Astrobiology is the scientific study of the origin, development, distribution, and future of life in the universe. The study of astrobiology brings together researchers from historically separate scientific fields such as microbiology, ecology, astronomy, geology, paleontology, and chemistry and encourages them to work together to answer the most fundamental questions science can pose: What is life? How did we get here? Are we alone in the universe? How can we tell if we are?
Researchers begin by studying life on Earth, the only place in the universe where we know life exists. How did life begin here? How has it responded to changes in the environment? How has it changed the environment? What conditions does earthly life need to exist? The scientists of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, among others, seek to answer these questions and many more.
The next step is to look beyond Earth to the possibilities of life elsewhere. Most of life on the Earth is microbial, and itís likely that microorganisms will be the type of life we will find elsewhere in the universe. Astrobiology researchers try to figure out how to search for microbes and other life on the planets and moons in our Solar System and on Earth-like planets orbiting other stars. How do you detect evidence of biology when you canít hold a soil sample in your hand? Does life leave its mark on a planet so that we can detect its presence remotely? Is life common? Or is our life-filled Earth unique and rare?
- Astrobiology definition adapted from NASA Astrobiology Institute Education Poster 2006.
What is the ASC Curriculum?
A consortium of NASA Astrobiology Institute research teams in cooperation with the Minority Institute Astrobiology Collaborative are developing a curriculum called Astrobiology In Secondary Classrooms. The project is designed to share the excitement of NASA's research with middle and high school students. The Astro Classroom web site is a launching platform for teachers and students to join scientists in exploring the most current research in astrobiology.
Purpose of Project
The purpose of the ASC project is to establish a successful curriculum framework aligned with research-based teaching strategies for diverse groups of students. The project seeks to promote sustained collaborations among students, scientists, teachers, and universities from varied backgrounds. The focus is to build a pipeline for students interested in pursuing degrees and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).