LAS 2023 Timetable

Day 1 - 1.12.2023

Time [CET]

Event

17:20

Opening and Introduction

17:40

Session - Extremophiles

Piotr Siupka

Conditions present in extraterrestrial environments in the Solar System are by all means hostile to life as we know it. For example, on Mars low temperature, CO2-rich atmosphere, near vacuum atmospheric pressure, high UV radiation, presence of perchlorates in regolith, just to name a few factors, are prevailing. Studying life in extreme environments on the Earth can provide insight into the adaptation strategies to the harsh conditions and life’s limits. Microbes, especially bacteria and archaea seem to prevail quite fine even in the most extreme of Earth’s environments. Moreover, some microorganisms have a wide tolerance range for varying environmental conditions, being able not only to survive but actively grow under conditions far from optimal. One of the major adaptations to the surrounding conditions relates to the composition of the plasma membrane, a structure that in the case of prokaryotes is crucial for almost all life processes. In our studies we focus on microorganisms from smoldering coal waste dumps, an example of an anthropogenic niche with distinct and extreme environmental features. The geochemistry of the dump creates an environment characterized by high temperature, as well as hypersalinity, high concentration of heavy metals (including mercury), extreme pH conditions, and the presence of polyaromatic hydrocarbons and haloorganics. We are testing strains isolated from these environments for growth under polyextreme conditions vastly different from those present in the dumps, including hypobaric pressure, low temperature and CO2 atmosphere. We are investigating changes of the plasma membrane composition in the strains that showed the best growth in our experimental setups. The study will provide information relevant to various aspects of Astrobiology. It will give insights on the bacterial adaptation strategies to the varying growth conditions as well as will provide data relevant to the planetary protection, life transfer between bodies and health related aspect of future space exploration

Tomasz Bartylak
Department of Animal Taxonomy and Ecology, Faculty of Biology, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poznań, Poland

Tardigrades, also commonly known as water bears, are one of the most commonly broughtup groups of animals in the fields of astrobiology and extremophiles studies (Horikawa 2012;Jönsson 2007) . Their popularity is owed to their outstanding capability for cryptobiosis,allowing them to survive some of the most severe conditions, including those analogous toconditions of space (Kayastha et al. 2023; Rebecchi et al. 2009, etc.) . While the ability oftardigrades to survive desiccation (anhydrobiosis) is relatively well studied (Rebecchi et al.2007; Wełnicz et al. 2011) , it has been observed that tardigrades exhibit a more diverserange of capabilities, enabling them to withstand various types of extreme conditions. Theseinclude extreme temperatures and pressures, high doses of various types of radiation, aswell as exposure to various chemical agents (Clegg 2001; Guidetti et al. 2012; McGill et al.2015) . One of the lesser known aspects of tardigrade toughness is their seeming resistanceto the effects of inhibitors of mitochondrial respiratory chain, primary of which beingpotassium cyanide (KCN) (Wojciechowska et al. 2021) .In this study tardigrades of different species were subjected to high doses of KCN solution,which resulted in ceasing of activity, akin to death, only to recover and return to full activity following the removal from the KCN solution. The presented data is made up of the results of two experiments. In the first one, the speed of recovery in specimens belonging to two tardigrade species with contrasting characteristics was observed. In the second experiment, the survivability of tardigrades in 30 days following initial exposure was recorded. Finally, specimens from both experiments were subjected to ultrastructural analysis using Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM), to gauge the lasting effects of KCN exposure on their cells. The obtained results indicate that despite suffering no immediate ill effects, cyanide exposure might have long lasting negative effects on tardigrades.

Jonathan Abshier
Portland State University

In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in the study of archaeal hyperthermophilic organisms, due to their unique ability to thrive in extreme environments such as deep-sea thermal vents and volcanic hot springs around the world. One such organism, Saccharolobus solfataricus and its infecting virus, Sulfolobus spindle-shaped virus 1 (SSV1), that live and thrive in these volcanic hot springs at 80 ̊C and pH of 3. Here we describe the genetic analysis of a new strain of Saccharolobus isolcated from volcanic hot springs located in Lassen National Volcanic Park, Northern California. Alongside phenotypic analysis of a virally encoded toxin-antitoxin system (TA system) within SSV1. TA systems, also known as addiction modules, are typically characterized as a set of two genes that encode a toxin and antitoxin. These systems are highly prevalent among prokaryotes but have been found on plasmids and virus genomes. TA system function varies between prokaryotic organisms (i.e., bacteria and archaea), but often play roles in cell processes such as plasmid stability, strain persistence and phage defense mechanisms among bacteria. However, TA system functions in archaea, more specifically, viruses infecting archaea remain enigmatic. We predict the presence of a virally encoded TA system within the genome of SSV1 and seek to elucidate the mechanisms in which these systems allow its hyper thermophilic host, utilizing our s. solfataricus isolate (S441) to persist within its extreme environment and it’s peculiar virosphere. Utilizing a modified plaque assay method for archaea, we are able to observe, subtle, plaque like clearings among S441 cells infected with SSV1. Via mutagenesis of the highly tractable SSV1 genome, we have observed mutants that knockdown this plaque formation. Through these observations in phenotypic changes of viral infection on S441 and utilization of quantitative techniques to test for the presence of viral DNA, we have observed mutations viral ORFs, which produce no plaques, but viral DNA is present upon testing. Taken together, we highlight the presence of a TA system within the SSV1 genome, that with further study, could shed light on host-virus persistence and co-evolution of these organisms within extreme environments.

Garrett Roberts Kingman
NASA Postdoctoral Program, Ames Research Center

The search for life beyond Earth captivates the human imagination, but is based on our one known data point: life on Earth. Life evolves to meet the challenges it faces and the conditions in which it exists, and so the limits of known life are shaped by the conditions found on Earth. However, it is likely that life has potential to adapt to far more, but selective pressures are simply lacking on Earth. Even terrestrial extremophiles are only adapted to the limited conditions found in their environments, not to the edge of biological capability. We therefore do not understand the true, biochemical constraints of even terrestrial-based life and risk improperly prioritizing our search for life unless we explore ways to move beyond this critical limitation. One such approach is through adaptive laboratory evolution and synthetic biology utilizing library-based functional metagenomics techniques. Recent and ongoing work both in and beyond our solar system highlight the need to advance our knowledge of life from what we can observe naturally occurring on Earth so we can better understand the possiblities beyond Earth.

19:00

Networking Break

19:30

Plenary Lecture
"Where will you find life beyond
Earth within the next 30 years"
by Artur Chmielewski

Public event

20:30

Session - Biosignatures and search for life

Paul Rimmer
Planetary Astrochemistry Lab, Department of Physics, University of Cambridge

Degree and kind of chemical disequilibrium, by itself, is not a strong biosignature, especially for exoplanets. This is because abiotic processes can generate disequilibrium and because true disequilibrium is difficult to observationally constrain. I will show examples where large disequilibrium can in principle be generated without life, including one where disequilibrium could be considered a sign of the absence of life. I will also show how our lack of knowledge could lead us to infer large disequilibrium where there is none, and to completely miss substantial biologically-driven disequilibrium. I will conclude by suggesting an alternative way to incorporate disequilibrium into the search for life by treating it as one of several components in determining the abiotic baseline, and estimating our confidence that a given signal stands above that baseline.

Anoop B S Christ Nivas
AICTE (The All India Council for Technical Education)

As humans explore the possibility of exoplanetary habitability, it is crucial to investigate the fundamental molecular mechanisms that can support extraterrestrial life. One intriguing aspect of bacterial biology that warrants further exploration is the ArcB protein and its role in bacterial proteomes. This research proposal outlines a study aimed at unraveling the functional significance of the ArcB protein in bacterial proteomes, with a particular focus on its implications for human exoplanetary habitability.

Anna Harutyunyan
International University of Germany

The Alba Mons Ice-Rich Deposits Exploration(AMIDE) primary goal is to investigate potential ice-rich deposits on north-facing slopes in the Alba Mons region of Mars, to analyze the subsurface ice and surrounding geological features, seek evidence of past or present habitable environments, and understand the potential for microbial life. AMIDE will answer these scientific questions. Are the ice-rich deposits on north-facing slopes in Alba Mons conducive to preserving biosignatures and potential habitable conditions? What is the composition of the ice-rich deposits, and could they contain organic molecules or other indicators of biological activity?

Sibsankar Pali
LIFE-To & Beyond

Though Venus is often referred to as Earth’s twin, it is also ironically considered a hostile planet, with its thick atmosphere of sulfuric acid and surface temperatures hot enough to melt lead. However, recent research has suggested that the cloud layers of Venus may actually be a habitable environment for life as we know it. Hence considering the potential for life in its cloud layers, it has been under investigation for years as an astrobiological target. The lower cloud layers of Venus –50.5 km) are found to be an exceptional target for astrobiological exploration due to their favorable conditions for the existence of life (if any). Venusian cloud layers contain sulfur compounds, carbon dioxide (CO2), and water. They also have moderate temperature (0–60°C) and pressure (∼0.4–2 atm) conditions, which makes them a potential site for life. But many chemical anomalies such as albedo drop, cloud-top variations in SO2, existence of NH3, etc, are associated with the cloud layers. Major portions of Venus are also covered with an unknown UV absorbing. In this paper, we will be reviewing the various chemicals present in the Venusian clouds from an astrobiological perspective. We’ll also be discussing the possible explanations proposed by various studies over the years to explain the chemical anomalies in the Venusian clouds.

21:50

Closing the day

Day 2 - 2.12.2023

15:20

Parallel Sessions

Origins of Life and Evolution I

Kosuke Fujishima
Earth-Life Science Institute, Tokyo Institute of Technology

RNA-binding motifs are found in various protein folds in existing biology, demonstrating diverse mechanisms for interacting with RNA. The capability to bind RNA is widely present in all three life domains, and as such, is deemed an essential function during the origin and evolution of life. Primordial peptides present a significant challenge since they are thought to be composed of a limited set of amino acids. Using a cell-free system based mRNA display, we have previously exhibited that proteins composed of only 10 types of amino acids are capable of binding to structurally stable ribosomal RNA. Therefore, we further aimed to explore the sequence space of polypeptides capable of binding to the simplest unstructured polynucleotides. Using codon-restricted mRNA display, novel poly(A) and poly(C) RNA-binding peptides were selected from de novo synthesized peptide libraries with a constrained amino acid alphabet. The identified peptides express a range of binding affinities reaching submicromolar Kd values when binding to poly RNA and poly DNA. Of particular interest, one peptide recognizes adenine over cytosine nucleobase. The significant enrichment of dipeptide motifs containing asparagine and glutamine among the enriched peptide sequences illuminates the pivotal role of a pseudo-pair between the nucleobase and carboxamide group in RNA recognition. Therefore, our approach present the potential to uncover unanticipated RNA-binding peptide motifs that may be either primordial or unexplored by nature.

Alicia Rodríguez-Moreno
Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) CSIC-INTA, Spain

Life on Earth can withstand very harsh conditions. Extreme temperatures, low water availability, acidic pH, or high radiation levels are only some examples. Hypothetical life outside Earth could develop in even more extreme environments, which makes the study of terrestrial extremophile microorganisms to be of a great interest in the field of astrobiology. One of the most extreme circumstances that exist in our planet is relevant differences between night and day temperatures in some places such as deserts, where cyclical episodes of freezing and thawing are common. Since planets with a light atmosphere, with little capacity to generate a greenhouse effect, are places where life would have to endure conditions similar to those described, the study of the possible adaptations is quite relevant.

Mahendran Sithamparam
Space Science Centre, National University of Malaysia

During the era of prebiotic Earth, a complex interplay of geological, chemical, and environmental processes established the foundation for the emergence and progression of the origin of life. Challenging conditions prevailed, characterized by intense volcanic activity, frequent meteorite impacts, and the absence of free oxygen. Within this highly unstable environment, the conditions were set for extraordinary chemical changes that ultimately paved the way for the development of life. A crucial element of prebiotic Earth was the availability of plentiful energy sources, including lightning strikes, volcanic eruptions, and radiation from other space. Gamma radiation could have played a vital role in aiding chemical reactions and facilitating the synthesis of intricate organic compounds such as alpha hydroxy acids. These acids are proven to be used to synthesis of gel-like polyesters which is a plausible route to form primitive functional polymers under thermal condition. Intriguingly, this gel can segregate itself through LLPS when put into aqueous medium where it can compartmentalize other molecules and compounds. However, the effect of gamma radiation as the main energy source for the synthesis of the polymers is yet to be studied. Here, we will use lactic acid, luecic acid and phenyllactic acid (which are well studied as the model of AHAs polyester gels) and expose them under gamma radiation. By understanding the effect and functions of it, we could know the properties of molecular system self-organization during origin of life on exoplanet with gamma radiation as dominating energy source.

