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The Structure of the NASA Astrobiology Program Astrobiology research at NASA is performed programmatically under three rather different structures (see Figure 2.1~: the consortium-based science of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) and the NASA Specialized Center of Research and Training (NSCORT) program; the research and analysis (R&A) programs; and the technology-development programs. Table 2.1 lists the Fiscal Year (FY) 2002 budget figures under each category. While the NAI and the technology-development programs are new, the Exobiology R&A program and the NSCORT program have been ongoing at NASA for many years. It is important to note that while the NAI is the most publicly visible part of the NASA Astrobiology program, it represents less than half of the total funding for the program and far less than half when one considers relevant research programs in related scientific disci- plines. The committee reviews each of the elements of the program in the following sections. Some rebalancing of existing elements is recommended in the final section of the chapter. Then, Chapter 3 discusses the more funda- mental issue of enhanced interaction between astrobiology and the planetary and astronomical sciences. THE NASA ASTROBIOLOGY INSTITUTE Summary Properties of the Institute The NASA Astrobiology Institute began operations in 1998. The planned initial budget was approximately $4 million to $6 million, rising to an anticipated annual budget of $18 million in FY 2003. The funds are derived from NASA's Office of Space Science (Code S), with small contributions from the Office of Biological and Physical Research (Code U) and the Office of Earth Science (Code Y). The director of NASA's Ames Research Center appoints the NAI director, with the concurrence of the relevant enterprise associate administrators at NASA Headquarters. Nobel laureate biologist Barry Blumberg succeeded the first director, Scott Hubbard of the Ames Research Center, in 1999. Blumberg stepped down in April 2002, to be succeeded by a new director. The director has his or her own Science Advisory Council to provide advice on broad issues relating to the NAI. An Executive Council, consisting of the principal investigators (PIs) of the NAI' s component parts (nodes), guides the management of the NAI, and the broader astrobiological scientific community defines new research directions though regular workshops that address the entire research area of astrobiology. 18

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THE STRUCTURE OF THE NASA ASTROBIOLOGY PROGRAM / / - Exobiology Research and analysis programs FIGURE 2.1 The three pillars of NASA's Astrobiology program today. The Organization of the NAI 19 Consortium-based science NAI \ NSCORT \ ASTI D Instrument development for exploration The members of the NAI are organizations, not individuals (see Table 2.2 for a list of the lead institutions and their demographics). The 15 university and research center teams were selected in two phases as institute mem- bers, on the basis of competitive proposals that included both planned research programs and institutional commit- ments (with nonfederal funds) to astrobiology. NASA supports the nodes through cooperative agreements with Ames Research Center for an initial term of 5 years, with the opportunity to recompute for renewal every 5 years TABLE 2.1 FY 2002 Funding (in FY 2002 dollars) of Major NASA Astrobiology Program Elements Program Funding (in millions of dollars) Consortium-based NAI NSCORT Research and analysis Exobiology Evolutionary Biology Technology development ASTID ASTEP 18 2 8.6 1.3 6 NOTE: Only programs specifically tagged as part of the NASA Astro- biology program are included.

