20 Years Building Astrobiology

2020-09-25

An introduction entitled "Centro de Astrobiología: 20 Years Building Astrobiology", signed by all the Directors of the Center over the years, tells the origin and history of the CAB in the context of astrobiological research.

Also, this issue of Astrobiology contains four articles that illustrate the breadth of research at CAB: (i) Jiménez-Serra et al. (in this issue) explore the presence of precursors and key prebiotic species in the RNA-world hypothesis in space through deep and high-sensitivity observations of the interstellar medium and of a proto-Sun. (ii) García-Descalzo et al. (in this issue) report experiments that illustrate how halophilic and psychrophilic microbes may alter the melting and freezing temperature of salty solutions and discuss the potential significance for the field of astrobiology. 

(iii) Sánchez-García et al. (in this issue) illustrate the heterogeneity of vertical biomarker profiles when sampled randomly during a Mars simulation drilling campaign in the terrestrial analog of Río Tinto sediments. This underscores the need for a suite of suitable analytical techniques for biomarker detection in planetary exploration as those used in this work for ground-truthing and validating samples collected with a prototype drill for Mars exploration. 

(iv) Finally, Fairén et al. (in this issue) describe a new instrument concept where microscopy, vibrational fingerprints of Raman spectroscopy, and the plasticity of macromolecular-affinity-based sensors are used together to detect chemical complexity that could be of biological origin, either for Mars or icy moon exploration.

The Future

The hard work and breadth of the successful projects of the past 20 years at CAB have made it possible for us to be actively engaged in the main international space projects and missions. Our diverse portfolio of accomplishments has been acknowledged by the Spanish Ministry of Science via a ‘‘María de Maeztu’’ Scientific Excellence award that funded the project ‘‘Assessing the feasibility of life as a universal phenomenon through planetary exploration.’’ This project is making it possible for us to reinforce and strengthen inter-actions between current research directions at CAB and, at the same time, promote the growth of new areas of research that will develop into new transdisciplinary and impactful projects.

The coming decade is full of new challenges and opportunities for the Centro de Astrobiología. CAB scientists will have an unprecedented opportunity to follow the mar-tian atmosphere simultaneously from three separate environmental stations that were built and are or will be operated under their leadership (REMS, TWINS, and MEDA). CAB scientists and engineers will also contribute to the operation of the RLS (Raman Laser Spectrometer) that will fly on ESA’s ExoMars mission which will deliver the Rosalind Franklin rover on Mars (to be launched in 2022).

The advent of new and more sophisticated space instrumentation, either in space telescopes or ground-based ones, will open new avenues for space research that CAB scientists are pursuing. Particularly relevant will be ESA’s PLATO mission that will search and characterize terrestrial-like planets and their atmospheres. Understanding the potentially habitable environments of the thousands of planets to be discovered, along with deciphering their remotely detected biomarkers, requires more analog research here on Earth in terms of improving our ability to understand how life can live and interact with its environments on the surface and in the deep subsurface. 

CAB has the means, the facilities, the scientists, and a nice building to tackle and contribute to the main challenges of astrobiology in the near future.


 

Fuente: UCC-CAB

Fecha: 2020-09-25

 

Documentación adjunta a la noticia:

Departments and support units

The answer to questions about life and its origin come from the combined efforts of many disciplines

Research areas

The science developed in the CAB is channeled through interdepartmental research lines

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