Barbara Lech
Wroclaw University of science and technology

The RNA molecule (ribonucleic acid) serves a pivotal role in protein synthesis across all living organisms, encompassing transfer RNA (tRNA), ribosomal RNA (rRNA), and other variants. Additionally, it functions as a genetic storage medium for certain viruses and constitutes ribozymes. Notably, nucleic acids like RNA possess a unique ability to oversee their own replication processes. It is believed that RNA was essential during abiogenesis due to its catalytic properties and capacity to carry genetic information. However, the precise mechanism by which RNA might have self-replicated without the help of enzymes remains unknown. Recent findings suggest that nucleotides activated with imidazole derivatives could have played a significant role in non-enzymatic replication on the early Earth. Moreover, research has demonstrated that in the presence of 2-aminoimidazole-activated monomers and assisting trinucleotides, the extension of primers was efficient for all four canonical nucleotides, although the A:T pair exhibited the lowest quality of replication . In this presentation, I will showcase the outcomes of mechanistic studies examining the influence of non-canonical nucleotides, such as inosine and 2-thiouridine, on the non-enzymatic replication process of RNA. To delve into this, I had performed classical molecular dynamics simulations involving systems containing imidazolium-bridged dinucleotides composed of guanine, inosine, and adenine nucleotides. Additionally, thio-uracil was present in the complementary strand in the system containing activated adenine.

Space Education

Milena Ratajczak

As the volume of astronomical and space-related data expands exponentially, machine-learning techniques are crucial to analyze it. However, human intervention still remains crucial for conducting scientific research, especially in identifying exceptional cases and enhancing training datasets. The growing number of telescopes/space mission products creates a need for more individuals to participate in scientific exploration. This is where citizen science steps in. The voluntary participation of passionate individuals, many without scientific training, is gaining popularity across various research domains. Examples of citizen science projects using astronomical and space-related data will be showcased, with a special focus on exoplanet searches. Numerous projects, including those supported by ESA/NASA and using data from space missions such as Gaia and Rosetta, will be examined.

Julie Nekola Nováková
Department of Philosophy and History of Science, Faculty of Science, Charles University

Astrobiology, due to the ‘Big Questions’ it’s asking and its popularity among the public, is an excellent field to communicate scientific concepts from multiple branches of science. However, it’s also prone to miscommunication in the media, especially inflated claims of finding traces of alien life. Astrobiology outreach and communication walk a thin line between overselling scientific results and achieving attention and getting scientific concepts across, while staying true to reality and the uncertainties present in most tentative detections of potential biosignatures, potentially habitable planets or complex organics in the solar system. I will present the approach of contrasting science and fiction and making scientific concepts more salient through science-fictional narratives in outreach, as we did at the European Astrobiology Institute in the anthologies Strangest of All (ed. Julie Nováková, 2020) and Life Beyond Us (ed. Julie Nováková, Susan Forest and Lucas K. Law, 2023). Benefits and pitfalls of this approach, potential for its use in narrative-based learning, and potential future steps – informed e.g. by the ESA Brainstorming in Astrobiology that took place at ESTEC – will be discussed.

Tejaswini Samanta
Army Public School Delhi Cantt

Fast Radio Bursts are extragalactic bright radio transients that last for a millisecond duration. They occur very frequently all over the sky. (~4000 /day). The radio light that can be seen only through radio telescopes, thus has no known optical counterpart. The cosmic web is a large-scale structure of dark matter halos and dark matter filaments. It also contains regular matter (“baryons”) embedded in the dark matter, which is extremely difficult to detect as most of it is extremely diffuse and ionized. FRB dispersion measures can provide accurate estimates of the amount of ionized matter along the sightline. In a material medium different frequency of light travel at different speeds. Higher frequency (bluer) light is faster. FRB radio waves are similarly dispersed when traveling through plasma in space. Higher frequencies arrive first on Earth. Measuring the delay between frequencies tells us the total number of free electrons it has passed through. The Centaurus A/M83 Group is a group of galaxies in the constellations Hydra, Centaurus, and Virgo.

● Mass: ~1013.5 Msun

● Distance from Earth: Cen A – 11.9 Mly, M83 – 14.9 Mly

● FRB20211203A directly intersects the group medium.

We ascertain the contribution from the group medium in the FRB DM. However, first, we need to account for the other background galaxies. In this project, we will estimate the DM contribution of foreground galaxies that are not in the CenA/M83 group but still foreground to the FRB. We will measure the distances to the galaxies using the Hubble Law. Hubble Law: Further out objects appear to travel faster because of the expansion of the universe. By measuring the “speed” of the galaxies, we can measure how far they are. We estimate the speed through the Doppler effect. The universe is in an accelerated expansion so more distant galaxies appear to be traveling away faster. Light from galaxies appears to have a lower frequency, i.e., redder. Just like an ambulance traveling away from us sounds lower pitched. More distant galaxy -> higher redshift. We processed multi-object spectroscopic data from GMOS with the PypeIt Python Package. The aim is to extract useful information from the raw 2D images. i.e., Reduce the data from a 2D image to a 1D spectrum. We reduced spectra from 34 objects in our data. Of the 34 objects, 8 redshifts were assigned with high confidence. 4 out of 8 objects were found to be in the foreground. (object redshift < FRB galaxy redshift).

 

16:40

Origins of Life and Evolution II

Matthew Merski
i3S, Univ. do Porto

The origin of life on Earth has been speculated to have occurred on the surface in either shallow, warm pools or in ice bordered lakes or alternatively deep in the primordial ocean at hydrothermal vents or on the cold ocean floor, among others. The timing of this origin event is likely somewhere between the moon-forming impact 3.8 billion years ago and the Great Oxygenation Event 2.46 billion years ago although it is difficult to narrow this window further due to the paucity of fossil or geological evidence. However, evolution itself is generally conservative, tending to improve existing systems and mechanisms than innovate novel approaches de novo. And it is widely believed that enzymatic mechanisms change more slowly than sequence, substrate specificity or structure. For this reason, it has been proposed that modern metabolic pathways are based on primordial chemical cycles suggesting that conserved aspects of modern enzyme mechanisms can be used to hypothesize about enzymes in early life. To this end, I will examine the role of pressure and temperature on enzyme mechanisms and reactions and how this could be used to explore questions about early life and evolution on Earth.

Dariusz Piekarski
Institute of Physical Chemistry, Polish Academy of Sciences

What sort of “evidence of life” can be found outside of our “magical” planet? Is it possible to find the fingerprint of life in the outer space considering that our special molecular world on Earth is itseld the fingerprint of life? I will try to answer the above question focusing on the molecular picture of the collision damage. The chemical behavior (reactivity, structure, stability, etc.) and biological activity (highly specific recognition, transport, regulation, etc.) of biomolecules in molecular cluster are driven by weak intermolecular interactions. It seems reasonable to assume that β-alanine molecules linked into a cluster present greater sensitivity than the isolated molecules to key kinetic events, such as binding, insertion and dimerization, similarly to those observed in peptides. The
knowledge of intermolecular interactions is essential to understand the structure, stability and chemical rearrangements, in particular, we will show the β-alanine clusters. New insights into the stability, interaction nature and formation mechanisms in clusters of amino acids in the gas phase. Moreover, we will present formation of peptide bonds after collisions with He2+ ion with β-alanine clusters. The mechanism of formation of polypeptides will be discussed. The key kinetic and therodynamic evets will be discussed followed the excitation and ionization processes after the collision. The proton transfer within the weakly bound ionized and excited molecular clusters facilitates releasing water molecules, and thus allows to easily form the peptide bond formation via low energy barriers.

Vahab Rajaei
Georgia Institute of Technology

In the pursuit to understand the origins of life, we often seek universal principles that underlie all life as we know it. Biopolymers, such as polypeptides, polynucleotides, polysaccharides, lipids, and ribosomes, represent some of these biological universalities. Recent advances in our understanding of life’s origin(s) have revealed a diverse array of building blocks for these biopolymers. This diversity allows us to envision a scenario in which different amino acids, bases, sugars, amphipaths, and translation machinery could have been incorporated into life. However, one biological universality, water, has no other viable substitutes based on our current understanding of how life formed.

Most directly, our work relies on recent advances in our understanding of the role of water on the Hadean Earth1 and in today’s biology. The importance of water has been demonstrated in experiments where control of water activity promotes oligomerization, formation of kinetically unfavorable bonds, and drives chemical evolution. Our understanding of the role of water as an active participant in this evolutionary process has revealed an alternative model for understanding the transition from chemistry to biology. The recognition of water’s pivotal role challenges the prevailing ‘RNA world’ hypothesis and introduces an earlier evolutionary concept: chemical evolution. Understanding water’s active role in chemical evolution is critical for a comprehensive grasp of the transition from chemistry to biology on our planet.

Space and Humanities

Anna Hurova Hurova
UNIDROIT – International Institute for the Unification of Private Law

During the time of three generations that are still possible to bring together in one place, the imagination of space was changed from the boundless trash can to a valuable resource, and all of this “thanks” to space debris. This presentation will reveal the tendencies of outer space contamination protection from the points of view of the theoretical concepts, economic approaches, and legal regimes.

Such questions will be lightened: what is space debris (non-functional, non-useful, non-operational satellites), what should be changed with the development of space manufacturing, change of the owner, and change of the jurisdiction: common and distinctive features, how the concept of sustainability changes in the space and their correspondence with the security.

At the end of the presentation the political game “Sustainable Space” will be presented as a tool to dive deeper into space interactions of the space actors for the space debris remediation.

Adam Świeżyński
Insitute of Philosophy, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw

Complex astrobiological problems (including the origin of life, primordial metabolism, the genetic aspect of life and the compartmentalization of cellular elements) can be linked to other problems concerning the cosmic environment and the development of the universe, creating the impression of overwhelming mega-problems. The first instinct is to revert to a
reductionist approach, which limits the number of components and their interactions and then examines them in isolation. However, a systems approach may be more productive in solving such problems.

The systems approach of astrobiology involves systems thinking and analysis. It
complements the reductionist method of investigating and solving scientific problems. The latter divides a problem into smaller parts and then examines them separately. This approach is widely used in science and is valuable because it informs us about the nature and properties of the parts of a system. However, understanding the parts does not necessarily help us understand how the system as a whole functions, especially if it is complex. The systems approach looks at the whole from the point of view of how the parts within the whole interact with each other to give the whole new properties that enable its various functions. These new properties are not revealed by the individual parts. The interaction between the parts, including their organization and formation of connections, is key to understanding the functioning of the whole and its emergent properties.

The presentation will address the systemic view of astrobiology understood as a multidisciplinary area of scientific research and the basis for such a view, which is the systemic definition of life.

Subhajit Hazra
LIFE-To & Beyond

The militarization of outer space has been a contentious issue for many years, as it raises questions about ethics, international cooperation, and the prevention of weapon proliferation beyond our planet. While some argue that space should remain free from military activities, others emphasize the importance of responsible space militarization for the security and defense of nations. One of the main reasons for this difference in opinion is the historical accounts of post-World War II, where the development of long-range ballistic missiles for warfare marked the beginning of the space sector, we know today. Thereafter, various global treaties have been mutually agreed upon by the majority of the nations, which have led to the setting up of various global institutions for ensuring cooperative and peaceful use of space. However, still lingering around the corner is the question, of what ethical aspects should humanity as a whole consider, if someday the space environment happens to be used for warfare or is populated with weapons of mass destruction! While it’s a no-brainer for one to predict the consequences, weaponization of outer space would pose a serious challenge concerning space exploration. Therefore the perspective article would aim to explore the ethical aspects of uses of militarization in outer space and discuss strategies to avoid the proliferation of weapons in orbit, with a special focus on principles of consequentialism.

Bartosz Rybacki
Gdańsk University of Technology

The presentation entitled: “Suborbital flight – Legal challenges” aims at highlighting the legislative challenges faced by Polish, EU and international lawmakers in the context of determining the preferable regulatory regime in the context of high-altitude flights, both manned and unmanned. The subject of the research presented here is the regulatory situation of the Polish, European and global suborbital transport sector, juxtaposed against the regulatory situation of suborbital activities in countries where the enactment of dedicated suborbital activities has occurred, and also juxtaposed with the needs of this sector

18:00

Networking Break

18:20

Plenary Lecture
"Why is there Phosphine on Venus?"
by Jane Greaves

In 2016, we started a small project to look for the gas PH3, a notable biomarker on Earth, in the clouds of Venus. The detection of Venusian phosphine was astonishing, and it has led to much follow-up work and interpretation. We know so little of some fundamentals about Venus, that it is hard to explore some equally unlikely seeming options: enormous volcanism with phosphine as a very minor trace product, or a cloud deck populated by very extreme (versus terrestrial) micro-organisms. I will explain the history of the project and present some data with new insights.

19:20

Networking Break

19:40

Parallel Sessions

Astrochemistry and detection of organic molecues

Cristina Puzzarini
University of Bologna

Origin of life is one of the biggest challenges of science, one of most important open issues in astrochemistry and astrobiology. In this respect, the detection in space of the so-called COMs –complex organic molecules– and in particular of those having a strong prebiotic role (i.e., related to the formation of biomolecule building blocks) can provide important pieces of this huge puzzle.

