Alison Murray selected to co-host the NASA Network for Ocean Worlds


A new initiative will lead the search for life in the ice-covered water worlds beyond the Earth

(Reno, Nevada – June 24, 2019) – The microbial oceanographic researcher at the Desert Research Institute and researcher at Antarctica Alison Murray, Ph.D., was selected to co-lead a new NASA initiative (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) to guide the search for life in the ocean worlds beyond the Earth.

The Network for Ocean Worlds (NOW) is the last of four research coordination networks (RCN) to be established by NASA, presented today at AbSciCon 2019 in Seattle, Washington.

NOW will promote research to identify worlds of frozen water beyond the Earth, characterize their oceans, investigate their habitability, search for life and, ultimately, understand every life that is found.

"Oceanic worlds beyond the Earth have been a key research target for NASA's Planetary Science Division since confirmation of the liquid ice-covered oceans on Jupiter's moons," explained Murray, who is best known for his work at discovery of the existence of microbial life. 13 ° C inside the frozen Vida lake in Antarctica in 2013.

Murray's research has redefined the scientific view of biological diversity in the most extreme environments on Earth and has provided critical insights into how microorganisms persist and function in extremely cold and difficult environments, including those that lack oxygen and biological energy sources.

Murray will co-lead the network with Christopher German a Oceanographic institution of Woods Hole and Alyssa Rhoden al Southwest Research Institute (SwRI).

"This new research coordination network will broaden our oceanographic skills base in the field of astrobiology by creating new collaborations and partnerships that will involve other federal agencies, international partners, philanthropic organizations and interested NGOs," Murray added. "This is an exciting time to advance the understanding of life in the polar ecosystems of the Earth, and apply this understanding to the cryosphere in the ocean worlds of places like Europe, Enceladus and Titan."

NOW will provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and learning across the interdisciplinary spectrum of backgrounds and perspectives represented within the NASA-funded network of oceanic investigators.

"If we hope to find evidence of life beyond the Earth in the next human generation, then our best bet is to look towards the growing list of ice-covered ocean worlds right here in our solar system," the German said. "And looking further ahead, if we want to understand the range of possible conditions that could support life everywhere beyond the Earth, then we will simultaneously need to continue to explore our ocean for examples of extremes where life can exist and continue to develop exploration technologies this will be useful in / any / oceanic world, including the Earth. "

The first main objective of NOW will be to improve the development of future NASA missions at Ocean Worlds, starting with the Europa Clipper mission that will be launched in June 2023.

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