New NASA grant establishes research community focused on pathways to life on Earth

The evolution of planet Earth and the emergence of life during its first half-billion years are inextricably linked, with a series of planet-wide transformations – formation of the ocean, evolution of the atmosphere, and the growth of crust and continents – underpinning the environmental stepping stones to life. But how, and in what order, were the ingredients for life on Earth manufactured and assembled?

NASA’s Astrobiology Program has awarded a $9 million grant to tackle the question through the Earth First Origins project, led by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Professor Karyn Rogers. The five-year project seeks to uncover the conditions on early Earth that gave rise to life by identifying, replicating, and exploring how prebiotic molecules and chemical pathways could have formed under realistic early Earth conditions. The grant establishes the Rensselaer Astrobiology Research and Education center (RARE). It continues a long tradition of leadership in this field at RPI, in succession to the New York Center Studies of the Origins of Life (1998-2006), led by James Ferris, and the New York Center for Astrobiology (2009-2016), led by Doug Whittet.

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