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ife in the Univers An Assessment of U.S. and International Programs in Astrobiology Committee on the Origins and Evolution of Life Space Stuclies Boarcl Boarcl on Life Sciences NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES TH E NATIONAL ACADEMI ES PRESS Washington, D.C. www.nap.etiu
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 committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. Support for this project was provided by Contracts NASW 96013 and 01001 between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recom- mendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsor. International Standard Book Number 0-309-08496-2 Cover design by Penny Margolskee. Microscope image of the solitary radiolarian Spongodrymus ssp. is by David A. Caron (University of Southern California) and is courtesy of Rebecca J. Gast (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution). Hubble Space Telescope image of the Cone nebula is by Holland Ford (Johns Hopkins University), Garth Illingworth (University of California, Santa Cruz), Mark Clampin (Space Telescope Science Institute), and George Hartig (Space Telescope Science Institute) and is courtesy of NASA/STScI. Copies of this report are available free of charge from: Space Studies Board National Research Council 500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001 Copyright 2003 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, aniMeditine 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. Bruce M. Alberts 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 communi- ties. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts and Dr. Wm. A. Wulf are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council. www. nationa I -academ ies.org
COMMITTEE ON THE ORIGIN AND EVOLUTION OF LIFE JONATHAN LUNINE, University of Arizona, Co-chair JOHN BAROSS, University of Washington, Co-chair LUANN BECKER, University of California, Santa Barbara STEVEN A. BENNER, University of Florida JOSEPH A. BERRY, Carnegie Institution/Stanford University WENDY M. CALVIN, University of Nevada, Reno DAVID DEAMER, University of California, Santa Cruz MARILYN FOGEL, Carnegie Institution of Washington KATHERINE H. FREEMAN, Pennsylvania State University J. PETER GOGARTEN, University of Connecticut NORMAN PACE, University of Colorado SANDRA PIZZARELLO, Arizona State University DAVID A. STAHL, University of Washington LUCY M. ZIURYS, University of Arizona DAVID H. SMITH, Study DirectorSpace Studies Boarc} JOAN ESNAYRA, Study Director Board on Life Sciences ROBERT L. RIEMER, Senior Staff Officer CARMELA J. CHAMBERLAIN, Senior Project Assistant RODNEY HOWARD, Senior Project Assistant UNEDITED PREPUBLICATION DOCUMENT-DO NOT QUOTE OR CITE 1V
COMMITTEE ON THE ORIGINS AND EVOLUTION OF LIFE JONATHAN I. LUNINE, University of Arizona, Co-chair JOHN BAROSS, University of Washington, Co-chair LUANN BECKER, University of California, Santa Barbara STEVEN A. BENNER, University of Florida JOSEPH A. BERRY, Carnegie Institution/Stanford University WENDY M. CALVIN, University of Nevada, Reno DAVID DEAMER, University of California, Santa Cruz MARILYN FOGEL, Carnegie Institution of Washington KATHERINE H. FREEMAN, Pennsylvania State University J. PETER GOGARTEN, University of Connecticut NORMAN PACE, University of Colorado SANDRA PIZZARELLO, Arizona State University DAVID A. STAHL, University of Washington LUCY M. ZIURYS, University of Arizona DAVID H. SMITH, Study Director Space Studies Board JOAN ESNAYRA, Study Director Board on Life Sciences ROBERT L. RIEMER, Senior Staff Officer CARMELA J. CHAMBERLAIN, Senior Project Assistant RODNEY HOWARD, Senior Project Assistant v
SPACE STUDIES BOARD JOHN H. McELROY, University of Texas at Arlington (retired), Chair ROGER P. ANGEL, University of Arizona JAMES P. BAGIAN, National Center for Patient Safety, Veterans Health Administration ANA P. BARROS, Harvard University RETA F. BEEBE, New Mexico State University ROGER D. BLANDFORD, California Institute of Technology JAMES L. BURCH, Southwest Research Institute RADFORD BYERLY, JR., University of Colorado ROBERT E. CLELAND, University of Washington HOWARD M. EINSPAHR, Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute STEVEN H. FLAJSER, Loral Space and Communications Ltd. MICHAEL FREILICH, Oregon State University DON P. GIDDENS, Georgia Institute of Technology/Emory University RALPH H. JACOBSON, The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory (retired) MARGARET G. KIVELSON, University of California, Los Angeles CONWAY LEOVY, University of Washington BRUCE D. MARCUS, TRW, Inc. (retired) HARRY Y. McSWEEN, JR., University of Tennessee GEORGE A. PAULIKAS, The Aerospace Corporation (retired) ANNA-LOUISE REYSENBACH, Portland State University ROALD S. SAGDEEV, University of Maryland CAROLUS J. SCHRIJVER, Lockheed Martin ROBERT J. SERAFIN, National Center for Atmospheric Research MITCHELL SOGIN, Marine Biological Laboratory C. MEGAN URRY, Yale University PETER VOORHEES, Northwestern University J. CRAIG WHEELER, University of Texas, Austin JOSEPH K. ALEXANDER, Director BOARD ON LIFE SCIENCES COREY S. GOODMAN, University of California, Berkeley, Chair R. ALTA CHARD, University of Wisconsin, Madison JOANNE CHORY, Salk Institute for Biological Studies DAVID J. GALAS, Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Science BARBARA GASTEL, Texas A&M University, College Station JAMES M. GENTILE, Hope College LINDA E. GREER, Natural Resources Defense Council ED HARLOW, Harvard Medical School ELLIOT M. MEYEROWITZ, California Institute of Technology ROBERT T. PAINE, University of Washington GREGORY A. PETSKO, Brandeis University STUART L. PIMM, Columbia University JOAN B. ROSE, University of South Florida GERALD M. RUBIN, Howard Hughes Medical Institute BARBARA A. SCHAAL, Washington University RAYMOND L. WHITE, University of Utah FRAN SHARPLES, Director v~
