Astrobiology



 Astrobiology at DLR-PF
zum Bild Astrobiology at DLR-PF
  • Experimental Habitability Studies  Planetary and Mars simulation
  • HOME
  • Planetary Analog Field Studies (Arctic, Alpine Permafrost, Antarctica)
  • Space Experiments (on the ISS)
  • Biosignatures / Biotraces
  • Cooperation Partners

Experimental Habitability Studies --> Planetary and Mars simulation

In addition to model calculations which are performed in our institute to find out the possibilities of planets in our solar system and on exoplanets, the experimental work is designed to test the effect of simulated planetary environments on (micro-) organisms. Results gained by these experiments are clarifying to which degree the planets and moons might be habitable for terrestrial (micro-) organisms. If organisms are able to survive or even to be active during the planetary simulation conditions, the planet of interest is habitable. The experiments take place in our Mars Simulation Facility (MSF) which can also be used as alternative planet simulation device where another atmosphere with up to 5 gas mixtures can be simulated. Temperatures and different humidity scales can also be operated. Details please have a look on the MSF.

HOME: Habitability of Martian Environments: Exploring the Physiological and Environmental Limits of Life

  • Approved (ERC Advanced Grant 2013 Research proposal)
  • P-I: Prof. Dr. Dirk Schulze-Makuch (TU Berlin, Washington State University)
  • Co-P-I: Dr. Jean-Pierre Paul de Vera (DLR, Institute of Planetary Research, Berlin)

General summary of the project HOME

The low average temperature and low water activity of the Martian near-surface environment makes it challenging for living organisms to persist and propagate. Nonetheless, recent mission results indicate that environmental conditions exceed locally and temporarily the lower thresholds for life to exist. Furthermore, specific soil minerals, or combinations thereof, appear to provide a suitable habitat for microbial life, especially if associated with low-temperature brines or hygroscopic salts. Thus, a quantitative understanding of the habitability potential of the Martian near-surface environment, past and present, is very much needed and the focus of HOME. To achieve this objective, it is planned to test different types of soils and some of Earth’s hardiest organisms, using them as models (‘Mars-analogues’), to see if they can survive and perhaps even grow under the various environmental stresses known to exist on Mars. A major tool of the laboratory investigations will be the experimentally proven state-of-the-art Mars Simulation Chamber at the German Aero Space Center, to which various soils materials and microorganisms will be exposed. The planned experimental investigations and models will be concurrently updated by analyzed mission data, particularly from landers and rovers (e.g., Curiosity Rover), to adjust this work to the newest Martian geochemical and environmental data available. Results from the HOME-related work will timely provide critical scientific knowledge to interpret incoming data from ESA’s ExoMars mission, which is scheduled for launch in 2016/2018. As one important deliverable of this work will also be to construct a Mars Soil Analyzer, an instrument which will be designed for a future mission to Mars with the objective to achieve Technology Readiness Level 6 at the completion of the proposed study.

Planetary Analog Field Studies (Arctic, Alpine Permafrost, Antarctica)

The study of geomorphological or geologically relevant planetary environments on Earth with a certain increased irradiation income (e.g. UV radiation), very low or very high temperatures and very dry conditions is prerequisite for the search of microorganisms in such niches which might have a chance or even might be able to live in extra-terrestrial environments such as e.g. the planet Mars. The study of life’s activity in the field as well as in the lab and under simulated planetary conditions is important for searching for the right “biosignatures” and “biotraces” on these other worlds and for classifying other planets as habitable for terrestrial life forms or as objects which are inhabitable. Tests for instruments with a potential to detect life in such kind of environments are foreseen in the near future.

In the past first steps to this research enterprise were started in the GANOVEX 10 expedition to the high mountains of the Antarctic North Victoria Land (2009/10) and in diverse measuring campaigns in the Alpine Permafrost. Results from the Arctic are available by the AMASE project. New campaigns are planned within the next years by participation to expeditions in the Arctic and Antarctica (GANOVEX 11) as well as by campaigns in the alpine permafrost (2012/13).

Space Experiments (on the ISS)

Due to the financial support of the Helmholtz-Alliance “Planetary Evolution and Life” the work on data obtained by previous experiments within the project LIFE (Lichen and fungi experiment) on the International Space Station (ISS) during the EXPOSE-EuTEF was finalized (Onofri et al. 2012, de Vera et al. 2012).
A new experiment, named BIOMEX is planned on the ISS (de Vera 2012, Baqué et al. 2013). The launch is April 2014 and the experiment is scheduled to be in space in maximum 18 months. For more details, please look on this link BIOMEX.

