Strategies of Life Detection

Space Sciences Series of ISSI

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This book collects papers presented at a workshop taking an interdisciplinary look at methods designed to detect life on other planets. It serves as a reference to scientists and instrument developers working in the field of in-situ and remote life detection.
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Springer Science & Business Media
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Published on
Jul 18, 2008
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Body, Mind & Spirit / UFOs & Extraterrestrials
Science / Astronomy
Science / Earth Sciences / Geology
Science / Life Sciences / Biochemistry
Science / Physics / Astrophysics
Technology & Engineering / Aeronautics & Astronautics
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Comet nuclei are the most primitive bodies in the solar system. They have been created far away from the early Sun and it is supposed that their material has been altered the least since their formation. The workshop was bringing together representatives of several scientific communities in the fields of interstellar clouds, star-forming regions, the solar nebula, and comets. The intent was to formulate the current understanding and interconnectivity of the various source regions of comet nuclei and their associated compositions and orbital characteristics.

The goal was to better understand the survival of cometary materials (grains, molecules, free radicals, and atoms) from extrasolar sources (circumstellar shells and molecular clouds), their modifications in the solar nebula, and the effects of their properties on the formation and early physical and thermal evolution of the macroscopic bodies, the comet nuclei, in the various subnebulae. Closely associated is their transport into the outer solar system, the Kuiper belt and Oort cloud. The distinction between direct measurements, in situ or by remote sensing, of cometary material properties and properties derived from indirect means, deduced from laboratory studies and theoretical deductions, was emphasized with the aim to guide future investigations. The book is intended to serve as guide for researchers and graduate students working in the field of planetology and solar system exploration. It should also help to influence the planning of scientific strategies for the encounter of the Rosetta spacecraft with Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Given the fundamental importance of and universal interest in whether extraterrestrial life has developed or could eventually develop in our solar system and beyond, it is vital that an examination of planetary habitability go beyond simple assumptions such as, "Where there is water, there is life". This book has resulted from a workshop at the International Space Science Institute (ISSI) in Bern, Switzerland which brought together planetary geologists, geophysicists, atmospheric scientists and biologists to discuss the multi-faceted problem of how the habitability of a planet co-evolves with the geology of the surface and interior, the atmosphere, and the magnetosphere.

Each of the six chapters have been written by authors with a range of expertise so that each chapter is itself multi-disciplinary, comprehensive, and accessible to scientists in all disciplines. These chapters delve into what life needs to exist and ultimately to thrive, the early environments of the young terrestrial planets, the role of volatiles in habitability, currently habitable (but possibly not inhabited) geologic environments, the connection between a planet’s inner workings and the habitability of its surface, and the effects on planetary atmospheres of solar evolution and the presence or absence of a magnetosphere.

This book serves as an ideal reference for those planning missions that will hunt for biomarkers (especially on Mars), for biologists and geoscientists seeking the other side of the story, and for researchers and upper level students interested in an in-depth review of the geologic evolution of terrestrial planets, from their cores to their magnetospheres, and how that evolution shapes the habitability of the planetary surface.

It has been nearly 100 years since the Apollo moon landings, when Jack and Vladimir, two astronauts on a mission to Venus, discover a mysterious void related to indigenous life on the planet. Subsequently more voids are detected on Earth, Mars, Titan, and, quite ominously, inside a planetoid emerging from the Kuiper belt.

Jack is sent to investigate the voids in the Solar System and intercept the planetoid - which, as becomes increasingly clear, is inhabited by alien life forms. Jack and his crew will have little time to understand their alien biochemistry, abilities, behavior patterns, resilience, and technology, but also how these life forms relate to the voids.

Humankind's first encounter with these exotic life forms couldn't be more fateful, becoming a race against time to save life on Earth and to reveal the true nature of the voids, which seem to be intrinsically related to life and the universe itself. In this novel, the author combines many topics related to state-of-the-art research in the field of astrobiology with fictional elements to produce a thrilling page turner.

This new version significantly develops the astrobiological denouement of the plot and features an extensive non-technical appendix where the underlying science is presented and discussed.

