Exploring Organic Environments in the Solar System

Task Group on Organic Environments in the Solar System

Space Studies Board

Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences

and

Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology

Division on Earth and Life Studies

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS

Washington, D.C.
www.nap.edu



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Exploring Organic Environments in the Solar System Exploring Organic Environments in the Solar System Task Group on Organic Environments in the Solar System Space Studies Board Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences and Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology Division on Earth and Life Studies NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS Washington, D.C. www.nap.edu

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Exploring Organic Environments in the Solar System THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the task group responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. This study was supported by Contracts NASW-96013 and NASW-01001 between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the agency that provided support for the project. Cover: An artist’s impression of the European Space Agency’s Huygens probe sitting in an apparent floodplain of icy pebbles soon after its successful landing on the surface of Saturn’s giant moon, Titan, on January 14, 2005. Data from Huygens and its companion, the Cassini orbiter, have provided new insights into the degree of chemical complexity that can arise from 4.5 billion years of planetary evolution in an environment rich in organic compounds. Image courtesy of the European Space Agency. International Standard Book Number-13 978-0-309-10235-3 International Standard Book Number-10 0-309-10235-9 Copies of this report are available free of charge from: Space Studies Board National Research Council 500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001 Additional copies of this report may be purchased from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, DC 20055; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area); Internet, http://www.nap.edu. Copyright 2007 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America

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Exploring Organic Environments in the Solar System THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Wm. A. Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Wm. A. Wulf are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council. www.national-academies.org

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Exploring Organic Environments in the Solar System OTHER REPORTS OF THE SPACE STUDIES BOARD An Assessment of Balance in NASA’s Science Programs (2006) Assessment of NASA’s Mars Architecture: 2007-2016 (2006) Assessment of Planetary Protection Requirements for Venus Missions: Letter Report (2006) Distributed Arrays of Small Instruments for Solar-Terrestrial Research: Report of a Workshop (2006) Issues Affecting the Future of the U.S. Space Science and Engineering Workforce (SSB with the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board [ASEB], 2006) A Review of NASA’s 2006 Draft Science Plan: Letter Report (2006) The Scientific Context for Exploration of the Moon: Interim Report (2006) Space Radiation Hazards and the Vision for Space Exploration: Report of a Workshop (2006) The Astrophysical Context of Life (SSB with the Board on Life Sciences, 2005) Earth Science and Applications from Space: Urgent Needs and Opportunities to Serve the Nation (2005) Extending the Effective Lifetimes of Earth Observing Research Missions (2005) Preventing the Forward Contamination of Mars (2005) Principal-Investigator-Led Missions in the Space Sciences (2005) Priorities in Space Science Enabled by Nuclear Power and Propulsion (SSB with ASEB, 2005) Review of Goals and Plans for NASA’s Space and Earth Sciences (2005) Review of NASA Plans for the International Space Station (2005) Science in NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration (2005) Assessment of Options for Extending the Life of the Hubble Space Telescope: Final Report (SSB with ASEB, 2004) Exploration of the Outer Heliosphere and the Local Interstellar Medium: A Workshop Report (2004) Issues and Opportunities Regarding the U.S. Space Program: A Summary Report of a Workshop on National Space Policy (SSB with ASEB, 2004) Plasma Physics of the Local Cosmos (2004) Review of Science Requirements for the Terrestrial Planet Finder: Letter Report (2004) Solar and Space Physics and Its Role in Space Exploration (2004) Understanding the Sun and Solar System Plasmas: Future Directions in Solar and Space Physics (2004) Utilization of Operational Environmental Satellite Data: Ensuring Readiness for 2010 and Beyond (SSB with ASEB and the Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate [BASC], 2004) Satellite Observations of the Earth’s Environment: Accelerating the Transition of Research to Operations (SSB with ASEB and BASC, 2003) Steps to Facilitate Principal-Investigator-Led Earth Science Missions (2003) The Sun to the Earth—and Beyond: Panel Reports (2003) Limited copies of these reports are available free of charge from: Space Studies Board National Research Council 500 Fifth Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20001 (202) 334-3477/ssb@nas.edu www.nationalacademies.org/ssb/ssb.html NOTE: Listed according to year of approval for release, which in some cases precedes the year of publication.