While the evidence for molecular complexity in the universe is undisputed, there is still much to be understood about what molecules are present and how they are formed in the typically cold and (largely) collision free environment of the interstellar medium. Because of difficulties in experimentally mimicking the extreme conditions of the interstellar medium (ISM), accurate computational approaches play a fundamental role in analyzing reaction mechanisms. At the low temperatures of the ISM, reaction rates are exquisitely sensitive to energetics and barrier heights, and their accurate evaluations require very advanced calculations of these energies. In a subsequent step, these need to be combined with suitable tools to compute kinetics [1]. However, to understand the chemical evolution of the ISM, the starting point is the knowledge whether a molecule is present in the astronomical environment considered and, if so, its abundance. In this scenario, rotational spectroscopy plays a crucial role since the astronomical observation of spectroscopic signatures provides the unequivocal proof of the presence of chemical species. Molecular species in the gas phase are usually detected via their rotational signatures, with these accurately obtained from laboratory spectroscopy studies that are increasingly assisted by quantum-chemical calculations to guide and support the spectral recording and analysis

In this contribution, by means of a few selected examples taken from the work done at the ROT&Comp Lab, I will address: (i) the detection of prebiotic molecules: from the interplay of experiment and theory in the field of rotational spectroscopy to astronomical observations the exploitation of state-of-the-art computational approaches to derive formation pathways able to explain the presence in the ISM of the detected molecules

Judit Ferrer Asensio
Max-Planck-Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics

In the last years the number of multi-deuterated molecules detected in the Interstellar Medium (ISM) increased substantially (e.g. CHD2OH and CD3OH -Parise et al. 2002 and 2004-, c-C3D2 -Spezzano et al. 2013-, CHD2OCHO -Manigand et al. 2019-). These molecules are found to be more abundant than expected when taking into account the ISM deuterium abundance (D/H = 2.0 ± 0.1 x 10−5, Caselli & Ceccarelli 2012; Ceccarelli et al. 2014). H-D substitution reactions in grain surfaces have been proposed to explain the observed deuterium fractionation (Drozdovskaya et al. 2022 and references therein). In order to better understand the nature of deuterium fractionation, and the interplay of the chemistry in the gas phase and on the surface of dust grains, chemical
models need to be constrained by observations of singly- and multi-deuterated
molecules. Doubly deuterated acetaldehyde (CHD2CHO) has not been detected in the ISM yet as it has been studied in the laboratory only up to 40 GHz (Turner & Cox 1976, Turner et al. 1981) and hence lacks an extensive spectroscopic study, in contrast with the singly-deuterated forms CH2DCHO and CH3CDO that were detected towards the protostellar core IRAS16293-2422B (Coudert et al. 2019). In order to allow the first detection of CHD2CHO in the ISM, and to understand its deuterium fractionation, we have studied the rotational spectrum
of CHD2CHO in the 82.5-450 GHz frequency range. We recorded 742 lines with J up to 27, and Ka up to 17. A spectroscopic database for astrophysical purposes is built using the analysis results. Our catalogue allowed for the first detection of CHD2COH using the publicly available ALMA Protostellar Interferometric Line Survey towards the low-mass star-forming region IRAS 16293-2422. The resulting D2/D ratio of 20% is found to be coincident with D2/D ratios derived for similar molecules towards IRAS 16293-2422, pointing at a common formation environment with enhanced deuterium fractionation.

Monika Stangret
Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica – OAPd

In recent years, the field of exoplanets is quickly evolving, concentrating not only on
the detection of new planets but also on the characterization of their atmospheres, through direct imaging and transmission/emission spectroscopy. With the advent of ultra-stable high-dispersion spectrographs, such as HARPS, HARPS-N, GIANO-B, CARMENES, ESPRESSO, and CRIRES+ new observing window opens for the characterization of exoplanet atmospheres, allowing us to overcome some of the intrinsic difficulties of observing through the Earth’s atmosphere. Thanks to the different Doppler velocities of the Earth, the host star, and the planet using high-resolution spectroscopy we are able to detect and characterize exoplanetary atmospheres. Additionally, in many cases, the signal is buried in the residual noise, however by performing a cross-correlation of atmospheric transmission models and hundreds of atmospheric lines the signal can be increased (1). Studying the atmospheres of ultra-hot Jupiters, objects with a temperature higher than 2200K (2) which orbit close to their host stars, gives us a great laboratory to study the chemistry of the exoplanets.

During my talk, I would like to present the complex analysis of the chemical composition of several ultra-hot Jupiters using high-resolution spectroscopic observations of transit with HARPS-N and HARPS spectrographs (3,4,5). By applying the transmission spectroscopic method (single lines and cross-correlation method), we looked for the signal of several atoms and molecules, paying special attention to the effects which could affect final detections or non-detections, such as the Rossiter-McLaughlin effect, center-to-limb variation, and/or pulsation of the star. Those effects show similar radial velocity changes as the expected signal coming from the atmosphere of the exoplanet. Therefore, precise modeling and corrections are extremely important, to avoid possible misinterpretation of the final detections.

 

Victor Oyiboka
Space Generation Advisory Council 

The YMIR mission comes from Norse mythology which was created from ice and heat. The mission revolves around the identification of life on Enceladus, Saturn’s moon. The mission goal is to land on the south pole of Enceladus, studying the composition and location of plumes, checking for biosignatures, and comparing them to sulfirimonas plumes. Instruments such as Raman Spectroscopy, E-Themis, UV
Fluorescent Spectroscopy, and Florescent Light-field microscopy will be used. The mission architecture is a 4-leaf clover rover design with each leaf detachable from the base, the leaves are connected to the base via Tethers. The purpose of this mission is to determine if hydrothermal vents have chemicals that can help life grow and develop like those on Earth.

Space missions analogs

Mikołaj Gąbka
AGH University of Science and Technology

As part of my engineering project, I have decided to build a chamber that enables plant cultivation in extraterrestrial conditions. The project involves creating a system that ensures constant environmental conditions such as temperature and allows for plant growth in infrared light and microgravity conditions. I have decided to use infrared light because it positively affects plant development by stimulating their growth. All tests will take place before the conference in analog habitat, allowing me to present specific results from prior research. Cultivating plants in space is an inherent topic in any discussions regarding space missions. I strongly believe that this project will be a step towards improving the quality and speed of cultivation in space.

Alan Żmuda
Jagiellonian University in Cracow

The Earth’s geomagnetic field (GMF) plays a crucial role in regulating circadian rhythms, synchronizing physiological and behavioral processes in living organisms. However, deep space, the Moon, and Mars have significantly lower magnetic field strengths, known as hypomagnetic fields (HMF), which pose a critical challenge to astronauts during interplanetary missions. This review explores the health effects of HMF on circadian rhythms by elucidating the underlying circadian clock machinery and molecular processes. It discusses how HMF exposure disrupts circadian rhythms, leading to health problems, including sleep disorders, altered metabolism, and neurological diseases. The review also provides insights into laboratory-based methods for simulating HMF conditions and examines the potential impacts on metabolism, embryonic development, neural function, and the secretion of melatonin and norepinephrine. Moreover, it delves into the role of cryptochromes in mediating light-dependent magnetic sensitivity and its implications for circadian regulation. The findings underscore the importance of understanding the effects of HMF on human health in deep space missions and emphasize the need for further research to develop efficient countermeasures. Circadian rhythms, driven by the Earth’s rotation, are vital for coordinating physiological activities with the daily solar cycle. This intricate system involves a central pacemaker in the hypothalamus and local oscillators in peripheral tissues. These peripheral clocks are synchronized by cues such as neuronal and hormonal signals. The circadian clock plays a crucial role in maintaining physiological homeostasis and overall organism function. Disruptions to circadian rhythms have been linked to an increased risk of health issues, including cancer.

Dobrochna Fryc
Silesian University of Technology

The issue of the human factor in space missions is important since, unless the missions are fully robotic, their success will depend on the well-being of the crew. A key element is to specify factors specific to microgravity conditions. For this purpose, research simulating space missions has been, and still are being, conducted, providing a number of stimuli analogous to real space missions. A large part of the ailments experienced by astronauts is the result of chronic stress, which affects both the regenerative potential, the quality of work performed, but also the mood and parameters indicating health and fitness. Biomechanical tests allow for non-invasive assessment not only of selected motor skills but also for rough diagnosis of the occurrence of stress reactions. A longitudinal study of stabilographic parameters was carried out during simulated space missions in the LunAres habitat in Piła (9 people: 5 women and 4 men) and within a control study among students and employees of the Silesian University of Technology (9 people: 5 women and 4 men). Measurements were performed using the Romberg test and the Zebris stabilography platform (zebris Medical GmbH) for 10 days. All parameters except symmetry showed lower values for the isolation condition, which indicates an increased level of concentration and alertness correlated with higher activity of the sympathetic system. Procedures carried out during simulated space missions allowed to determine the occurrence of chronic stress during the simulation. These results are consistent with the existing literature and indicate the importance of the isolation and confinement factor in the psycho-physiology of stress in space missions.

21:00

Computational Astrobiology

 

Jacobo Aguirre
Centro de Astrobiología

Unraveling the origin of life remains one of the greatest challenges that humanity faces. Since Oparin’s groundbreaking article a century ago, various scientific disciplines have approached this problem from isolated perspectives. Despite the remarkable progress made, achieving this ambitious goal still entails significant difficulties, and disruptive and more interdisciplinary, holistic approaches have been advocated recently as the way forward.

I will start this presentation addressing the main unresolved difficulties associated with the field of the origin of life and explore how complexity theory, in harmony with recent advances in computational science, can play a pivotal role in tackling some of them. To clarify my proposal, I will summarize the main research lines that my group is developing in this context, from the description of the emergence of molecular complexity in the interstellar medium by interacting networks or a theoretical approach to the astrobiologically relevant interstellar phosphorus chemical network, to the modeling of a primordial, non-enzymatic RNA replication in the early Earth or the study of a protometabolism model characterized by the complex interactions between molecules towards auto-organization and, eventually, self-replication. In summary, our work reinforces the notion that some of the properties that condition the extremely complex journey from the chemistry in space to prebiotic chemistry and finally, to life could show relatively simple and universal patterns.

Łukasz Szydłowski
Malopolska Centre of Biotechnology Jagiellonian University

Background: The extreme environment of the International Space Station (ISS) puts selective pressure on microorganisms unintentionally introduced during its 20+ years of service as a low-orbit science platform and human habitat. Such pressure leads to the development of new features not found in the Earth-bound relatives, which enable them to adapt to unfavorable conditions.

Results: In this study, we generated the functional annotation of the genomes of five newly identified species of Gram-positive bacteria, four of which are non-spore-forming and one spore-forming, all isolated from the ISS. Using a deep-learning based tool – deepFRI – we were able to functionally annotate close to 100% of protein-coding genes in all studied species, overcoming other annotation tools. Our comparative genomic analysis highlights common characteristics across all five species and specific genetic traits that appear unique to these ISS microorganisms. Proteome analysis mirrored these genomic patterns, revealing similar traits. The collective annotations suggest adaptations to life in space, including the management of hypoosmotic stress related to microgravity via mechanosensitive channel proteins, increased DNA repair activity to counteract heightened radiation exposure, and the presence of mobile genetic elements enhancing metabolism. In addition, our findings suggest the evolution of certain genetic traits indicative of potential pathogenic capabilities, such as small molecule and peptide synthesis and ATP-dependent transporters. These traits, exclusive to the ISS microorganisms, further substantiate previous reports explaining why microbes exposed to space conditions demonstrate enhanced antibiotic resistance and pathogenicity.

Conclusion: Our findings indicate that the microorganisms isolated from ISS we studied have adapted to life in space. Evidence such as mechanosensitive channel proteins, increased DNA repair activity, as well as metallopeptidases and novel S-layer oxidoreductases suggest a convergent adaptation among these diverse microorganisms, potentially complementing one another within the context of the microbiome. The common genes that facilitate adaptation to the ISS environment may enable bioproduction of essential biomolecules need during future space missions, or serve as potential drug targets, if these microorganisms pose health risks.

Maximos Goumas
Florida Institute of Technology

The ultimate goal for many is to find life elsewhere in the universe, whether it be in our own Solar System or further, but current technological, physical, and/or other limitations prevent a definitive answer. Furthermore, the subsurface oceans on the icy moons of our Solar System, specifically Europa, are manifestly of great astrobiological interest. Modeling these environments and the growth of putative organisms within them can aid in this grand endeavor of understanding and identifying other habitable and inhabited worlds. Simulating the interactions of these organisms with each other and with the available environmental nutrients and substrates, as well as the accessible energy sources and sinks, is crucial for not only determining the habitability potential of such environments but also developing a theoretical framework for later use during comparisons with direct observation and data collection. To elaborate on this theme further, ascertaining putative properties of ecosystems from a bioenergetic standpoint is valuable for the following two reasons:

(1) interpretation and analysis of data from future missions, such as Europa Clipper and JUICE, and

(2) theoretical predictions of what to expect in these ecosystems, thus potentially aiding in selecting the design and functionality of future missions and instruments.

