• Question: is there a big emphasis on astrobiology?

    Asked by miriam.z25 to Stephen on 12 Mar 2019.
    • Photo: Stephen O'Connor

      Stephen O'Connor answered on 12 Mar 2019: last edited 12 Mar 2019 1:18 pm

      It is not an area that I know much about but I know that it is a very active and important area of research.

      I think there are two main things in astrobiology:

      1. Finding live in the Universe:
      There are many reasons to believe life exists elsewhere in the Universe. It’s REALLY big. It has developed on Earth and it has been found in the most extreme conditions on this planet and we are looking for it in the Solar System (look at my answer to your other Question: /spacem19-zone/question/will-astrobiology-be-used-more-in-the-future/#comment-327
      There is an international organization called SETI (search for intelligent extraterrestrial life) that constantly scans the sky looking for signals of life using giant radio telescopes.
      Here is a video about SETI: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ag6g0y0H9ww
      Part of the SETI network is in Ireland!
      Check out this article to learn about it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LOFAR

      2. Humans living in space:
      The European Space Agency is working on setting up a Moon village using 3D printers.
      Check out this video for more on that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqsJGzdcPP0&t=2s
      Many scientists and engineers across the world are also working on setting up a Mars village – a colony!
      I think it will happen, possibly in the next fifty years, but there are many difficult challenges to overcome.
      First we need transportation like a big spaceship that can travel a long distance that humans can live on safely for a long time. With our current technology it would take 6-12 months to get there. Companies like SpaceX are designing one right now! Follow this link to learn more about it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceX_Mars_transportation_infrastructure
      So assuming we land there safely after our long journey, we now need to survive there. The environment on Mars is much different than on Earth. Mars is colder, has lower gravity, doesn’t have the air we breathe or water to drink (it may have some), and is exposed to a lot more harmful radiation coming from the Sun. This link gives a nice overview: https://www.space.com/27202-living-on-mars-conditions-infographic.html
      It will take several missions to the planet to set up homes we can live in. We would have to bring lots of materials with us to build them. For basic survival we would have to bring so much equipment for: food and water production, oxygen support, communications, toilets, power, fuel and the list goes on. There is a lot more information here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colonization_of_Mars

      The International Space Station is an experiment in itself on humans living in space, but they also have a dedicated biology lab where they perform experiments on microorganisms, plants and cells!
      Check out this link for more info: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/68.html