Exploring Planetary Habitability and Life

Grant #: NNX13AO07G
Senior Scientist: Nathalie Cabrol

For the past 15 years, through cooperative agreements NCC 2-1064 (1998-2001), NCC 2-1328 (2002-2005), NNA05CS77A (2005-2008), and NNX09AE80A_S09 (2008-2013), continuous collaboration between Principal Investigator (PI) Nathalie Cabrol (SETI Institute, Carl Sagan Center) and NASA Ames has produced forefront science and technology demonstrations, and numerous publications on the key themes of Planetary Exploration and Astrobiology pursued by Ames. Results are being acknowledged by NASA through continuous funding, honors and awards. NNX09AE80A_S09 will end at the end of 2013. Therefore, here we present a new proposal that builds on our experience and results obtained over the years, and the new collaborations developed through recent projects. 

 Our overarching goal is to continue to foster a new vision of  planetary exploration for NASA by developing new science exploration strategies and tools that will increase the science return of future missions, and support the science of ongoing and upcoming missions. The tasks described herein will help achieve this goal through three primary themes: (1) Science and technology demonstrations of new mission concepts for the robotic exploration of Titan (lake lander) and Mars (rover carrying a 1-m drill to search for subsurface life, see Sections 1 and 2); (2) Adaptive Science, that will increase the science return of future missions by producing robots that will become aware of their environment, will understand nominal and off-nominal conditions and mission priorities, and make decisions about sampling and target documentation strategies. Adaptive science is a critical theme for the future of NASA and a recurring activity across all of our primary themes (see Section 1. Obj. 2, Tasks 2 & 3; Section 3, Goal 2, Task 3, and Section 4); and (3) Science in support to the ongoing Mars Exploration Rover mission and to the landing site selection of the Mars 2020 mission (Section 3).