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Abstract

Astrobiology has recently been feted as a science for the twenty-first century. Founded as a science in the Soviet Union in 1953, its recent manifestation has been accompanied by a large media response and a series of new books. The histories of the term 'astrobiology' and its twin sister 'exobiology' raise interesting ethical questions about how the scientific community recognises a field as being a separate entity and about the processes by which the international scientific community engages in debate on the establishment (or in this case rebirth) of a field. Comparison with the history of the emergence of fields such as nanotechnology and neurobiology illustrates the complexities involved. These complexities have become exaggerated in a world where the majority of scientific output is presided over by market economics. In societies where marketing and media interest have become intimately intertwined with scientific funding and political support for science, the declaration of new fields of activity presents novel problems in the process of scientific enquiry.
... There has been much confusion in the literature between the terms astrobiology and exobiology, but as amplified in two elegant articles, astrobiology pre-empted exobiology chronologically by two decades (Cockell, 2001;Martinez-Frias & Hochberg, 2007). Although both are related to the study of extraterrestrial life, the term astrobiology was first used by Lafleur (1941), which was largely ignored and not followed up until the publication of Tikhov's book in 1953(Tikhov, 1953, itself an enlargement from his use of the term 'astrobotany' in 1949 to describe his belief that vegetation existed on Mars and Venus. ...
... Strughold (1953) also used the term astrobiology in 1953, but thereafter it fell into disuse until Freeman (1983) employed it in 1983, prefacing its revival again in the 1990s with the foundation of the NASA Astrobiology Institute and the worldwide excitement and discourse generated by the discovery of the Allen Hills SNC Martian meteorite, ALH 84001, in Antarctica and the observation of possible biotic morphological signatures therein. As both Cockell (2001) and Martinez-Frias and Hochberg (2007) explain, exobiology was coined first by Lederberg (1960) term extending beyond the biology and addresses the origins, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe. This concept has been reinforced in a paper by Soffen (1999) who described astrobiology in an exobiology journal (!) as 'the study of the chemistry, physics and adaptations that influence the origin, evolution and destiny of life'. ...
... A utilização estratégica da astrobiologia como ciência transdisciplinar pode ocorrer em diversos níveis da formação básica, uma vez que apresenta um caráter integrador (COCKELL, 2002;RODRIGUES et al., 2012), além de se mostrar flexível entre os diversos assuntos abordados nas disciplinas científicas das diversas séries do ensino fundamental e médio. ...
... A astrobiologia, sugerida como um eixo integrador do ensino de ciências pode ser também utilizada para demonstrar que o saber científico não é compartimentalizado e, portanto, que uma área do conhecimento está diretamente ligada e depende de outras (COCKELL, 2002). ...
... His idea was that vegetation could be detected in the reflected light of a planet, so he measured the light reflected by several plants and compare them with Mars observations (Sullivan and Carney 2007). He published two books, Astrobotany in 1949 and Astrobiology in 1953 -this was the first major work to hold the name "astrobiology" (Cockell 2001). In 1962, one of the most important scientific journals, Science, published the paper "Martian Biology" where Salisbury proposed a biogeochemical cycle for Mars (Salisbury 1962). ...
Chapter
Astrobiology is an inherently multidisciplinary field that is focused on the origins, evolution, and distribution of life throughout the Universe. The question of whether life extends beyond Earth was a question that used to be answered mostly based on human imagination reflecting our passions and fears. Philosophers, scientists, and even politicians, such as Winston Churchill, have argued about the existence (or nonexistence) of alien life in the Universe. For scientists, this ambitious endeavor begins with Earth, as it represents the only known example of life in the Universe. Understanding Earth is, therefore, the first step to understanding the requirements for life to emerge and make a habitable world. In this book, with the collaboration of scientists from many disciplines, we gather the knowledge about the requirements, diversification, and characteristics of terrestrial life, as well as the characteristics of potentially habitable worlds in our Solar System and beyond. In this chapter, we describe the objectives and strategies of this dynamic field that has emerged with a multidisciplinary approach, leading us to one of the most exciting goals: the search for extraterrestrial life.
... Widening Perspectives: The Intellectual and Social Benefits of Astrobiology, Big History, and the Exploration of Space Although the term "astrobiology" dates from 1953 (see, e.g., Cockell, 2001), it is only in the last 25 years or so that it has become firmly established as a scientific discipline, with the appearance of dedicated textbooks, journals, and university courses. The field is inherently interdisciplinary because any serious attempt to understand the prevalence and distribution of life in the universe requires familiarity with, at least, the established scientific disciplines of astronomy, biology, chemistry and geology (as well as established interdisciplinary combinations among these sciences, e.g., astrophysics, biochemistry, evolutionary biology, geochemistry, palaeontology, and planetary science). ...
