Lunar and Planetary Institute

Astrobiology Science Conference   April 26-29, 2010  League City TX




Sponsored By
National Aeronautics and Space
   Administration Astrobiology Program

Hosted By
Lunar and Planetary Institute
Universities Space Research Association

Pamela Conrad,
   Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Janet Siefert,
   Rice University

Science Organizing

Carlton Allen,
    NASA Johnson Space Center (ex officio)
Mark Allen,
   Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Steve Benner,
    Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution
Linda Billings,
    George Washington University
Charles Cockell,
   The Open University

Pamela Conrad,
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Danny Glavin,
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Tori Hoehler,
    NASA Ames Research Center
Gerhard Kminek,
    European Space Agency
Victoria Orphan,
    California Institute of Technology
Alex Pavlov,
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Frank Rosenzweig,
    University of Montana
Daniella Scalice,
    NASA Astrobiology Institute
Barbara Sherwood-Lollar,
    University of Toronto
Janet Siefert,
    Rice University
Mary Voytek,
    NASA Headquarters (ex officio)




The Astrobiology Science Conference 2010 (AbSciCon 2010) will be held April 26–29, 2010, at the South Shore Harbour Resort and Conference Center in League City, Texas.


When:  April 26–29, 2010
Where:  League City, Texas


The Astrobiology Science Conference 2010 (AbSciCon 2010) is the next in a biennial series of meetings organized by the astrobiology community. The conference will convene scientists from all over the world who are working in the multidisciplinary field of astrobiology — the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe — to report on research findings and plan future endeavors.

The theme for AbSciCon 2010 is “Evolution and Life:  Surviving Catastrophes and Extremes on Earth and Beyond.”  The conference will address, among other things, how environmental, chemical, biological, physical, and even social stresses, ranging in scale from the infinitesimal to the catastrophic, affect the pace and course of evolutionary change.

Astrobiology examines stress, stasis, and change from the cosmic to the molecular level. What is necessary for life, and where does it come from? How do habitable environments develop and change? How does life begin and evolve? How does life accommodate environmental change, and vice versa? Can change be engineered, and should it? These are some of the questions that may be addressed at this conference.The purpose of this conference is to provide a forum for reporting on new discoveries, sharing data and insights, advancing collaborative efforts and initiating new ones, planning new projects, and educating the next generation of astrobiologists. The conference will feature plenary sessions on current and controversial topics, topical sessions, evening programs, and public events.


The conference will comprise special plenary sessions and concurrent topical sessions. A description of special plenary topics follows. See the complete list of session topics. The meeting will also include two evening poster sessions. Posters will remain on display throughout the conference.

This year, AbSciCon will break with standard practice by replacing keynote talks from a single expert with keynote debates that place two experts on stage presenting opposite viewpoints on a topic of major significance. These debates will be before an audience having access to microphones, allowing audience members to contribute to the debate from the floor. The topics to be addressed in this format are:

Was spontaneous generation of RNA the key step in the origin of life?
This discussion will address the chemical, geological, and historical data relevant to the generation of RNA.  Does the chemical behavior of RNA allow or preclude it to have been the starting point for Darwinian evolution?

A warm, wet Mars?
What do we really know about the climate and habitability of early Mars? Do apparent water-related features on the ancient martian surface require a warm wet climate or intense episodic heating? Is it possible to move martian climate to warmer temperatures with a combination of greenhouse gases? The debate will address the strengths and uncertainties of current climate models and the additional data needed to resolve this issue.

A redox conundrum?
Some planetary environments may be highly oxidizing in the general sense, for example, that of Mars. Others may be quite reducing, as exemplified by Titan. Is it possible that going too far on the "redox scale" could make it too difficult for life to carry on the business of metabolism? Is there a "sweet spot" in chemical environments where life can operate — where electron donors and acceptors can serve and volley with relatively greater ease than in other environments?

Titan versus Europa — Potential for astrobiology
A cryogenic satellite of Saturn with hydrocarbon lakes, or a radiation-bathed satellite of Jupiter with an ice shell concealing an ocean — both have been cited as keys to the origin and evolution of life.  What do the latest observations tell us?  What should be the next steps in exploring these very different and very special worlds?

