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    • By NASA
      NASA-supported scientists have examined the long and intricately linked history of microbial life and the Earth’s environment. By reviewing the current state of knowledge across fields like microbiology, molecular biology, and geology, the study looks at how microorganisms have both shaped and been shaped by chemical properties of our planet’s oceans, land, and atmosphere. The study combines data across multiple fields of study and discusses how information on the complicated history of life on our planet from a single field cannot be viewed in isolation.
      An artist interpretation of the hazy atmosphere of Archean Earth – a pale orange dot. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Francis Reddy The first life on Earth was microbial. Today the vast majority of our planet’s biomass is still made up of tiny, single-celled microorganisms. Although they’re abundant, the history of microbes can be a challenge for astrobiologists to study. Microbes don’t leave bones, shells or other large fossils behind like dinosaurs, fish or other large organisms. Because of this, scientists must look at different evidence to understand the evolution of microbial life through time.
      In order to study ancient microbes on Earth, astrobiologists look for isotopic fingerprints in rocks that can be used to identify the metabolisms of ancient communities. Metabolism refers to the conversion of food into energy, and happens in all living things. Many elements (think carbon (C), nitrogen (N), Sulfur (S), iron (Fe)) are involved in microbial metabolism. As microbes process these elements, they cause isotopic changes that scientists can spot in the rock record. Microbes also help to control how these elements are deposited and cycled in the environment, affecting geology and chemistry at both local and global scales (consider the role of microbes in the carbon cycle on Earth today).
      This photograph shows a section of the Marble Bar formation in the Pilbara region of north-western Western Australia. The bands of color in the rock are the result of high amounts of certain minerals, including iron, that may have resulted from microbial activity on the ancient Earth. NASA Astrobiology/Mike Toillion For an example of geological evidence of microbial metabolism, we can consider the formation of banded iron formations (BIFs) on the ancient seafloor. These colorful layers of alternating iron- and silicon-rich sediment were formed from 3.8 billion to 1.8 billion years ago and are associated with some of the oldest rock formations on Earth. The red colors they exhibit are from their high iron content, showing us that the ocean of Earth was rich in iron during the 2 billion years in which these rocks were forming.
      Another way to study ancient microbial life is to look back along the evolutionary information contained in the genetics of life today. Combining this genetic information from molecular biology with geobiological information from the rock record can help astrobiologists understand the connections between the shared evolution of the early Earth and early life.
      In the new study, the team of researchers provide a review of current knowledge, gleaning information into the early metabolisms used by microbial life, the timing of when these metabolisms evolved, and how these processes are linked to major chemical and physical changes on Earth, such as the oxygenation of the oceans and atmosphere.
      Over time, the prevalence of oxygen on Earth has varied dramatically, in the ocean, in the atmosphere, and on land. These changes impacted both the evolution of the biosphere and the environment. For instance, as the activity of photosynthetic organisms raised oxygen levels in the atmosphere, creating new environments for microbial life to inhabit. Different nutrients were made accessible to life to fuel growth. At the same time, microbes that couldn’t survive in the presence of oxygen had to adapt, perish, or find a way to survive in environments where oxygen didn’t persist, such as deep in the Earth’s subsurface.
      Rocks along the shoreline of Lake Salda in Turkey were formed over time by microbes that trap minerals in the water. These microbialites were once a major form of life on Earth. The new study explains our understanding of how oxygen levels have changed over time and spatial scales. The authors map different types of microbial metabolism, such as photosynthesis, to this history to better understand the “cause-and-effect relationship” between oxygen and the evolution of life on Earth. The paper provides important context for major changes in the course of evolution for the biosphere and the planet.
      By carefully considering the history of different types of microbial metabolisms on Earth, the review paper shows how biogeochemical cycles on our planet are inextricably linked through time over both local and global scales. The authors also discuss significant gaps in our knowledge that limit interpretations. For instance, we do not know how large the young biosphere on Earth was, which limits our ability to estimate the global effects of various metabolisms during Earth’s earliest years. Similarly, when using genetic information to look back along the tree of life, scientists can estimate when certain genes first appeared (and thereby what types of metabolisms could have been used at the time in living cells). However, the evolution of a new type of metabolism at a point in history does not necessarily mean that that metabolism was common or had a large enough effect in the environment to leave evidence in the rock record.
      According to the authors, “The history of microbial life marched in step with the history of the
      oceans, land and atmosphere, and our understanding remains limited by how much we still do not know about the environments of the early Earth.”
