Handbook of Astrobiology

By Vera M. Kolb (Editor)


Astrobiology is defined as the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe (NASA's definition, Des Marais et al., 2008). Astrobiology seeks to answer fundamental questions about the beginning and evolution of life on Earth, possible existence of extraterrestrial life, and the future of life on Earth and beyond. Astrobiology is delineated in NASA's astrobiology roadmap (Des Marais et al., 2008). Specific aims include understanding the emergence of life on earth, understanding how the early life on earth, understanding the evolution of the environment and understanding of the evolutionary mechanisms nature and distribution of life in the world, and recognizing signatures of life on the early Earth and on other worlds. The NASA's astrobiology map is being updated as the astrobiology field advances. A similar roadmap has been developed for astrobiology research in Europe (Horneck et al., 2015, 2016). The topic of these roadmaps is further discussed in Section 1 of this handbook.
Astrobiology is a young science that acquired its name only in 1995 (named by Wes Huntress from NASA, Catling (2013).) Astrobiology evolved from its predecessor, exobiology, which is the study of the origin of life and of possible life outside Earth (Dick and Strick 2004, Dick 2007) The term exobiology was coined in 1960 (by Joshua Lederberg).

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