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The Limits of Organic Life in Planetary Systems
Recommendation 3. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration should support these kinds of space research:
Programs that combine the exploration of potential metabolic cycles with the synthetic biology of unnatural nucleic acid analogues and their building blocks and that use the results to guide the design of instruments;
Astrobiology measurements that can potentially distinguish between life on Mars (and possibly other bodies) that arrived via material ejected from Earth (or vice versa) and life that emerged on another body independently of life on Earth;
Inclusion in missions planned for Mars of instruments that detect lighter atoms, simple organic functional groups, and organic carbon to help distinguish between “replicator-first” and “metabolism-first” theories of the origin of life; similar considerations should guide inclusion of small-organic-molecule detectors that could function on the surfaces of Europa, Enceladus, and Titan; and
Consideration, in view of the discovery of evidence of liquid water-ammonia eutectics on Titan and active water geysers on Saturn’s moon Enceladus, of whether the planned missions to the solar system should be reordered to permit returning to Titan or Enceladus earlier than is now scheduled.