The Goddard Center for Astrobiology
Why is Earth wet and alive?
From 2004 to 2020 the central goal of the Goddard Center for Astrobiology was to understand the origin and evolution of organics in planetary systems under the direction of Michael Mumma and as a part of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. How organic compounds are created, destroyed, and altered during stellar evolution leading up to the origin of life on a planet, such as Earth?
Planetary systems form by collapse of dense interstellar cloud cores. Some stages in this evolution can be directly observed when stellar nurseries are imaged, while other stages remain cloaked behind an impenetrable veil of dust and gas. Yet to understand the origin of life on Earth and understand the probability of finding life elsewhere, we must first develop a comprehensive understanding of the formation of our own planetary system and how it compares to that of a typical star.
We addressed these through an integrated program of spectral observations of comets, circumstellar disks, and exoplanet environments; models of chemical evolution and dynamical transport in the early Solar System; laboratory studies of extraterrestrial samples; realistic laboratory and numerical simulations of inaccessible cosmic environments; and the development of techniques and instruments for detecting organics on other worlds.
Additional information on the teams, objectives, and accomplishments can be found on the NASA Astrobiology site:
The Goddard Center for Astrobiology has shared the research experience with summer students for 17 years.