Environment and Sustainability
There are strong links between astrobiology and environmental concern. Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution and distribution of life in the universe—including Earth. Understanding life, and in particular the basic conditions for life, is important for our ability to create a sustainable future on Earth. The connection goes both ways, however. The preservation of biodiversity and of pristine environments on Earth is of the greatest importance for our ability to study life, its origin, distribution and future. Of special interest from an astrobiology perspective is the preservation of areas with conditions that can serve as analogues to extraterrestrial environments, areas with conditions similar to those under which life originated on Earth, and in general environments where extreme adaptations can be studied. Astrobiology also presents some direct environmental challenges that need to be considered, namely in the form of forward and back contamination (discussed above in 2.3). Both issues need to be approached from a technical perspective, but also from a societal perspective. And both must be understood within a broader context of ensuring the sustainability of practices, both scientific and commercial.