Biosignatures / Biotraces

A working group consisting of colleagues of the Mars Simulation Facility (MSF), the Raman-Lab and colleagues of the University of Hohenheim (Stuttgart), the BIOMEX-team (23 international institutes), TU and FU Berlin are working on the characterization and definition of “biosignatures/biotraces”.
Biosignatures or biotraces are typical molecules which are supposed to be produced only by life forms. But to distinguish between so called pre-biotic molecules which might have produced abiotically and biogenic molecules, disciplines of micro- and molecular biology, organic and anorganic chemistry as well as geology are working together. An additional challenge is the differentiation between molecules which might have their source due to fossilization and can be used for the detection of fossilized life (extinct life) and molecules which might have been produced by recent still living life forms (extant life). In case of fossilization it is important to discriminate the so-called bio-molecules from the mineralogical background formation (Böttger et al. 2012, Böttger et al. 2013a,b, de Vera et al. 2012, Serrano et al. 2013). In case of hidden extant life a hint to find life could be the detection of CO2 and water consummation or methane production (Schirmack et al. 2013).
Our institute is systematically working out a strategy including simulation experiments together with the use of specific sensor technology and detection devices combining the capacities of our labs like MSF with Raman-Lab. The outcome will be relevant for the correct interpretation of data obtained by the future ExoMars mission or even data from the Curiosity Rover.

Böttger, U., de Vera, J.-P., Fritz, J., Weber, I., Hübers, H.-W., Schulze-Makuch, D., 2011. Optimizing the detection of carotene in cyanobacteria in a Martian regolith analogue with a Raman spectrometer for the ExoMars mission. Planetary and Space Science 60 (2012) 356–362.

Böttger, U., de la Torre, R., Frias, J.-M., Rull, F., Meessen, J., Sánchez Íñigo, F.J., Hübers, H.-W., de Vera, J.P. (2013a). Raman spectroscopic analysis of the oxalate producing extremophile Circinaria Gyrosa. International Journal of Astrobiology (in press).

Böttger, U., de Vera, J.P., Hermelink, A., Fritz, J., Weber, I., Schulze-Makuch, D., Hübers, H.-W. (2013b). Application of Raman spectroscopy, as in situ technology for the search for life. In de Vera, J.P. and Seckbach, J. (eds.), Cellular origins, life in extreme habitats and astrobiology: Habitability of other planets and satellites“(in press).

de Vera, J.-P. Boettger, U.de laTorre Noetzel, R., Sánchez, F.J., Grunow, D., Schmitz, N., Lange, C., Hübers H.-W., Billi, D., Baqué, M., Rettberg, P., Rabbow, E., Reitz, G., Berger, T., Möller, R., Bohmeier, M., Horneck, G., Westall, F., Jänchen, J. Fritz, F., Meyer, C., Onofri, S., Selbmann, L., Zucconi, L., Kozyrovska, N., Leya, T., Foing, B., Demets, R., Cockell, C.S., Bryce, C., Wagner, D., Serrano, P., Edwards H.G.M., Joshi, J., Huwe, B., Ehren-freund, P., Elsaesser, A., Ott, S., Meessen, J., Feyh, N., Szewzyk, U., Jaumann, R., Spohn, T. (2012). Supporting Mars exploration: BIOMEX in Low Earth Orbit and further astrobiological studies on the Moon using Raman and PanCam technology. Planetary and Space Science 74 (1): 103-110.

Schirmack, J., Böhm, M., Brauer, C., Löhmannsröben, H.-G., de Vera, J.-P., Möhlmann, D., Wagner, D. (2013). Laser spectroscopic real time measurements of methanogenic activity under simulated Martian subsurface analogue conditions. Planetary and Space Science (accepted).

Serrano, P., Hermelink, A., Boettger, U., de Vera, J.-P., Wagner, D., 2013. Biosignature detection of methanogenic archaea from Siberian permafrost using confocal Raman spectroscopy. Planetary and Space Science (accepted).

Cooperation Partners

BIOMEX

Dr. Thomas Berger, German Aerospace Center (DLR) Cologne, Institute of Aerospace Medicine, Radiation Biology, Building 24, Köln, Germany

Dr. Daniela Billi, University Tor Vergata Roma, Via della Ricerca Scientifica, Roma, Italy

Dr. Ute Böttger, German Aerospace Center (DLR) Berlin, Institute of Planetary Research, Rutherfordstr. 2, Berlin, Germany

Dr. Rosa de la Torre Noetzel, Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial, INTA, Dpo. Observación de la Tierra, Area de Investigación e Instrumentación Atmosférica, Crta. Ajalvir, km. 4, Torrejón de Ardoz, 28850-Madrid, Spain

Prof. Dr. Charles Cockell, Professor of Astrobiology, Room 1502, UK Centre for Astrobiology, School of Physics and Astronomy, James Clerk Maxwell Building, The King's Buildings, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH9 3JZ, UK

Prof. Dr. Howell Edwards, University of Bradford, Richmond Road, West Yorkshire BD7 1DP, Bradford, United Kingdom

Prof. Dr. Pascale Ehrenfreund, Leiden University, Leiden Institute of Chemistry, Einsteinweg 55, Leiden, Netherlands

Prof. Bernard Foing, ESTEC SRE-S, ESTEC-SRE-S, Noordwijk, Netherlands

Dr. Jörg Fritz, Museum für Naturkunde, Leibnitz Institut an der Humboldt-Universität, Invalidenstrasse 43, Berlin, Germany

Dr. Antje Hermelink, Robert Koch-Institute, Centre for biological Security (ZBS6), ZBS 6 - Proteomic and Spectroscopy, Nordufer 20, 13353 Berlin, Germany

Dr. Gerda Horneck, German Aerospace Center (DLR) Cologne, Institute of Aerospace Medicine, Radiation Biology, Building 24, Köln, Germany

Dr. Jochen Jänchen, Technische Hochschule (TH) Wildau - University of Applied Sciences, Bahnhofstrasse, Wildau, Germany

Prof. Dr. Jasmin Joshi, Biodiversity Research/Systematic Botany, Institute of Biochemistry and Biology, University of Potsdam, Maulbeerallee 1, D-14469 Potsdam, Germany

Dr. Peter Lasch, Robert Koch-Institute, Centre for biological Security (ZBS6), ZBS 6 - Proteomic and Spectroscopy, Nordufer 20, 13353 Berlin, Germany

Dr. Thomas Leya, Fraunhofer IBMT, CCCryo - Culture Collection of Cryophilic Algae AG Extremophilenforschung Am Muehlenberg 13, 14476 Potsdam-Golm, Germany

Dr. Joachim Meessen, Institute of Botany, AG Ott, Building 26.13.02.35, Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf, Universitätsstrasse 1, 40225 Düsseldorf, Germany

Dr. Ralf Möller, German Aerospace Center (DLR) Cologne, Institute of Aerospace Medicine, Radiation Biology, Building 24, Köln, Germany

Dr. Natalia Kozyrovska, PhD, Inst Mol Biol Genet NASU, Acad Zabolotnoho str, 150, 03680 Kyiv, Ukraine

Dr. Karen Olsson-Francis, UK Space Agency Aurora Fellow, Department of Physical Sciences, The Open University, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, UK

Prof. Silvano Onofri, Ordinario di Botanica Sistematica, Direttore del Dipartimento di Scienze Ecologiche e Biologiche, Università degli Studi della Tuscia, Largo dell'Università s.n.c., 01100 Viterbo, Italy

Dr. Elke Rabbow, German Aerospace Center (DLR) Cologne, Institute of Aerospace Medicine, Radiation Biology, Building 24, Köln, Germany

Dr. Günther Reitz, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V. (DLR), German Aerospace Center, Institute of Aerospace Medicine, Radiation Biology Department, Research Group Astrobiology, Linder Höhe, 51147 Cologne, Germany

Dr. Petra Rettberg, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V. (DLR), German Aerospace Center, Institute of Aerospace Medicine, Radiation Biology Department, Research Group Astrobiology, Linder Höhe, 51147 Cologne, Germany

Prof. Dr. Sieglinde Ott, Institute of Botany, AG Ott, Building 26.13.02.35, Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf, Universitätsstrasse 1, 40225 Düsseldorf, Germany

Prof. Dr. Dirk Schulze-Makuch, Ph.D., Washington State University, Webster Hall 1148
Pullman, WA 99164, USA

Dr. Laura Selbmann, Università degli Studi della Tuscia, Dipartamento di Ecologia e Sviluppo Economico Sostenibile (DECOS), Largo dell' Universita snc, Viterbo, Italy

Prof. Dr. Ulrich Szewzyk, Technische Universität Berlin, Institut für Technischen Umweltschutz, FG Umweltmikrobiologie, Sekr. BH 6-1, Ernst-Reuter-Platz 1, 10587 Berlin, Germany

Dr. Francis Westall, Université d'Orleans et affiliée à l'Inserm, Rue Charles Sadron, Orléans, France

Prof. Dr. Laura Zucconi, Università degli Studi della Tuscia, Dipartimento di Ecologia e Sviluppo Economico Sostenibile (DECOS), Largo dell'Universita snc, Viterbo, Italy

Biosignatures

Dr. Alessandro Airo, Departement of Earth Sciences, Tectonics and Sedimentary Geology, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

Dr. Michael Böhm, University of Potsdam, Department of Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, innoFSPEC Potsdam, 9 Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 24-25, 14476 Potsdam/Golm, Germany

Dr. Rosa de la Torre Noetzel, Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial, INTA, Dpo. Observación de la Tierra, Area de Investigación e Instrumentación Atmosférica, Crta. Ajalvir, km. 4, Torrejón de Ardoz, 28850-Madrid, Spain

Dr. Stefan Fox, University of Hohenheim, Institute of Chemistry (130), Department of Bioinorganic Chemistry, 70593 Stuttgart, Germany

Dr. Antje Hermelink, Robert Koch-Institute, Centre for biological Security (ZBS6), ZBS 6 - Proteomic and Spectroscopy, Nordufer 20, 13353 Berlin, Germany

Dr. Peter Lasch, Robert Koch-Institute, Centre for biological Security (ZBS6), ZBS 6 - Proteomic and Spectroscopy, Nordufer 20, 13353 Berlin, Germany

Dr. Karen Olsson-Francis, UK Space Agency Aurora Fellow, Department of Physical Sciences, The Open University, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, UK

Dr. Petra Rettberg, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V. (DLR), German Aerospace Center, Institute of Aerospace Medicine, Radiation Biology Department, Research Group Astrobiology, Linder Höhe, 51147 Cologne, Germany

Prof. Dr. Dirk Schulze-Makuch, Ph.D., Washington State University, Webster Hall 1148
Pullman, WA 99164, USA

Prof. Dr. Henry Strasdeit, University of Hohenheim, Institute of Chemistry (130), Department of Bioinorganic Chemistry, 70593 Stuttgart, Germany

Prof. Dr. Dirk Wagner, Head of Section 4.5 Geomicrobiology, Helmholtz Centre Potsdam
GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences Telegrafenberg C-425, 14473 Potsdam, Germany

Mars- and Planetary Simulation experiments

Dr. Alessandro Airo, Departement of Earth Sciences, Tectonics and Sedimentary Geology, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

Dr. Rosa de la Torre Noetzel, Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial, INTA, Dpo. Observación de la Tierra, Area de Investigación e Instrumentación Atmosférica, Crta. Ajalvir, km. 4, Torrejón de Ardoz, 28850-Madrid, Spain

Dr. Stefan Fox, University of Hohenheim, Institute of Chemistry (130), Department of Bioinorganic Chemistry, 70593 Stuttgart, Germany

Dr. Akos Kereszturi, New Europe School for Theoretical Biology and Ecology, Hungary and Konkoly Thege Miklos Astronomical Institute, Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences, Hungary

Dr. Natalia Kozyrovska, PhD, Inst Mol Biol Genet NASU, Acad Zabolotnoho str, 150, 03680 Kyiv, Ukraine

Dr. Thomas Leya, Fraunhofer IBMT, CCCryo - Culture Collection of Cryophilic Algae AG Extremophilenforschung Am Muehlenberg 13, 14476 Potsdam-Golm, Germany

Prof. Dr. Dirk Schulze-Makuch, Ph.D., Washington State University, Webster Hall 1148
Pullman, WA 99164, USA

Prof. Dr. Gerhard Rambold, University of Bayreuth, Universitätsstrasse 30, 95447 Bayreuth, Germany

Prof. Dr. Katja Sterflinger, Geomicrobiology, Department of Biotechnology , VIBT - Extremophile Center, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Muthgasse 18, A - 1190 Vienna, Austria

Prof. Dr. Henry Strasdeit, University of Hohenheim, Institute of Chemistry (130), Department of Bioinorganic Chemistry, 70593 Stuttgart, Germany

Prof. Dr. Dirk Wagner, Head of Section 4.5 Geomicrobiology, Helmholtz Centre Potsdam
GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences Telegrafenberg C-425, 14473 Potsdam, Germany

Planetary Analog Field Studies (Arctic, Alpine Permafrost, Antarctica)

Dr. Rosa de la Torre Noetzel, Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial, INTA, Dpo. Observación de la Tierra, Area de Investigación e Instrumentación Atmosférica, Crta. Ajalvir, km. 4, Torrejón de Ardoz, 28850-Madrid, Spain
Ernst Hauber, Institut für Planetenforschung, Rutherfordstrasse 2, Berlin, Germany

Dr. Andreas Läufer, Bund für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe (BGR), Hannover, Germany

Prof. Dr. Sieglinde Ott, Institute of Botany, AG Ott, Building 26.13.02.35, Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf, Universitätsstrasse 1, 40225 Düsseldorf, Germany

Dr. Nicole Schmidt, Institut für Planetenforschung, Rutherfordstrasse 2, Berlin, Germany

Dr. Francis Westall, Université d'Orleans et affiliée à l'Inserm, Rue Charles Sadron, Orléans, France


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