AAS 205th Meeting, 9-13 January 2005
Session 5 Visible/UV/IR Space Missions and Technology
Poster, Monday, January 10, 2005, 9:20am-6:30pm, Exhibit Hall

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[5.13] The AstroBiology Explorer (ABE) Mission Concept

S. A. Sandford (NASA Ames Research Center)

High resolution (R greater than 2500) infrared spectroscopy in the 2.5-16 micron range is a principal means by which gas phase and solid organic compounds can be detected and identified in space via their vibrational transitions. Ground-based, airborne, and spaceborne IR spectral studies have already demonstrated that a significant fraction of the carbon in the interstellar medium (ISM) resides in the form of complex organic molecular species. Unfortunately, the distribution of these materials, and their genetic and evolutionary relationships with each other and their environments, are currently not well understood. The Astrobiology Explorer (ABE) is a MIDEX mission concept currently under study by a team of partner institutions: NASA's Ames Research Center, Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corporation, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. ABE will conduct IR spectroscopic observations to address outstanding important problems in astrobiology, astrochemistry, and astrophysics. The core observational program would make fundamental scientific progress in understanding (1) the evolution of ices and organic matter in dense molecular clouds and young stellar systems, (2) the chemical evolution of organic molecules in the ISM as they transition from AGB outflows to planetary nebulae to the diffuse ISM to HII regions and dense molecular clouds, (3) the distribution of organics in the diffuse ISM, (4) the nature of organics in the Solar System (in comets, asteroids, satellites), and (5) the nature and distribution of organics in local galaxies. The technical considerations of achieving these science objectives in a MIDEX-sized mission will be presented.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 36 5
© 2004. The American Astronomical Society.