In this study, modeling is achieved through use of the python code package NutMEG (Nutrients, Maintenance, Energy and Growth), with the chief objective to simulate methanogens in the subsurface ocean environment of Europa, whose ocean may be more acidic relative to Earth (among other properties). The preliminary results presented show that the power supply available per cell varies with temperature, but variations in pH have little to no effect. The results also show that the theoretically available maintenance power and specific combinations of ocean pH and temperature meet the criteria for methanogens to survive in a relatively habitable environment. Future work includes expanding this analysis to determine potential biomass evolution and final population sizes, determining concentrations of produced biosignatures, and to perform similar modeling and simulations on other habitable environments.

Architecture and extraterrestial habitation

 

Monika Brandić-Lipińska
NASA Ames Research Center

The Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) developed by NASA are a widely-used nine-level scale to assess the readiness of a technology to be launched into space. The TRLs are now also widely used in other engineering and design fields, for example, architectural engineering. TRLs are a valuable scale to understand advancements in readiness and development of research which is critical for transdisciplinary research. The nine levels were developed with the principle that technology is designed and fabricated on Earth before being launched into space. However, to reduce mission costs, researchers are also looking into designing space systems and materials that will be manufactured or grown in situ using living materials or organisms. Traditional inert materials being assembled by autonomous systems in space can be simulated on Earth in analogue environments, however, the behavior of living materials or organisms cannot be accurately reproduced in analogue environments. Moreover, scaling up biological elements is a limiting factor as well, as micro-scale prototypes do not exhibit the same behavior as macro-scale systems. Therefore, the relevance of the current TRLs for these new biomaterials and (living) organisms is limited. It is critical to have an appropriate readiness assessment for these novel materials and applications. The aim is to establish the scope and methods for the development of the evolved BIO-TRLs. This paper presents a preliminary report on the development of an evolved TRLs scale for biologically active materials and organisms, including a review of alternative readiness levels and current developments in the fields of biomaterials and biotechnology for the built environment and specifically for space habitats using the existing TRLs (visualized using novel tools: the bio-gram and a scale model). The results suggest engaging in a series of interviews with pioneering researchers working with innovative biologically active materials and living organisms using a bespoke interview canvas, and metabolisms and ecosystems maps to ensure the assessment of systems and sub-systems and various scales of readiness are accurately represented. This will lead to the development of the BIO-TRLs scale together with experts, which focuses on space applications whilst also showcasing the readiness of the research to any given environment, allowing for its utilization in different transdisciplinary contexts.

Patrick Brennock
NASA Ames Center former contractor

While the decreasing cost and increasing ease of extrasolar transport may make it feasible to transport enough material to consider the possibility of Moon or Mars colonies, more attention needs to be paid
to the specific capabilities that need to be met for a partially or fully independent colony to become possible. The history and definition of colonies will be discussed, with specific attention paid to the development of colonies to independence and what hinders them from doing so. The extra difficulties of making a independent long-term habitation in space will discussed, including radiation shielding, lack of
gravity, and extreme isolation from possible ressuply. Specific capabalities that we currently have that can be scaled up will be discussed, as well as the large gaps needed for a fully independent colony (medicine production, food and water and air at scale, replaceable part manufacture, energy
independence, net-zero finances/export product). The talk will end with an identification of capability gaps and the most promising ventures to close them.

Herzig Thomas
Pneumocell

 

A design study for a Moon habitat funded, by ESA´s OSIP programme. The goal of this study was to develop a design for a lunar habitat in the close vicinity of one of the lunar poles and to demonstrate the feasibility of the suggested design in view of the available resources. The habitat should operate self-sufficiently in the long term by producing and recycling its own oxygen and food inside large greenhouses and almost exclusively by using solar irradiation power. The concept features a combination of:

1. Prefabricated ultra-light inflatable structures.

2. Covering the inflated structure with a 4 -5 meters thick layer of local loose regolith for
efficient protection from extreme temperature, meteorites and cosmic radiation.

3. The use of mirrors that move towards the sun and bring visible sunlight into the
greenhouses.

Drozdowska Paula
Space is More

In this paper, we explore an innovative approach to lunar station architecture, focusing on a double-layered envelope design to create a safe and effective cave habitation system. Our concept was awarded the Gold Mention in the Moon Station Competition organized by YAC – Young Architects Competitions and the European Space Agency – ESA Tropical Team. We live in interesting times for space exploration. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo missions and witness the beginning of the Artemis program, which aims to return humans to the Moon and beyond, we are entering an exciting era of space exploration with a new wave of star sailors and adventurers. We can only imagine what humanity will accomplish and discover over the next 50 years. Designing the ideal station for Moon colonization requires the ultimate balance between functionality and comfort; engineering design while addressing the full spectrum of human needs. Our proposed lunar base is situated in Lacus Mortis, a unique location with access to a lava tube, offering an ideal site for colonization. The surrounding infrastructure includes 3D-printed landing pads with storage and fuel depots, as well as an intricate road network connecting to ISRU processing refineries and Small Modular Fission Power Plants. The settlement is characterized by four aluminum modules each with a dual-layer inflatable shell, both of which are prefabricated on Earth and brought to the lunar base. Each unit, while functioning independently, contributes to the overall sustainability and functionality of the lunar settlement. We designed our mission concept for a research crew, maintenance team and tourists sent to the Moon on an early colonization journey. The four units of the Moon Station are designed for separate
module functions that include an observatory, mission control center, recreation module and research center module. An optimal design process always begins with the end in mind. While designing the functionality of each module was important, we also made numerous design decisions to optimize crew mental health and psychological wellbeing. The design team also leveraged their experience gained from running Lunares Research Station, a facility for analog space mission simulations located in the city of Piła in Poland, to drive design considerations based on real world experience and missions. Our paper presents a forward-looking vision for lunar colonization, combining innovative architecture with a keen focus on the holistic needs of future lunar inhabitants.

Day 3 - 3.12.2023

15:00

Poster Session

Hariharan PK
Government Arts College Autonomous 

The near-future colonisation of Mars and the Moon warrants suitable construction materials to be prearranged. Selecting appropriate and readily available rocks, as well as obtaining a cementing medium to make the rocks feasible for 3D printing, provide obstacles that must be overcome before preparing for Martian and Lunar surface colonisation. Olivine, a mineral of significant presence, is widely distributed across the planetary surface of Mars. However, it is noteworthy that Nili Fossae, a region encompassing Noachian-aged rocks, exhibits particularly prominent accumulations of this material. A notable occurrence of a substantial olivine-rich outcrop can be observed in Ganges Chasma, which is situated on the eastern side of Valles Marineris (Linda M.V. Martel 2007). Calcium or iron carbonates were identified within a crater situated on the rim of Huygens Crater, which is situated in the Iapygia quadrangle. The excavation of material resulting from the impact event that formed Huygens has led to the exposure of rim materials (NASA JPL 2011). The calcium carbonate may be used as a raw material for cement. The terrestrial analogue of the olivine mineral is collected from the ultramafic complex of Chalk Hills, Salem, Tamil Nadu. The monomineralic rock Dunite is pulverised in a jaw crusher and sieved using a mechanical sieve shaker. Two different types of cement are intended for making cubical blocks of 4 cm in size. Pulverised sedimentary Marly lime stones were collected from sedimentary deposits in Ariyalur district, Tamil Nadu, which may be an analogue of the sedimentary sequence reported from Gale crater. The pulverised and sieved fractions are mixed in equal proportions to use it as cement. Heated marly lime stones (calcined lime) resembling a possible cement we can prepare from CaCO3 under the effects of an ionising radiation dose at a minimum power of absorbed radiation equal to 0.5 Mrad/s (United States Paten 3,940,324) The calcined lime is used as the binding material of olivine for making 4 cm3 blocks. The blocks are made with olivine (dunite) and limestone powder in five different proportions ranging from 50:50 to 90:10. Similar proportions are maintained for the
olivine and calcined lime mixtures.

With the possibility of microbial-induced calcite precipitation (Rashmi Dikshit et al., 2021), taking up a limestone medium as a binder for Lunar soil will enhance the possibility of building a robust structure. Lunar analogue soil is made from the anorthosite rocks from the Sittampundi anorthosite complex, located in South India (Venugopal et al., 2020). The anorthosite is
pulverised and sieved using a mechanical sieve shaker. Eleven different size fractions are separated, viz., ASTM 230+, ASTM 230, ASTM 180, etc. The different size fractions are taken in equal proportions and thoroughly mixed with marly limestone powder in different ratios, like 50:50 to 90:10. After 14 days of curing and drying under nominal atmospheric conditions, the blocks will be treated in liquid nitrogen and Thermovac lab to simulate temperature
and pressure variations in space before being tested for engineering properties.

Popowska Karolina
Warsaw University of Technology, Faculty of Automotive and Construction Machinery Engineering

Machine diagnostics is a broad engineering field aimed at increasing lifetimeof the machinery and thus a probability of completing the tasks planned. Diagnostics covers actions such as health monitoring and early fault diagnosis of machines, and
service operations 1. In what means machine diagnostics may contribute to increasing a probability of completing space missions? The success of a space mission depends primarily on a properly operating machine 2,3 . There are many machine diagnostics methods depending on a type of physical quantity being measured and therefore many kinds of objects being a source of the diagnostic information 4,5 . An example of such an object is magnetic encoder ring used for measuring rotational motion parameters, including a rotational speed. The measurement of rotational movement parameters is used in every moving rotating element, including space vehicle’s wheels and robotic arms. Composite made of steel and rubber-ferritic conglomerate, which, if properly magnetized, can act as an encoder for reading the parameter of angular displacement, speed, or acceleration. Based on experimental research 5 a novel diagnostic method for magnetic encoder rings was proposed, thanks to which it is possible to track the progressing degradation associated with the influence of the magnetic field, temperature, and even mechanical abrasion. Machine diagnostics can increase the probability of completing of a given mission thanks to early faults detection, and consequently prevention of further machine components progressive failures. Especially, the discussed case of encoder ring applies for missions where rotating machinery elements are the main and essential components for the whole system.

Ray Aditya
Presidency University 

The study outlines a multidisciplinary investigation into Martian geology with a specialized focus on biosignatures and deciphering potential markers of past life on
the Red Planet. By observing the geological and chemical properties of the Deccan Volcanics in India as an analogue, critical parallels between terrestrial and Martian environments are illuminated. Beginning with a foundational understanding of Martian geology, nuanced evaluation of biosignatures, encompassing both geological and chemical indicators are explored. Compelling evidence of microbial
life and its resilience within volcanic rocks underscores the importance of reexamination of the habitability of Martian terrains. The presence of jarosite and Subsurface Filamentous Fabrics(SSF) in the Deccan Volcanics and on Mars not only underscores their shared geological lineage but also unveils a promising avenue for biosignature exploration. Substantive biosignatures within the Deccan volcanics suggest the potential for ancient microbial activity on Mars. These discoveries hold far-reaching implications, substantially bolstering the case for the existence of life in Mars’ distant past. The incorporation of a novel sulfur isotope in probing approach augments biosignature discernment and fortifies our ability to differentiate genuine markers from potential false positives. In conclusion, this study reviews the potential of finding biosignatures in Martian volcanic terrains, from analog study of India’s Deccan Volcanics on Earth. By refining landing site selection methodologies and optimizing payload configurations, a robust foundation for future missions is proposed to unlock further secrets of Martian life.

Smith Kayla
Central State University

Standard notions of an “Earthlike” planet rely solely on physical and material properties, like planetary mass, radius, and surface temperature. Here, we introduce a novel, relational perspective on what defines “Earthlikeness.” In our process-based framework, rocky planets are local pockets of free energy that have the potential to drive the emergence of dynamically persistent systems that coevolve with one another. Examples of dynamically persistent planetary phenomena include magnetic dynamos, mantle convection, tectonic regimes, deep volatile cycles, global climate feedbacks, biogeochemical cycles, and the biosphere. When two or more processes couple to one another such that they gain causal efficacy over one another’s persistence, some degree of planetary-scale homeostasis may emerge. In astrobiology, Earthlike exoplanets are often considered to be priority targets for the search for life elsewhere. We suggest that a process-based framework for Earthlikeness has the potential to widen our search space and inspire novel planetary- scale biosignatures, or “Gaiasignatures,” that may be essential for detecting exoplanetary biospheres. Additionally, a process-based view of life can influence the development of agnostic biosignatures at all scales. In contrast to the dominant scientific perspective, which has tended to engender a materialistic worldview, relational ontologies may contribute to our scientific understanding of Earth as a network of dynamically persistent systems, humanity as an integral part of nature, and the search for life in the universe.