      This is an illustration of exoplanet WASP-39 b, also known as Bocaprins. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope provided the most detailed analysis of an exoplanet atmosphere ever with WASP-39 b analysis released in November 2022. Webb’s Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) showed unambiguous evidence for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, while previous observations from NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes, as well as other telescopes, indicate the presence of water vapor, sodium, and potassium. The planet probably has clouds and some form of weather, but it may not have atmospheric bands like those of Jupiter and Saturn. This illustration is based on indirect transit observations from Webb as well as other space and ground-based telescopes. Webb has not captured a direct image of this planet. NASA, ESA, CSA, Joseph Olmsted (STScI) The study also has wider implications in the search for life beyond Earth. Understanding the co-evolution of life and the environment can help scientists better understand the conditions necessary for a planet to be habitable. The interconnections between life and the environment also provide important clues in the search for biosignature gases in the atmospheres of planets that orbit distant stars.
      The study, “Co‐evolution of early Earth environments and microbial life,” was published in the journal Nature Reviews. Additional information on the study is available from the University of California, Riverside.
      Click here to return to the NASA Astrobiology page.
      View the full article
    • By NASA
      Official NASA’s SpaceX Crew-9 portraits with Zena Cardman, Nick Hague, Stephanie Wilson and Aleksandr Gorbunov. Credit: NASA Media accreditation now is open for the launch of NASA’s ninth rotational mission of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft that will carry astronauts to the International Space Station for a science expedition. This mission is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
      Launch of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-9 mission is targeted for no earlier than mid-August from Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, pending completion of the company’s ongoing Falcon 9 investigation. Crew safety and mission assurance are top priorities for NASA and its partners.
      The launch will carry NASA astronauts Zena Cardman, commander; Nick Hague, pilot; and Stephanie Wilson, mission specialist; along with Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Gorbunov, mission specialist. This is the first spaceflight for Cardman and Gorbunov, the second mission to the orbiting laboratory for Hague, and fourth spaceflight for Wilson, who has spent 42 days in space aboard three space shuttle Discovery missions – STS-120, STS-121, and STS-131.
      U.S. media, international media without U.S. citizenship, and U.S. citizens representing international media organizations must apply by 11:59 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, July 31. All accreditation requests must be submitted online at:
      NASA’s media accreditation policy is online. For questions about accreditation or special logistical requests, email: ksc-media-accreditat@mail.nasa.gov. Requests for space for satellite trucks, tents, or electrical connections are due by Thursday, Aug. 1.
      For other questions, please contact NASA Kennedy’s newsroom at: 321-867-2468.
      Para obtener información sobre cobertura en español en el Centro Espacial Kennedy o si desea solicitar entrevistas en español, comuníquese con Antonia Jaramillo: 321-501-8425, o Messod Bendayan: 256-930-1371.
      For launch coverage and more information about the mission, visit:
      Joshua Finch / Claire O’Shea
      Headquarters, Washington
      joshua.a.finch@nasa.gov / claire.a.o’shea@nasa.gov
      Steve Siceloff / Danielle Sempsrott / Stephanie Plucinsky
      Kennedy Space Center, Florida
      steven.p.siceloff@nasa.gov / danielle.c.sempsrott@nasa.gov / stephanie.n.plucinsky@nasa.gov
      Leah Cheshier
      Johnson Space Center, Houston
      Last Updated Jul 17, 2024 LocationNASA Headquarters Related Terms
      Humans in Space Commercial Crew Commercial Space International Space Station (ISS) ISS Research Johnson Space Center Kennedy Space Center View the full article
    • By Space Force
      Remarks by CSO Gen. Chance Saltzman at the 2024 Global Air and Space Chiefs Conference.
      View the full article
    • By Space Force
      Col. Patrick took command of SPACEFOR-KOR from his previous assignment at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, he is a career space operations officer, with command experience at the squadron level and joint experience in both Germany and Belgium.

      View the full article
    • By NASA
      4 Min Read NASA Celebrates 20 Years of Earth-Observing Aura Satellite
      The Aura spacecraft, shown in this artist’s concept, is a NASA atmospheric chemistry mission that monitors Earth’s protective atmosphere. Credits:
      NASA Earth (ESD) Earth Home Explore Climate Change Science in Action Multimedia Data For Researchers From monitoring the hole in the ozone above the Antarctic to studying air quality around the entire planet, NASA’s Aura satellite has provided scientists with essential measurements during its two decades in orbit.
      “The Aura mission has been nothing short of transformative for scientific research and applied sciences,” said Bryan Duncan, project scientist for NASA’s Aura satellite mission. “The mission’s data have given scientists and applied scientists an unparalleled view of air pollution around the world.”
