A report released by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, thinks that “NASA should expand it’s search for life in the universe and make astrobiology an integral part of its missions”.
“An updated, more sophisticated catalog and framework will be important to enhance our ability to detect both life that might be similar to terrestrial life, and potential life that differs from life as we know it. The latter will be enabled by investigating novel agnostic biosignatures – signs of life that are not tied to a particular metabolism or molecular blueprint, or other characteristics of life as we currently know it.” tells the committee that wrote the report.
Astrobiology, the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe, is a rapidly changing field, and NASA needs to focus on recent advancements. “Recent scientific advances in the field now provide many opportunities to strengthen the role of astrobiology in NASA missions and to increase collaboration with other scientific fields and organizations. The report finds that these changes necessitate an updated science strategy for astrobiology.”
The report mentions a need to focus the search for life within subsurface ecosystems “In particular, the report found that NASA should focus on research and exploration of possible life below the surface of a planet in light of recent advances that have demonstrated the breadth and diversity of life below Earth’s surface, the nature of fluids beneath the surface of Mars, and the likelihood of life-sustaining geological processes in planets and moons with subsurface oceans. A renewed focus on how to seek signs of subsurface life will inform astrobiology investigations of other rocky planets or moons, ocean or icy worlds, and beyond to exoplanets.”
It further details a need for NASA to “ramp up” efforts in developing mission-ready life detection technologies to advance the search for life. Specifically it details the types of collaboration needed to achieve technological feats we have yet to accomplish “For studies of life on planets outside of this solar system, the agency should implement technologies in near-term ground- and space-based direct imaging missions that can suppress the light from stars. The specialized measurements, equipment, and analysis required to take full advantage of space missions include some that exist outside of traditional space science fields, highlighting the need for interdisciplinary, non-traditional cooperation and collaboration with organizations outside of NASA.”
You can read the full report online right here.
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