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20 TABLE 2.2 Demographics of the 15 NAI Nodes LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE Primary Participants Principal At Host At Other Other NAI Nodes Investigator Node NAI Nodes U.S. International Totals Ames Research Center David Des Marais 27 8 23 7 65 Arizona State University Jack Farmer 40 3 10 0 53 University of California, Los Angeles Bruce Runnegar 45 3 4 5 57 Carnegie Institution of Washington Sean C. Solomon 24 1 11 0 36 University of Colorado Bruce Jakosky 27 0 2 0 29 Harvard University Andrew H. Knoll 11 0 20 1 32 Jet Propulsion Laboratory (1) Kenneth H. Nealson 7 6 41 1 55 Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2) Victoria S. Meadows 8 3 6 0 17 Johnson Space Center David McKay 14 2 14 0 30 Marine Biology Laboratory Mitchell Sogin 15 0 8 5 28 Michigan State University Michael Thomashow 3 0 5 0 8 Pennsylvania State University Hiroshi Ohmoto 64 7 33 14 118 University of Rhode Island Steven D'Hondt 3 0 2 0 5 Scripps Institute M. Reza Ghadiri 19 0 3 0 22 University of Washington Peter D. Ward 18 5 4 0 27 SOURCES: NASA Astrobiology Institute, Annual Science Report: Year 2, July 1999-June 2000, CD-ROM, Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., 2001. Data for the following nodes: Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2), Michigan State University, University of Rhode Island, and University of Washington, were taken from their research proposals, posted on the NAI Web site. within a total planned institute lifetime of at least 20 years. Further detail on the work being done by each of the nodes appears in the NAI's annual report.) Were NAI money to be spread evenly among the approximately 720 researchers (this does not include students) listed by the 15 nodes, the average annual grant would be roughly $25,000. (This is a modest overesti- mate, as NASA Ames retains a fraction for centralized administrative activities.) In fact, based on discussions with researchers from several NAI nodes, the committee found that the distribution of resources within the NAI is far from uniform, with many researchers receiving little or no NAI support at all, while others rely on it as the primary driver of their program. Conversely, the selected universities made a major commitment to the NAI in their proposals, including faculty positions, cost-sharing on equipment, and other financial commitments that add perhaps 20 to 30 percent to the total amount of the commitment. Nonetheless, it is clear that the NAI will not be the principal source of funding for most researchers in astrobiology, even within the NAI itself. COEL does not recommend a change of course in this regard, because the NAI works as a catalyst of research in astrobiology. Researchers and educators stimulated to pursue astrobiology by involvement in the NAI will, and should, continue to seek funding from a range of public and private sources for their own research programs. The Role of the NAI The NAI identifies its purpose as follows: . . mlsslons; Exploring new approaches using modern information technology to conduct interdisciplinary and collabo- rative research among widely distributed investigators; and ~ ~7 Carrying out, supporting, and catalyzing collaborative interdisciplinary research; Training the next generation of astrobiology researchers; Providing scientific and technical leadership on astrobiology investigations for current and future space

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Angeles; THE STRUCTURE OF THE NASA ASTROBIOLOGY PROGRAM 21 Supporting outreach by providing scientific content for K-12 education programs, teaching undergraduate classes, and communicating directly with the public. The NAI itself sponsors regular astrobiology workshops, as well as more focused programs in response to research opportunities or NASA requirements. It brings together the astrobiology community to chart the future and provide new ideas to NASA planners. The NAI sponsors the biennial scientific conference in astrobiology, which began in 2000. A Director's Discretionary Fund is used to support innovative research ideas with seed money and to encourage scientists at member organizations to undertake unconventional and risky projects that address fundamental questions in astrobiology. A NASA Astrobiology Postdoctoral Fellow program,2 adminis- tered by the National Research Council, selects talented young astrobiology researchers and supports them directly in order to facilitate work that cuts across departmental and institutional boundaries. These fellows are encouraged to spend time at more than one organization in order to help bind together the members of the institute. Focus Groups The NAI is also charged with advising NASA on requirements for new technology or specific flight missions needed to obtain critical data in the space environment related to astrobiological questions. An example is pro- vided by NASA's focus on Mars exploration, including the search for evidence of past (fossilized) life and the possibility of extant ecosystems surviving on Mars today.3 While the NAI was not directly involved in shaping the architecture of the current Mars program, it created a focus group of interested scientists whose input on site selection was presented in a unified form through