Krakowiak Michalina
Doctoral School of Natural Sciences, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland
Department of Animal Taxonomy and Ecology, Institute of Environmental Biology, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland
Department of Molecular Virology, Institute of Experimental Biology, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland

Tardigrada (water bears) are a group of small invertebrates inhabiting nearly all Earth ecosystems [1], of which approximately 1,500 species have been described so far [2] . Tardigrades are able to undergo anhydrobiosis, characterized by almost complete loss of body water, multiple times at any stage of their life. This state allows to survive not only the lack of environmental water, but also very low or very high temperatures, high doses of radiation, extremely high or low pressure, or even cosmic vacuum [3,4,5]. Thus, tardigrades are considered as extremotolerant organisms which can be studied in outer space environment. Although anhydrobiosis survival has been studied on multiple tardigrade species, usually the survival rate after only one cycle of desiccation-rehydration has been analyzed [e.g. 6,7,8]. To broaden the knowledge of tardigrades’ ability to survive anhydrobiosis, we present the preliminary study on two tardigrade species: Paramacrobiotus gadabouti [9] , whose anhydrobiosis survival has not yet been studied, and Pam. experimentalis [10]

The animals have been subjected to short (7 days) or long (30 days) anhydrobiosis, repeated 1 to 3 times in a desiccation-rehydration procedure. The survival rate, as well as the time of return to full activity after anhydrobiosis, was compared between the studied groups. It was possible to observe the contribution of desiccated state longevity, as well as, the number of anhydrobiosis cycles, to the survival of both studied species. These results might be used in future projects design, where studied groups with particular survival rates of anhydrobiosis are required, e.g. in astrobiology-related projects with multiple desiccation-rehydration episodes.

The study has been financed by the National Science Centre grant PRELUDIUM no. 2022/45/N/NZ8/00816.

Francisco Ismael Román Moreno

Centro de Astrobiología (CSIC-INTA) and University of Granada

In Astrobiology, the concept of life is essential since it determines the objectives of the experiments to search for molecules, biosignatures or biomarkers that verify the presence of life. For this reason, it is vital to redefine the concept of life and for this the viruses that have always raised a controversy play a fundamental role since they allow us to redefine and expand the concept of life. In this way, viruses are a key and novel key to the search for life in other environments of the universe. We are going to focus on the large nucleocytoplasmic DNA viruses (NCLDV) of eukaryotes (proposed order “Megavirales” belonging to the class Megaviricetes) that comprise a large group of viruses formed by the families Poxviridae, Asfarviridae, Iridoviridae, Asfarviridae, Asfarviridae and Iridoviridae, Asfarviridae, Iridoviridae, Ascoviridae, Phycodnaviridae, Marseilleviridae, Pithoviridae, and Mimiviridae, as well as Pandoraviruses, Molliviruses, and Faustoviruses. All of these viruses have double-stranded DNA genomes ranging in size from about 100 kilobases (kb) to more than 2.5 megabases. NCLDVs can be defined as a monophyletic group due to the presence of about 40 genes that can be traced back to their last common ancestor (Koonin & Yutin, 2019). One of the major implications of viruses is horizontal gene transfer (HGT). HGT is the movement of genetic material between unicellular and/or multicellular organisms. This movement has proven to be an important factor in the evolution of many organisms. This horizontal gene transfer usually involves virus, plasmids and transposons (Nasir & Caetano-Anollés, 2015). Viruses are generally considered to lack the fundamental properties of living organisms, as they do not harbor an energy metabolism system or protein synthesis machinery. However, the discovery of giant viruses has challenged this view due to the encoding enzymatic machinery for some steps of protein synthesis. Numerous metabolic genes involved in energy production have recently been detected in giant virus genomes. The remarkable diversity of metabolic genes described in giant viruses includes genes encoding enzymes involved in glycolysis, gluconeogenesis, the tricarboxylic acid cycle, photosynthesis and β-oxidation (Brahim-Belhaouari et al., 2022).

One of the proposed mechanisms by which NCLDVs possess these viruses is host gene acquisition – called viral homologs or “virologs”. Unraveling the functions of virologs during infection, as well as the evolutionary pathways through which viruses acquire these gene repertoires is of great interest in gaining insight into viral origins (Moniruzzaman et al., 2023). As giant viruses encode multiple proteins that are universal among cellular life forms attempts have been made to incorporate these viruses into the evolutionary tree of cellular life by constituting a fourth domain (Koonin & Yutin, 2019).

In addition, NCLDVs have a peculiarity in that they contain virophages. Virophages are small double-stranded DNA viral phages that require co-infection of the giant virus it infects. Virophages depend on the viral replication factory of the giant virus for their own replication (Pearson, 2008). The first virophage was discovered in a Paris cooling tower in 2008. It was discovered with its co-infecting giant virus, Acanthamoeba castellanii Mamavirus (ACMV). The virophage was named Sputnik and its replication was entirely dependent on co-infection with ACMV (La Scola et al., 2008). Sputnik is deleterious to APMV and results in the production of abortive forms and abnormal assembly of the giant virus capsid. Thus, virophage may enhance host recovery and survival (Mougari et al., 2019). On the other hand, NCLDVs could be responsible for eukaryotic cell formation. Viral eukaryogenesis is the hypothesis proposed by Philip Bell in 2001 on the basis that the cell nucleus of eukaryotic life forms evolved from a large DNA virus in a form of endosymbiosis within a methanogenic archaeon or bacterium (Guglielmini et al., 2019). Thus, evolutionary reconstructions corroborate that NCLDVs evolved from smaller, simpler viruses, such as adenoviruses, and ultimately derive all of these viruses from tailless bacteriophages (Koonin & Yutin, 2019).

Finally, we can say that living things appeared at the very moment when nucleic acids with coding properties became encapsidated. The origin of proteins capable of assembling giving rise to protocapsids allowed the individualization of biological systems, i.e., they gave way to the formation of living beings or organisms. This event led to the origin of viruses and, subsequently, to the origin of cells. This positions viruses as living biotic entities and precursors of cell formation (Prosdocimi & Torres, 2021; Prosdocimi & Torres, 2023).

Rybacki Bartosz
Gdańsk University of Technology

To propel scientific progress, facilitate space exploration, and harness the resultant knowledge for the betterment of life on Earth, as humanity and the scientific community, we are obliged to undertake these upcoming fields of science such as space biosciences research more realistic by creating infrastructural frameworks that enable the conduction of experiments within this burgeoning fields. One of the ways to accomplish that is to conduct scientific research in the domain of space biotech under suborbital rocket flight conditions. The answer to this is the AMBER project (Autonomous Modular Biotechnological Experiment on a Rocket) in
the form of a 3U CubeSat, aboard which we have conducted two studies in this area. The project’s first iteration was used to study the effect of the suborbital rocket environment on the ability of selected bacterial strains to produce biofilm and its durability. The second was to check enzymatic activity for the real-time reaction of enzyme-substrate coupled systems. Each type of research implied the need to develop technological solutions that made the experiments possible. We extended our research to include the impact of a simulated microgravity state using a Rotating Wall Vessel (RWV), as well as radiation using facilities and NASA Ames Research Center mentoring.

When talking about the future, the human presence in space has to be considered in terms of medium- to long-term exposure to microgravity and elevated radiation conditions. Therefore, to better understand the effects of these factors not only on humans but also on the basic biological processes known from laboratories on the Earth’s surface, it is necessary to carry out research over a longer period of time. The ideal bridge between research in drop-towers and sounding rockets and research on the ISS is to conduct experiments aboard suborbital rockets. This makes it possible to test not only the experimental assumptions but also the hardware before carrying out a much more costly mission to the ISS or another object orbiting the Earth or beyond. That is why, with the development of the AMBER project, we began a 3rd iteration of the AstroGen Research Group activity. In this endeavor, we are designing a mini-bioreactor capable of carrying out bioproduction processes that lead to the creation of enzymes, biopharmaceuticals, or deferring components under space conditions but also can serve as a test system for R&D in the biotechnology industry.

Jurczyński Dawid
Silesian University of Technology

Space for everyone? The belief that it’s only for a select few is mistaken. I will demonstrate how I utilized publicly available data obtained through Sentinel missions. I will show how each of you can harness the potential of satellites to measure carbon monoxide levels in hard-to-reach areas and how to correlate ground data with satellite data. All of this, of course, with a touch of machine learning. During the presentation, a deep analysis of the scaling process of carbon monoxide measurements obtained from the Sentinel-5P satellite will be presented. The main goal is to accurately reflect these measurements on the Earth’s surface. By using tools such as the Emissions API and the Open Weather Map API, advanced interpolation methods designed for maximum accuracy will be discussed. Presentation attendees will gain insight into various tests based on specific geographic points and days of the year. A key point of the presentation will be comparing traditional mathematical formulas with modern artificial intelligence algorithms, highlighting the potential of the latter in increasing measurement accuracy.

Johnsen Tim
University of California Irvine

Space robotics are under development to autonomously explore, observe, and even construct, on extraterrestrial surfaces for improved scientific yield without the need for excessive human interaction. Two core challenges for such robotics are: (1) corrupted sensor observations in the form of low signal-to-noise ratios and missing data, and (2) limited energy consumption in the form of constrained battery life and available power. Firstly, presented are methods for mitigating corruption in the form of both noisy (Gaussian distributed) and missing (Bernoulli distributed) observations taken from the field, along with methods for quantifying uncertainty in those observations. This is accomplished with a denoising autoencoder neural network [1] and Monte Carlo dropout [2]. Provided is an application of self guided field labs under development to autonomously observe evapotranspiration systems on Earth, as equipped with a multimodal sensor array. Secondly, presented are methods for decreasing the resource footprint of machine learning and artificial intelligence models, whose high time and power expenditure otherwise clash with limited energy reservoirs available to space robotics. This is accomplished with dynamic slimmable neural networks [3] that adapt model complexity, and accordingly energy consumption, to both environmental context and mission progress. Provided is an application of autonomous microdrones to autonomously navigate increasingly complex terrains, as equipped with a multimodal sensor array. Ultimately, solutions to these challenges improve efficiency to better explore the unknown universe.

Chowaniec Karolina
Skubała Kaja

Jagiellonian University, Faculty of Biology, Institute of Botany

Biological soil crust (BSC) was described as the “living skin” on the soil surface that occurs in many water-limited ecosystems around the world [1]. BSCs create miniature ecosystems that consist highly specialised communities of different interacting organisms. BSCs consist of cyanobacteria, algae, fungi, lichens, bryophytes, and various microorganisms and are found in arid areas around the world that cover ca 12% of the global land area. In these extreme environments, BSCs are exposed to long periods of desiccation, UV radiation, and shortage of nutrients and resources [2]. To cope with harsh conditions the organisms that make up the BSC must have developed mechanisms that allow them to survive in extreme conditions such as extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) that help them to retain water, UV-protecting pigments such as scytonemin and melanin or specific compounds including sucrose and trehalose that minimise metabolic desiccation stress [3]. Despite unfavorable conditions, the succsssion of BSC progress. The first colonisers of bare substrate are cyanobacteria and green algae that facilitate succession to later stages due to their ability to improve the surface microhabitat, while lichens and mosses emerge later [4]. Along with the succession the biomass of different organisms and their activity change. We examined overall microbial activity expressed by dehydrogenase activity (DHA) in BSCs developed at different succession stages at inland shifting sands in the Błędowska Desert (Poland). Our study revealed significant increase of DHA along with succession. This phenomenon is certainly associated with the increase of organic matter, which promote greater microbial biomass since organic matter provides energy for microbial growth and enzyme production. The studies on BSC development may provide valuable insights into understanding the evolution of life and the habitability beyond Earth. The organisms forming BSC might be suitable candidates for testing their vitality in outer Space or under Martian conditions.

Lee Mijin
Max Plank Institute for Astronomy

The aqueous chemistry occurring within carbonaceous planetesimals holds great promise for the synthesis of prebiotic organic matter, a fundamental building block for life as we know it. Recent studies propose a significant role for meteorites from these planetesimals in delivering crucial prebiotic material that potentially facilitates the origins of life to the early Earth. Vitamin B3 serves as a precursor to essential coenzymes, namely NAD+ (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) and NADP+ (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate). These coenzymes, NAD+/NADH and NADP+/NADPH, are of paramount importance in modern life. Vitamin B3, an organic molecule essential for all life, exists in two forms: nicotinic acid (niacin) and nicotinamide (niacinamide). These two forms have been identified in carbonaceous chondrites.1,2 In their experiments, Cleaves & Miller demonstrated the synthesis of nicotinic acid by combining aspartic acid with glyceraldehyde.3 The favored mechanism for amino acid formation is the Strecker synthesis,4 and sugars are easily formed via the Formose reaction,5 and both are believed to operate inside planetesimals. Based on this, we propose a new reaction mechanism, explaining the synthesis of vitamin B3 (Figure 1). This study6 utilizes an up-to-date thermochemical equilibrium model, combined with a 1D thermodynamic planetesimal model, to calculate the vitamin B3 concentrations (Figure 2). We discuss the possibilities of chemical decomposition
and preservation of vitamin B3 (nicotinamide and nicotinic acid). Our results suggest that an “RNA-and-proteins-side-by-side world” could have potentially formed within meteorite parent bodies and subsequently been delivered to the early Earth.

Kossakowski Aleksander
Laboratory of Fungal Bioinformatics at the Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Polish Academy of Sciences

Investigating evolutionary trajectories and biochemical functionalities across diverse life forms necessitates precise detection of distant homologies in protein sequences, a task where traditional methods fall short.

