- Science project
- Action structure
- Education & Outreach
- Event Announcements
An obvious target for search for life on another celestial body is our neighbour Mars. Observations indicate that Mars’ Noachian period (4.1 to 3.7 Ga ago) was relatively life-friendly and although the average conditions were probably cold, the potential for liquid water and associated ice melting existed (volcanism, hydrothermal, impact-driven). Present-day Mars is also cold, but strong UV irradiation and hostile chemical conditions inhibit life’s survival, at least on the Martian surface . The goal of the forthcoming EU ExoMars rover mission is to explore an ancient wet environment down to 2 m depth.
The Action will seek to develop an understanding of the geological and chemical contexts, including aqueous processes, for EXOMARS. Specifically it will develop a multi-faceted approach integrating studies of early Earth rocks (ancient weathering, biosignature preservation) and Mars analogue environments (Iceland) with Mars observations, and modelling of the early solar system evolution in order to define an optimal landing site on Mars.
Other potentially habitable bodies in our solar system are the icy moons of Jupiter. The JUICE (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer) mission will investigate Jupiter and the interior plus surface of its largest moons Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa, all of which likely harbour subsurface oceans. JUICE will study their interior and surface features. The results are important for the whole solar system, as Jupiter played a role in the formation of the terrestrial planets and their volatile budget. Jupiter is also a proxy for giant exoplanets (and their moons).
The Action will bring together different disciplines, to provide new insights which will be invaluable in the planning of future European space missions to other planets. The most challenging tasks will be to :
These tasks require a combination of expertise from astronomy, geophysics, biology, chemistry and engineering as well as the history of science and philosophy. Indeed, when searching for extra-terrestrial life, we have to establish concrete international ethical guidelines for planetary protection and terraforming. Moreover, and in order to plan successful manned space missions, we need to know how the human mind reacts in interpreting and encounter unfamiliar extraterrestrial environments.