The top 10 environmental catastrophes on Earth:

  • The late heavy bombardment
  • The emergence of life
  • The rise of oxygen in the atmosphere
  • Massive volcanism
  • Formation of the Moon
  • Magnetic field attenuations and reversals
  • The origin of multicellularity
  • Snowball Earth(s)
  • The invention of agriculture
  • The industrial revolution

Come out and cheer on your favorite!

How hellish was the Hadean Earth?
Prior to about five years ago, our limited understanding of the very early Earth was dominated by a volcanically active, inhospitable model. Recent work, though, has possibly softened this picture. This discussion could also include the role that meteorites and comets might have played in bringing organic carbon and water to the Earth.


Researchers in scientific disciplines appropriate to the purpose and scope of this conference are invited to submit abstracts for oral or poster presentations.

Submissions Deadline:
 5:00 p.m. (CST) Thursday, December 3, 2009 (see U.S. time zone map). Those having technical difficulty must contact us immediately (phone: 281-486-2142 or -2188) so we will have time to assist you.

Unable to Produce PDF Files?  If you are unable to produce a PDF file, you may send your source file (must be in Word or PostScript format) to the LPI no later than November 30, 2009. We will create the PDF file and send it back to you, but it will be your responsibility to submit that PDF file by the time of the deadline. Source files should be sent to

Abstracts are limited to two pages and can ONLY be submitted in PDF format. Read the instructions above if you are unable to create a PDF file. Templates and detailed instructions are provided. After preparing your abstract file, you will use the electronic abstract submission form to upload the file containing your abstract (instructions are provided on the form).

Abstracts sent by e-mail will NOT be considered.

Abstract files must be RECEIVED at the LPI by 5:00 p.m. U.S. CST. Authors are encouraged to start early so our staff will have time to provide assistance in the event of technical problems.

File Format:  All abstracts MUST be submitted in PDF format. 

File Sizes:  Abstracts file sizes can be no larger than 1.5 MB. Larger files will be automatically rejected by the electronic submission form.

Paper Sizes:  Files must be submitted in U.S. letter size (8.5" × 11"); A4 submissions will be automatically rejected by the system.

The program and abstracts will be available in electronic format and accessible via the meeting website by February 23, 2010. These files will be in PDF format. Authors should check the online program to find out when their abstract has been scheduled.


Abstract Deadline:
Thursday, December 3, 2009
   5:00 p.m. CST

   see timezone map


NASA’s Astrobiology Program is funding a limited number of travel grants to qualified students to attend the conference. Reimbursable costs include transportation (airfare, mileage to/from airport, parking, rental car), lodging/per diem, and the meeting registration fee. In most cases, actual expenses will exceed the funding provided. Students receiving travel grants may be asked to assist conference organizers with small tasks such as collecting PowerPoint presentations from speakers or assisting with registration services. A student travel grant application must be submitted by January 3, 2010, to be considered for this funding. NASA Headquarters will make the selections and students will be notified no later than February 23, 2010.

Applications should be mailed or faxed to the address or number on the travel application form.


  • Students must be U.S. citizens or resident aliens.
  • Students must be enrolled at a university (undergraduate or graduate) at the time of the conference or the semester immediately following the conference (if during break).
Note:  Students who are depending on travel assistance should NOT pay the registration fee or make travel arrangements until they have been notified that they have received an award. If you are requesting funds to travel to the meeting from outside the U.S., you should also wait to register until you have successfully completed NASA's foreign travel approval process. Failure to comply with this requirement may prohibit reimbursement.


A welcome reception will be held Sunday, April 25, at South Shore Harbour Resort and Conference Center. Participants will be able to pick up conference materials and meet and greet colleagues.

Other special events being planned include a free public lecture. Details about the events will be available in the final announcement.

A private evening social event will be held Wednesday, April 28, in the Astronaut Gallery at Space Center Houston, the official visitor’s center of NASA Johnson Space Center. The event will include a buffet dinner, beer, wine, and exclusive access to Space Center Houston’s attractions and exhibits. Admission to this event is not included in the registration fee. Tickets are $30.00 per guest and will be available when you register for the meeting.


A registration fee will be assessed all participants.

Through March 31, 2010 $200.00 Professionals / $100.00 Students
April 1–24, 2010 $225.00 Professionals / $125.00 Students
April 25–29, 2010 $250.00 Professionals / $150.00 Students
Social Event at
Space Center Houston
$30.00 per guest

Credit card registrations:  Participants registering by credit card MUST use the secure electronic registration form.