unpublished white papers.4 In addition, a group of the NAI PIs (i.e., the principal investigator of one of the 15 node teams; see Table 2.2) formulated a white paper on the astrobiological value of different types of martian samples in 1999.5 Perhaps the most visible of the NAI programs, one conceived and encouraged by Director Blumberg, was the establishment of focus groups to examine specific topical areas relevant to astrobiology. While scientists within the NAI lead the focus groups, membership on a subset of the groups has been openly advertised and is available to all interested scientists. Much of the work of the focus groups is done by e-mail and some by videoconferencing, with occasional face-to-face meetings at convenient times. Active focus groups as of the end of 2001, with their chairs listed, are the following: Mars J. Farmer, Arizona State University; Ecogenomics D. Des Marais, Ames Research Center, and M. Sogin, Marine Biology Laboratory; Mission to Early Earth A. Anbar, University of Rochester, and S. Mojzsis, University of Colorado; Evogenomics S.B. Hedges, Pennsylvania State University, and J. Lake, University of California, Los Europa R. Greeley, Arizona State University; and Astromaterials D. McKay, Johnson Space Center. The committee commends the NAI for creating the focus groups, which have enabled extensive interactions between the NAI and the larger community in astrobiology and related fields. This has particularly been the case for the focus groups that have been openly advertised and made available to all interested participants. The Quality of Research The foundational activity of the NAI nodes is intended to be collaborative, cross-disciplinary research on astrobiological problems. Using electronic communications technologies, research teams are supposed to freely interact over large distances, to the extent that laboratory experiments at one facility might be conducted remotely from another institution. This "virtual" aspect of the NAI has not yet been properly implemented. Nonetheless, the research coming from the 15 teams overall is vigorous and in many cases truly cross-disciplinary. The science coming from the NAI teams, judging from the number of publications and quality of the journals publishing the research, is

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22 LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE 1. Sources of Organics on Earth 2. Origin of Life's Cellular Components 3. Models for Life 4. Genomic Clues to Evolution 5. Linking Planetary and Biological Evolution 6. Microbial Ecology 7. Extremes of Life 8. Past and Present Life on Mars 9. Life's Precursors and Habitats 10. Natural Migration of Life 11. Origin of Habitable Planets 12. Effects of Climate and Geology on Habitability 13. Extrasolar Biomarkers 14. Ecosystem Response to Rapid Environmental Change 15. Earth's Future Habitability 16. Bringing Life with Us Beyond Earth 17. Planetary Protection 18. Currently Does Not Fit into Categories Number of Projects Addressing This Objective 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 FIGURE 2.2 NASA Astrobiology Institute research project areas in 2001. SOURCE: NASA Astrobiology Institute. of high quality. (Long-standing journals in the field include Icarus and Origin of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere; as mentioned in Chapter 1, two new journals publishing in the field are Astrobiology and The International Journal of Astrobiology.) A detailed summary of the research from 2001 on an institution-by-institution basis appears in the NAI annual report.6 Figure 2.2 is a chart from the NAI showing the general areas of research. Student Participation At the 2001 NAI General Meeting, COEL members conducted an informal discussion with graduate students enrolled at NAI lead institutions that revealed considerable enthusiasm for the program. Students recognized that they were part of a special experiment, and they were energized by the opportunity to conduct research across disciplinary boundaries not crossed by students in traditional programs. It was evident from the discussions and a follow-up survey that students who were resident at the NAI lead institutions felt connected and involved with the NAI, while those at other campuses within the nodes did not feel as much enthusiasm for the workings of the institute. Since that time, an NAI Web site has been established to highlight programs specifically directed at student involvement in NAI activities. The NAI can enhance opportunities for astrobiology students by providing an easily accessible and updated list of internships and fellowships not funded by the NAI and the Astrobiology program. For example, the Planetary Biology Internship, a NASA-funded program, has for a number of years

