Mars Astrobiology Field Laboratory and the Search for Signs of Life


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New Rochelle, NY, September 4, 2007 - A conceptual payload and mission scenario for the proposed NASA Mars mission known as the Astrobiology Field Laboratory (AFL), which will be equipped to perform state-of-the-art tests on samples collected from the martian surface to answer fundamental questions about life in the Universe, is described in a report in the August 2007 issue (Volume 7, Number 4) of Astrobiology, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. The paper is available free online at www.liebertpub.com/ast.

The report, titled, "A Concept for NASA's Mars 2016 Astrobiology Field Laboratory," by coauthors Luther Beegle, Michael Wilson, Fernando Abilleira, James Jordan, and Gregory Wilson, from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, presents the group's analysis of candidate payload elements for the mission that were identified from a set of recommendations put forth by the AFL Science Steering Group (SSG). The AFL mission strategy will be to search for habitable zones and evidence of current or previous life forms by "following the water" and "finding the carbon."

NASA's AFL mission, which could launch as early as 2016, would follow a series of planned missions to Mars (scheduled for 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2013) that will lay the groundwork for implementation of the laboratory and begin the process of collecting samples from the planet for future analysis and sample return.

"Instruments designed for the AFL mission will enable real time analysis of possible biosignatures on Mars and reveal whether there were (or are) habitable zones and life," says journal Editor, Sherry L. Cady, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Geology at Portland State University. "The conceptual Precision Sample Processing and Handling System proposed by Beegle and coauthors for AFL is a significant step toward development of the technology and cutting-edge instrumentation needed to succeed on Mars."

Astrobiology is an authoritative peer-reviewed journal published bimonthly in print and online. The Journal provides a forum for scientists seeking to advance our understanding of life's origins, evolution, distribution and destiny in the universe. A complete table of contents and a full text for this issue may be viewed online at www.liebertpub.com/ast.

Astrobiology is the leading peer-reviewed journal in its field. To promote this developing field, the Journal has teamed up with The Astrobiology Web to highlight one outstanding paper per issue of Astrobiology. This paper is available free online at www.liebertpub.com/ast and to visitors of The Astrobiology Web at www.astrobiology.com.

Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., is a privately held, fully integrated media company known for establishing authoritative peer-reviewed journals in many promising areas of science and biomedical research. Its biotechnology trade magazine, Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN), was the first in its field and is today the industry's most widely read publication worldwide. A complete list of the firm's 60 journals, books, and newsmagazines is available at www.liebertpub.com.

Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.

140 Huguenot St., New Rochelle, NY 10801-5215 www.liebertpub.com Phone: (914) 740-2100 (800) M-LIEBERT Fax: (914) 740-2101

Contact: Vicki Cohn, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., (914) 740-2100, ext. 2156, vcohn@liebertpub.com

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