Questions tagged [astrobiology]

Questions regarding the study of life outside of Earth.

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Could not an adapted RASSOR appear to be crucial for the Perseverance rover to find possible biosignatures on Mars?

Is it not very likely that most of the material that could contain possible biosignatures, like clays and carbonate containing minerals, will be below a layer of dust or regolith on Mars ? That the ...
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Agriculture on an exoplanet

If we find a hypothetical Earth-like planet A with a rocky terrain that we could colonize, how would we go about planting the first plants, knowing that there is a deficient of nutrients and the ...
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What would be the practical benefits of finding life in the Solar System?

An interesting article on the World Economic Forum website talks about the benefits of exploring Mars: There are also reasons for visiting Mars that transcend the purely scientific. Sending humans to ...
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If extraterrestrial life exists in our Solar system, is it believed to be unicellular or multicellular?

The Wiki article Life on Mars states the following: The primary mission of the Viking probes of the mid-1970s was to carry out experiments designed to detect microorganisms in Martian soil because ...
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Why are we trying to prevent life from spreading via landers rather than actively encouraging it?

The question How certain are we that we have not accidentally sent life to other planets/moons? talks about all the precautions taken to avoid spreading life to other planets/moons. But why even try ...
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Is there any demonstrated or even proposed technology that can sterilize a spacecraft with 100% certainty and yet leave it electronically functional?

In this answer to Why are there no robotic missions on Europa or Enceladus I wrote: Missions going through the ice and into the ocean are currently hypothetical and problematic. You need a lot of ...
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Why aren't there any robotic missions on Europa or Enceladus?

As per Space.com's Methane in plume of Saturn's moon Enceladus could be sign of alien life, studies suggest that Enceladus and Europa are the two most promising solar-system bodies on or in which to ...
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Would Ingenuity's cameras be capable to spot and/or make close-ups of possible biosignatures?

Mars Helicopter Technology Demonstrator mentions on page 13/14 the sensors that Ingenuity carries, among them two cameras: Navigation (NAV) Camera. This is a global-shutter, nadir pointed grayscale ...
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Has Akatsuki searched for phosphine in Venus?

The Akatsuki orbiter is never mentioned in articles about the phosphine discovery, does it have the capability to detect it and has it tried?
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Do you know any jokes that aliens might enjoy? [closed]

What are some jokes that aliens can understand without a lot of knowledge on humans? I think that humour is an essential part of being a human. And if we ever make contact with aliens then we should ...
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Was there ever serious speculation that some terrestrial deep sea life might be of alien origin? [closed]

According to this usually fairly well-researched youtube channel, There are also some truly strange critters in the deep sea and some so strange it's been speculated they were alien, and not always ...
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Could we intentionally contaminate another celestial body with life to start producing oxygen?

My question is simple, could we "nuke" a planet with life to create an atmosphere over time? I was seeing a documentary about Jupiter's moon, Europa, and how it could have hydro thermal ...
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Do we know the likely conditions on Mars when its orbital eccentricity was very low?

Mars's eccentricity changes dramatically from highly eccentric, like now, to nearly circular, eg 1.3 million years ago and 1 million years in the future. Mars is more within the Sun's habitable zone ...
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A retracted paper about Chlorophyll on Mars?

Recently, Gilbert Levin, one of the experimenters behind the Viking labeled release experiment, wrote this letter to the editors of Science. He makes this claim of particular interest Chlorophyll was ...
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Life on Mars: How do we know it is not from Earth?

Firstly I would like to start the question with the knowledge that we have, that the most basic form of life we want and expect to find in our Solar System is the primitive kind, such as viruses or ...
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Why were only three known-negative soil samples used to determine the Viking labeled release experiments' false positive rate?

According to Levin, Gilbert V., and Patricia Ann Straat. "The case for extant life on Mars and its possible detection by the Viking labeled release experiment." Astrobiology 16.10 (2016): ...
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How can I view the Voyager golden record images?