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Astrobiology is the field of science devoted to searching for life elsewhere in the Universe. It is inherently interdisciplinary, integrating results from multiple fields of science, and in this respect has strong synergies with 'big history'. I argue that big history and astrobiology are both acting to widen human perspectives in intellectually and socially beneficial directions, especially by enhancing public awareness of cosmic and evolutionary worldviews. I will further argue that these perspectives have important implications for the social and political organisation of humanity, including the eventual political unification of our planet. Astrobiology and big history are also concerned with the future of humanity, and I will argue that this future will be culturally and intellectually enriched if it includes the exploration of the universe around us.
... Widening Perspectives: The Intellectual and Social Benefits of Astrobiology, Big History, and the Exploration of Space Although the term "astrobiology" dates from 1953 (see, e.g., Cockell, 2001), it is only in the last 25 years or so that it has become firmly established as a scientific discipline, with the appearance of dedicated textbooks, journals, and university courses. The field is inherently interdisciplinary because any serious attempt to understand the prevalence and distribution of life in the universe requires familiarity with, at least, the established scientific disciplines of astronomy, biology, chemistry and geology (as well as established interdisciplinary combinations among these sciences, e.g., astrophysics, biochemistry, evolutionary biology, geochemistry, palaeontology, and planetary science). ...
Full-text available
Article
Astrobiology is the field of science devoted to searching for life elsewhere in the Universe. It is inherently interdisciplinary, integrating results from multiple fields of science, and in this respect has strong synergies with 'big history'. I argue that big history and astrobiology are both acting to widen human perspectives in intellectually and socially beneficial directions, especially by enhancing public awareness of cosmic and evolutionary worldviews. I will further argue that these perspectives have important implications for the social and political organisation of humanity, including the eventual political unification of our planet. Astrobiology and big history are also concerned with the future of humanity, and I will argue that this future will be culturally and intellectually enriched if it includes the exploration of the universe around us.
Chapter
The search for life beyond the Earth is one of the most compelling quests of modern science. Astrobiology appeals to a wide audience, including those who might not otherwise be engaged with science. This chapter gives an overview of the modes of astrobiology education and outreach that operate in the United States. Astrobiology is one subfield of astronomy, but it has connections to geology, chemistry, biology, and even sociology. This interdisciplinary context creates both challenges and opportunities for educators. Starting with professional development, there are just a modest number of Ph.D., M.Sc., and B.Sc. programs in astrobiology. Most professionals who identify as astrobiologists were trained in one science discipline and learned other subject matter and skills as needed through their careers. For non‐science major undergraduates, “Life in the Universe” is a popular niche class that is offered as a follow‐up to an introductory astronomy course. Astrobiology is offered to worldwide audiences of adult learners in the form of a MOOC, or massive open online class. Examples of teaching and outreach materials are given, and it is a good bet that the demand for astrobiology education and outreach will increase strongly if scientists achieve their goal of detecting life beyond the Earth.
Chapter
Astrobiology seeks to understand the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe and thus to integrate biology with planetary science, astronomy, cosmology, and the other physical sciences. The discipline emerged in the late 20th century, partly in response to the development of space exploration programs in the United States, Russia, and elsewhere. Many astrobiologists are now involved in the search for life on Mars, Europa, Enceladus, and beyond. However, research in astrobiology does not presume the existence of extraterrestrial life, for which there is no compelling evidence; indeed, it includes the study of life on Earth in its astronomical and cosmic context. Moreover, the absence of observed life from all other planetary bodies requires a scientific explanation, and suggests several hypotheses amenable to further observational, theoretical, and experimental investigation under the aegis of astrobiology. Despite the apparent uniqueness of Earth’s biosphere— the “n = 1 problem”—astrobiology is increasingly driven by large quantities of data. Such data have been provided by the robotic exploration of the Solar System, the first observations of extrasolar planets, laboratory experiments into prebiotic chemistry, spectroscopic measurements of organic molecules in extraterrestrial environments, analytical advances in the biogeochemistry and paleobiology of very ancient rocks, surveys of Earth’s microbial diversity and ecology, and experiments to delimit the capacity of organisms to survive and thrive in extreme conditions.
Technical Report
Milligan, Tony; Persson, Erik (2018) “Environmental Ethics in Space” In Čápová, K.A.; Persson, E. (eds.) (2018) Astrobiology and Society in Europe Today – The White Paper on the societal implications of astrobiology research in Europe and the need for a European Astrobiology Institute COST Action TD1308: Origins and Evolution of Life on Earth and in the Universe. Working Group 5: History and Philosophy of Astrobiology
Technical Report
This White Paper describes the state of Astrobiology in Europe today and its relation to European society at large. With contributions from authors in twenty countries and over thirty scientific institutions worldwide, the document illustrates the societal implications of astrobiology and the positive contribution that astrobiology can make to European society.