Preface In the NASA Authorization Act of 2000, the U.S. Congress called for a National Academies' review of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and other government and nongovernment programs regarding the detection of life in the universe. Both implicit and explicit in the congressional language were concerns over whether opportunities existed to enhance NASA's program via expanded coordination and coopera- tion among relevant activities both within NASA and outside. The past few years have witnessed the discovery of planets around other stars; strong circumstantial evidence for a liquid-water ocean beneath the surface of Jupiter's moons Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto; controversial claims for biological activity in a martian meteorite; the discovery of life in extreme terrestrial environments; and a genuine revolution in our understanding and manipulation of the genetic mechanisms of the living cell. In response to the public and scientific excitement generated by these discoveries, NASA initiated a major new thrust in cross-disciplinary research activities among the biological, geological, astronomical, and planetological sci- ences. Astrobiology is motivated at its core by the goals of understanding the origin and evolution of life on Earth, the potential of life for future expansion into the cosmos, the incidence of habitable planets in the cosmos, the stability of Earth's present habitable environment, and the frequency and complexity of life elsewhere in the universe. Two major programs in NASA are relevant to the intellectual endeavor of astrobiology. One is the Astronomi- cal Search for Origins program, which uses astronomical tools to look broadly at an ensemble of scientific questions about the origins of galaxies, stars, and planetary systems including our own, and of life itself. The other is the Astrobiology program, which supports studies regarding the chemical and biological origins of life and searches for evidence of extinct or extant life beyond Earth. These two thrusts have much in common. NASA's research program includes basic research in intramural and extramural laboratories, spaceflight missions, and advanced technology development. In addition to the more traditional portfolio of research grants and investigations conducted from Earth-orbiting and interplanetary spacecraft, the program includes the NASA Astrobiology Institute (a nontraditional "institute without walls," whose members are expected to collaborate on interdisciplinary research and yet be geographically dispersed) and substantial efforts in outreach and education. The Astrobiology program includes exobiology (strictly speaking, research concerned with the origin of life and its potential existence beyond Earth) and evolutionary biology (the history and mechanisms of the diversification of terrestrial life and its convolution with Earth) that sometimes are conducted in collaboration with other agencies. An example is the exploration of Lake Vostok in Antarctica, to be conducted with the National Science Foundation
. . . vile PREFACE as a major partner.) Other agencies also support scientifically relevant work for example, research on extrem- ophiles near deep-ocean hydrothermal vents (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and in high- radiation-background environments (Department of Energy), waters of high heavy-metal content, extreme pH,3 and subfreezing conditions. Exploring at the opposite end of the spectrum of potential evolved life forms is the privately financed Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program, which uses the tools of radio astronomy to search for signatures of life outside the solar system (see Chapter 6 in this report). In response to the NASA Authorization Act of 2000 and a subsequent request from Edward J. Weller, NASA's associate administrator for the Office of Space Science, the Committee on the Origins and Evolution of Life (COEL) a joint activity reporting to the Space Studies Board and the Board on Life Sciences of the National Research Council was tasked with assessing the state of the NASA Astrobiology program and providing a report by mid-2002 presenting the following: ~ i, ~ · An assessment of the direction of the NASA Astrobiology program, focusing on (1) the program described in the 1998-1999 Astrobiology Roadmap, (2) astrobiology