Other methods of payment:  Those registering using any other method of payment (check, money order, or traveler’s check) MUST use the downloadable registration form.

Cancellations:  Requests for cancellation with a fee refund (less a $25.00 processing fee) will only be accepted through April 9, 2010. Those who fail to attend and do not notify the LPI prior to the April 9 deadline will forfeit their full fee.


Reduced Registration Deadline:
March 31, 2010
Advance Registration Deadline:
   April 24, 2010


A block of 200 rooms has been reserved at the host hotel, South Shore Harbour Resort and Conference Center, located at 2500 South Shore Boulevard, League City, Texas, 77573, on the shores of Clear Lake.

The special rate for AbSciCon 2010 participants is $119.00 per night, single or double occupancy, plus 12% tax. Guests are required to show proper government identification at check-in to be eligible for an occupancy tax exemption.  

There is no charge for children 18 years and younger when they share a room with parent(s) and utilize existing beds. There will be an additional charge of $10.00 for a third or fourth adult (18 years or older) in a room. A maximum of four adults is allowed per room.

Check-in time is 4:00 p.m.; check-out time is noon. Guests arriving prior to check-in will be accommodated as rooms become available. The hotel will accommodate late check-outs subject to space availability.

All reserved guest rooms are guaranteed for late arrival to each individual. “No-shows” will be billed for one night. Individual cancellation of guest rooms must be made at least 48 hours prior to guest arrival.

Due to the large number of expected attendees, participants who wish to stay at the host hotel are encouraged to make reservations early. To ensure a room at the special rate, reservations MUST be made by April 4, 2010.

Room Reservations:  To reserve a room, call the hotel directly at 800-442-5005 or 281-334-1000. 

Registered guests will have access to the following amenities:  complimentary covered parking, marina with rentals for water sports, a 185-foot tropical pool with heated jacuzzi, 70,000-square-foot fitness center, and golfing privileges at South Shore Harbour Country Club (green fees extra).

Please note that the hotel is a nonsmoking property, which includes all public areas and guest rooms. Evidence of smoking in the guest rooms will be subject to a $250.00 cleaning fee. Since January 23, 2007, all restaurants within the hotel have become smoke-free in compliance with League City Smoking in Public Places Ordinance.


Shuttle service to all conference sessions and events will be available to and from the host hotel as well as a limited number of other local hotels. Please see the area hotel list to determine which hotels will be serviced by the conference shuttle. Shuttle service to and from conference events will be provided to hotels listed in RED. The local area map shows the locations of the LPI, Space Center Houston, South Shore Harbour Resort and Conference Center, and other local hotels.


The Houston metropolitan area is primarily served by two airports:  George Bush Intercontinental (IAH), approximately 47 miles from South Shore Harbour Resort and Conference Center, and William P. Hobby (HOU), approximately 20 miles from South Shore Harbour Resort and Conference Center. Visit the Houston Airport System webpage for more information on both airports.

Galveston Limousine Service
 provides continuous shuttle service from both George Bush Intercontinental Airport ($70.00 round trip per person) and Hobby Airport ($60.00 round trip per person). Reservations for Galveston Limousine may be made online or by calling 1-800-640-4826.

Clear Lake Shuttle (281-334-3873), located in the lobby of South Shore Harbour Resort and Conference Center, is available to provide transportation to or from George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Hobby Airport. Contact them directly for current rate information.

    Detailed information about special conference activities, along with the program and abstracts will be posted February 23 on this website.

  CONTACTS —    

For further information regarding the format and scientific objectives of the meeting, contact

Linda Billings
Principal Investigator,
NASA Astrobiology Program
Phone: 703-635-9799

For further information regarding conference logistics, announcements, and accommodations, contact

Elizabeth Wagganer
Lunar and Planetary Institute
Phone: 281-486-2164

For further information regarding abstract submission and registration, contact

Linda Tanner
Lunar and Planetary Institute
Phone: 281-486-2142

Thursday, December 3, 2009
5:00 p.m. CST
Deadline for abstract submission
February 23, 2010
Final announcement with detailed logistical information,
program, and abstracts available on this website
March 31, 2010
Deadline for registration at the reduced rate
April 4, 2010
Deadline for reserving hotel room at the group rate
April 26–29, 2010
Astrobiology Science Conference 2010
in League City, Texas


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