This presentation underscores the efficacy of homology detection, utilizing profile Hidden Markov Models (HMMs) and sequence databases for nuanced HMM profile and alignments construction. Case studies highlight one of the state-of-the-art toolset, HH-sute3, proficiency in uncovering obscure phylogenetic relationships and inferring functions from distant homologies. The integration of sequence feature screening further can lead to improved detection precision, with potential implications for identifying extraterrestrial protein homologies, extending biochemical comprehension beyond terrestrial confines. Furthermore, the anticipated role of artificial intelligence in bioinformatics suggests a future with enhanced predictive capabilities for understanding protein configurations, potentially revolutionizing terrestrial and extraterrestrial biological research.

Carla Alejandre Villalobos
Centro de Astrobiología (CAB), CSIC-INTA, Spain

Life appeared on Earth around 3.800 million years ago, not long after our planet became habitable. The hypothesis of the primordial soup describes a very young planet in which prebiotic chemistry could have progressively increased the available molecular complexity in several out-of-equilibrium environments such as surface lakes, sea coasts, water-mineral interfaces, oceanic hydrothermal vents, etc. In some of those scenarios, the accumulation of organic compounds and the availability of energetic sources laid the foundations for the emergence of life. One of the most widely accepted hypotheses related to the origin of life, substantially supported by experimental data, is the RNA world. As is well known, it suggests that life was originated in an environment in which informational and functional RNA molecules were able to self-replicate (through the activity of RNA ribozymes) and
perform catalytic functions. Later evolution of these primordial RNA populations would give rise to the decoupling of genotype and phenotype in the RNA/protein and DNA/RNA/protein worlds [1]. However, the sophisticated machinery associated with current RNA polymerase enzymes could not emerge randomly from those initial organic compounds that were available in the stage of prebiotic chemistry. Instead, a step-wise, ligation-based modular evolution of short RNA sequences seems a more plausible pathway for the appearance of the first RNA molecules with enzymatic properties [2]. Nevertheless, even modular evolution of RNA requires the presence of an up-to-now unknown replicative mechanism to guarantee the availability of copies of specific RNA sequences (oligoribonucleotides) in which selection can act. In this work we describe the development of a computational model to simulate the polymerization of single ribonucleotides and a subsequent non-enzymatic, template- dependent replication mechanism for the primordial RNA molecules. These processes would have arisen in a confined space such as the interphase between an aqueous solution and the interlayers of clay minerals, an environment known to favor RNA polymerization [3, 4]. In our simulations, two RNA polymerization processes are described: (i) surface-dependent, random polymerization of ribonucleotides, and (ii) template-dependent polymerization thanks to RNA complementary base pairing (RNA replication). This conceptually simple in silico model allows us to test how environmental conditions can affect the length and fidelity of RNA copies, as well as
to study how the efficiency of the RNA replicative phenomenology depends on the parameters of the system, such as the amount of available ribonucleotides, size of genetic alphabet, the strength of chemical bonds or environmental fluctuations. Our results point towards oscillatory environments as a necessary requirement for the formation of efficient copies of long enough RNA sequences, in agreement with recent works in the field that suggest that fluctuating environments where necessary for life to emerge [5]. Finally, we have developed a very promising analytical framework that supports our main results.

Bartylak Magdalena

Department of Animal Taxonomy and Ecology, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Faculty of Biology 

Research sounding rockets provide an unique opportunity to study adaptations of invertebrate animals to extreme conditions, by enabling their exposure to multiple severe stressors at the same time. Organisms with the highest chance of survival in such harsh environments are called extremophiles. Tardigrades (water bears) are one of such group of microscopic animals, commonly used as models for astrobiological studies, due to their extreme abilities to cope with various environmental stresses (e.g. Guidetti et al. 2012; Kaczmarek et al. 2019) . Thanks to their exceptional cryptobiotic capabilities, they have been recorded as enduring a wide variety of extreme conditions, including both high and low temperatures and pressures, various types of radiation, as well as exposure to various chemical compounds (e.g. Clegg 2001; Guidetti et al. 2012; McGill et al. 2015) . The most common and well-studied form of cryptobiosis is anhydrobiosis, which allows tardigrades to survive without liquid water (e.g. Rebecchi et al. 2007; Wełnicz et al. 2011).

In this study we used eutardigrade species Paramacrobiotus experimentalis Kaczmarek, Mioduchowska, Poprawa & Roszkowska, 2020 from Madagascar. Specimens of this species were introduced into the state of anhydrobiosis, using the standard anhydrobiosis protocol (Roszkowska et al. 2021) and loaded into the sounding rocket as biological payload. The presented data is made up of the results from two different groups: one equipped with a radiation shield and the other lacking it. This has allowed a comparison between specimens shielded from radiation and those fully exposed to it, experiencing radiation of a magnitude of 12 Sv/h. Preliminary results have found that specimens from both groups have survived
the launch and were subsequently successfully recovered.

Kulig Aleksandra
Uniwersytet Jagielloński w Krakowie

Desire to explore and colonise worlds beyond our own drives the expansion of space industry. In the recent years we are experiencing a rapid advancement in this field. However, the progress is still hampered by numerous unresolved issues. The vast remoteness of potentially habitable locations is one of the most significant obstacles. Lack of reliable logistic connection with the Earth forces potential colonies to be self- sustainable from the very initial stage of their development. Another great difficulty is the difference between the conditions on our planet and the distant worlds we want to claim. In most cases, they lack vital resources such as water and oxygen and the gravity, pressure and radiation are making them inhospitable. Introduction of life to these environments requires organisms with exceptional adaptations. Luckily, our planet already contains multitude of possible candidates for this task. One of the promising groups are algae, which are known to thrive in difficult conditions. Thanks to the autotrophy, they are able to synthesize most of the substances they require to survive. They are small, fast to grow and reproduce, and their diversity is enormous. For many of them, we already found numerous applications in biotechnology. In space, they can be used to provide oxygen, nutrition, biopolymers and pharmaceuticals. In photobioreactors and photosynthetic panels then can become a sustainable source of biofuels and biomass. In this study we present and summarise the research on algae and their relevance to the space industry.

TM Aruna Devi
International Space University

Enceladus, which is human’s new destination for life search, has all main components of life. But apart from that there are new elements present. These elements could also be present as building components of new life. Analysis of these molecules is important but it’s hard, as we humans are not aware of them. And so using deep learning techniques we could analyze their structure and properties.This could help us to find new neighbors.

Khiter Yacine
CY TECH/ WOMANIUM

Enceladus is one of our subjects when it comes to possible extraterrestrial life, and while the Cassini mission gave us important information, we have to conduct further research. WHALE travels to the so called “Tiger Stripes” to deploy a submersible that can further explore the liquid ocean underneath the icy crust. Mission elements and instruments Orbiter – high-resolution imaging system for mapping Enceladus in order to deploy the lander Lander – sample collection capabilities for plume analysis, winch with hollow tubing to allow sample recovery from the submersible Submersible – penetrate the icy crust and explore the subsurface ocean Mass Spectrometer – identify and quantify individual molecules in plume samples from Enceladus’ subsurface ocean, aiding in the search for organic compounds indicative of life. Microscope and Imaging System – detailed imaging and examination of collected samples Gas Chromatograph- Mass Spectrometer (GC-MS) – separating and identifying volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds within plume samples Subsurface Penetrator and Analyzer – penetrate the icy crust and explore the subsurface ocean directly Antibiotic Plates – test the impact of antibiotics on any microorganisms we may encounter, helping us understand their resilience and potential adaptations.

Subhajit Hazra
LIFE-To & Beyond

The militarization of outer space has been a contentious issue for many years, as it raises questions about ethics, international cooperation, and the prevention of weapon proliferation beyond our planet. While some argue that space should remain free from military activities, others emphasize the importance of responsible space militarization for the security and defense of nations. One of the main reasons for this difference in opinion is the historical accounts of post-World War II, where the development of long-range ballistic missiles for warfare marked the beginning of the space sector, we know today. Thereafter, various global treaties have been mutually agreed upon by the majority of the nations, which have led to the setting up of various global institutions for ensuring cooperative and peaceful use of space. However, still lingering around the corner is the question, of what ethical aspects should humanity as a whole consider, if someday the space environment happens to be used for warfare or is populated with weapons of mass destruction! While it’s a no-brainer for one to predict the consequences, weaponization of outer space would pose a serious challenge concerning space exploration. Therefore the perspective article would aim to explore the ethical aspects of uses of militarization in outer space and discuss strategies to avoid the proliferation of weapons in orbit, with a special focus on principles of consequentialism.

Palit Sibsankar
LIFE-To & Beyond

Though Venus is often referred to as Earth’s twin, it is also ironically considered a hostile
planet, with its thick atmosphere of sulfuric acid and surface temperatures hot enough to melt lead. However, recent research has suggested that the cloud layers of Venus may actually be a habitable environment for life as we know it. Hence considering the potential for life in its cloud layers, it has been under investigation for years as an astrobiological target. The lower cloud layers of Venus –50.5 km) are found to be an exceptional target for astrobiological exploration due to their favorable conditions for the existence of life (if any). Venusian cloud layers contain sulfur compounds, carbon dioxide (CO2), and water. They also have moderate temperature (0–60°C) and pressure (∼0.4–2 atm) conditions, which makes them a potential site for life. But many chemical anomalies such as albedo drop, cloud-top variations in SO2, existence of NH3, etc, are associated with the cloud layers. Major portions of Venus are also covered with an unknown UV absorbing. In this paper, we will be reviewing the various chemicals present in the Venusian clouds from an astrobiological perspective. We’ll also be discussing the possible explanations proposed by various studies over the years to explain the chemical anomalies in the Venusian clouds.

Gurba Mikołaj
Wrocław University of Science and Technology 

Over the past few decades, several groups have demonstrated possible pathways for the synthesis of biomolecular building blocks such as nucleotides, amino acids, peptides, and lipid precursors. Although it might seem that we already know most of he elements of the puzzle that constitutes the beginning of life on Earth, the fact is that we do not know one very important, or perhaps the most important, element of this puzzle – energy carrier molecules in prebiotic reactions. Every form of life needs energy to be able to develop and thrive. All living organisms that we know use adenosine triphosphate (ATP) as their main energy carrier. ATP is the product of energy-acquiring reactions, whether it is photosynthesis, glycolysis, or others, and the substrate of all reactions that are necessary for living organisms – including those that lead to the formation of ATP itself. The complex enzymatic machinery that allows ATP to perform its function seems too complex to have evolved at the very beginning of life. Nevertheless, another molecule had to play the same role as ATP for early prebiotic chemical reactions to be sustainable and for life as we know it to emerge. Several candidates for prebiotic energy carriers have been proposed in various research groups. These include molecules such as carbonyl sulfide [1], methyl isonitrile [2], diamidophosphate [3], nucleoside phosphoimidazolides [4] and amidotriphosphates [5]. All of these molecules have been shown to be able to be activating agents in prebiotic chemistry pathways. Unfortunately, some of these molecules exhibit properties that may render them unsuitable for their hypothesized role in the origins of life. In this poster, I will delve into the activation mechanisms that encompass these molecules and the potential advantages and disadvantages of each with respect to their likely role as energy carriers for emerging life.

Lina Marcela Uribe Grajales
Scuola Normale Superiore and Scuola Superiore Meridionale

The detection of new molecules in space by astronomical observations of their fingerprints is typically dependent on accurate laboratory measurements and, consequently, accurate spectroscopic characterization based on theoretical calculations1. However, high accuracy means high computational cost or even impossible calculations. In order to deal with these issues, several computational methodologies have been developed that can give very accurate equilibrium structures: Composite Schemes (CS), Semi–Experimental (SE), Template Molecule (TM), and Linear Regression (LR) approaches2. CS, rooted in the coupled–cluster model, provides structural parameters with an accuracy of 0.001 Å for bond lengths and 0.1° for angles, but it is still expensive to obtain the equilibrium structure of large molecular systems, even employing cheap variants3. In the SE approach, equilibrium structures are obtained by a least-squares fit of experimental rotational constants for the ground vibrational state of different isotopologues corrected by computed vibrational and (possibly) electronic contributions, but this approach requires a large number of experimental data for a complete structural characterization of large systems such as peptides, aminoacids,and nucleobases4. The size of molecular systems can be expanded using the TM and LR frameworks. The TM strategy is based on the fact that if an accurate equilibrium geometry is available (both experimental or computationally) for a comparable or a smaller molecule of the system under study, it can be used as a template for freezing some parameters in the fitting process. On the other hand, the LR approach provides accurate geometries adjusted by a term previously acquired by linear regression fit of semi–experimental values in comparison with their computed counterparts5,6Recently, a new methodology has been developed, called PCS (Pisa Composite Scheme), which requires the contribution of three separate optimizations (MP2/cc-pwCVTZ for frozen core and all–electron, and rev–DSD–PBEP86–D3BJ/cc–pVTZ–F12). In this work we applied the PCS approach, to the conformational and spectroscopicproperties in the gas phase of amino acids with very distinctive features ranging from different tautomeric forms (histidine) to ring puckering (proline), and heteroaromatic structures with non- equivalent rings (tryptophan).The new methodology approaches the so–called spectroscopyaccuracy without any empirical parameter at a reasonable cost. The perspective of this work is touse the new methodology to guide and support experimental work and finally help astronomical searches and detections.

