Solar System Exploration Division

Hannah L McLain


Hannah L McLain's Contact Card & Information.
Phone: 301.614.6920
Org Code: 691
Mail Code 691
Greenbelt, MD 20771

Brief Bio

Hannah McLain is an astrobiologist with the Catholic University of America at NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center in Maryland. Her work focuses on the search for life in outer space looking for the building blocks of life in extraterrestrial materials, including meteorites, asteroids, extinct comets, and lunar samples. 


In 2013, Hannah McLain joined the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. In 2015 and 2017 she received the NASA Group Achievement Award for her work with the Mars Science Laboratory mission for her work with pyrolysis gas chromatography mass spectrometry of mars simulants for comparison to the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument.


In recognition of Hannah McLain’s meteorite research, the International Astronomical Union named an asteroid after her, asteroid (117614) Hannahmclain.


In 2015 Hannah McLain started working heavily with the OSIRIS-REx mission with their contamination control team to make sure that the sample that was returned is as pristine as possible for the people that are looking for signs of life in outer space. This work with the OSIRIS-REx team lead to Group Achievement awards in 2017, 2020, and 2022. Since the sample returned to earth in 2023 Hannah McLain has received a piece of the OSIRIS-REx sample and has started the search for the building blocks of life in the OSIRIS-REx return sample.


In 2019 Hannah McLain continued her search for life in outer space with the JAXA (Japanese Space Agency) completing two rehearsals with the soluble organic analysis team in Fukuoka, Japan before the sample was returned and she was able to analyze the first Hayabusa2 sample in 2021. Her analysis of the JAXA Hayabusa2 samples was awarded the Special Thanks and Recognition in 2022 and the Robert H. Goddard award in 2022.

Current Projects

Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx)


Hannah McLain is a Science Team Collaborator in the Sample Organics Analysis Working Group Team that is investigating the organic composition of the samples that returned to Earth from asteroid Bennu in 2023.

Lunar Environment And Dynamics for Exploration Research (LEADER)


Hannah McLain is collaborating with surface scientists to constrain the origin of small organic compounds by simulating the lunar environment and measuring the survivability of those compounds on the lunar regolith

Survivability of amino acids under ionizing radiation in Mars-Like conditions


Since the presence of amino acids in future planetary samples is indicative of extraterrestrial life, it is imperative to determine the timescale of radiolytic alteration. Hannah is working with realistic Mars analog samples to determine the survival of biomolecules at various depths on Mars. 



Collaborated with JAXA to determine the initial amount of amino acids and amines in the JAXA allotted sample (2021) and was able to search for amines and amino acids in a larger specifically allotted sample in 2023.

Meteorites of Opportunity


Analysis of amines and amino acids in the Aguas Zarcas, Tarda, Murchison, Asuka 12236, Saricicek, and Dingle Dell meteorites.

Titan Chemistry Simulations


Simulate conditions that are observed when Dragonfly arrives in the atmosphere of Titan. These analyses include the simulation of Titan like conditions in the laboratory and the detection of amino acids, amines, and nucleobases from these laboratory simulations.


Research Scientist

The Catholic University of America and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center - Greenbelt, MD

October 2013 - Present

Research Scientist

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Chamblee, GA

May 2010 - May 2011


Masters of Science (Chemistry -2010) Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA

Bachelors of Science (Chemistry – 2006) Warren Wilson College, Asheville, NC



2024: Rotary National Award for Space Achievement (RNASA) Stellar Award, OSIRIS-REx Team

2024: National Aeronautic Association’s Robert J. Collier Trophy, OSIRIS-REx Team

2024: The National Space Club and Foundation Dr. Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy, OSIRIS-REx Team

2024: American Astronautical Society Neil Armstrong Space Flight Achievement Award, OSIRIS-REx Team

2023: NASA Group Achievement Award, OSIRIS-REx Team

2023: NASA Group Achievement Award, NASA Hayabusa2 Team

2022: Robert H. Goddard for the Consortium for Hayabusa2 Analysis of Organic Solubles

