This issue is all about ‘life’, the subject of astrobiology: the study of the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the Universe. Read more in Bulletin 172 here.
Astrobiology improves our fundamental knowledge about our own existence, addressing primarily scientific and philosophical questions, as well as helping our preparations for future missions – robotic exploration and human exploration – and enhancing our activities in planetary protection.
ESA works with scientists from around Europe and beyond in defining and preparing to answer the key questions about extraterrestrial life and what forms it might take.
Did life start on early Earth or was it brought to Earth ‘ready-made’ on a meteoroid? Are there signs of life on other planetary bodies in our Solar System and, if so, how will we recognise them if they look different from life on Earth?
These articles explore these questions and more, and how we’re trying to answer them.
‘From EURECA to Expose and ExoMars’ recounts the history of ESA’s astrobiology research. For more than 25 years, astrobiology has been a cornerstone of ESA research from the earliest Russian-flown experiments through to the upcoming ExoMars rover. Experiments have included studies of the compatibility, or incompatibility, of terrestrial life exposed to open space, leading to ambitious landers and the possibility of finding life native to other environments in space.
Check out the latest surprising results in ‘How to live in space without a spacesuit’: these results are moving us closer to answering the important questions of astrobiology posed at the beginning of this Bulletin: on the origin and evolution of life, whether there is any other life in the Universe, and what could be the future of life on Earth?
We close this Bulletin with a look at where the European space adventure started, and where the next steps are taking place for Europe’s independent access to space. As a byword for excellence and reliability, Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana ranks among the most modern space facilities in the world.
‘From the rainforest to the stars’ tells the story of the spaceport, technically called the Centre Spatial Guyanais (CSG) or Guiana Space Centre, which lies just above the equator in South America, and hosts facilities for Europe’s Ariane, Soyuz and Vega launchers.
The full archive of Bulletins is also available at ESA's Publications web site.