did it happen? What were the processes involved in the creation of such molecules?
These are some of the driving questions behind the research that is performed at the Goddard Center for Astrobiology. Our scientists focus on various aspects of exogneous materials, from the formation of complex organic materials on ice grains to the delivery of those primordial materials to the Earth, starting in the early bombardment period and continuing until today.
A critical assessment requires investigations of very diverse topics. Our research encompasses four themes: each focusing on a different aspect of how life emerges from cosmic and planetary precursor (Goal 3 of the NASA Astrobiology Road Map).
This modified HST image illustrates the cosmic cycle of organic materials and water... (click image for more)
Theme 1 - “From Icy Planetesimals to Planets: Organics as a Key Window into Early Planetary Systems”
Focused on determining the chemical composition of icy bodies and establishing their potential for delivering pre-biotic organic materials and water to the young Earth and other planets.
Theme 2 - “From Molecular Cores to Planets: Our Interstellar Organic Heritage”
Focused on investigating processes affecting the origin and evolution of organics in planetary systems.
Theme 3 - “Organic Compounds in Extraterrestrial Materials and Laboratory Analogues”
Pursued by scientists who conduct laboratory simulations of processes that likely affected the chemistry of material in natal interstellar cloud cores and in proto-planetary disks.
Theme 4 - “Analytical Protocols and Techniques for Planetary Organics”
Scientists are in the process of developing advanced methods for the in-situ analysis of complex organics in small bodies in the Solar System. For example, organic analysis protocols developed by Theme IV members are presently being incorporated into the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Suite Investigation of the Mars Science Laboratory.
Mouse Over the Themes to see what they're connected to...