2022: Special Thanks And Recognition (STAR) analysis of JAXA Hayabusa2 samples

2022: Space Foundation John L. “Jack” Swigert Jr. Award for Space Exploration, OSIRIS-REx Team

2020: American Astronautical Society Space Technology Award, OSIRIS-REx Team

2019: NASA Goddard Code 690 Special Thanks and Recognition (STAR) Award

2017: NASA Group Achievement Award, OSIRIS-REx Team

2017: Asteroid discovered at Mount Lemmon was renamed 117614 Hannahmclain

2017: NASA Group Achievement Award, MSL Extended Mission-1 Science and Operations Team

2015: NASA Group Achievement Award, MSL Prime Mission Science and Operations Team



2024. "Enantioselective three-dimensional high-performance liquid chromatographic determination of amino acids in the Hayabusa2 returned samples from the asteroid Ryugu." Journal of Chromatography Open 5 100134 [10.1016/j.jcoa.2024.100134] [Journal Article/Letter]

2024. "Soluble Organic Compounds and Cyanide in Apollo 17 Lunar Samples: Origins and Curation Effects." Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets 129 (4): [10.1029/2023je008133] [Journal Article/Letter]

2023. "Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in samples of Ryugu formed in the interstellar medium." Science 382 (6677): 1411-1416 [10.1126/science.adg6304] [Journal Article/Letter]

2023. "Investigating the impact of x‐ray computed tomography imaging on soluble organic matter in the Murchison meteorite: Implications for Bennu sample analyses." Meteoritics and Planetary Science [10.1111/maps.14111] [Journal Article/Letter]

2023. "Soluble organic matter Molecular atlas of Ryugu reveals cold hydrothermalism on C-type asteroid parent body." Nature Communications 14 (1): 6525 [Full Text] [10.1038/s41467-023-42075-y] [Journal Article/Letter]

2023. "Chemical evolution of primordial salts and organic sulfur molecules in the asteroid 162173 Ryugu." Nature Communications 14 (1): 5284 [10.1038/s41467-023-40871-0] [Journal Article/Letter]

2023. "The spatial distribution of soluble organic matter and their relationship to minerals in the asteroid (162173) Ryugu." Earth, Planets and Space 75 (1): 73 [10.1186/s40623-023-01792-w] [Journal Article/Letter]

2023. "PAHs, hydrocarbons, and dimethylsulfides in Asteroid Ryugu samples A0106 and C0107 and the Orgueil (CI1) meteorite." Earth, Planets and Space 75 (1): 28 [Full Text] [10.1186/s40623-022-01758-4] [Journal Article/Letter]

2023. "Extraterrestrial Amino Acids and Amines Identified in Asteroid Ryugu Samples Returned by the Hayabusa2 Mission." Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 347 42-57 [Full Text] [10.1016/j.gca.2023.02.017] [Journal Article/Letter]

2023. "Soluble organic molecules in samples of the carbonaceous asteroid (162173) Ryugu." Science 379 (6634): eabn9033 [Full Text] [10.1126/science.abn9033] [Journal Article/Letter]

2023. "Meteorite Parent Body Aqueous Alteration Simulations of Interstellar Residue Analogs." ACS Earth and Space Chemistry 7 (1): 156-167 [Full Text] [10.1021/acsearthspacechem.2c00274] [Journal Article/Letter]

2022. "Rapid Radiolytic Degradation of Amino Acids in the Martian Shallow Subsurface: Implications for the Search for Extinct Life." Astrobiology 22 (9): 1099-1115 [Full Text] [10.1089/ast.2021.0166] [Journal Article/Letter]