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THE STRUCTURE OF THE NASA ASTROBIOLOGY PROGRAM 23 enabled the incorporation of American and foreign graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in NASA- supported laboratories. One of the major concerns that both groups of students, those at lead (i.e., nodes) and collaborating sites, had was the potential for future employment. It is a specific objective of the NAI to train the next generation of astrobiological researchers. However, it is unknown how many of these students will end up in positions within the current NAI nodes, will move to other universities to found programs in astrobiology, or will go to work in more traditional academic disciplines or in industry. As positive as the students' experiences appear to be, it is important not to overstate the impact that the NAI has had on the quality of the graduate programs themselves. For example, a number of graduate programs deal with scientific areas central to astrobiology yet are not a part of the NAI, and provide students with top-quality graduate training in research. Strong student satisfaction is evident in those programs as well, according to other studies (e.g., the Sloan survey). Many of these programs are also training grounds for future astrobiologists, and it is important to recognize and foster excellence in all such programs, regardless of whether they are members of the NAI. Issues COEL has identified a number of concerns regarding the NAI that it strongly recommends be taken up by the new director and by NASA Headquarters. They include the following: Implementation of the virtual institute concept, Perception of the NAI membership, Barriers to research collaborations, and Recompetition for NAI membership. Each of these issues is dealt with in detail below. Implementation of the Virtual Institute Concept Although the NAI has not yet achieved its goal of being a virtual institute, significant progress has been made in the past year through the efforts of the individual PIs. The committee believes that the virtual institute concept still remains a goal central to the NAI. Although the lead institutions in each of the 11 original nodes (and later, those of the 4 newly selected nodes) were equipped early on with high-quality videoconferencing capability, the same was not true of the collaborating institutions within individual nodes. Hence, the lead institutions could videoconference with each other but not with their collaborators in the more numerous, secondary institutions. Videoconferencing therefore became a means to hold monthly meetings of the NAI Executive Committee, but little else. Likewise, the promise of very-high-bandwidth Internet capability suffusing the entire NAI has not been realized, so that most interactions among researchers occur using the standard Internet capabilities affordable by most universities. Ames Research Center and NAI's director have recognized these shortcomings and are working to correct them, although fully wiring the entire cohort of member institutions with high-bandwidth Internet and videoconferencing service may be beyond the budgetary scope of the current NAI. COEL recognizes that some might question whether a substantial electronic infrastructure is necessary or even desirable for the conduct of scientific research. The committee offers two responses. First, the original charter of the NAI included the institute's responsibility to test and demonstrate electronic communications technologies as a means to validate or falsify the hypothesis that a geographically distributed network of researchers could be better brought together with such technologies. COEL believes that the NAI has a responsibility to carry through on this mandate. Second, the committee heard the most enthusiasm for advanced electronic networking capability from precisely those NAI researchers who lack it namely, those who are not at the lead institutions and desire

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24 LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE closer interactions with colleagues there. Given this desire for such capability, the committee believes that the NAI should press forward to enable it. Recommendation NASA should critically review the electronic communication needs and costs required to make the NASA Astrobiology Institute a virtual institute along the lines of the original vision established by NASA's Ames Research Center and the advisory committees tasked with evaluating the institute concept. Upgrades to accomplish this vision ought to be in place by the time the next round of node selections is made. Perception of the NAI Membership The NAI concept has inadvertently cast a shadow on institutions that have hitherto played lead roles in disciplines foundational to astrobiology but which, for various reasons, were not selected for NAI membership. Lead institutions in the NAI are labeled and treated differently by NASA Headquarters, by NASA centers, and by the press, than are other institutions that also have a long and distinguished track record in the space and biological sciences. Many non-NAI universities have made significant investments of their own in research infrastructure, through nonfederal funding that represents value added to the Astrobiology program. The dangers inherent in excessive canonization of NAI's lead institutions is that the field will actually contract rather than expand, as non- NAI institutions with potentially important roles to play in astrobiology see doors closing and hence realign their own research priorities. COEL does not believe that NASA intended this to be the outcome of the formation of the NAI, but it may well turn out to be so. Recommendation As a new interdisciplinary scientific endeavor, astrobiology spans a much larger volume of intellectual and capital resources than the NASA