Packebush Maxwell

NASA (Ames Research Center)

Understanding the emergence of life on Earth will provide untold benefit in elucidating the fundamentals of biology while simultaneously aiding in the search for life on other planets. Because of amino acids’ ability to assemble into short peptides under prebiotic conditions, short peptides are one of the potential candidates for the earliest biopolymer. Short peptides are able to further assemble into an organized fibrous structure primarily composed of a β-sheets called an amyloid. Amyloid fibers have been shown to act as efficient biocatalysts. All living organisms require a medium to transfer information, grow, and replicate. The ability of amyloid fibers to self-assemble, conduct biologically
relevant functions, and transmit information are properties that could have made amyloids instrumental in the emergence of life. To further understand the catalytic potential of amyloids and their possible roles in the emergence of life, we are developing a method to screen populations of peptide sequences for the ability to form catalytic amyloids. Using a cell-free transcription-translation system to express amyloid fibers in lipid-vesicles, we will screen many unique amyloids for the ability to catalyze the ligation of RNA. Amyloid forming peptides will be subjected to repeated rounds of mutagenesis and functional selection in a series of in vitro evolution experiments. In pursuing these experiments, we expect to reveal evolutionary and biophysical properties required to form catalytic amyloids. Developing a better understanding of these properties will enable our ability to assess the role that amyloid sequences may have played in the emergence of life.

Dudczak Kacper
Adam Mickiewicz University, Department of Molecular Virology

In recent years, the use of next-generation advanced sequencing methods has changed our understanding of microorganisms living in various environments, including the Earth’s atmosphere. This scientific progress has revealed the existence of microorganisms under severe conditions and illuminated the potential for life beyond the Earth. Detailed analysis of atmospheric microorganisms can improve our knowledge of the Earth’s ecosystem and, in particular, serve as a guide for the search for life on other planets.

Earth’s atmosphere is composed primarily of nitrogen, oxygen, and traces of other gases. It is playing a crucial role in maintaining suitable conditions for life. Conditions vary with altitude, including decreasing pressure and temperature as one ascends. These changes are accompanied by significant phenomena like weather patterns, the occurrence of air pollution and the presence of aerosols and particulate matter. The primary objective of our study is to characterise the specific microbiome components associated with different atmospheric layers of the Earth. We use Next Generation Sequencing data which is available in public databases like the Sequence Read Archive and European Nucleotide Archive, followed by data upload
and quality evaluation using FastQC (Galaxy Version 0.73+galaxy0). The following sequence analysis uses tools like Trimmomatic (Galaxy version 0.38.1), Kraken2 (Galaxy Version 2.1.1+galaxy1), and Krona (Galaxy Version 2.6.1.1). The alignment data from these analyses are further evaluated within the Python environment, using Jupyter Notebook on the Galaxy platform. By characterising the microbiomes specific to Earth’s atmospheric layers, our research can contribute to the development of methodologies and frameworks for extrapolating findings to other planetary atmospheres. Understanding the factors that shape and support microbial life in Earth’s atmosphere can inform the search for life on other celestial bodies, such as Venus. Scientists have detected phosphine there, which could potentially indicate the presence of microorganisms in the atmosphere. The ability to identify and analyze atmospheric microorganisms on Earth provides valuable insights into the potential existence and survival strategies of extraterrestrial life.

Monascal Yeljair
Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Argentina

To date, about 300 molecular species have been identified in the interstellar medium (ISM) or circumstellar shells. Despite cyclopropane’s lack of a permanent dipole moment, making it undetectable through rotational spectroscopy in the ISM, its reactivity with well- known astrochemical species is a subject of significant interest. This reactivity can provide insights into potential reaction products, including more complex prebiotic molecules, that might be observable through radio astronomy. Furthermore, although cyclopropane has not been detected in Titan’s atmosphere, it is expected to be a reaction product in this
environment. In this study, we conduct a computational investigation of the potential energy surface related to the reaction between cyclopropane (c-C 3 H 6 ) and the CN radical. We utilize high- level quantum chemical calculations to offer new insights into the reactivity of these species, of particular interest in the context of astrochemistry.

Gudowski Kajetan
Wydział Mechaniczny Technologiczny, Politechnika Śląska, Gliwice, Poland 

Cube Rover is a groundbreaking concept in the field of planetary exploration. This innovative rover design leverages the advantages of compact, cube-shaped modules to create a versatile and cost-effective platform for exploring celestial bodies. Cube Rovers are characterized by their modular construction, which allows for easy assembly and customization, making them highly adaptable for various mission objectives.

These compact rovers offer several key advantages, including a reduced launch mass and lower transportation costs, making them an attractive option for space agencies and research institutions. Cube Rovers are equipped with state-of-the-art instruments, enabling them to conduct a wide range of scientific experiments, collect samples, and perform reconnaissance
on planetary surfaces.

In this abstract, we explore the design principles, capabilities, and potential applications of Cube Rovers in planetary exploration. We discuss their ability to navigate challenging terrains, their autonomous operation, and their compatibility with small launch vehicles.
Cube Rovers represent a promising avenue for expanding our understanding of our solar system, and their versatility and affordability make them a compelling choice for future missions to explore new frontiers in space exploration.

Campos Meurer Juliana Federal
University of Rio Grande do Sul

Ecology is the science of the relationship between organisms and their environments, including other organisms, as well as studying the abundance and distribution of species on Earth (Haeckel, 1886; Krebs, 2014). Its theoretical framework reveals a lot about life’s functioning and tells us a lot about complex systems by using many different approaches (descriptive, functional, and evolutionary; Krebs, 2014), making it an indispensable part of biology. Simultaneously, astrobiology delves into the origin, evolution, and potential existence of life beyond our planet, as defined by the NASA Astrobiology Institute. This work delineates the intersection of these realms, exploring the need for astrobiologists to integrate ecological principles into their research. The ideas exposed here will appear in a similar form in the International Journal of Astrobiology (Meurer et al., in press), and we hope to concretize wider collaborations as we keep this larger project
going.

Mamatakhunova Nigora
Bursa Uludağ University, department of biology 

This work proposes a mission to Enceladus, a moon of Saturn. The mission is called
SCORPIUS. The mission’s objective is to thoroughly map Enceladus in order to spot
geysers, slopes, fissures, and other noteworthy features. In addition, it uses
seismographs and GPR to explore the subsurface in search of suitable habitats and biosignatures. Small molecules that might be used as building blocks for substances that support life are also being searched for in plumes. The SCORPIUS rover, which was inspired by a scorpion, is home to a variety of equipment for exploration and sample collection, including drilling and gripping tools. The mission is backed by the HALIA orbiter, which is designed for long-term observation of seasonal and surface changes on Enceladus.

16:00

Plenary Lecture
by Barbara Belvisi

17:00

Networking Break

17:20

Parallel Sessions

Prebiotic Chemistry

Rafał Szabla
Institute of Advanced Materials, Faculty of Chemistry, Wroclaw University of Science and Technology

The question about the uniqueness of RNA and DNA and the reasons for their selection as the only informational polymers in biology is one of the most fascinating problems for contemporary science. Despite years of experimental efforts, the first selective pathways to RNA/DNA nucleotides under prebiotic conditions were shown only recently. However, it is still unclear why nature selected only a limited set of nucleobases and (deoxy)ribose as the primary components of nucleic acids and how these informational polymers could have undergone self-replication. In this talk, I will demonstrate how modern methods of computational chemistry can be used to explain the origins of RNA and DNA on Earth and guide futher experimental efforts. In particular, I will show how chemical selectivity could be shaped by UV irradiation in early prebiotic environments. I will also demonstrate how quantum chemical simulations can be used to enhance charge transfer through the DNA double helix with simple modifications of nucleobases.

Albert Fahrenbach
University of New South Wales

The formose reaction 1 is frequently cited as a prebiotic source of sugars and is considered among the most plausible forms of autocatalysis on early Earth. In this
talk, our progress towards coopting formose autocatalysis towards the production of nucleotide precursors will be presented. Using HPLC, LC-MS, 1 H NMR spectroscopy and isotopic labelling experiments, we investigated 2 how cyanamide, a simple C1 compound thought to be present on early Earth, affects formose reaction kinetics and product distributions. Cyanamide was observed to extend the lag phase of the formose reaction by reacting with formose-derived sugars to form a variety of products, including 2-aminooxazole and 2-aminooxazolines, compounds of which are intermediates in proposed prebiotic nucleotide syntheses 3. In effect, cyanamide “peels off” sugars from the autocatalytic cycle, which nonetheless remains intact. The results of this work in the context of the chemoton model will also be discussed.

Navaniswaran Tharumen
The National University of Malaysia

The faint young sun (FYS) was introduced as a paradox by prominent astronomer Carl Sagan dan George Mullen, where the sun was 30% less luminous that the current sun.
Though UV light has been known to initiate prebiotic chemical reactions, and many such experiments have been done, none has truly involved the broadband light from the FYS. Also, prebiotic polymerization induced by FYS has not been shown. In this
paper, we will discuss about FYS, discuss some of the work that has been done in relation to UV light-induced prebiotic reaction, and a prospect on how FYS’ broadband light may be useful for prebiotic polymerization involving polyester.

Tania C B Santos
Weizmann Institute of Science

The unique biophysical and biochemical properties of lipids render them crucial in most models of the origin of life (OoL). Many studies have attempted to delineate the prebiotic pathways by which lipids were formed, how micelles and vesicles were generated, and how these micelles and vesicles became selectively permeable towards the chemical precursors required to initiate and support biochemistry and inheritance. Our analysis of a number of such studies highlights the extremely narrow and limited range of conditions by which an experiment is considered to have successfully modeled a role for lipids in an OoL experiment. This is in line with a recent proposal that bias is introduced into OoL studies by the extent and the kind of human intervention. It is self-evident that OoL studies can only be performed by human intervention, and we now discuss the possibility that some assumptions and simplifications inherent in such experimental approaches do not permit determination of mechanistic insight into the roles of lipids in the OoL. With these limitations in mind, we suggest that more nuanced experimental approaches than those currently pursued may be required to elucidate the generation and function of lipids, micelles and vesicles in the OoL.

Space Medicine

Gabriela Opiła
AGH University of Kraków

Conditions experienced by astronauts in space require a specific approach to drug delivery and to therapies in general. The health risks are different than in the terrestrial conditions, and therefore a need arises for novel means of providing healthcare. Effects of microgravity must be taken into account, in addition to radiation and confined environment impacts. The limited means available in space conditions make the theranostic approaches preferable, as they combine diagnostics with therapy. Nanoparticle-based drug delivery systems can be designed in such a way which enables the enhanced absorption of the active substance, as well as the efficient targeting. Among the nanoparticles that can offer a solution to some of those challenges, iron oxide based nanoparticles and gold nanoparticles deserve a particular focus due to their multifunctional properties. They can be functionalised with various coatings for their respective applications. Magnetic properties of iron oxide based nanoparticles make them well-suited for targeted drug delivery and diagnostics, while plasmonic properties (localised surface plasmon resonance, LSPR) of gold nanoparticles offer various benefits, including possible use in biosensing. For extreme environments, lab-on-a-chip settings are an especially valuable asset for diagnostics, and LSPR plasmonic sensors are considered to be an attractive option for incorporating into such devices. A review of recent advances in nanoparticles use in medicine with regard to their space applications, along with the results of measurements of properties of gold nanoparticles and iron oxide based nanoparticles with various coatings will be presented.

Roberto Parisi
Department of Medicine and Surgery, Università degli Studi di Salerno

DNA methylation represents an important epigenetic mechanism for the human DNA, with substantial repercussions for gene expression. Among the potential causes of de novo methylation, current scientific literature lists ionizing radiation and, moreover, experiments that investigated the interaction between tissues and ionizing radiation, simulating space astrophysical charged particles, showed a clinically significant impact [1]. Altered levels of methylated DNA have already been observed in several cytotypes, such as the heart and hippocampus of irradiated mice [2,3] and human lung cells [4]; these processes might be linked to a chronic state of cardiovascular and neurocognitive impairment. Specifically, a putative hypomethylation seems to be caused by increased 5-hydroxymethylcytosine levels (5-hmc), in contrast to 5-methylcytosine (5-mc), in the irradiated murine left ventricles [5] and by a lower concentration of S-adenosyl-methionine (SAM), an important methyl group donor [6]. Therefore, there is consistent evidence in literature of an altered methylation pathway after the exposure of the cardiac tissue to space radiation. The aim of this work is to elucidate the IR-induced changes in the cardiac methylation levels and its clinical relevance, to better understand the potential onset of long-term cardiovascular complications for the future human deep space exploration.

