The research activities at LTU are linked to astrobiological studies in several aspects. On one hand, Javier Martín Torres and María-Paz Zorzano, are co-Is of the Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity rover project. They are especially involved in the operation and data exploitation of the iRover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) onboard the Curiosity rover. The MSL project has the goal to assess past and present habitability potential on Marts. They have played a main role in the last discoveries by Curiosity rover, namely, the presence of transient liquid water on Martian regolith, the detection of fixed nitrogen and organics on the ground, and of methane in the atmospheric boundary layer. All of them are key matters to discern whether life sometime arose on Mars or not, as well as to assess the capability of the planet to host life in the present time.
In this same line, the Group are involved in the Trace Gas Orbiter and the ExoMars rover. Both are included in the ambitious ESA's project ExoMars, which will mean a step forward, among other things, in the definition of the historical profile of the habitability potential of the planet, preparing a further and more specific search for signs of life in the middle term future. This can be considered one of the more active fronts of astrobiology currently underway.
On the other hand, the different atmospheric (physical, photochemical, dynamical...) studies performed by the Team members, will have a relevant utility in order to develop a reliable method to identify biosignatures in exoplanet atmospheres, what is by the time being the firmest basis to support astrobiological studies beyond the Solar System.
Javier Martín Torres is member of the UK Center of Astrobiology, and was the Chairman of the Thermodynamics, Disequilibrium and Evolution Focus Group of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI). M. P. Zorzano is member of the Center of Astrobiology in Madrid, Spain.Further information about the group can be found here.