Astrobiology Institute itself. In its public materials, NASA should emphasize the broad base of national scientific capability in astrobiology, which is stabilized by three types of programs (consortium science, individual principal investigator research, and technology-development pro- grams) and not just the institute itself. Barriers to Research Collaborations While research interactions within the NAI are generally good (excluding the communications problems outlined above), scientific interaction with researchers outside the NAI is much more limited. The perception of many researchers both within and outside the NAI is that the institute represents the centrality, if not the totality, of the research infrastructure in astrobiology. When faced with the need to go outside their own discipline for collaborative help, researchers inside the NAI tend to seek out others within the institute structure itself, even when more appropriate or accomplished collaborators might be found outside the NAI. Conversely, astrobiology researchers outside the NAI, even well-known or distinguished ones, find that they must breach an extra layer of unfamiliarity or even skepticism in trying to interact with, or participate in, NAI activities. The result is a kind of science enclave embedded within a much larger science community, separated by a low-permeability barrier. This barrier is not healthy for the development of astrobiology as a scientific discipline. COEL wonders as well whether students nurtured within this cocoonlike environment will truly be prepared to interact with the much larger scientific community beyond the NAI. The NAI itself should encourage collaborations not merely within the institute but with outside investigators and facilities as well. Recommendation The administration of the NASA Astrobiology Institute should consider an incentive in which the nodes are rewarded for broadening intellectual involvement in their research beyond the NAI boundaries. In particu-

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THE STRUCTURE OF THE NASA ASTROBIOLOGY PROGRAM 25 far, ensuring that the focus groups are open for participation by all interested parties will strengthen their effectiveness in fostering such interactions. Recompetition It is important that the NAI have fluidity of programs and nodes that both reward superior work by existing groups and allow for novel ideas and new institutions to participate in this important experiment. Programs of larger scale require a longer time for consummation of work than do smaller-scale programs, but it is important to establish time limits and review processes to refresh the endeavor. Recommendation The current NASA Astrobiology Institute nodes should conduct careful, internal, nonadvocate reviews of their own programs to ensure that they continue to fulfill the original intent of the NAI in establishing astrobiology as a field of study. These reviews should honestly and frankly assess the extent to which the NAI model has been responsible for new discoveries and insights that traditional research and analysis programs might not be able to foster. NAI nodes should be required to reapply every 5 years for membership in the NAI. Weaker nodes should be retired so that the NAI has an opportunity to benefit from new ideas and approaches. THE RESEARCH AND ANALYSIS PROGRAMS In addition to the NAI, another important component of NASA's Astrobiology activities are the R&A pro- grams devoted to research in exobiology and evolutionary biology.7 Exobiology is a long-standing program within NASA, and in large measure it provided many of the discoveries that catalyzed astrobiology; the program devoted to evolutionary biology is a new one. R&A programs, far from being a remnant of the "old" way of doing business, are essential to maintaining the scientific vigor of the disciplines captured under the term astrobiology. They will continue to be the means by which the majority of newly minted researchers establish their programs, and by which the majority of NASA-funded scientists involved in astrobiology-related topics generate new knowledge and train new students. For most researchers within the NAI itself, R&A programs remain the principal means of garnering research funding. Research and analysis programs periodically undergo a critical reevaluation of their utility in the context of the current NASA scientific mission. This is healthy, but it must always be done predicated on the basic realization that the programs are competitive. Exobiology emerged as a grants program at NASA more than 30 years ago, as a way to fund ground-based basic research dealing with the origin of life on Earth and potential environments elsewhere in which life might existparticularly on Mars. It has since developed into a substantial program supporting the research of some 100 principal investigators, mostly in the United States but with some international collaboration as well. Research grants in the Exobiology program are typically able to support a postdoctoral associate and a graduate student, with small amounts available for travel and supplies. The program has also supported fieldwork, for instance, to collect microfossils and rock specimens related to early life. Because it is important to understand the extent of the scientific accomplishments of this program, which provided a foundation to much of the research in astrobiology, a more detailed examination of the Exobiology program is presented in Box 2.1. The goals of the research and analysis program in Evolutionary Biology are to determine the following: How life and planets convolve over time, How life can become globally stable and persistent, The mechanisms for and the likelihood of major steps seen in terrestrial evolution (such as multicellularity) taking place once life arises, What the possible detectable signatures of extraterrestrial biospheres (in all stages of evolution) are, and

