A total of approximately $2.5 million is available to support 15 projects for durations of up to four years. Awards range from under $100,000 per year for focused, limited efforts (e.g., data analysis) to more than $1 million per year for extensive activities (e.g., development of science experiment hardware).
<td></td> <td colspan="3"> The goal of the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) Exobiology program is to understand the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe. Research is centered around the origin and early evolution of life, the potential of life to adapt to different environments, and the implications for life elsewhere. This research is conducted in the context of NASA's ongoing exploration of our stellar neighborhood and the development of biosignatures for in situ and remote sensing applications. Areas of research covered in this solicitation are as follows:
1. Planetary Conditions for Life: Research in this area seeks to delineate the galactic and planetary conditions conducive to the origin of life. Topics of interest include the formation and stability of habitable planets, the formation of complex organic molecules in space and their delivery to planetary surfaces, models of early environments in which organic chemical synthesis could occur, the forms in which prebiotic organic matter has been preserved in planetary materials, and the range of planetary environments amenable to life. Emphasis is placed on studies that constrain or extend concepts of possible chemical evolution relevant to the origin, evolution, and distribution of life. Studies of sites thought to be analogues to the early Earth or other planetary environments that might potentially harbor life will be considered as part of NASA's broader interest in the search for life in the Universe.
2. Prebiotic Evolution: Research in the area of prebiotic evolution seeks to understand the pathways and processes leading from the origin of planetary bodies to the origin of life. The strategy is to investigate the planetary and molecular processes that set the physical and chemical conditions within which living systems may have arisen. A major objective is determining what chemical systems could have served as precursors of metabolic and replicating systems on Earth and elsewhere, including alternatives to the current DNA-RNA-protein basis for life. Laboratory and theoretical, as well as related data-analysis, studies will be considered.
3. Early Evolution of Life and the Biosphere: The goal of research into the early evolution of life is to determine the nature of the most primitive organisms and the environment in which they evolved. The opportunity is taken to investigate two natural repositories of evolutionary history available on Earth: the molecular record in living organisms and the geological record. These paired records are used to: a) determine when and in what setting life first appeared and the characteristics of the first successful living organisms; b) understand the phylogeny and physiology of microorganisms, including extremophiles, whose characteristics may reflect the nature of primitive environments; c) determine the original nature of biological energy transduction, membrane function, and information processing, including the construction of artificial chemical systems to test hypotheses regarding the original nature of key biological processes; d) investigate the development of key biological processes and their environmental impact; e) examine the response of Earth's biosphere to extraterrestrial events; f) investigate the evolution of genes, pathways and microbial species subject to long-term environmental change relevant to the origin of life on Earth and the search for life elsewhere; and vii) study the coevolution of microbial communities, and the interactions within such communities, that drive major geochemical cycles, including the processes through which new species are added to extant communities.
4. Evolution of Advanced Life: Research associated with the study of the evolution of advanced life seeks to determine the biological and environmental factors leading to the development of multicellularity on Earth and the potential distribution of complex life in the Universe. This research includes studies of the origin and early evolution of those biological factors that are essential to multicellular life, such as developmental programs, intercellular signaling, programmed cell death, the cytoskeleton, cellular adhesion control and differentiation, in the context of the origin of advanced life. This research area also includes an evaluation of environmental factors such as the influence of extraterrestrial (e.g., bolide impacts, orbital and solar variations, gamma-ray bursts, etc.) and planetary processes ("Snowball Earth" events, rapid climate change, etc.) on the appearance and evolution of multicellular life. Of particular interest are mass extinction events.</td>
If the government is funding something this far-out, I hope I can get money for my ideas about the genetics of invasive species!