“Molecules in Meteorites and Ice: Pre-Biotic Compounds and Pseudo-Biomarkers”
The purpose of this research is to investigate the formation and distribution of organic molecules in space and assess the extent to which such space chemistry may have contributed to the inventory of organic compounds in carbonaceous chondrites and cometary and asteroidal dust (IDPs). Since tons of organic molecules come to Earth every day from space, and the mass may have been a million times more on the prebiotic Earth, such molecules may have made the Earth habitable. By extension, this exogenous delivery process may be generally applicable to habitability of the planets of other stellar systems, and thus is of fundamental importance to SETI. This program focuses on ice experiments and comparison to meteoritic organics, but is not limited to such work. We also are actively pursuing related observational and theoretical projects through collaborations with other scientists at NASA, universities, and non-profits.