aspects of the 2000 Origins Roadmap, and (3) relevant portions of the Year 2000 Office of Space Science Strategic Plan; · A survey of initiatives for seeking life in the universe conducted by other U.S. federal and nongovernmen- tal groups; similar activities by foreign space agencies should also be considered; · Identification of any enhancements to the U.S. program that might be warranted; and · Recommendations for coordination of NASA efforts with those of other parties. COEL was not asked to prepare a strategy for doing research in astrobiology; such an effort would require a separate study. The present study was formally initiated when COEL met in Irvine, California, in February 2001 to outline the report and to hear comments from NASA officials and NASA Astrobiology Institute principal investigators. The committee drafted the report at its July 2001 meeting in Washington, D.C., during which it heard from officials of other federal agencies involved in astrobiology, and in November 2001 at a meeting at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, where programs to search for signals from intelligent extraterrestrial life were examined. The report was completed in February 2002 at the University of Arizona in Tucson, where technologies relevant to the search for and characterization of extrasolar planets were discussed. The text was approved by the Space Studies Board and sent to external review in April 2002. The report was revised and updated in response to reviewer comments during a meeting held in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, in May 2002 and was approved for public release the following month. Copies of this report were distributed in an unedited, Republication format in July 2002. This, the final edited text, was prepared in October 2002 and supersedes all previous versions of this report. COEL's work in drafting this report was made easier thanks to the input provided by many individuals, including the following: Charles Beichman (Jet Propulsion Laboratory), Baruch Blumberg (NASA Astrobiology Institute), Daniel Brocious (Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory), Christopher Chyba (SETI Institute), Mark Clampin (Space Telescope Science Institute), Laird Close (University of Arizona), Edward DeLong (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute), David Des Marais (NASA Ames Research Center), Frank Drake (SETI Insti- tute), Daniel Drell (Department of Energy), Jack Farmer (Arizona State University), Debra Fischer (University of California, Berkeley), Ronald Greeley (Arizona State University), Rosalind Grymes (NASA Astrobiology Insti- tute), John Hill (Large Binocular Telescope Observatory), Gerda Horneck (German Aerospace Center), Scott Hubbard (NASA Headquarters), Bruce Jakosky (University of Colorado), Margaret Leinen (National Science Foundation), Alfred McEwen (University of Arizona), Christopher McKay (NASA Ames Research Center), J. Jouzel, J.R. Petit, R. Souchez, N.I. Barkov, V.Y. Lipenkov, D. Raynaud, M. Stievenard, N.I. Vassiliev, V. Verbeke, and F. Vimeux, "More Than 200 Meters of Lake Ice Above Subglacial Lake Vostok, Antarctica," Science 286: 2138-2141, 1999. 2C.L. Van Dover, The Ecology of Deep-Sea Hydrothermal Vents, Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J., 2000. 3K.J. Edwards, P.L. Bond, T.M. Gihiring, and J.F. Banfield, "An Archaeal Iron-Oxidizing Extreme Acidophile Important in Acid Mine Drainage," Science 287: 1796-1799, 2000.
PREFACE MIX Michael Meyer (NASA Headquarters), Kenneth Nealson (University of Southern California), Hiroshi Ohmoto (Pennsylvania State University), Leslie Orgel (Salk Institute), Juan Perez-Mercader (Centro de Astrobiology, Carl Filcher (NASA Headquarters), Bruce Runnegar (University of California, Los Angeles), Peter Smith (Univer- sity of Arizona), Sean Solomon (Carnegie Institution of Washington), William Sparks (Space Telescope Science Institute), Jill Tarter (SETI Institute), and Joshua Zimmerberg (National Institutes of Health). This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council's (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 review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. The committee wishes to thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Paul Butler (Carnegie Institution of Washington); A.G.W. Cameron (Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona); Heinrich D. Holland (Harvard Univer- sity); Antonio Lazcano (Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico); Jack W. Szostak (Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Harvard Medical School, and Massachusetts General Hospital); and J. Craig Wheeler (University of Texas, Austin). Although the reviewers listed above 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 Mary Jane Osborn (University of Connecticut Health Center). Appointed by the National Research Council, she was responsible for making certain that an independent exami- nation of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully addressed. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests solely with the authoring committee and the institution.