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Exploring Organic Environments in the Solar System TASK GROUP ON ORGANIC ENVIRONMENTS IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM JAMES P. FERRIS, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Chair LUANN BECKER, University of California, Santa Barbara KRISTIE A. BOERING, University of California, Berkeley GEORGE D. CODY, Carnegie Institution of Washington G. BARNEY ELLISON, University of Colorado JOHN M. HAYES, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution ROBERT E. JOHNSON, University of Virginia WILLIAM KLEMPERER, Harvard University KAREN J. MEECH, University of Hawaii KEITH S. NOLL, Space Telescope Science Institute MARTIN SAUNDERS, Yale University Staff DAVID H. SMITH, Study Director SANDRA J. GRAHAM, Senior Staff Officer, Space Studies Board ROBERT L. RIEMER, Senior Staff Officer, Space Studies Board CHRISTOPHER K. MURPHY, Senior Staff Officer, Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology CATHERINE A. GRUBER, Assistant Editor RODNEY HOWARD, Senior Project Assistant

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Exploring Organic Environments in the Solar System SPACE STUDIES BOARD LENNARD A. FISK, University of Michigan, Chair A. THOMAS YOUNG, Lockheed Martin Corporation (retired), Vice Chair SPIRO K. ANTIOCHOS, Naval Research Laboratory DANIEL N. BAKER, University of Colorado STEVEN J. BATTEL, Battel Engineering CHARLES L. BENNETT, Johns Hopkins University JUDITH A. CURRY, Georgia Institute of Technology JACK D. FARMER, Arizona State University JACK D. FELLOWS, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research JACQUELINE N. HEWITT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology TAMARA E. JERNIGAN, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory KLAUS KEIL, University of Hawaii BERRIEN MOORE III, University of New Hampshire KENNETH H. NEALSON, University of Southern California NORMAN P. NEUREITER, American Association for the Advancement of Science SUZANNE OPARIL, University of Alabama, Birmingham JAMES PAWELCZYK, Pennsylvania State University RONALD F. PROBSTEIN, Massachusetts Institute of Technology HARVEY D. TANANBAUM, Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory RICHARD H. TRULY, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (retired) JOSEPH F. VEVERKA, Cornell University WARREN M. WASHINGTON, National Center for Atmospheric Research GARY P. ZANK, University of California, Riverside MARCIA S. SMITH, Director

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Exploring Organic Environments in the Solar System BOARD ON CHEMICAL SCIENCES AND TECHNOLOGY F. FLEMING CRIM, University of Wisconsin, Co-Chair ELSA REICHMANIS, Lucent Technologies, Co-Chair PAUL T. ANASTAS, Green Chemistry Institute GARY S. CALABRESE, Rohm & Haas Company PABLO G. DEBENEDETTI, Princeton University JEAN DE GRAEVE, Institut de Pathologie, Liège, Belgium MILES P. DRAKE, Air Products and Chemical Company GEORGE W. FLYNN, Columbia University MAURICIO FUTRAN, Bristol-Meyers Squibb Company PAULA T. HAMMOND, Massachusetts Institute of Technology ROBERT HWANG, Brookhaven National Laboratory JAY A. IHLENFELD, 3M Research and Development JAMES L. KINSEY, Rice University MARTHA A. KREBS, Science Strategies CHARLES T. KRESGE, Dow Chemical Company SCOTT J. MILLER, Yale University GERALD POJE, Independent Consultant DONALD PROSNITZ, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory MATTHEW V. TIRRELL, University of California, Santa Barbara DOROTHY ZOLANDZ, Director

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Exploring Organic Environments in the Solar System Preface The sources, distributions, and transformations of organic compounds throughout diverse solar system environments are active areas of scientific study. Although numerous methods of organic synthesis and/or alteration have been demonstrated using a wide variety of starting materials, energy sources, and environments, the signatures that would make it possible to discriminate among these processes are not well established. As a result, ambiguity surrounds the relative effectiveness of various organic-synthesis processes in explaining the distribution of organic compounds in the solar system. To study these issues in more detail, the Task Group on Organic Environments in the Solar System (TGOESS)— an ad hoc group consisting of members drawn primarily from the Committee on Planetary and Lunar Exploration (COMPLEX), the Committee on the Origins and Evolution of Life, and the Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology—was established. In particular, the task group was asked to determine what processes account for the reduced carbon compounds found throughout the solar system and to examine how planetary exploration can advance understanding of this central issue. In addition, the task group was asked to consider a number of closely related questions, including the following: What are the sources of reactants and energy that lead to abiotic synthesis of organic compounds and to their alteration in diverse solar system environments? What are the distribution and history of reduced carbon compounds in the solar system, and which features of that distribution and history, or of the compounds themselves, can be used to discriminate among synthesis and alteration processes? What are the criteria that distinguish abiotic from biotic organic compounds? What aspects of the study of organic compounds in the solar system can be accomplished from ground-based studies (theoretical, laboratory, and astronomical), Earth orbit, and planetary missions (orbiters, landers, and sample return), and which new capabilities might have the greatest impact on each? Although this project was formally initiated in October 2000, informal presentations in support of it began somewhat earlier and were conducted in the context of COMPLEX’s standing oversight of NASA’s planetary exploration programs and the definition and development of the charge for this study. These preparatory meetings in March and July 2000 led to the establishment in the summer of 2000 of the Task Group on Organic Environments in the Solar System.

