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New $7M NASA Grant to Georgetown Professor Could Help Discover Life on Mars

November 2, 2018  – NASA has invested nearly $7 million in an effort led by Georgetown’s Sarah Johnson aimed at developing a new kind of extraterrestrial life detection system that could be used on Mars.

Sarah Johnson stands in the hallway with arms folded smiling into the camera.Johnson’s interdisciplinary project, called the Laboratory for Agnostic Biosignatures, will use the grant over the next five years to develop the new life detection system for use on planetary missions – from Mars’ subsurface to the farthest reaches of our solar system.

“Time and again, we’ve been bowled over by the indescribable foreignness of other worlds,” says Johnson, assistant professor of biology at Georgetown and the project’s principal investigator. “Our goal is to go beyond what we currently understand and devise ways to find forms of life we can scarcely imagine.”

She says the search for extraterrestrial life often defaults to assumptions that arise from experience with life detection on Earth. Read more about the research of Sarah Johnson’s global team.