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26 LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE

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THE STRUCTURE OF THE NASA ASTROBIOLOGY PROGRAM 27

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28 LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE What the long-term stability of ecosystems is including macroscopic and microscopic organisms that may be exported to support long-duration human exploration beyond Earth. Although the research goals of the Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology activities are central to addressing some of the core questions in astrobiology, NASA's Astrobiology program in total is defined with much broader scope than is either of these programs singly or combined (see Chapter 1~. That is, Astrobiology includes the origin of planetary systems and the search for extrasolar planets at one end of an evolutionary temporal sequence, and encompasses the human presence in space at the other. With respect to the two former topics, there are other R&A activities within NASA important to astrobiology. Notable among these are the Origins of Solar Systems and the Cosmochemistry programs. COEL does not advocate the movement of these two programs in particular, or others, into the Astrobiology program at NASA Headquarters, because they support many worthy projects not directly related to the central themes of astrobiology. However, in reckoning the sum total of science responsive to the Astrobiology and Origins Roadmaps and the Office of Space Science Strategic Plan, grants under these programs are relevant. COEL commends NASA for recognizing the long-term and continuing high value of research and analysis programs within and related to NASA Astrobiology. These and comparable programs are essential to the contin- ued scientific vigor of astrobiology through the introduction of new ideas and researchers to the program. COEL offers no advice on whether the Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology programs should be merged, except to point out that other research and analysis programs exist that also partially support Astrobiology goals (e.g., Origins of Solar Systems). There is a programmatic tradition in NASA of maintaining the identity of interrelated disciplines through well-focused research and analysis programs, for example in the planetary sciences. TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT: THE PRIMARY RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN NASA'S FLIGHT PROGRAMS AND ASTROBIOLOGY To date, the only significant formal interactions between flight programs and elements of NASA's Astrobiol- ogy program have been with regard to missions to Mars and, to a much lesser extent, Europa. The NAI has taken a formal position on the utility of various kinds of returned martian samples (so-called grab bags versus docu- mented samples selected for their astrobiological interest), has played a role in landing-site selection for missions under development, and has held workshops and discussions about life detection and planetary protection. Be- cause the state of exploration of Europa is much less advanced, there has been less opportunity for organized elements of the Astrobiology program to influence the mission development process. However, the NAI has organized focus groups on both Mars and Europa, which have provided a useful and generally applauded mecha- nism for structured discussions on astrobiological themes related to these two bodies. The Astrobiology Science and Technology Instrument Development (ASTID) program provides an opportu- nity to fund advanced-concept studies for flight instruments that address astrobiological goals on a wide range of solar system bodies.8 Such concepts include, for example, the development of advanced sensors that could look on-orbit for signatures of habitable environments in selected locations on Mars. Other concepts funded under ASTID can be found on the NASA Office of Space Science Web site, where titles and PIs of all funded proposals are listed after selection. Recommendation Although the Astrobiology program's present level of involvement in flight missions is appropriate, NASA is cautioned against attempting to force the NASA Astrobiology Institute or other elements of Astro- biology into an artificially focused role of trying to design specific "astrobiology missions." While individual NAI investigators are encouraged to propose instrument concepts or whole Discovery-class (or equivalent) missions, NASA should be careful not to bias the usual peer-review selection process for instruments and missions by specially labeling proposals proffered by NAI investigators.