As a human, I'm mildly interested in seeing for myself what message we have sent to some hypothetical aliens. This NASA page displays 48 of them: https://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/galleries/images-on-the-...
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How certain are we that we have not accidentally sent life to other planets/moons?

Recently phosphine was discovered on Venus, and that led to some speculation that life exists on Venus because phosphine is a known biosignature on Earth. Considering that we've sent probes to Venus ...
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How often have signs of life been dismissed as abiotic?

Today, there are rumors about an upcoming announcement of the discovery of (non-conclusive) evidence for life on Venus, apparently they detected some phosphorus compound that is not produced by any ...
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Obtaining Europa's samples from Callisto. Possible to identify them? Worthwhile?

A lot has been discussed about the possibility of panspermia between Earth and Mars, and how compact systems such as Trappist-1 can be more prone to that. Here on Earth, we have identified numerous ...
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What is the most accepted explanation to the Fermi paradox by the scientific community? [closed]

If there is no "most accepted" explanation, then what would be the most scientifically probabilistic explanation to the Fermi paradox? The Fermi paradox, named after Italian-American physicist ...
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How did Spirit and Opportunity identify ferric sulfate and jarosite on Mars?

In the short BBC video Spain's otherworldly red river, Ricardo Amils, a researcher in Spain's Astrobiology Center says the following (amateur transcription): Río Tinto is a peculiar place in our ...
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How did NASA fund searches for extraterrestrial life before 1993? How were the searches done?

The BBC's Astronomers want public funds for intelligent life search says: Nasa once funded the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence to the tune of $10m a year. But the funding was scrapped in ...
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Could the NOMAD instrument on the TGO detect methane at night with sufficient reflected sunlight or artificial light?

Nadir and Occultation for MArs Discovery (NOMAD) is a 3-channel spectrometer on board the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO). Both the solar occultation (SO), and the limb nadir and occultation (LNO) ...
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Could the James Webb Space Telescope detect chlorophyll on a exoplanet?

Say there's an exoplanet identical to Earth 20 light years away, and also assume it orbits at an angle so that it transits its star when seen from our solar system. Would the JWST be able to detect ...
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Why are Viking LR results not sufficient evidence of life on Mars?

Gil Levin, one of the scientists involved with the 1976 Viking mission to Mars, has claimed and continues to claim that there is life on Mars, based off the positive results of the Labeled Release (LR)...
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What harm could perchlorate consuming bacteria do to potential native life forms on Mars?

Since the discovery of the toxic perchlorate being globally distributed in the martian soil the chances for microscopic life there are thought to be greatly reduced.. Even in the RSL's, once thought ...
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Why will the next missions to Mars not search for past life where once hydrothermal vents were?

The iron-sulfur world theory and the deep sea vent hypothesis are among the most popular ones to explain the origin of life on Earth. This article (Michalski J et al. Ancient hydrothermal seafloor ...
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Are there types of animals that can't make the trip to space? (physiologically)

I thought about what kind of animals could make it to space, and I thought about how vertebrates can apparently withstand the G forces need to travel to the ISS, but I hadn't really thought about ...
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Could any "Well-Tracked Analyst Object" turn out to be a natural object or even something else?

The excellent satellite tracking database www.space-track.org, which is mantained by the United States Space Command, offers to the public accurate and up-to-date orbital elements for thousands of ...
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What is the name of the animal vaccine created in space? (according to Robert Zubrin)

I'm reading "The Case for Space" and on pg 47 of the book, Zubrin mentions that some sort of animal vaccine was created thanks to research done in microgravity and in space. He goes on to say that ...
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Can mushroom spores survive the vacuum and radiation of space?

From this source, it states that: Living spores have been found and collected in every level of earth’s atmosphere. Mushroom spores are electron-dense and can survive in the vacuum of space. ...
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Funding for small astrobiology fieldwork project

I am a postdoctoral scholar who plans to conduct a small project at the MDRS, a Mars simulation volunteer project. The project will be to conduct DNA sequencing of soil samples using a handheld nano ...
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Does exploration of Venus' atmosphere now require any planetary protection protocols?

