Our multidisciplinary team from USC, Caltech, JPL, DRI, and RPI is developing and employing field, laboratory, and modeling approaches aimed at detecting and characterizing microbial life in the subsurface — the intraterrestrials. We posit that if life exists, or ever existed, on Mars or other planetary body in our solar system, evidence thereof would most likely be found in the subsurface. The search for extant subsurface life or its biosignatures in other solar system bodies is scientifically and technologically extremely difficult. On Earth, it is a formidable but tractable challenge. Our study will inform the astrobiology community and guide future missions in the search for extraterrestrial life.
Our NASA Astrobiology Institute team takes advantage of unique opportunities to explore the subsurface ecosystems on Earth through boreholes, mine shafts, and deeply-sourced springs. Access to the subsurface, both continental and marine, and broad characterization of the rocks, fluids, and microbial inhabitants is central to this study. Our focused research themes require subsurface samples for laboratory and in situ experiments. Specifically, we seek to carry out in situ life detection and characterization experiments, employ numerous novel and traditional techniques to culture heretofore unknown intraterrestrial archaea and bacteria, and incorporate new and existing data into regional and global metabolic energy models.
SHERLOC, the deep UV fluorescence/Raman instrument developed by Dr. Roh Bhartia and collaborators, was selected for the Mars 2020 mission! SHERLOC is based on the same instrument architecture being developed by the Life Underground project!
Our 2015 science report is available on the NAI website. 2016 report will be available soon.
Rohit Bhartia and Luther Beegle (JPL) gave a talk titled "SHERLOC: On the Trail of Potential Biosignatures on Mars" as part of the NAI Director's Seminar Series.
Moh El-Naggar discusses bacterial nanowires and microbial metal reduction on Public Radio's Science Friday