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Astrobiology

As defined by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe. It is a multidisciplinary field that encompasses the search for habitable environments in the Solar System and on habitable planets outside the Solar System.

It embodies the search for evidence of prebiotic chemistry and life on Mars and on other bodies in the Solar System. Astrobiology involves laboratory and field research into the origins and early evolution of life on Earth as well as studies of the potential for life to adapt to challenges existing on Earth and in space.

The image here shows the William P. Hobby-Robert E. Eberly Telescope in west Texas. It will house the Habitable Zone Planet Finder being built at Penn State University (Source: NASA; Credit: Marty Harris/McDonald Observatory).

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Curiosity Rover Last Updated on 2012-08-04 00:00:00 The Curiosity Rover is designed to examine Martian rocks and soils. Two instruments on its arm can study rocks up close, a drill can collect sample material and a scoop can pick up samples of soil. NASA's Curiosity Mars Mission Connects Past and Future This is one of the first images taken by NASA's Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars the evening of Aug. 5 PDT (morning of Aug. 6 EDT). Source: NASA. NASA's newest Mars mission, that landed on 05 August 2012, will draw on support from missions sent to Mars years ago and will contribute to missions envisioned for future decades. "Curiosity is a bold step forward in learning about our neighboring planet, but this mission does not stand alone. It is part of a sustained, coordinated program of Mars exploration," said Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars... More »
Life from the Skies? Last Updated on 2011-02-06 00:00:00   ?Main Image Explanation: What's that behind Titan? It's another of Saturn's moons: Tethys. The robotic Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn captured the heavily cratered Tethys slipping behind Saturn's atmosphere-shrouded Titan late last year. The largest crater on Tethys, Odysseus, is easily visible on the distant moon. Titan shows not only its thick and opaque orange lower atmosphere, but also an unusual upper layer of blue-tinted haze. Tethys, at about 2 million kilometers distant, was twice as far from Cassini as was Titan when the above image was taken. In 2004, Cassini released the Hyugens probe which landed on Titan and provided humanity's first views of the surface of the Solar System's only known lake-bearing moon. Did Life Fall from the Skies? Lessons from Titan "… we are children equally of the earth and the sky."... More »
Arsenic Based Life Last Updated on 2010-12-02 00:00:00 NASA-Funded Research Discovers Life Built With Toxic Chemical NASA-funded astrobiology research has changed the fundamental knowledge about what comprises all known life on Earth. Researchers conducting tests in the harsh environment of Mono Lake in California have discovered the first known microorganism on Earth able to thrive and reproduce using the toxic chemical arsenic. The microorganism substitutes arsenic for phosphorus in its cell components. "The definition of life has just expanded," said Ed Weiler, NASA's associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at the agency's Headquarters in Washington. "As we pursue our efforts to seek signs of life in the solar system, we have to think more broadly, more diversely and consider life as we do not know it." This finding of an alternative biochemistry makeup will alter biology textbooks and expand... More »