Conference on Life Detection in Extraterrestrial Samples

NASA Mars Program Office
NASA Planetary Protection Office
Universities Space Research Association
Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI)

Dave Beaty
NASA Mars Program Office

Cassie Conley
NASA Planetary Protection

Gerhard Kminek
ESA Planetary Protection

Mary Voytek
NASA Astrobiology

Jorge Vago
ESA Mars Program

Michael Meyer
NASA Mars Exploration Program

Dave Des Marais
Mars Exploration Program
Analysis Group (MEPAG) Chair
Carl Allen
NASA Johnson Space Center
Doug Bartlett
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Penny Boston
New Mexico Tech
Karen Buxbaum
NASA Mars Program Office
Charles Cockell
University of Edinburgh
John Parnell
University of Aberdeen
Mike Spilde
University of New Mexico
Andrew Steele
Carnegie Institution for Science
Frances Westall
Centre de Biophysique Moléculaire

Final Announcement — December 2011

Meeting Location and Date

The Conference on Life Detection in Extraterrestrial Samples will be held February 13–15, 2012, at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, San Diego, California.

Conference sessions will be held in the Samuel H. Scripps Auditorium, which is located in the Scripps Seaside Forum, 8610 Kennel Way (formerly Discovery Way), La Jolla CA 92037.

Click here for information on directions and parking. Please be aware that parking is very difficult during the week, and very few permits are available. Participants are encouraged to walk from nearby hotels or catch a shuttle to the conference location (some hotels offer this service).

Purpose and Scope

The return of samples from Mars was the highest-priority flagship in the U.S. Planetary Decadal Survey. It is also a key element in the European Space Agency's (ESA) Mars Robotic Exploration Preparatory Program to prepare Europe's contribution to the international exploration of Mars. Part of planning for a Mars sample return mission includes planning for what will happen to the samples after they have returned to Earth. One of the major scientific questions that will be asked in the analysis of returned martian samples is whether they contain indications of past or present martian life. In addition, international guidelines and agency policies dictate that Mars samples must be subjected to a program of life detection and biohazard analysis before they can be released from strict containment, to protect the environment of the Earth. A better understanding of current and possible investigation strategies and capabilities, including controls and measurements related to life detection in returned martian samples, is important to address both these concerns.

An understanding of planned or possible life detection strategies and measurements has major implications for several decisions related to requirements for the 2018 sampling rover, including strategies and requirements for avoiding contamination of the samples, and sample size needed to carry out the returned sample measurements.

Life detection strategies and capabilities are relevant to a range of scientific activities beyond Mars sample return, including origin of life investigations of both terrestrial and planetary materials. The search for fossils and remnants of early life on Earth benefits greatly from a variety of analytical techniques, and can inform efforts to detect life in planetary materials. Strategies and technologies for life detection can effectively be applied to meteorite studies, addressing questions regarding the organic constituents present in the early solar system as well as possibly shedding light on reports of possible life in meteorites that remain highly controversial.

Meeting Format

Monday, February 13

Oral presentations and evening poster session and reception

Tuesday, February 14

Oral presentations

Wednesday, February 15 (half-day)

Oral presentations, panel discussion, wrap-up

For more details, view the program and abstracts. Authors will not receive notification letters, so they should check the author index to see where their presentation has been scheduled.

Information for Presenters

Oral Presentations —

Oral presentations are scheduled for 20 minutes per talk: 15 minutes for speaking, and 5 minutes for discussion and speaker transition.

Audio-visual equipment provided will include laptop PCs and Macs and an LCD projector. There is no option for dual-screen presentations.

Poster Presentations —

Poster Size:

44" x 44" (maximum)

Materials Provided:

Blue painter tape to attach to wall


Participants are responsible for making their own travel arrangements and hotel reservations. Information about area hotels is available on the Scripps website.



Through January 15, 2012

January 16–February 6, 2012










*Onsite registration will be by credit card only.

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, traveler's check, or wire transfer) must contact the LPI Meeting Registrar for detailed instructions.

Note:  We now have a third-party payment page available. Participants required to register using a third party (e.g., SATERN for NASA civil servants) may still register in advance using the electronic registration form. The confirmation e-mail you receive after registering will include payment instructions to submit to the third party. Please be aware, however, that your registration will not be considered complete until the funds have been received.

Cancellations:  Requests for cancellation with a fee refund (less a $25.00 processing fee) will only be accepted through February 1, 2012. Those who fail to attend and do not notify the LPI prior to the February 1, 2012, deadline will forfeit their full fee.


For further information regarding the scientific content of the meeting:

Dr. David Beaty
Mars Program Office
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Phone:  818-354-7968
E-mail:  [email protected]

Dr. Gerhard Kminek
European Space Agency
Phone:  + 31 71 565 6096
E-mail:  [email protected]

Dr. Cassie Conley
NASA's Planetary Protection Officer
NASA Headquarters
Phone:  202-358-3912
E-mail:  [email protected]

For further information regarding meeting logistics:

Dr. Charles Budney
Mars Program Office
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Phone:  818-354-3981
E-mail:  [email protected]

For information regarding registration:

Linda Tanner
Universities Space Research Association/
Lunar and Planetary Institute
Phone:  281-486-2142
Fax:  281-486-2125
E-mail:  [email protected]


Deadline for registration at reduced rate January 15, 2012
Conference on Life Detection in Extraterrestrial Samples at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, San Diego, California February 13–15, 2012