Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Geobiology

Part of the series Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences Series pp 73-79

Astrobiology

  • Jack D. FarmerAffiliated withSchool of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University

Synonyms

Bioastronomy; Exobiology

Definition

Astrobiology is the interdisciplinary science that studies the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the Universe. It is a highly interdisciplinary field that engages many scientific disciplines, including biology, biogeochemistry, paleontology, earth and atmospheric sciences, planetology, and astrophysics among others.

Historical perspective

Astrobiology as a term was first coined in the 1940s to encompass early scientific ideas about how to explore for extraterrestrial life (Dick and Strick, 2004). During the 1960s, astrobiological research was focused more narrowly than today, with an emphasis on the origin of life, and programs funding these activities developed under the umbrella term “exobiology.” This early period of activity culminated in the Viking mission to Mars, which carried life detection experiments designed to explore for life in Martian surface materials (Klein et al., 1976). With the failure of ...

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