Department of Astronomy Center for Radiophysics & Space Research

Alberto G. Fairén

Visiting Scientist
Alberto G. Fairén




Alberto Fairén’s research focuses in the fields of Planetary Sciences and Astrobiology, with particular emphasis in the understanding of the early Mars environments.




  • 2014-present: Principal Investigator (civil servant), Centro de Astrobiología (Spain).
  • 2015-present: Visiting Scientist, Cornell University, Department of Astronomy.
  • 2012-2014: Research Associate. Cornell University, Department of Astronomy.
  • 2009-2012: Research Scientist. NASA Ames Research Center and SETI Institute.
  • 2006-2009: Postdoctoral Fellow. NASA Ames Research Center.
  • 2006: PhD. Molecular Biology and Astrobiology. Universidad Autónoma de Madrid.
  • 2002: M. S. Genetics. Universidad Complutense de Madrid.
  • 2000: B. S. Biology. Universidad Complutense de Madrid.





  • NASA: MER-B Opportunity, Athena Science Team Member (2012-2014).
  • NASA: MSL Curiosity, Science Team Collaborator on SAM (2012-2014), APXS (2012-present) and REMS (2014-present).
  • NASA: InSight, Collaborator on TWINS.
  • NASA: Mars2020, Collaborator on MEDA.
  • ESA: ExoMars, Member of the Landing Site Selection Working Group (LSSWG).



  • 2015 NASA Group Achievement Award: MSL Prime Mission Science and Operations Team.
  • 2013 NASA Group Achievement Awards to MSL-SAM and MSL-APXS Instrument Development and Science Teams.
  • 2012 recipient of the Urey Prize, awarded by the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society, in recognition of outstanding achievement in planetary research by a young scientist.
  • 2012 ERC Starting Grant, Europe's highest and most prestigious individual research grant for early career scientists.
  • 2006 NASA Postdoctoral Program, ranked #1 for the slot.
  • 2004 Planetary Biology Internship, awarded by NASA.



ADS Database, Google Scholar

Gil-Lozano et al., including Fairén (2017). Quantifying Fenton reaction pathways driven by self-generated H2O2 on pyrite surfaces. Nature Scientific Reports, 7, 43703, in press.

Bristow et al., including Fairén (2017). Low Hesperian pCO2 constrained from in situ mineralogical analysis at Gale crater, Mars. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1616649114.

Rodríguez, Fairén, et al. (2016). Tsunami waves extensively resurfaced the shorelines of an early Martian ocean. Nature Scientific Reports, 6, 25106.

Stern et al., including Fairén (2015). Evidence for indigenous nitrogen in sedimentary and aeolian deposits from the Curiosity rover investigations at Gale crater, Mars. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 112, 4245-4250.

Rodríguez et al., including Fairén (2015). Martian outflow channels: How did their source aquifers form, and why did they drain so rapidly? Nature Scientific Reports, 5, 13404.

Fairén (2014). The Mars rovers 200 years from now. Science 343, 24.

Arvidson et al., including Fairén (2014). Ancient aqueous environments at Endeavour Crater, Mars. Science, 343, 387.

Ming et al., including Fairén (2014). Volatile and organic compositions of sedimentary rocks in Yellowknife Bay, Gale Crater, Mars. Science, 343, 388.

Fairén & Schulze-Makuch (2013). The overprotection of Mars. Nature Geoscience, 6, 510-511.

Fairén et al. (2011). Cold glacial oceans would have inhibited phyllosilicate sedimentation on early Mars. Nature Geoscience, 4, 667-670. (Highlighted in Science: Why no clay up North?).

Fairén et al. (2010). Noachian and more recent phyllosilicates in impact craters on Mars. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 107, 12095-12100.

Fairén (2010). Refilling the oceans of early Mars. Nature Geoscience, 3, 452-453.

Fairén et al. (2009). Stability against freezing of aqueous solutions on early Mars. Nature, 459 (7245), 401-404.

Fairén et al. (2008). Finding of unusual soil on Mars could stem from tools used. Nature, 456, 870.

Fairén (2005). What should we call Pluto? Science 310, 53-54.

Fairén et al. (2004). Inhibition of carbonate synthesis in acidic oceans on early Mars. Nature, 431, 423-426.



Alberto’s research interests in Martian science are broad, spanning from aqueous mineralogy, surface composition and habitability, to robotic exploration and mission design. His research activities include a combination of theoretical modeling, laboratory experiments, field work and spacecraft data analysis. Dr. Fairén's scientific projects and publications on Mars include analyses of the time of operation of the inner magnetic dynamo, the evolution of the lithosphere, global geomorphology, volcanology and tectonics, impact cratering and meteorites on and from Mars, the history and distribution of water, the evolution of fluvial features, aqueous mineralogy (including analyses of clays, carbonates, sulfates, and other salts), climate modeling, the origin of atmospheric methane, exploration of hydrothermal targets, the astrobiological significance of different martian environments, the search for biosignatures, and the exploration of terrestrial Mars analogs. His field-work experience includes research in the Arctic, the Atacama Desert, Mojave Desert, Mono Lake, Death Valley, Pavilion Lake, and Río Tinto.



Alberto has published 3 books and 200 articles of popular science (Planetology, Astrobiology and Molecular Biology) in newspapers, magazines and webs in Spain and South America (in Spanish). Some examples:

Astrobiología (libro), Astronomía,

El País, El Mundo, El Mundo 2, El Mundo 3, abc, La Vanguardia, Deslinde

Planetario de Madrid