future roadmaps). But there remains the difficulty of interaction between research areas whose techniques, technical language, and experimental approaches are very different. The long-term success of astrobiology in addressing its objectives will depend on a deeper and more extensive exchange of ideas with the traditional space sciences.

COEL commends NASA for developing a strong and well-balanced Solar System Exploration program that forms an important foundation for much of the central endeavor of astrobiology.

Recommendations

The NASA Astrobiology Institute should initiate a much broader suite of focus group programs with planetary scientists, beyond those currently devoted to studies of Mars and Europa, to create a deeper level of mutual understanding and appreciation of the two research areas, and to provide new perspectives for future solar system exploration.

NASA should foster more extensive links between the Astrobiology and the Astronomical Search for Origins programs. In the short term, these linkages require cooperation between the NAI and major astronomical institutions, such as the Space Telescope Science Institute and universities with extensive astronomical programs, in creating joint workshops and focus groups to educate researchers in both areas and to initiate more extensive and novel research endeavors.

Panels evaluating NAI membership proposals must be broadly constituted to ensure expert evaluation of research programs that are intellectually strong but have a discipline balance very different from that found in the existing NAI nodes.

NASA should study the feasibility and desirability of creating and funding an institute, akin to the NAI, dedicated to consortium-based science and technology (e.g., involving multi-institution teams) related to the astronomical search for origins on the full range of spatial and temporal scales.

The current study is undertaken in part to follow up on this perspective and these recommendations from Life in the Universe.

NASA’S ORIGINS ROADMAP

As part of the NASA strategic planning process, the Origins theme in the Office of Space Science’s Astronomy and Physics Division revised its roadmap.2 This roadmap was the product of deliberation and discussion by the Origins Subcommittee of NASA’s Space Science Advisory Committee, working with representatives from NASA’s field centers and with substantial input from the astronomical community. The roadmap sets out a plan for a 20-year period at the beginning of the millennium, with particular emphasis on activities advocated for new mission starts in the near term (2005 to 2010) or mid-term (2010 to 2105) time frame. Topics that overlap with the enterprise of astrobiology are woven through the document. Among the high-level questions to be addressed are, Where did we come from? Are we alone? These questions are posed more specifically in the Origins Technology Roadmap:3

The Questions … The Quests
  • Search for our earliest origins

    • What were the earliest structures produced within the universe?

    • How did galaxies form?

2  

Available at <http://origins.jpl.nasa.gov/library/roadmap03/index.html>. Last accessed April 29, 2005.

3  

Available at <http://origins.jpl.nasa.gov/library/techroadmap/roadmap04.html>. Last accessed April 29, 2005.



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