The Center for Life Detection (CLD) is one of the three branches of NfoLD (along with Oceans Across Space and Time (OAST) and the Laboratory for Agnostic Biosignatures (LAB)). Headquartered at NASA's Ames Research Center, the CLD is rising to the challenge of developing the tools and technologies required for life detection, of bringing together the diverse community of researchers in the realm of life detection science to determine how and when physical phenomena and instrumental measurements may signify a life detection scenario, and of extending our community internationally and across disciplines to support space missions and explore the phenomenon of life.
The CLD is a service activity to promote the flow of information among stakeholders in the life detection endeavor. The 2018 National Academies report, An Astrobiology Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe (Sherwood-Lollar et al., 2018) recommends that NASA should “integrate astrobiological expertise in all mission stages — from inception and conceptualization to planning, development, and operations”. CLD was established to help catalyze this process. Specifically, its purpose is to develop mechanisms to ensure that expertise and up-to-date, well-vetted information and ideas from all corners of the life detection science and technology community become a resource for program and mission planning and implementation. The Life Detection Forum (LDF) project is an idea for how to do this.
CLD is a group of scientists from NASA’s Ames Research Center and Goddard Space Flight Center who came together to address a jointly perceived need – to find ways to better connect the expertise of the broader life detection community to mission planning and implementation. The CLD Team combines perspectives based in mission experience, instrument development, and a diversity of basic research areas.
One of the key areas of development of the CLD that involves all members and affiliates of NfoLD is the Life Detection Forum (LDF) project.
The Life Detection Forum (LDF) Project
The Life Detection Forum (LDF) is envisioned as a web-based tool, organized around the concept of an evaluative framework for biosignatures, to promote and centralize the exchange of knowledge, ideas, and dialog as Life Detection science & technology evolve. A well designed and well-utilized LDF will serve to amplify the life detection community’s voice, providing a clearer path for infusing program and mission planning with astrobiological expertise. The LDF is meant to be ‘of the community and for the community’. Your feedback, ideas, and participation will be critical to its success, and there are multiple ways to become involved.
The Life Detection Matrix
The draft Life Detection Matrix (LDM) is constructed as a high-level summary table that could ultimately support comparison of potential biosignatures according to specific, universally-applied criteria, on an environment-specific basis. Clicking on a cell within the LDM allows the user to navigate to a Knowledge Base (KB) containing user-posted, curated content – journal articles and associated commentary – relevant to that cell.
The Knowledge Base
The Knowledge Base (KB) of the Center for Life Detection (CLD) is an online repository of our current knowledge with regard to the detection of various signs of life and/or living processes. These signs, known as biosignatures, can vary from visually observable patterns to chemically measurable phenomena and even to signs of technological activity. The CLD KB is designed for easy browsing and searching of known biosignatures and includes descriptions of the criteria through which a biosignature may be counted as a robust sign of life. Furthermore, the KB provides a forum for scrutinizing the scientific literature, data, and arguments with regard to whether a suspected biosignature is truly diagnostic of living processes.
The Measurement Technology Forum
Like the LDF, the Measurement Technology Forum is meant to ensure that relevant information about life detection is centralized and accessible, thoroughly discussed, and continually updated.
The MTF is intended to be an architecture:
… driven by rigorous scientific arguments
… linked to the Life Detection Forum/Measurement Parameters
… rooted in measurements
… and supported by a publication library
The big-picture goal is to strongly link scientific rationale to state-of-the-art and emerging instrument capabilities by connecting the science and technology communities