and education. It includes exobiology (strictly speaking, research concerned with the origin of life, and its potential existence beyond Earth) and evolutionary biology (the history and mechanisms of the diversification of terrestrial life and its coevolution with Earth) that sometimes is conducted in collaboration with other agencies. An example is the exploration of Lake Vostok in Antarctica to be conducted with the National Science Foundation as a major partner. ~ Other agencies also support scientifically relevant work, for example of extremophiles near deep ocean hydrothermal vents (NOAA),2 in high-radiation background environments (DOE), waters of high heavy metal content, extreme pH,3 and subfreezing conditions. fit the opposite end of the spectrum of potential evolved life forms, there is the privately financed Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program that uses the tools of radio astronomy to search for signatures of life outside the solar system (Chapter 6). In response to the congressional language and a subsequent request from Edward J. Weller, NASA's associate administrator for the Office of Space Science, the Committee on the Origins and Evolution of Life (COEL), a joint activity reporting to the Space Studies Board and the Board on Life Sciences, was tasked with assessing the state of the NASA Astrobiology program and to provide a report by mid-2002 addressing the following: . An assessment of the direction ofthe NASA Astrobiology program, focusing on hi) the program described in the 1998-1999 astrobiology road~nap, (2) astrobiology aspects of the 2000 Origins roadmap, and (3) relevant portions of the Year 2000 Space Science Enterprise Strategic Plan; · A survey of initiatives for seeking life in the universe conducted by other U.S. federal and non-governmental groups. Similar activities by foreign space agencies should also be considered; · Identification of any enhancements to the U.S. program that might be warranted; and · Recommendations for coordination of NASA efforts with those of other parties. COEL was not asked to prepare a strategy for doing research in astrobiology; such an effort would require a separate study outside the purview of this one. The study was formally initiated when COEL Net in Irvine, California, in February 2001 to outline the report and hear convents frown NASA officials and NASA Astrobiology Institute principal investigators. It UNEDITED PREPUBLICAT1ON DOCUMENT-DO NOT QUOTE OR CITE x
Contents EXECUTIVE SUMMARY THE ROADMAPS Background of NASA's 1998-1999 Astrobiology Roadmap, 8 Content of the Astrobiology Roadmap, 9 Analysis of the 1998-1999 Astrobiology Roadmap, 12 Content of the NASA Origins Roadmap, 14 The 2000 Space Science Strategic Plan, 15 Establishment of a Community in Astrobiology, 15 Notes and References, 16 2 THE STRUCTURE OF THE NASA ASTROBIOLOGY PROGRAM The NASA Astrobiology Institute, 18 The Research and Analysis Programs, 25 Technology Development: The Primary Relationship Between NASA's Flight Programs and Astrobiology, 28 NASA Specialized Centers of Research and Training, 30 Some Fine-tuning of the Program: A Question of Balance, 30 Notes and References, 31 TOWARD MORE INTERACTION BETWEEN THE NASA ASTROBIOLOGY INSTITUTE AND THE PLANETARY AND ASTRONOMICAL SCIENCES Planetary Sciences and Astrobiology, 32 Astronomical Search for Origins and Astrobiology, 34 Enhancing Interaction Between Astrobiology and the Astronomical Search for Origins, 35 Notes and References, 36 x~ 8 18 32
. . xt! CONTENTS 4 THE ROLES OF OTHER FEDERAL AGENCIES WITH RESPECT TO ASTROBIOLOGY 37 National Science Foundation, 37 Department of Energy, 38 National Institutes of Health, 38 U.S. Department of Agriculture, 39 Notes and References, 39 INTERNATIONAL PARTNERS NASA and NAI Conceptualization of the International Relationship, 40 Centro de Astrobiology, 41 U.K. Astrobiology Forum and Network, 42 European Exo/Astrobiology Network Association, 42 The Shape of International Interactions with the NAI, 43 Notes and References, 43 6 SETI AND ASTROBIOLOGY NASA and SETI, 44 The SETI Institute, 44 Assessment of the SETI Institute, 45 Notes and References, 46 7 CONCLUSION Reference, 48 40 44 47
Dedicated to the memory of David Wynn-Wi1!1!iams (1946-2002), who epitomized the spirit of astrobiology through his research, his teaching, and his exploration offar-flung lands at the polar extremes of Earth.
We are not looking for a grand vision. We are looking for the beginnings of vision. John Baross, 2001