Thesis
Seit ihrem Beginn ist die Raumfahrt Untersuchungsgegenstand verschiedenster Disziplinen. Auch die Philosophie hat seither eine kritische Perspektive auf diese Aktivität eingenommen. Und doch fehlt es bislang eines philosophisch-systematischen Zugangs, mit einem genuin ‚anthropologischen‘ Gesichtspunkt. Diese Lücke wird immer offensichtlicher, seitdem sich, nach Entdeckung der ersten Exoplaneten, neue ‚Astro-wissenschaften‘ (z.B. Astrobiologe, Astrokognition, Astrosoziologie) gebildet haben, die explizit Menschen als Raumfahrer voraussetzen bzw. menschliche Eigenschaften auf ihre ‚Ablösbarkeit‘ hin diskutieren. Mit vorliegender Masterarbeit soll der Versuch gemacht werden, die notwendigen Präsuppositionen, für das Verständnis von Menschen als ‚raufahrende Lebewesen‘, aufzudecken, ohne naturalistische oder kulturalistische Verkürzungen zu betreiben. Zu diesem Zweck wird der systematische Rahmen von Helmuth Plessners Philosophischer Anthropologie gewählt, da dieser eine umfassende ‚spezies-neutrale‘ (d.h. es erlaubt über Menschen, Tiere und Extraterrestriker gleichermaßen nachzudenken, ohne ‚anthropozentrische‘ oder ‚speziesistische‘ Vorurteile zu machen) Untersuchung des infrage stehenden Sachverhaltes bietet. Um diesen Rahmen zu exemplifizieren, und währenddessen den philosophisch-systematischen Ansatz zur Raumfahrt zu elaborieren, der raumfahrende Extraterrestriker ohne Anthropomorphisierung konzeptualisieren, wie auch den Umgang mit Extraterrestrikern in ethischer und politischer Hinsicht berücksichtigen kann, werden die Themenkreise der Astrobiologie, Astroethik und Astropolitik in einzelnen Kapiteln besprochen. Abschließend ist, entgegen aller Erwartung, der gewählte Ansatz als ‚kritisch-posthumanistische‘ Option zu verteidigen.
Article
The results of an analysis of molecular manufacturing systems are reviewed to study the development of space hardware with attention given to radiation damage. The general principles are discussed for using high-frequency mechanisms to build macroscopic structures from molecular components. The efficient development of highly effective products is predicted due to: (1) the miniaturization of computer elements; (2) the use of high-density power conversion; (3) the mechanosynthesis of carbon-rich materials; and (4) the potentially high reliability of the high-frequency manufacturing techniques. Also expected are highly redundant systems with limited defects manufactured in a high-productivity environment for use in earth-to-orbit and interplanetary transportation. Radiation damage is a critical limiting factor in the design and use of molecular technologies and should be carefully monitored.
Article
If we believe life to be a cosmic imperative, the understanding of life processes becomes a universal aspect of cosmology. How does life fit into our understanding of the universe. As a compliment to NASA's ‘Origins’ Program we are developing a new venture to embark on one of the great scientific questions of our time, our origins, evolution and our destiny. NASA already deals with a number of related biological questions. We are introducing a new unifying approach to biology within the NASA… Astrobiology.Astrobiology is the study of the chemistry, physics and adaptations that influence the origin, evolution and destiny of life. We intent to raise the conscious level relating relevant biological questions to the formation and development of the universe through space missions and research programs. By linking certain aspects of exobiology, ecology, gravitational biology, and adding efforts in molecular biology, evolutionary biology, and planetary biology and joining this to Astronomy and planetology, we seek a deeper understanding of where the living process fits in to our cosmological theories.We do this through laboratory experiments, space observations, computer modeling, missions and discovery of what appear to be extreme conditions for us, but conditions in which life thrives. NASA has formed an international ‘virtual’ Astrobiology Institute as a nucleus to initiate this consolidating idea. NASA's technology will play a major role in this endeavor.
Article
The development of an Astrobiology Program is an extension of current exobiology programs. Astrobiology is the scientific study of the origin, distribution, evolution, and future of life in the universe. It encompasses exobiology; formation of elements, stars, planets, and organic molecules; initiation of replicating organisms; biological evolution; gravitational biology; and human exploration. Current interest in life on Mars provides the scientific community with an example of scientific inquiry that has mass appeal. Technology is mature enough to search for life in the universe.