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Astrobiology - Aims Of Astrobiology, Current Research In Astrobiology - Future of astrobiology

life nasa planets earth

Astrobiology is an area of life science that investigates the origin of life, how the biological components interact to create environment, what makes planets habitable, and searches for life on other planets. Astrobiologists are scientists from many areas of science, including biologists (molecular biologists, microbiologists, ecologists, geneticists), chemists, oceanographers, climatologists, archeologists, paleontologists, geologists and astronomers. The foundations of astrobiology were laid in 1920s by a Russian scientist A.I. Oparin, and with his theory of development of organic matter from inorganic components under the conditions resembling early Earth's atmosphere. It took, however, over half a century before studies into evolution of life on Earth and extraterrestial life became an independent branch of life science. Astrobiology was created thanks to NASA's administrator Dan Goldin in The mid-1990s. Coordination of the global effort in astrobiology rests now with the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI), created in 1998 and based at Ames in California, and includes over 700 scientists from numerous research institutes in the U.S. affiliate organizations were also created in Europe and Australia.

In addition to geophysical exploration, NASA's Mars Pathfinder, Sojourner, conducts tests of Martian soil and atmosphere capable of detecting evidence of past biological activity. AP/Wide World Photos. Reproduced by permission.



New challenges for astrobiology include developing methods to test the newly discovered extrasolar planets for life signs, which can be quite different from what is now known. Although traveling in space is still limited, it is important that scientists establish ways in which terrestrial organisms can safely live in space for prolonged periods.

Resources

Books

Horneck, Gerda, and Christa Baumstark-Khan, eds. Astrobiology: the Quest for the Conditions of Life Berlin: Springer, 2002.


Periodicals

Blumberg, Baruch S., "Astrobiology: an Introduction." Anatomical Record (November 2002):169–170.

Drake, Michael J, and Bruce M. Jakosky, "Narrow Horizons in Astrobiology." Nature (February 2002):733–734.


Organizations

NASA Astrobiology Institute, Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA 94035 [cited November 10, 2002]. <http://astrobiology.arc.nasa.gov>.


Other

"The Astrobiology Web. Your Online Guide to the Living Uni verse" [cited November 14, 2002]. <http://www.astrobiology.com>.

Astrobiology Web. "Astrobiology 101:Exploring the Living Universe." Mitchell K. Hobish, and Keith Cowing 1999 [cited November 14, 2002]. <http://www.astrobiology.com/adastra/astrobiology.101.html>.


Agnieszka Lichanska

KEY TERMS

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Anoxic

—Deprived of oxygen

Astrobiology

—The study of living organisms on planets beyond Earth and in space.

Evolution

—in biology, inheritable changes occurring over a time span greater than one generation.

Extraterrestrial

—Beyond Earth

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over 9 years ago

If interested in astrobiology, there's a good blog ("Alien Life"), run by Rob Bignell, which gives daily roundups of the latest news from the various scientific fields that form astrobiology and information about SETI. It's at http://alienlifeblog.blogspot.com/.