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Complete Course in Astrobiology




Complete Course in Astrobiology

Gerda Horneck (Editor), Petra Rettberg (Editor)

ISBN: 978-3-527-61900-9 June 2008 434 Pages



This up-to-date resource is based on lectures developed by experts in the relevant fields and carefully edited by the leading astrobiologists within the European community. Aimed at graduate students in physics, astronomy and biology and their lecturers, the text begins with a general introduction to astrobiology, followed by sections on basic prebiotic chemistry, extremophiles, and habitability in our solar system and beyond. A discussion of astrodynamics leads to a look at experimental facilities and instrumentation for space experiments and, ultimately, astrobiology missions, backed in each case by the latest research results from this fascinating field. Includes a CD-ROM with additional course material.
1 Astrobiology: From the Origin of Life on Earth to Life in the Universe (André Brack).

1.1 General Aspects of Astrobiology.

1.2 Reconstructing Life in a Test Tube.

1.3 The Search for Traces of Primitive Life.

1.4 The Search for Life in the Solar System.

1.5 The Search for Life Beyond the Solar System.

1.6 Conclusions.

1.7 Further Reading.

2 From the Big Bang to the Molecules of Life (Harry J. Lehto).

2.1 Building Blocks of Life.

2.2 Big Bang: Formation of H and He.

2.3 First Stars: Formation of Small Amounts of C, O, N, S and P and Other Heavy Elements.

2.4 Normal Modern Stars, Bulk Formation of C, O, N, S, P and Other Heavy Elements.

2.5 The First Molecules (CO and H2O).

2.6 Interstellar Matter.

2.7 Generation of Stars: Formation of the Sun and Planets.

2.8 Further Reading.

2.9 Questions for Students.

3 Basic Prebiotic Chemistry (Hervé).

3.1 Key Molecules of Life.

3.2 Historical Milestones.

3.3 Sources of Prebiotic Organic Molecules.

3.4 From Simple to Slightly More Complex Compounds.

3.5 Conclusions.

3.6 Further Reading.

3.7 Questions for Students.

4 From Molecular Evolution to Cellular Life (Kirsi Lehto).

4.1 History of Life at Its Beginnings.

4.2 Life as It Is Known.

4.3 Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA).

4.4 “Life” in the RNA–Protein World: Issues and Possible Solutions.

4.5 “Life” Before the Appearance of the Progenote.

4.6 The RNA World.

4.7 Beginning of Life.

4.8 Further Reading.

4.9 Questions for Students.

5 Extremophiles, the Physicochemical Limits of Life (Growth and Survival) (Helga Stan-Lotter).

5.1 A Brief History of Life on Earth.

5.2 Extremophiles and Extreme Environments.

5.3 Microbial Survival of Extreme Conditions.

5.4 Conclusions.

5.5 Further Reading.

5.6 Questions for Students.

6 Habitability (Charles S. Cockell).

6.1 A Brief History of the Assessment of Habitability.

6.2 What Determines Habitability?

6.3 Uninhabited Habitable Worlds.

6.4 Factors Determining Habitability.

6.5 A Postulate for Habitability.

6.6 Some Test Cases for Habitability.

6.7 Conclusions.

6.8 Further Reading.

6.9 Questions for Students.

7 Astrodynamics and Technological Aspects of Astrobiology Missions in Our Solar System (Stefanos Fasoulas and Tino Schmiel).

7.1 Introduction.

7.2 The Rocket Equation.

7.3 Orbital Mechanics and Astrodynamics.

7.4 Orbital Maneuvers.

7.5 Example: Missions to Mars.

7.6 Further Reading.

7.7 Questions for Students.

8 Astrobiology of the Terrestrial Planets, with Emphasis on Mars (Monica M. Grady).

8.1 The Solar System.

8.2 Terrestrial Planets.

8.3 Further Reading.

8.4 Questions for Students.

9 Astrobiology of Saturn’s Moon Titan (François Raulin).

9.1 Extraterrestrial Bodies of Astrobiological Interest.

9.2 Some Historical Milestones in the Exploration of Titan.

9.3 General Properties, Formation and Internal Structure of Titan.

9.4 Atmosphere and Surface of Titan.

9.5 Astrobiological Aspects of Titan.

9.6 Outlook: Astrobiology and Future Exploration of Titan.

9.7 Further Reading.

9.8 Questions for Students.

10 Jupiter’s Moon Europa: Geology and Habitability (Christophe Sotin and Daniel Prieur).

10.1 A Short Survey of the Past Exploration of Europa.

10.2 Geology of the Moon Europa.

10.3 Internal Structure of the Moon Europa.

10.4 Models of Evolution of the Moon Europa.

10.5 Astrobiological Considerations about Possibilities for Life on the Moon Europa.

10.6 Summary and Conclusions.

10.7 Outlook and Plans for Future Missions.

10.8 Further Reading.

10.9 Questions for Students.

11 Astrobiology Experiments in Low Earth Orbit: Facilities, Instrumentation, and Results (Pietro Baglioni, Massimo Sabbatini, and Gerda Horneck).

11.1 Low Earth Orbit Environment, a Test Bed for Astrobiology.

11.2 Astrobiology Questions Tackled by Experiments in Earth Orbit.

11.3 Exposure Facilities for Astrobiology Experiments.

11.4 Results from Astrobiology Experiments in Earth Orbit.

11.5 Future Development and Applications of Exposure Experiments.

11.6 Further Reading.

11.7 Questions for Students.

12 Putting Together an Exobiology Mission: The ExoMars Example (Jorge L. Vago and Gerhard Kminek).

12.1 Background of the ExoMars Mission.

12.2 ExoMars Science Objectives.

12.3 ExoMars Science Strategy.

12.4 ExoMars Mission Description.

12.5 Outlook and Conclusions.

12.6 Further Reading.

12.7 Questions for Students.

13 Astrobiology Exploratory Missions and Planetary Protection Requirements (Gerda Horneck, André Debus, Peter Mani, and J. Andrew Spry).

13.1 Rationale and History of Planetary Protection.

13.2 Current Planetary Protection Guidelines.

13.3 Implementation of Planetary Protection Guidelines.

13.4 Astrobiology Exploratory Missions of Concern to Planetary Protection.

13.5 Outlook: Future Tasks of Planetary Protection.

13.6 Further Reading.

13.7 Questions for students.


"The book is an ultimate source of the modern astrobiological knowledge. It provides a justified Universal-scale framework for the understanding of the biological evolution. and last, but not least, this is am enriching and pleasant read." (Zentralblatt fur Geologie und Palaontologie, 2008)

"I would recommend this book highly for dipping into and for a group library. Some of the more unusual material would be hard to scrape together from other sources and is particularly useful to have in one place. At around fifty pounds, it is a good purchase for a new astrobiologist or student expecting to study astrobiology in depth." (The Astrobiology Society of Britain, January 2008)

"...the book would be a valuable addition to the library of any institution concerned with microbiology."  (Microbiology Today, November 2007)

"This up-to-date resource is based on lectures developed by experts...and carefully edited by the leading astrobiologists within the European community."  (Lunar and Planetary Information Bulletin, December 2007)

"...this is an elegantly written and edited book ... it is a good value for individual purchase."  (Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres, December 2007)