From the reviews of the first edition (Voids of Eternity: Alien Encounter)

Here's a thrilling yarn in the best "hard SF" tradition of Asimov, James Hogan, and Ben Bova, written by a scientist who knows all about the possibilities of life in the solar system and beyond. Dirk Schulze-Makuch weaves into his book all the astrobiological themes he's worked on in recent years -- speculation about creatures in the atmosphere of Venus and on and under the surface of Mars and Titan -- together with some well-informed Eastern philosophy and a cracking good space battle. A great first novel from a rising talent. Highly recommended. David Darling, on, 2009

The research interests of Dr. Schulze-Makuch, currently a professor at Washington State University, focus on evolutionary adaptation strategies of organisms in their natural environment, particularly extreme environments such as found on other planetary bodies. Dirk Schulze-Makuch is best known for his publications on extraterrestrial life, being coauthor of three books on the topic: We Are Not Alone: Why We Have Already Found Extraterrestrial Life (2010), Cosmic Biology: How Life could Evolve on Other Worlds (2010), and Life in the Universe: Expectations and Constraints (2004). In 2011 he published with Paul Davies A One Way Mission to Mars: Colonizing the Red Planet and in 2012 with David Darling Megacatastrophes! Nine Strange Ways the World Could End.
A Close Look at Europa . . .

And How Big Science Gets Done . . .

The second-outward of Jupiter's four major moons, Europa is covered with ice, as confirmed in views from modern telescopes and the thousands of images returned by NASA's Voyager and Galileo missions. But these higher-resolution views also showed that the ice is anything but smooth. In fact, Europa's surface is covered with vast criss-crossing systems of mountain-sized ridges, jumbled regions of seemingly chaotic terrain, and patches that suggest upwellings of new surface materials from below. How scientists think about the underlying forces that shaped this incredibly complex, bizarre, and beautiful surface is the subject of this book.

In Unmasking Europa, Richard Greenberg tells the story of how he and his team of researchers came to believe that the surface of Europa is in fact a crust so thin that it can barely hide an ocean of liquid water below. He shows how the ocean is warmed by the friction of tidal movements in this small moon as it orbits around immense Jupiter. The implications of this interpretation- which includes the idea that there are active intermittent openings from the liquid ocean to the frozen surface- are immense. The warmth, the chemistry, and the connections from ocean to surface provide the conditions necessary for the existence of life, even at this relatively remote locale in our solar system, far beyond what's normally thought of as its 'habitable zone.'

Unmasking Europa describes in clear but technically sophisticated terms- and with extensive illustrations (including more than 100 NASA images)- the remarkable history of research on Europa over the last four decades. The book also provides unique insights into how "big science" gets done today, and it is not always a pretty picture. From his perspective as professor of Planetary Science at the University of Arizona, and a quarter century-long membership on the Imaging Team for NASA's Galileo mission, Greenberg describes how personal agendas (including his own) and political maneuvering (in which he received an education by fire) determined a lot about the funding, staffing, and even the direction of the research about Europa.

While he is satisfied that his team's work is now, finally, receiving fair consideration and even respect, Greenberg comes away from his experience feeling that something is fundamentally wrong with the scientific enterprise as a whole because it routinely punishes innovation, risk-taking thought, and willingness to simply let the evidence lead where it may. In today's scientific environment with its careerist pressures and peer-reviewed propriety, Greenberg believes, astute scientists (and sadly many of our youngest and brightest) quickly realize that it is more rewarding in very practical ways to stay within the mainstream- a tendency that by its very nature is at odds with the ideals of scientific research and thought.

This volume gives an integrated summary of the science related to the four giant planets in our solar system. It is the result of an ISSI workshop on "A comparative study of the outer planets before the exploration of Saturn by Cassini-Huygens" which was held at ISSI in Bern on January 12-16, 2004. Representatives of several scientific communities, such as planetary scientists, astronomers, space physicists, chemists and astrobiologists have met with the aim to review the knowledge on four major themes: (1) the study of the formation and evolution processes of the outer planets and their satellites, beginning with the formation of compounds and planetesimals in the solar nebula, and the subsequent evolution of the interiors of the outer planets, (2) a comparative study of the atmospheres of the outer planets and Titan, (3) the study of the planetary magnetospheres and their interactions with the solar wind, and (4) the formation and properties of satellites and rings, including their interiors, surfaces, and their interaction with the solar wind and the magnetospheres of the outer planets. Beyond these topics, the implications for the prebiotic chemical evolution on Europa and Titan are reviewed.

The volume is intended to provide active researchers in the fields of planetary and solar system science, space plasma physics, and astrobiology with an up-to-date status report on the topic, and also to serve graduate students with introductory material into the field. At the time of publication of this book, the study of the outer planets is particularly motivated by the fact that the Saturn system is being investigated by the Cassini-Huygens mission.

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