National Academies Press: OpenBook

An Astrobiology Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe (2019)

Chapter: Appendix B: Statement of Task

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Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Statement of Task." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. An Astrobiology Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25252.
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B

Statement of Task

In preparation for and as an input to the upcoming decadal surveys in astronomy and astrophysics and planetary science, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will appoint an ad hoc committee to carry out a study of the state of the science of astrobiology as it relates to the search for life in the solar system and extrasolar planetary systems.

The study will have the following objectives:

  • Take account of and build on NASA’s current Astrobiology Strategy 2015;
  • Outline key scientific questions and technology challenges in astrobiology, particularly as they pertain to the search for life in the solar system and extrasolar planetary systems;
  • Identify the most promising key research goals in the field of the search for signs of life in which progress is likely in the next 20 years;
  • Discuss which of the key goals could be addressed by U.S. and international space missions and ground telescopes in operation or in development;
  • Discuss how to expand partnerships (interagency, international and public/private) in furthering the study of life’s origin, evolution, distribution, and future in the universe;
  • Make recommendations for advancing the research, obtaining the measurements, and realizing NASA’s goal to search for signs of life in the universe

In the course of conducting this study, the committee will consider and regularly consult with the concurrent study “Exoplanet Science Strategy,” in the area of assessing habitability, searching for signs of life, and other relevant areas of scientific overlap. Also the committee will not revisit or redefine the scientific priorities or mission recommendations from previous decadal surveys.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Statement of Task." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. An Astrobiology Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25252.
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Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe. It is an inherently interdisciplinary field that encompasses astronomy, biology, geology, heliophysics, and planetary science, including complementary laboratory activities and field studies conducted in a wide range of terrestrial environments. Combining inherent scientific interest and public appeal, the search for life in the solar system and beyond provides a scientific rationale for many current and future activities carried out by the National Aeronautics and Science Administration (NASA) and other national and international agencies and organizations.

Requested by NASA, this study offers a science strategy for astrobiology that outlines key scientific questions, identifies the most promising research in the field, and indicates the extent to which the mission priorities in existing decadal surveys address the search for life’s origin, evolution, distribution, and future in the universe. This report makes recommendations for advancing the research, obtaining the measurements, and realizing NASA’s goal to search for signs of life in the universe.

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