Finalized in 2002, NASA's Astrobiology Roadmap outlines
multiple approaches to astrobiology research and exploration
and suggests ways to prioritize and coordinate them. The
document includes guiding principles, goals, and plans
for future endeavors. It represents the efforts of over
two hundred scientists and technologists—some NASA-related
and some not—from a variety of disciplines.
We All Alone in the Universe?
This module, from the Japan Science and Technology Corporation,
provides excellent background to the search for life in
the universe. There is information about all the planets
in the solar system and possibilities for life beyond,
as well as descriptions of spacecraft and signals that
originate from Earth (requires
N = R* fp ne fl fi
Devised in 1961 by astronomer Frank
Drake, this equation can be used to estimate the number
of civilizations in the universe that have the capacity
for technological communication. Although our current
knowledge affords us only "best guesses," the
equation is useful in outlining which factors to focus
research on in the hunt for extraterrestrial life.
Description of the equation on the SETI Institute's site:
Extensive discussion of the equation by astrobiology author
Try your hand at calculating the odds:
"If we're not alone, then where is everybody?"
This was the paradox physicist Enrico Fermi expressed
while talking with colleagues in 1950 about life "out
there." Is the lack of contact from or signs of extraterrestrials
proof enough that we're alone in the universe? Maybe,
or maybe not.
Institute ponders the paradox:
Debate about the paradox with Frank
Drake, Chris McKay, and others:
Greetings to the Universe
When the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft
were launched in 1977, they each included a gold-plated
phonograph record (a "golden record") of natural
sounds, greetings in human voices, and a variety of music.
The record cover has symbolic instructions that show how
to use and understand the record, though scientists still
debate whether other civilizations will be able to decipher
Golden record on Voyager:
Explanation of the record cover
Interactive module that contains greetings, sounds, and
pictures included on the record (requires
Happens if We Do Find Extraterrestrial Life?
The SETI Institute scientists and others are thinking
about how to handle the implications of detecting another
civilization, from ways to handle information flow to
the potential disruptions to our own societies.
"Social Effects of a Detection":
Anybody Out There?
A lively essay by neurologist and author Oliver Sacks
in Astrobiology Magazine: