Astrobiology and Planetary Geochemistry Laboratory

Astrobiology Lab
Astrobiology and Planetary Geochemistry Laboratory at JPL

The scope of research performed in JPL's Astrobiology and Planetary Geochemistry Laboratory is finely interconnected, and has broad implications for ongoing and future space exploration to possible life-bearing targets such as Mars, Europa, or Enceladus. Astrobiology research influences the search for habitable worlds by narrowing environments of interest, and defining the identifying characteristics of life. This laboratory's work includes investigating the origin of life at underwater hydrothermal vents, as well as the nature of life in extreme environments such as Mars. Electrochemical and fuel cell experiments are being used to simulate far-from-equilibrium geological/planetary systems with implications for Mars and icy world habitability as well as the emergence of life on Earth. Examining the synthesis of amino acids of key interest to life's origin is yielding insight into the emergence of metabolism, as well as building a set of geochemical data for advancing life detection methods. Researcher are also working to:

  • develop the next generation of in situ mass spectrometer instrumentation for biomarker detection on Mars
  • investigate the survival of organic mineral matrices under simulated Mars conditions, and conducting field work as part of ground-truthing potential biosignatures and studying extremophiles 
  • actively explore biological lab work involving molecular, biochemical and microbiological analysis of samples from field sites
Personnel / Contacts: 
Ongoing Research Projects: 
  • Icy Worlds