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THE STRUCTURE OF THE NASA ASTROBIOLOGY PROGRAM 29 The ASTID program and its new counterpart for the development of advanced instrument concepts for exploring extreme environments on Earth the Astrobiology Science and Technology for Exploring Planets, or ASTEP, program represent the third component of a triad of opportunities in NASA Astrobiology. This triad promotes individual peer-reviewed research (R&A), collaborative research of larger scale (NAI and NSCORT), and technology development to take advantage of and to inform these research efforts through novel instrumentation. The Planetary Instrument Definition and Development Program (PIDDP) provides an important historical lesson, in that a number of instrument concepts that eventually flew on planetary missions were originally developed under PIDDP funding. ASTID provides an opportunity to conceive of and breadboard lightweight or even miniaturized instruments designed to address central science objectives of astrobiology site selection, analysis of organics, search for life, and so on. After an initial selection of concepts in 2002, a second round will focus on the following topics: The handling of samples collected for astrobiological objectives; The in situ detection of possible biomarkers such as isotopic and organic measurements; and The development of novel access technologies such as drilling into rock or deep drilling into subsurface bedrock, soil, or ice. Typical ASTID awards range from $30,000 to $300,000 per year, for a maximum of 3 years. This is enough to test breadboard concepts but not to produce flight hardware (or even intermediate, brassboard, hardware). Although the ASTID program will consider novel instrumentation for use in the laboratory or in terrestrial environments, this is not the central intent of the program. NASA instituted the ASTEP program to address at least some of these parallel goals. Insofar as other federal agencies also fund terrestrial and laboratory-instrument development, COEL agrees with the priority set by NASA that put ASTID in place first, but is pleased that ASTEP is now under way as well. COEL also notes that another program, referred to as the Extrasolar Planets Advanced Missions Concepts (EPAMC) program, exists at NASA and covers the development of ideas for novel missions to detect and characterize extrasolar planets. In this opportunity, proposals were solicited for the following activities: Missions that can provide a deep survey for Earth-like planets around nearby stars, as well as a broad survey for more massive planets around more distant stars, and determine the masses of any Earth-like planets that are found; Missions that can provide either scientific or technical support to the scientific aims of the Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF) mission (a top priority of the most recent astronomy and astrophysics decadal surveyor; and Development and/or validation activities (either ground-based or through low-cost space flight) that will provide significant technology in support of the TPF mission science goals. The EPAMC program selected six proposals for a 6-month preliminary study; four of these will receive an additional 6 months of funding. Approximate yearlong average funding is $200,000 per concept. Together with the competed Discovery and Midex mission lines, the ASTID, recently initiated ASTEP, PIDDP, and EPAMC programs provide a range of opportunities to propose instrument and mission concepts in support of astrobiology. Recommendation NASA should continue the two astrobiology technology programs, Astrobiology Science and Technol- ogy Instrument Development, and Astrobiology Science and Technology for Exploring Planets, and in addi- tion the Planetary Instrument Definition and Development Program (in the Solar System Exploration pro- gram) and the Extrasolar Planets Advanced Missions Concepts program (in the Astronomical Search for Origins program) as part of the efforts to detect life in this and other planetary systems.

