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The Astrophysical Context of Life
attempts to identify topics, especially in areas that are not now receiving much attention and that are therefore ripe for interdisciplinary work, with astronomy as a key component.
GOALS OF THE CURRENT STUDY
Life on Earth exists in an astronomical environment. Because astrophysical research and perspectives play an important role in astrobiological research, the Committee on the Origins and Evolution of Life was charged with investigating how to augment and integrate the activity of astronomy and astrophysics in the intellectual enterprise of astrobiology, in NASA’s astrobiology program, and in relevant programs in other federal agencies.
The specific tasks of this study were as follows:
Outline current astronomical research relevant to astrobiology.
Define important areas that are relatively understudied and hence in need of more attention and support.
Address the means to integrate astrophysical research into the astrobiology enterprise.
Identify areas where there can be especially fruitful collaboration among astrophysicists, biologists, chemists, biochemists, planetary geologists, and planetary scientists that will serve the goals of astrobiological research.
Identify areas of astronomy that are likely to remain remote from the astrobiological enterprise.
Suggest areas where ongoing research sponsored by NSF, DOE, and NIH can augment NASA support of astrobiological research and education in a manner that specifically complements the astronomical interconnection with other disciplines.
Where applicable, point out relevance to NASA missions.
To further these goals, the committee summarizes current astrophysical research within the overall astrobiological enterprise (Chapters 2 and 3) and identifies areas that it thinks are understudied and deserving of greater effort (Chapter 4).