This answer quotes Marc Rayman's August 21, 2018 Dawn Journal entry: Not all solar system bodies need such protection. The Moon, Mercury and Venus, for example, have not been of interest for ...
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Has the possibility of the return of organisms along with mined asteroid products to Earth been considered or discussed [closed]

Is it possible that mining on asteroids could bring life back to Earth such as bacteria?
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Why did the Chinese send flies and plants to the far side of the moon?

The Chinese space craft that just landed on the moon had a tube with a biosphere in with flies and plants. What are they expecting to learn? Didn't we already experiment that on the ISS? Source ...
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Does SpaceX plan to enhance/change the genome of space colonists to speed up the adaptation process to the living conditions on Mars? [closed]

My understanding of biology is that all living organisms adapt to the environment around them. I would even say the environment shapes the very essence of an organism. Gravity alone is a huge factor ...
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Is it ethical for Chang'e-4 to bring an entire ecosystem to the moon? [closed]

As far as I know, it isn't ethical to contaminate outer space with life from Earth, because then we will never be sure if life can actually grow there. However, I just read reports that the latest ...
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Could nanobots travel through space?

I couldn't find a better place to ask this, but I figured this exchange would know about the problems associated with traveling through space. My question is if nanobots could spread through the ...
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What is the origin of Black knight satellite? [closed]

Is it true that an extraterrestrial satellite orbits earth in retrograde? If the Black knight exists, can we presume that it is placed there by aliens who are technologically more advanced than ...
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Could it be worthwhile to bring a small and simple greenhouse with biofilms along with one of the next missions to Mars?

Planetary protection rules could be a reason not to bring biofilms to Mars, but because several landers and satellites that crashed or landed on Mars were probably not sterilized these rules were ...
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Why the big difference between NASA and ESA/Roscosmos in evaluating the Oxia Planum landing site?

In november 2018 ESA announced that the Oxia Planum region is favoured for the ExoMars surface mission. The figure above from this answer about the 21 potential landing sites for the Mars 2020 ...
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Has the HP$^3$ on the Insight lander actually a probe to detect water and ice in the subsurface of Mars?

The Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP$^3$) is a science instrument onboard the Insight lander that features a self-penetrating probe to determine how heat flows inside Mars. Nicknamed "the ...
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Why are there no methane detectors with "the mole" of the Insight lander?

A possible geophysical source of methane on Mars could be ancient methane trapped in clathrate hydrates in the subsurface that may be released occasionally. In a not secured (!) article of ESA about ...
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Is microgravity "known to" increase bacteria's tendency to acquire foreign genetic material and become metal & antibiotic-resistant?

The RT article Mutant superbugs menace future space station expeditions – NASA ends with: Microgravity is known to increase a bacterium's tendency to acquire foreign genetic material and to become ...
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If I wanted to try to terraform Mars, who would have the authority to stop me?

Let’s say hypothetically I could fund a rocket ship and pack it with lots of biomaterial. Biomaterial that would hopefully survive the impact, reproduce and potentially alter the atmosphere of Mars. ...
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NASA's Curiosity Rover - Carbon Isotope Ratio of Methane?

The following is taken from Sinha & Rral , 2015: "NASA's Curiosity rover has the capability to search for organic compounds and to identify the chemical and isotopic composition of the Martian ...
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What were the 21 potential landing sites for the Mars 2020 mission?

In August 2015 more than 150 scientists attended a conference to evaluate 21 potential landing sites for NASA's next rover, a mission called Mars 2020. Out of those proposed landing sites the Mars ...
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Would a circular saw on one arm and a trowel on another on the Mars 2020 rover add scientific value? [closed]

Edit: I changed the question from one arm with a shovel to two arms, with one with a circular saw and the other with a trowel, some time after the first answer of @Hobbes. I did this because in his ...
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Which potential landing sites were identified at the MSL Landing Site workshops?

In the Wikipedia article Timeline of Mars Science Laboratory it is mentioned that at the first MSL Landing Site workshop, 33 potential landing sites were identified, and that by the second workshop in ...