Astrobiology Roadmap

RFG proposal teams should develop ideas that are in line with the current version of the NASA Astrobiology Roadmap.  Below are summary descriptions of the focus areas within the roadmap as well as a link to the actual roadmap and several other useful documents.  Please refer to the roadmap for more detailed explanations of the goals and objectives.

Click here to access a PDF of the astrobiology roadmap document.


GOAL 1: Understand the nature and distribution of habitable environments in the universe.

Objective 1.1:  Investigate the formation and evolution of habitable planets.
Objective 1.2: Conduct indirect and direct astronomical observations of extrasolar habitable planets.

GOAL 2:  Determine any past or present habitable environments, prebiotic chemistry, and signs of life elsewhere in our Solar System.

Objective 2.1: Mars exploration, including searching for potentially habitable environments and evidence of life, as indicated by water, organic matter, atmospheric gases, and/or minerals.

Objective 2.2: Outer Solar System exploration, including conducting basic research such as modeling habitable environments on icy moons and instrumentation development to support outer solar system missions.

GOAL 3: Understand how life emerges from cosmic and planetary precursors.

Objective 3.1: Identify sources of prebiotic materials and catalysts including characterization of exogenous and endogenous sources of matter on Earth and other potentially habitable environments in the Solar System.

Objective 3.2: Identify plausible pathways for the origin and evolution of functional biomolecules.

Objective 3.3: Investigate the origins of energy transduction both conceptually and quantitatively, including the relationship between energy, complexity, and information as applied to the origin of biological systems.

Objective 3.4: Investigate the origins of cellularity and protobiological systems including artificial chemical systems.

GOAL 4: Understand how life on Earth and its planetary environment have co-evolved through geological time.

Objective 4.1: Investigate the development of Earth’s early biosphere by identifying key biological processes and their environmental consequences during the early history of Earth through biogeochemical, paleobiological, geological, and genomic studies.

Objective 4.2: Investigate the pathways and mechanisms that increased the complexity of life from microbial communities through successive levels of multicellularity.

Objective 4.3: Study the effects of extraterrestrial events upon the biosphere.

GOAL 5: Understand the evolutionary mechanisms and environmental limits of life.

Objective 5.1: Experimentally investigate and observe the evolution of genes, metabolic pathways, genomes, microbial species, and viruses. Experimentally investigate the forces and mechanisms that shape the structure, organization, and plasticity of microbial genomes.

Objective 5.2: Investigate the co-evolution of microbial communities including experimental examination of the metabolic and genetic interactions in microbial communities, including viruses, which have determined major geochemical processes and changes on Earth.

Objective 5.3: Characterize biochemical adaptations to extreme environments.

GOAL 6: Understand the principles that will shape the future of life, both on Earth and beyond.

Objective 6.1: Determine the effects of environmental changes (both those driven by anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic forces, including extraterrestrial events) on microbial ecosystems.

Objective 6.2: Explore the adaptation, survival and evolution of microbial and other organisms under environmental conditions that simulate conditions in space or on other potentially habitable planets. Establish requirements for planetary protection, and  validate roles that microorganisms might play in life support and resource acquisition during human missions envisioned by US Space Policy.

GOAL 7: Determine how to recognize signatures of life on other worlds and on early Earth, including both past and present signs of life.

Objective 7.1: Learn how to recognize and interpret any biosignatures either in ancient rocks on Earth or in the crustal materials and atmospheres of other Solar System bodies in order to characterize any ancient and/or present-day life.

Objective 7.2: Learn how to identify and measure biosignatures that can reveal the existence of life or technology through remote observations.


Other Useful Documents

Astrobiology Roadmap

2013-2022 Decadal Survey

2011 NASA Proposers' Guidebook