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Exploring Organic Environments in the Solar System The task group held its first formal meeting at the National Academies’ J. Erik Jonsson Woods Hole Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, on October 2-4, 2000. The task group’s discussions and deliberations continued at meetings held in Tucson, Arizona, and in Washington, D.C., on March 29-31, 2001, and May 2-4, 2001, respectively. An initial draft of the complete report was assembled at a meeting held in Irvine, California, on November 17-21, 2003. A draft of the report was sent to external reviewers in May 2004. The text was extensively revised, updated, and finalized in the first half of 2006 and was approved for release by the National Research Council (NRC) on November 21, 2006. The work of the task group was made easier thanks to the contributions made by Louis Allamandola (NASA, Ames Research Center), Richard Binzel (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Geoffrey A. Blake (California Institute of Technology), Sherwood Chang (SETI Institute), John Cronin (Arizona State University), Dale Cruikshank (NASA, Ames Research Center), Pascale Ehrenfreund (Leiden Observatory), George Flynn (State University of New York, Plattsburgh), Randy Gladstone (Southwest Research Institute), William Irvine (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), Paul Lucey (University of Hawaii), Jonathan Lunine (University of Arizona), Scott Messenger (Washington University), Elisabetta Pierazzo (University of Arizona), Wayne Roberge (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), and Lucy Ziurys (University of Arizona). The task group also expresses its appreciation to Everett Shock for persuading COMPLEX of the importance of the issues discussed in this report, for taking the leading role in developing and drafting the charge for this study, and for paving the way for the work of the task group. This report has been reviewed by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the authors and the NRC in making the published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The contents of the review comments and draft manuscripts remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Charles H. DePuy, University of Colorado, Boulder; Thomas M. Donahue, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Eric Herbst, Ohio State University; Donald M. Hunten, University of Arizona; Timothy J. McCoy, Smithsonian Institution; Harry Y. McSween, Jr., University of Tennessee; and Anna-Louise Reysenbach, Portland State University. Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Bernd R.T. Simoneit, Oregon State University. Appointed by the NRC, he was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring task group and the institution.

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Exploring Organic Environments in the Solar System Contents     EXECUTIVE SUMMARY   1 I —The Chemistry of Carbon     1   BIOTIC AND ABIOTIC CARBON COMPOUNDS   11      Carbon Compounds—Definitions and Characteristics,   11      Determination of Molecular Origins,   17      Criteria for Distinguishing Between Biotic and Abiotic Compounds,   18      Notes,   19 II —The Formation, Modification, and Preservation of Organic Compounds in the Solar System     2   INTERSTELLAR CHEMISTRY   23      The Interstellar Medium,   23      Protoplanetary Disks,   29      Interplanetary and Interstellar Dust,   32      Notes,   34 3   METEORITES   37      The Origin of Meteorites,   37      Carbonaceous Chondrites: A Record of the Organic Chemical Evolution of the Early Solar System,   38      Organic Carbon in Unequilibrated Ordinary Chondrites and Enstatite Chondrites,   43      Martian Meteorites,   44      Organic Matter in Meteorites: Recommendations,   45      Increasing the Supply of Meteorites Available for Study,   46      Notes,   48

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Exploring Organic Environments in the Solar System 4   PRIMITIVE BODIES   52      Formation and Dynamical Regimes,   52      Measurement Techniques—Organics,   53      Synthesis and Destruction of Organic Materials,   53      Organic Inventory,   56      Summary of Past, Present, and Planned Missions: Implications for Carbon Studies,   63      Future Research Directions,   67      Notes,   69 5   THE GIANT PLANETS AND THEIR SATELLITES   72      Large Satellites of the Outer Solar System,   72      The Giant Planets,   79      Notes,   82 6   THE TERRESTRIAL PLANETS   85      Inventory of Organic Compounds on the Terrestrial Planets,   86      Mechanisms for Formation of Organic Compounds on the Terrestrial Planets,   90      Terrestrial Planets: Recommendations,   95      Notes,   97 III —Exploration: Where to Go and What to Study     7   APPROACHES TO RESEARCH   103      General Strategies,   104      Selected Opportunities for Research,   105      Note,   105     APPENDIX: Glossary   107