ESA supports live-linked astrobiology lectures

Prof. André Brack
Prof. André Brack gave the first lecture of the series
7 October 2005

With the beginning of the academic year 2005/2006 ESA, together with five European Universities, has started a cycle of lectures in astrobiology, which brings together on a virtual campus specialists from ESA and faculties and students from Universities of Turku in Finland, Paris in France, Dresden in Germany, Salzburg in Austria and Milton Keynes in the United Kingdom.

Throughout the whole academic year every second Thursday afternoon at 15.00 hrs local time in Paris and Dresden, 14.00 hrs in Milton Keynes and 16.00 hrs in Turku, at one of the participating sites a lecture is held, which is transmitted live to the other sites making use of the distance learning and streaming internet video infrastructure of the Erasmus User Centre of ESA’s Directorate of Human Spaceflight, Microgravity and Exploration in Noordwijk, the Netherlands. Each lecture will be followed by an interactive question and answer session between students and lecturers in the different locations. These lectures will also be recorded and posted on the ESA website as video-on-demand files.

Inaugural lecture
The inaugural lecture from the Auditorium of the Erasmus User Centre

This is not the first time that ESA, and the Erasmus User Centre in particular, are supporting scientific lectures distributed in distance-learning mode, but it is the first time that such lectures do not only broaden the knowledge of the academics, but are also part of the normal university curriculum of the participating universities. The cycle of lectures will be completed with exams and the successful participation in the study programme will provide the students with the credit points of the new European Credit Transfer System (ECTS).

The lectures are part of what is called the Astrobiology Lecture Course Network. Astrobiology is a newly emerging field of science. It covers the study of the chemical evolution of potential precursors of life, in space and on planets; tracing the history of life on Earth back to its roots; deciphering the environments of the planets in our solar system and of their moons, throughout their history, with regard to their habitability; and searching for other planetary systems in our Galaxy. It provides clues to the understanding of the origin, evolution and distribution of life and its interaction with the environment, here on Earth and in the Universe.

The series of lectures have started on 6 October with the inaugural lecture from the Auditorium of the Erasmus User Centre at ESA’s European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in Noordwijk the Netherlands. This lecture, given by Prof. André Brack of the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), was entitled ‘Astrobiology: From life on Earth to life in the Universe’. It covered the different theories about the steps towards the origin and evolution of life on Earth and discussed the major requirements for these processes and for life at large.

As astrobiology comprises many different sciences such as astronomy, planetary research, organic chemistry, palaeontology and the various sub-disciplines of biology including microbial ecology and molecular biology, this series of lectures provides a way to incorporate the various disciplines, which are not always available at one university. Furthermore space technology plays an important part by offering the opportunity for exploring our solar system, for collecting extraterrestrial samples, and for utilising the peculiar environment of space as a tool.

Students, interested in astrobiology, who are not studying at one of the participating universities, may also follow the 22 lectures of the Astrobiology Lecture Course Network via Internet live video stream or as video-on-demand.

For more information

Connect to the Internet at or contact:

Dieter Isakeit
Erasmus User Centre and Communication Office
Directorate of Human Spaceflight, Microgravity and Exploration Programmes
Noordwijk (The Netherlands)
Tel: +31 71 565 5451
Fax: +31 71 565 8008

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