Apr 10, 2009

The search for alien life in our solar system: strategies and priorities

Astrobiology
Robert Shapiro, Dirk Schulze-Makuch

Abstract

With the assumption that future attempts to explore our Solar System for life will be limited by economic constraints, we have formulated a series of principles to guide future searches: (1) the discovery of life that has originated independently of our own would have greater significance than evidence for panspermia; (2) an unambiguous identification of living beings (or the fully preserved, intact remains of such beings) is more desirable than the discovery of markers or fossils that would inform us of the presence of life but not its composition; (3) we should initially seek carbon-based life that employs a set of monomers and polymers substantially different than our own, which would effectively balance the need for ease of detection with that of establishing a separate origin; (4) a "follow-the-carbon" strategy appears optimal for locating such alternative carbon-based life. In following this agenda, we judge that an intensive investigation of a small number of bodies in our Solar System is more likely to succeed than a broad-based survey of a great number of worlds. Our priority for investigation is (1) Titan, (2) Mars, (3) Europa. Titan displays a rich organic chemistry and offers several alternative possibilities for th...Continue Reading

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References

Mentioned in this Paper

Methane
Extraterrestrial Life
Space (Astronomy)
Biologic Preservation
Polymers
Microbial
Planets
Origin of Life
Solar System
Energy-Generating Resources

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