The Search for Extraterrestrial Life
Looking at the nature, origin, and evolution of life on Earth is one way of assessing whether extraterrestrial life exists on Earth-like planets elsewhere (see Chaps. 5 and 6). A more direct approach is to search for favorable conditions and traces of life on other celestial bodies, both in the solar system and beyond. Clearly, there is little chance of encountering nonhuman intelligent beings in the solar system. But there could well be primitive life on Mars, particularly as in the early history of the solar system the conditions on Mars were quite similar to those on Earth. In addition, surprisingly favorable conditions for life once existed on the moons of Jupiter. Yet even if extraterrestrial life is not encountered in forthcoming space missions, it would be of utmost importance to recover fossils of past organisms as such traces would greatly contribute to our basic understanding of the formation of life. In addition to the planned missions to Mars and Europa, there are extensive efforts to search for life outside the solar system. Rapid advances in the detection of extrasolar planets, outlined in Chap. 3, are expected to lead to the discovery of Earth-like planets in the near future. But how can we detect life on these distant bodies?
KeywordsSolar System Dust Devil Martian Atmosphere Extrasolar Planet Mars Global Surveyor
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