A 250-page document presenting a strategy for the next decade of astrobiology research has just been released by NASA. Many members of the astrobiology community contributed to its development and content over the past 2 years, through a series of in person meetings, white papers and webinars (a link to the webinar on production of organic monomers is available here). The strategy document replaces the Astrobiology Roadmap, published in 2008. Since then, research in the field has focused more and more on the link between the “astro” and the “bio” in astrobiology, in particular, what makes a planetary body habitable. Six major areas of research are identified in the new strategy document, each described in a separate chapter, and an overview of challenges and opportunities in Astrobiology is given in the final chapter. The six major areas are:
- Identifying abiotic sources of organic compounds
- Synthesis and function of macromolecules in the origin of life
- Early life and increasing complexity
- Co-evolution of life and the physical environment
- Identifying, exploring, and characterizing environments for habitability and biosignatures
- Constructing habitable worlds
Anyone which an interest in Astrobiology research should read this document! It is available as a free download from NASA’s astrobiology website.