2022. "Experimental and Theoretical Constraints on Amino Acid Formation from PAHs in Asteroidal Settings." ACS Earth and Space Chemistry 6 468-481 [Full Text] [10.1021/acsearthspacechem.1c00329] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "Low total abundances and a predominance of n ‐ω‐amino acids in enstatite chondrites: Implications for thermal stability of amino acids in the inner solar system." Meteoritics & Planetary Science 56 (11): 2118–2127 [Full Text] [10.1111/maps.13757] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "Extraterrestrial hydroxy amino acids in CM and CR carbonaceous chondrites." Meteoritics & Planetary Science 56 (6): 1005-1023 [Full Text] [10.1111/maps.13661] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "The impact and recovery of asteroid 2018 LA." Meteoritics & Planetary Science 56 (4): 844–893 [Full Text] [10.1111/maps.13653] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "Analysis of amino acids, hydroxy acids, and amines in CR chondrites." Meteoritics & Planetary Science 55 (11): 2422-2439 [Full Text] [10.1111/maps.13586] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "Analysis of amino acids, hydroxy acids, and amines in CR chondrites." Meteoritics & Planetary Science [Full Text] [10.1111/maps.13586] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "Prokaryotic and Fungal Characterization of the Facilities Used to Assemble, Test, and Launch the OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft." Frontiers in Microbiology 11 530661 [Full Text] [10.3389/fmicb.2020.530661] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "Abundant extraterrestrial amino acids in the primitive CM carbonaceous chondrite Asuka 12236." Meteoritics & Planetary Science 55 (9): 1979–2006 [Full Text] [10.1111/maps.13560] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "Impact of Phyllosilicates on Amino Acid Formation under Asteroidal Conditions." ACS Earth and Space Chemistry 4 (8): 1398-1407 [Full Text] [10.1021/acsearthspacechem.0c00137] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "Extraterrestrial organic compounds and cyanide in the CM2 carbonaceous chondrites Aguas Zarcas and Murchison." Meteoritics & Planetary Science 55 (7): 1509-1524 [Full Text] [10.1111/maps.13531] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "Extraterrestrial amino acids and L-enantiomeric excesses in the CM2 carbonaceous chondrites Aguas Zarcas and Murchison." Meteoritics & Planetary Science 56 (1): 148–173 [Full Text] [10.1111/maps.13451] [Journal Article/Letter]

2019. "New insights into the heterogeneity of the Tagish Lake meteorite: Soluble organic compositions of variously altered specimens." Meteoritics & Planetary Science 54 1283-1302 [10.1111/maps.13276] [Journal Article/Letter]

2019. "The Sariçiçek howardite fall in Turkey: Source crater of HED meteorites on Vesta and impact risk of Vestoids." Meteoritics & Planetary Science 54 (5): 953-1008 [Full Text] [10.1111/maps.13258] [Journal Article/Letter]

2018. "OSIRIS-REx Contamination Control Strategy and Implementation." Space Science Reviews 214 (1): 19 [Full Text] [10.1007/s11214-017-0439-4] [Journal Article/Letter]

2018. "Effect of polychromatic X-ray microtomography imaging on the amino acid content of the Murchison CM chondrite." Meteoritics & Planetary Science 54 (1): 220–228 [Full Text] [10.1111/maps.13188] [Journal Article/Letter]

2016. "Aliphatic Amines in Antarctic CR2, CM2, and CM1/2 Carbonaceous Chondrites." Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 189 296-311 [Full Text] [10.1016/j.gca.2016.06.018] [Journal Article/Letter]

2016. "Evaluation of the robustness of chromatographic columns in a simulated highly radiative Jovian environment." Planetary and Space Science 122 38-45 [10.1016/j.pss.2016.01.004] [Journal Article/Letter]

2015. "DISTRIBUTION AND ORIGIN OF AMINO ACIDS IN LUNAR REGOLITH SAMPLES." 46th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (2015) [Proceedings]

2015. "The origin of amino acids in lunar regolith samples." Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 172 357-369 [Full Text] [10.1016/j.gca.2015.10.008] [Journal Article/Letter]

2015. "Amino acid analyses of R and CK chondrites." Meteoritics & Planetary Science 50 (3): 470-482 [Full Text] [10.1111/maps.12433] [Journal Article/Letter]

2010. "Guanine, Adenine, and Hypoxanthine Production in UV-Irradiated Formamide Solutions: Relaxation of the Requirements for Prebiotic Purine Nucleobase Formation." ChemBioChem 11 (9): 1240 [10.1002/cbic.201000074] [Journal Article/Letter]