Krzysztof Fornalski
Faculty of Physics, Warsaw University of Technology

The radiation adaptive response phenomenon, also called radioadaptation, is a potential way for modern radiation protection during deep space travels. This can help to improve astronauts’ health after chronic irradiation by relative low dose-rates of ionizing radiation. Adaptive response enhances DNA repair availability due to the stimulation by a stressor. However, this effect is not always observed and is generally narrowed to radioresistant individuals. The presented paper discusses the relation between adaptive response appearance and radiosensitivity (or radioresistance), as well as their possibilities for practical application using the recent simple biophysical model, which was calibrated for high background radiation areas.

18:40

Synthetic Biology

Oskar Staufer
Leibniz-Institute for New Materials

Bottom-up synthetic biology traditionally focuses on constructing artificial compartmentalized systems that emulate living cell functions in terms of mechanics, morphology, or metabolism. Yet, this approach also holds immense promise for studying and augmenting subcellular structures like organelles, whose intricate nature in eukaryotic life forms remains enigmatic. I will present how we harnessed droplet-based microfluidics to control the assembly of lipid-enclosed, organelle-like architectures. I present how giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs)-based synthetic organelles (SOs) can be designed to function within natural living cells, showcasing three examples: synthetic peroxisomes that bolster cellular stress-management, synthetic endoplasmic reticulum acting as intracellular calcium stores for intercellular calcium signalling, and synthetic magnetosomes granting eukaryotic cells a magnetotactic sense. The functional integration of such synthetic organelles heralds a new era for high-throughput creation of diverse intracellular structures that can be integrated into living cells. Beyond their potential in translational nanomedicine, these in-droplet SO designs could be pivotal in astrobiology. They offer avenues for adapting terrestrial life to extraterrestrial conditions, creating biosensors for space exploration, enhancing photosynthesis for space colonization, and even safeguarding against potential new pathogens. As humanity ventures deeper into the cosmos, such synthetic organelle systems may play a central role in facilitating and safeguarding life beyond our home planet.

Marzena Krzek
Biosens Labs, Vrije Universiteit Brussels

Proteins self-assembly is a fundamental process in biochemical systems. This process can lead to ordered structures through crystallization or fibrillization pathway. Besides the application in food and materials formation it is also related to malaria and plays a key role in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s
Proteins crystallization process has been studied at different gravitational levels both
in microgravity and in hypergravity. However, this factor has been poorly studied for the fibrilization process. Known factors that influence protein assembly towards fibrils are chemical conditions, temperature and the presence or lack of agitation. In this contribution, we studied aggregation-prone solutions of hen egg white lysozyme by subjecting them to predominantly non-advective mass transfer which was gentle centrifugation which mimics hypergravity conditions. We also used advective mass transport represented by orbital shaking. In both cases, fibrilization was triggered, while in quiescent only oligomers were formed. The fibrils obtained by shaking compared to fibrils obtained through centrifugation were shorter, thicker, and more rigid. They had rod-like protofibrils as building blocks and a significantly higher β-sheet content was observed. In contrast, fibrils from centrifugation were more flexible and braided. They consisted of intertwined filaments and had low β-sheet content at the expense of random coil. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first evidence of a fibrilization pathway selectivity by hypergravity mimic in centrifuge or orbital shaking.

Joshua Davisson
University of Minnesota

The origin of translation, including the settling of the codon table, was a crucial event in the origin of life. The biochemical basis of this process still remains unexplored. We are addressing the chemical origin of translation in an experimental system designed to mimic the earliest stages of this process. Inspired by tC19Z, an RNA polymerase ribozyme which uses an ice-eutectic phase, we set out to explore the aminoacylation and the homochirality of life using aminoacylating ribozymes in a prebiotically plausible ice eutectic phase. We discovered this eutectic phase improves aminoacylation reactions using flexizymes: small, evolved ribozymes which aminoacylate tRNA nonspecifically. These eutectic flexizyme reactions use 30X lower magnesium and 10X times less catalyst for equivalent aminoacylation yield. The cold eutectic phase slows hydrolysis of the labile aminoacyl bond, leading to product stability beyond 96 hrs. We show a eutectic phase can take very low concentrations of prebiotic ribozymes and turn them into much more effective catalysts for research and biotechnology. Surprisingly, when we removed flexizymes from the reactions, acylation was still present. Not only was aminoacylation proceeding uncatalyzed, we found D-tRNA possesses inherent stereoselectivity for aminoacylation with L-amino acids. These experiments demonstrate a plausible route to proteogenic L-amino acids where the homochirality of proteins is dependent on the chirality of an RNA world. Uncatalyzed aminoacylation removes many of the costs and constraints that are inherent with using enzymes, potentially opening the door for aminoacylation of tRNA to be scaled from the test tube to the bioreactor.

Aaron Engelhart
University of Minnesota

Data collected from the Mars missions (Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity) have elucidated the chemical makeup of Martian regolith. One chemical species of particular interest to biology is perchlorate, a chaotrope that denatures folded proteins. At first glance, the wide presence (Green Valley, Vastitas Borealis, Rocknest, Gale Crater) of this toxic ion makes life on Mars seem unlikely; however, despite its toxicity, perchlorate can stabilize liquid water on the Martian surface providing a potential niche for potential life. We have investigated perchlorate brines as a possible milieu for a prebiotic world, with particular interest in functional nucleic acids. We have found that nucleic acids are not only stable in perchlorate solutions, but that functional (aptamer and ribozyme) nucleic acids evolved and selected in mesophilic (low-salt) conditions can retain function at high (molar) perchlorate concentrations. This is in stark contrast to protein-based enzymes. Among these enzymes, mesophilic enzymes lose all function at just millimolar (100-300 mM) perchlorate concentrations, and only extremophilic enzymes exhibit significant perchlorate tolerance. Extremely high (multiple molar) concentrations of perchlorate prevent both protein and RNA activity; however, functional RNAs can regain activity after dilution whereas only
extremophilic proteins can recover. Additionally, we show perchlorate and other
oxychlorine species enable new ribozyme functions, including regulatory behavior, copying of structured RNAs, and the first ribozyme-catalyzed chlorination of organic molecules. We suggest nucleic acids are uniquely well-suited to present-day hypersaline Martian environments. Furthermore, putative Martian near- or subsurface oxychlorine brines, and brines found in potential lifeforms, could provide a unique niche for biomolecular evolution. The results from this work expand the suite of known RNA behaviors and demonstrate that RNA can function in an extreme environment. This work thus extends the utility of this remarkable biopolymer to synthetic biological systems in extreme environments.

Planetary Science

Alexandra Pontefract
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

Since the origin of the solar system, impacts have been a dominant and ubiquitous geological process, and importantly for us, shaped the evolution (and possibly the origins) of life here on Earth. The energetic event of a meteorite impact imparts heat into the target substrate, and can result in the formation of a transient hydrothermal system. On terrestrial bodies the subsequent chemical products derived from water-rock interactions may have produced molecules relevant for prebiotic chemistry. On icy Ocean Worlds, where the timescales and interactions of redox species are currently unknown, impact events may have played an important role in providing necessary energy and mixing between the ice and ocean regimes. On Titan specifically, would impact events into this organic rich satellite, yield prebiotic compounds that could inform us about the origins of life here on Earth?

Nadia Desiree Boppart
Department of Earth Sciences, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China 

Introduction: Water has the remarkable ability to carve out vast areas of terrain through the passage of time. About 3.7 to 4.1 billion years ago, water coursed through Mars, giving rise to over 800 lakes. Although Mars has lost much of its water resources over time, numerous paleolakes [e.g. 1-3] from this specific period are well preserved. Perhaps the best-known paleolake sites are situated in Jezero Crater and Gale Crater, where NASA has deployed rovers. Regardless of their planetary origin, paleolakes are highly valued for their ability to record climate dynamics, atmospheric conditions, geologic influences, and biological activity (at least on our planet). Like time capsules, the Martian paleolakes have preserved this information for us, eagerly awaiting to be scientifically analyzed via various scientific means such as remote sensing, rover exploration, or sample return. Although it is now possible to elicit some of the information stored in these ancient lake time capsules using remote sensing data, including TES, THEMIS, and CRISM, relatively little research has been done on all Martian paleolakes comprehensively. Therefore, we are looking at all of these paleolakes to uncover their similarities and differences, both on a global and regional aspects and occasionally even on a local scale. It is like opening a time capsule. We are systematically analyzing the deposited information, piece by piece, and piecing it together into a bigger picture to construct a comprehensive understanding of the climate that once surrounded the ancient lakes on Mars.

Methods: Using our algorithm and specific input data for each paleolake, we initially determined the shape of over 500 lakes, including both open-basin and closed-basin
lake types. We then applied algorithms specific to each study parameter to reduce its large amount of data to a single representative value for each paleolake. Afterward, a Spearman rank correlation was performed to rule out any bias in the reduced data set due to a correlation between the areal coverage area of the parameter data and the total paleolake area. Our study parameters, among others, included TES data to determine the paleolake bed’s albedo and dust cover index, THEMIS thermal inertia data as an indicator of its capacity to store heat and to delay its transmission, CRISM data to analyze its mineral composition. We also used additional datasets to further study the geological and morphological characteristics of the paleolakes.

Conclusion: The algorithmic reduction of the study parameter data to a single representative value for each paleolake allows the analysis of similarities and differences among more than 500 paleolakes, independent of their area size. Moreover, this data reduction allows for the combination of various representative values, thus facilitating a more comprehensive study through cluster analysis. In addition to the two advantages offered by this approach, most of the paleolakes are located on Noachian terrain, which allows for improved understanding of the similarities and differences among paleolakes with regard to global climate conditions.

Kamil Serafin
AGH University of Science and Technology 

Over the last few years, there has been an increase in interest in lunar exploration, unseen since the Apollo program. Moon becomes the target of subsequent space missions organized by both national and private entities. It creates a high demand for
specific technologies that can be used in satellites and lunar landers. One of the most essential fields remains guidance, navigation, and control (GN&C), especially determining the orientation in the lunar orbit. Although traditional methods such as
star trackers, solar sensors, and lidars remain the most common and reliable solutions, there is also room for other proposals. One of them is the use of photos of the celestial body’s surface over which the satellite is orbiting. This work aimed to develop a tool that uses simple impact craters as landmarks to determine the lunar
region captured in an image taken at the nadir position from orbit at an altitude between 100 and 400 km. To localize craters in photos, the object detection model based on EfficientDet D0 was trained on a set containing mosaics of images from
the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). Its performance was then compared (using photos from different lunar regions) with the ResNet50 SSD architecture and PyCDA – one of the most popular Crater Detection Algorithms (CDA). The diameter of localized craters was measured with the Hough transform, and their distribution was analyzed and compared with a self-prepared database of coordinates and relative distances. At the end, craters from the photo were assigned with proper IDs. Results show that the developed tool can correctly identify the impact craters captured on the image in 76% of cases (assuming all detected craters are included in the database). The final tests were conducted on regions from lunar mares, highlands, poles, and mountain ranges. Also, pictures of illuminated 3D-printed models of the Moon’s surface were taken to check the tool’s performance under different incidence angles. The results suggest that this type of method can be used to identify specific groups of craters and, on this basis, determine the coordinates of the point at which the orbiter’s camera is directed. The planned further development will also include the expansion of the database and the ability to analyze photos captured in a positions other than nadir.

Kayla Smith
Central State University

In Mars’s early history, it likely had a denser atmosphere with greenhouse gases, suggesting previous surface liquid water. Over time, water might have lost to space due to UV radiation-induced photo-dissociation, forming H and OH radicals. These radicals are central to the Martian atmospheric odd hydrogen cycle, leading to H 2 production and potential space escape. Ranjan et al. (2020) highlighted the potential significance of water photolysis at wavelengths ≥ 205 nm, often underexplored in past studies. Here, we examine the effects of this on the Martian atmosphere using an adapted KINETICS, Caltech/JPL’s 1D Photochemical/Transport Model. Integrating longer wavelengths into previous water vapor absorption datasets, we assess their impact on Martian photochemistry and atmospheric escape. Findings indicate near-surface CO concentrations decrease by 25% and 12% based on the initial dataset. This slowdown in CO accumulation might promote CO 2 stability, potentially warming Mars. We also observed a rise in HNO 3 concentrations by about 50% and 18%. In a subsequent 2D model adaptation of KINETICS, considering latitude-dependent water concentrations from EMARS data, the latitude variation influenced atmospheric species behavior.

20:00

Networking Break

20:20

Plenary Lecture
"The NASA Twins Study "
by Francine Garrett-Bakelman

The NASA Twins study was a pioneering genomics study conducted on twin brothers to assess the potential health impact of long-duration spaceflight on human biology. Following twin astronauts, one of which spent a year-long mission on the International Space Station and one remaining on earth, the study assessed differences in molecular, physiological and other features between the twin brothers and over time. Longitudinal assessments identified spaceflight-specific changes, including the discovery of dynamic and largely reversible telomere length and gene expression changes during flight. This study formed a basis to assess potential hazards of long-term space habitation.

21:20

Poster Awards & Closing Ceremony

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