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30 LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE NASA SPECIALIZED CENTERS OF RESEARCH AND TRAINING The NASA Specialized Center of Research and Training (NSCORT) program represents a kind of consortium science, distinct from that of the NAI, in which collaborating investigators are co-located at the same or adjacent institutions. While NASA originally funded NSCORT activities in a variety of life science disciplines, only two dedicated to exobiology remain, at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. These centers underwent a thorough review in 2001, with a very positive report issued by the review committee (chaired by Sean Solomon of the Carnegie Institution of Washington). Of particular note is the empha- sis on graduate education at these programs. The much older UCSD program, in existence for over a decade, has produced a large number of doctorates in areas central to astrobiology, and many of these people are now active in their own right within this research area. In addition to having been in existence much longer than at NAI (i.e., at least at UCSD), the NSCORT program provides an important alternative approach to consortium science from that practiced by the NAI. While the NAI constitutes an experiment in the use of electronic technology to implement collaborative science among widely dispersed institutions, the NSCORT activities have no such requirement. Their mission instead is to focus on graduate training, a job they have done well. The vigor of astrobiology is such that the two types of consortia complement each other. For these reasons, the committee finds the NSCORT program to be highly worthy of continuation. Recommendation The NASA Specialized Center of Research and Training (NSCORT) program should continue as a distinct approach to localized consortium science. It should continue in parallel with the NASA Astrobiology Institute and should neither be altered in an attempt to fit the NAI mold, nor merged with the NAI. SOME FINE-TUNING OF THE PROGRAM: A QUESTION OF BALANCE The Astrobiology program as presently constituted is moving toward a desirable state of balance among programs of consortium science, individual PI science, and technology development directed toward future exploration of terrestrial and planetary environments. This is the correct direction of evolution. However, while the consortium-science and technology-development programs are ramping up in funding amounts, the R&A portion has begun to lag behind. While COEL sees no danger in the immediate future, the long-term scientific vigor of the Astrobiology program and its ability to retain researchers newly minted in astrobiology will be undermined if this trend continues. A small investment by NASA, certainly less than $10 million, would rectify this emerging weakness. Recommendation NASA should ensure a balance of astrobiological research activity among its research and analysis programs (i.e., the current Exobiology and planned Evolutionary Biology programs), its technology programs (i.e., the Astrobiology Science and Technology Instrument Development program and the Astrobiology Science and Technology for Exploring Planets program), and the NASA Astrobiology Institute. A well- balanced triad of science and technology efforts expressed through these programs will ensure the long-term vigor of astrobiological research. Figure 2.3 illustrates the committee's suggestion for how NASA's Astrobiology program might look as a triad of consortium science, traditional or individual principal investigator research, and technology development toward future exploration opportunities. The recommendation on NSCORT is reflected in its separate callous in the figure, within the consortium-based science category. Finally, COEL calls attention to a potential weakness in a key discipline of astrobiology that might be rectified with the help of the NAI. Although the NAI histogram of research projects areas in Figure 2.2 shows a significant number of projects related to the origin of organics on Earth and the origin of life's cellular components, the actual

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THE STRUCTURE OF THE NASA ASTROBIOLOGY PROGRAM / Exobiology, Evolutionary biology Research and analysis programs FIGURE 2.3 A balanced, long-term program in astrobiology. 31 Consortium-based science NAI \ NSCORT \ ASTI D, ASTER Instrument development for exploration number of laboratories and young researchers involved in prebiotic chemistry is small. While it is true that new approaches (e.g., hot-vent chemistry) are actively supported by the NAI, the demographics of the ongin-of-life community indicate that many major researchers in the field devoted to prebiotic chemistry have retired or are not active any more. While it is likely that faculty positions will continue to be opened in the future for those devoted to RNA-related research phylogenetic studies and biogeochem~stry, for instance the continuation and develop- ment of U.S.-based laboratories devoted to prebiotic chemistry probably merit more attention from the NAI. NOTES AND REFERENCES 1. Available on the NAI Web site at . 2. Details are available online at . 3. J.D. Farmer, "Thermophiles, Early Biosphere Evolution, and the Origin of Life on Earth: Implications for the Exobiological Exploration of Mars," Journal of Geophysical Research 103: 28457-28461, 1998. 4. More details are available online at . 5. The white paper is available directly from Jack Farmer and Ronald Greeley of Arizona State University. 6. More details are available online at . 7. For clarity, COEL uses the terms exobiology and Exobiology to distinguish between, respectively, a broad area of scientific study and the NASA program. 8. More details are available online at . 9. Board on Physics and Astronomy/Space Studies Board, National Research Council, Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millen- nium, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 2001.