      Aura has revealed the effects of industrialization, environmental regulations, wildfires, the COVID-19 pandemic, and many other aspects of the air we breathe. The satellite paved the way for recent missions to study the atmosphere and its inner workings, including PACE and TEMPO. As the Aura mission team celebrates its launch anniversary of July 15, 2004, here are a few of the many highlights from the last 20 years.
      Aura Eyes Ozone Hole over Antarctica
      The first publicly released image from the Aura mission (autumn 2004) showed dramatically depleted levels of ozone in the stratosphere over Antarctica.
      NASA Study: First Direct Proof of Ozone Hole Recovery Due to Chemicals Ban
      In a 2018 study, scientists showed for the first time through direct satellite observations that levels of chlorine in the atmosphere declined, resulting in less ozone depletion. Because of an international ban on chlorine-containing manmade chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons, there was about 20% less ozone depletion during the Antarctic winter in 2016 than there was in 2005. 
      New NASA Satellite Maps Show Human Fingerprint on Global Air Quality
      This global map shows the concentration of nitrogen dioxide in the troposphere as detected by the Ozone Monitoring Instrument aboard the Aura satellite, averaged over 2014. NASA Using high-resolution global maps of air quality indicators made with data from the Aura satellite, NASA scientists tracked air pollution trends between 2005 and 2015 in various regions and 195 cities around the globe. The study found that the United States, Europe, and Japan saw improved air quality due to emission control regulations, while China, India, and the Middle East, with their fast-growing economies and expanding industry, saw more air pollution.
      How NASA is Helping the World Breathe More Easily
      Many of NASA’s Earth-observing satellites, including Aura, can see what the human eye can’t — including potentially harmful pollutants lingering in the air we breathe. These satellites help us measure and track air pollution as it moves around the globe and have contributed significantly to a decades-long quest for cleaner air. For example, data from Aura’s Ozone Monitoring Instrument helped the EPA and NASA identify a drop in nitrogen dioxide that researchers cited as evidence of the success of the Clean Air Act.
      Air Quality: A Tale of Three Cities
      Air quality in Beijing, Los Angeles, and Atlanta — like air quality across the globe — is dynamic. This video describes how scientists use instruments like Aura’s Ozone Monitoring Instrument to study questions including what causes ozone, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide emissions. It also explores why reductions in volatile organic carbon pollution worked to reduce ground-level ozone in Los Angeles, but not in Atlanta.
      Seeing the COVID-19 Pandemic from Space
      Economic and social shutdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic led to noticeable changes in Earth’s environment, at least in the short term. NASA researchers used satellite and ground-based observations – including nitrogen dioxide levels from Ozone Monitoring Instrument – to track these impacts on our air, land, water, and climate. 
      A Satellite’s View of Ship Pollution
      With natural-color satellite imagery of the atmosphere over the ocean, scientists have observed “ship tracks” — bright, linear trails amidst the cloud layers that are created by particles and gases from ships. Scientists used Ozone Monitoring Instrument data to detect the almost invisible tracks of nitrogen dioxide along several shipping routes from 2005 to 2012.
      First Global Maps of Volcanic Emissions Use NASA Satellite Data
      Volcanic sulfur dioxide emissions from Indonesia’s many volcanoes are shown in shades of orange. The data was produced from observations from NASA’s Aura satellite. With the Ozone Monitoring Instrument data, researchers compiled emissions data from 2005 to 2015 create the first global inventory for volcanic sulfur dioxide emissions. The data set helped refine climate and atmospheric chemistry models and provided more insight into human and environmental health risks.
      Scientists Show Connection Between Gas Flaring and Arctic Pollution
      Flaring of excess natural gas from industrial oil fields in the Northern Hemisphere was found to be a potentially significant source of nitrogen dioxide and black carbon emissions polluting the Arctic, according to a 2016 NASA study that included data from Aura.
      2023 Ozone Hole Ranks 16th Largest, NASA and NOAA Researchers Find
      Researchers continue to rely on Aura data to monitor the Antarctic ozone hole, two decades after the satellite launched. Each Southern Hemisphere spring, NASA and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) use satellite and balloon-based measurements to measure the maximum size of the ozone hole. The story above notes the 2023 result; stay tuned for what Aura helps us discover in 2024 and beyond.
      This map shows the size and shape of the ozone hole over the South Pole on Sept. 21, 2023, the day of its maximum extent that year, as calculated by the NASA Ozone Watch team. Moderate ozone losses (orange) are visible amid widespread areas of more potent ozone losses (red). By Erica McNamee and Kate Ramsayer
      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

      Last Updated Jul 16, 2024 Editor Erica McNamee Contact Erica McNamee erica.s.mcnamee@nasa.gov Location Goddard Space Flight Center Related Terms
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