Exobiology to Astrobiology

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					From exobiology to astrobiology : Vali
January-16-10
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      The Science of Astrobiology
       The study of the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe
       The study of life as a planetary phenomenon
       The study of the living universe
       The origin and co-evolution of life and habitable environments
       Discoveries about the terrestrial biosphere from life in extreme environments (extremophiles)
      to the evolution of intelligence
       The search for extraterrestrial life via in situ exploration
       Spectroscopy of solar and extrasolar planetary atmospheres
       The search for extraterrestrial intelligence
       The future of life on Earth and the prospects for Earth-based life to move beyond its planet of
      origin
       First used by Laurence Lafleur (1941) who defined it as "the consideration of life in the universe
      elsewhere than on earth"
       Hubertus Stughold (1953) a science focused on the search for life on otherworlds
       Prior to the adoption of the word astrobiology in 1995 by NASA the term exobiology was
      commonly used in US space exploration
       Exobiology was first used by the Nobel Laureate Joshua Lederberg to mean the study of life off
      of Earth.
       Exobiology has come to represent the NASA effort to understand the origin of life outside of
      Earth
        astrobiology avoids the mixture of Greek adn Roman roots in "exobiology"
       Cosmobiology is better maybe, but seldom used
       Bioastronomy is the term used by the International Astronomical Union, but is rarely used
      outside of the organization
       Astrobiology brings together geology, biology, chemistry and physics
       Incorporates astronomy and planet formation, geosciences, life sciences, especially relating to
      the origin, evolution and adaptability of life as well as engineering and the social sciences
       Astrobiology attempts to address some of the most fundamental questions of the natural world.

      NASA and Astrobiology
       NASA's involvement in astrobiology/exobiology can be divided into three periods
        o         Beginnings to Viking (late 1950s to 1976)
        o         Post-Viking Era (1976 to mid 1990s)
        o         Transformation and Revitalization (1996 to present)
       NASA's involvement with exo/astrobiology began after an international conference on the
      origins of life on Earth in Moscow in 1957
       US officials feared that the Soviet Union had discovered the secret behind the origin of life
       Lederberg capitalized on these fears and convinced NASA to devote resources to studying the
      origin of life
       Believed the origins of life on Earth needed to be understood in order to plan for the search for
      extraterrestrial life
       NASA helped catalyzing the rapid consolidation of exobiology both through research grants and
      through sponsored meetings that overcome disciplinary boundaries
     Twin Viking landers designed by the Office of Life Sciences were designed to land on Mars and
    search for the presence of life or organic materials on the surface (1976)
     Following the failure of the Viking landers to unambiguously detect biological activity or organic
    compounds in the Martian soil NASA's funding for follow-up missions diminished
     The public became disillusioned by the negative results of Viking
     NASA continued to fund projects studying the origins of life and planning for future missions
     1995 - Astronomers announced the discovery of an extrasolar planet orbiting the star 51 Pegasi
     Hubbard Space Telescope obtained images of protoplanetary disks, regions where planet
    formation should occur
     1996 - in an effort to capitalize on the immense public interest generated by the report of
    putative fossil organisms in teh Martian Meteorite ALH84001 and the discovery of exoplanets,
    NASA began the definition of the new program of Astrobiology
      o        Debate about these claims played a pivotal role in the development of astrobiology
     1997 - President Clinton proposed funds be appropriated for a major new NASA activity -the
    Origins Initiative - to focus on studying the origins of life in the context of the formation of planets,
    stars and galaxies
     Within this initiative was funding for missions to Mars and Europa and the initiation of a major
    program in Astrobiology
     NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) was established in 1998 to develop the field of astrobiology
    and provide a scientific framework for flight missions
     NAI was envisioned and implemented to promote, conduct and lead integrated interdisciplinary
    research into the origin, evolution and distribution of life in the universe guided by the NASA
    astrobiology roadmap
     Carl Pilcher, the former director of NASA's Solar System Exploration program, took over as the
    NAI director in 2006
     Two main groups dealing with the investigation of extraterrestrial life and habitable worlds are
      o        The International Astronomy Union Commission 51 (now called Bioastronomy)
           composed of astronomies adn engineers who focus on the search for extrasolar planets,
           formation and evolution of planetary systems, and the astronomical search for intelligent
           signals
      o         The International Society for the study of the Origin of Life (IOSSOL) which is composed
           of biologists and chemists who focus research on the biogenesis of life on Earth and the
           solar system
      o        Federation of Astrobiology Organizations (FAO), established in 2004 to "create an
           architecture that can implement cooperative international activities central to the interests
           of the individual astrobiology networks, associations, Institutes and societies that comprise
           the federation"
                        Consists of the NAI, IAU Bioastronomy and the ISSOL as well as groups from the
                  UK, Australia, Japan, Mexico, Spain, France, Germany, Sweden and Israel

				
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posted:11/17/2012
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