Skip to main content

Frequently Asked Questions


Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe. This multidisciplinary field encompasses the search for habitable environments in our Solar System and habitable planets outside our Solar System, the search for evidence of prebiotic chemistry and life on Mars and other bodies in our Solar System, laboratory and field research into the origins and early evolution of life on Earth, and studies of the potential for life to adapt to challenges on Earth and in space.

NASA’s Astrobiology Program addresses three fundamental questions:

  • How does life begin and evolve?
  • Is there life beyond Earth and, if so, how can we detect it?
  • What is the future of life on Earth and in the universe?

In striving to answer these questions and improve understanding of biological, planetary, and cosmic phenomena and relationships among them, experts in astronomy and astrophysics, Earth and planetary sciences, microbiology and evolutionary biology, cosmochemistry, and other relevant disciplines are participating in astrobiology research and helping to advance the enterprise of space exploration.

Text extracted from: NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI)

For more information: 2008 NASA’s Astrobiology Roadmap, 2015 NASA Astrobiology Strategy

The Astrobiology Habitable Environments Database (AHED) is a new data system being developed as a long-term, open-access repository for astrobiology data. The objective of AHED is to advance the field of astrobiology and increase scientific returns from NASA funded research by promoting data sharing, collaboration, and exposure of non-NASA scientists to NASA research initiatives and missions. AHED aims to be a dynamic data system intended to allow researchers to:

  • Search and discover astrobiology relevant data through the AHED database portal.
  • Visualize data and enable exploration of complex scientific interactions.
  • Download data in different formats.
  • Perform in-depth programmatic data analysis through an API.
  • Collaborate with other investigators using AHED by uploading and sharing their own data.

AHED accomplishes these goals by encouraging a common data structure and by capturing detailed data descriptions through the use of metadata standards, customizable metadata templates, and a convenient set of dataset design tools. In addition, AHED leverages audit trail capabilities and a host of outside analysis and visualization resources that are integrated into AHED’s underlying platform: The Open Data Repository’s (ODR) Data Publisher. The ultimate goal of this work is to facilitate data-driven discovery and synergy between datasets in the expanding astrobiology community through data sharing, data analysis, and collaboration.

~ For more information

AHED is supported by funding provided to Ames Research Center’s Exobiology Branch (SSX) from the NASA Astrobiology Program’s Science-Enabling Research Activity (SERA).

~ For more information

The AHED project is led by scientists from diverse astrobiology disciplines within NASA Ames Research Center’s Exobiology Branch (SSX).
~ For more information

AHED facilitates data-driven discovery and synergy between datasets by providing a central location for data sharing, data analysis, and collaboration. By subscribing to the AHED metadata standards, datasets can more easily be discovered and accessed through the AHED interface.

Recently, federal agencies have begun mandating that data and results from government funded scientific research be available and useful to the public and the science community. While large, homogenous fields often have repositories and existing data standards (e.g. GenBank), for small communities in multidisciplinary fields publishing and sharing data can be challenging. The Open Data Repository’s (ODR) Data Publisher software is a collaborative data publication tool for researchers to store, manage, and share their scientific data.

The Data Publisher open source software provides an end-to-end solution from data deposition to publication by easing the creation of customized databases. Flexible permission sets allow researchers to share data collaboratively while maintaining ownership rights. Data can be also embargoed in the system until a date selected by the researcher. A template system helps to promote data discovery, and establishment of community metadata standards.

The end product facilitates both human-readable interfaces (embedded images, files, and charts) and machine-readable interfaces (utilizing semantic standards). The web-based interface allows researchers to enter data, view data, and conduct analyses using any programming language supported by JupyterHub or any other cloud-based analytical tool (e.g. Qanalyze). This toolset makes it possible for a researcher to store, manipulate, and analyze their data in the cloud from any internet capable device.

The Data Publisher software runs on the standard LAMP (Linux, MySQL, Apache, PHP) stack to provide the widest server base available. The software is based on Symfony which provides a robust framework for creating extensible, object-oriented software in PHP.
~ For more information


Currently, there are three different ways to search and discover AHED datasets: by Theme, by Location, by Keyword, and by Discipline.
~ For more information

The illustration represents the host of natural phenomena which collectively have created life as we know it. Life apparently requires a solar system having a planet with “suitable” conditions such as liquid water, nutrients, and sources of energy. Interactions between various substances and energy, yielded the first autocatalytic systems capable of passing information from one generation to the next, and the thread of life began. This thread, which has been maintained by DNA molecules for much of its history, is shown weaving its way through the primitive oceans, gaining strength, and gradually acquiring the lineages of organisms whose descendants populate our modern biosphere. Plants and animals then moved onto the land, where more advanced forms, including humanity, ultimately arose. Finally, assisted with a technology of its own making, life has reached back out into space to understand its own origins, to expand into new realms, and to seek other living threads in the cosmos.

Illustration concept by ARC’s scientists Linda Jahnke, David Des Marais and Thomas Scattergood.


  • If you don't have a NASA badge (NASA Smartcard or AUID), you first need to create a NASA Guest Account. Once the account has been created, it needs to be registered with AHED. Fill out and submit the registration form. Our team will review the information and contact you shortly via email. Approval will be dependent on the user’s established association with the astrobiology community, including their relationship to existing astrobiology-relevant projects, academic institutions, government laboratories, non-profit organizations, private foundation or industry. Once your account has been approved, use Sign in with NASA Launchpad using Agency User ID option with NASA Guest account email and password. See Instructions.
  • If you have a NASA badge, you can directly Sign in with NASA Launchpad with NASA launchpad credentials.

A NASA Guest Account allows non-NASA identities to access public, low-risk web application capabilities supported by NASA, such as AHED. ​

  • Your Guest account password is valid for 60 days. To keep your Guest account active, you will need to change the password before the expiration date.​
  • Guest accounts are deleted after a period of inactivity. To regain access to Guest, simply go to the website and create a new account with same email used to login the first time in AHED.​

For more information about how to reset password, re-activate account, etc, please visit

Datasets published in AHED are intended to remain permanently archived and available. Removal of a published dataset is considered an exceptional action. To request the withdrawal of a dataset contact us supplying the following details:

Subject: Delete published dataset


  • Dataset title
  • Lead Investigator
  • Reason

To edit your datasets, go to My Datasets, select a dataset from the list, and click on Edit. Changes that violate AHED requirements (e.g. required fields are empty) won’t be saved.

If you wish to change a file, click on “Replace File”. To delete a file, remove the data item by clicking on the “x” at the left of the data entry.

a screenshot of how to edit

When replacing or removing files, we recommend adding a Read Me file to explain the reason of the update.

If the dataset is published, changes to the metadata or file(s) won't change the permanent URL of your dataset.