Modeling the Origin and Early Evolution of Life

Grant #: NNX07AV18A
Senior Scientist: David Summers

This work supports the analysis and interpretation of data derived from field studies of microbial ecosystems and from lab work. This includes data from samples collected from the field and from theoretical systems. This study attempts to model or represent analogs for the origin and early evolution of life and/or provide data for the interpretation of such systems for NASA objectives. This includes the development of techniques and data for the analysis of samples of astrobiological interest - from samples returns, to analysis of exogenous materials, to the detection of life and proteins, and to the detection of microbial activity in extreme environments. This study also includes the characterization of biogeological materials to better understand early life on Earth, its context, how it impacted the planet, and how it evolved (and, by extrapolation, how it started). In addition, this study provides laboratory modeling of processes that may have occurred in the origin and early evolution of life so that we can better understand those processes and have specific theories to compare data against. This involves both the analysis of biogeological samples collected in the field and also samples produced by abiotic reactions (as a benchmark against which to compare samples of suspected biogenic origin).