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Astrobiology is an interdisciplinary scientific field concerned with the origins, early evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe. Astrobiology considers the question of whether extraterrestrial life exists, and if it does, how humans can detect it. It makes use of molecular biology, biophysics, biochemistry, chemistry, astronomy, physical cosmology, exoplanetology and geology to investigate the possibility of life on other worlds and help recognize biospheres that might be different from that on Earth. The origin and early evolution of life is an inseparable part of the discipline of astrobiology.

The field encompasses research on the origin of planetary systems, origins of organic compounds in space, rock-water-carbon interactions, abiogenesis on Earth, planetary habitability, research on biosignatures for life detection, and studies on the potential for life to adapt to challenges on Earth and in outer space.

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Earth is the only planet currently known to support life
Planetary habitability is the measure of a planet's or a natural satellite's potential to develop and sustain life. Life may develop directly on a planet or satellite or be transferred to it from another body, a theoretical process known as panspermia. As the existence of life beyond Earth is currently uncertain, planetary habitability is largely an extrapolation of conditions on Earth and the characteristics of the Sun and Solar System which appear favourable to life's flourishing—in particular those factors that have sustained complex, multicellular organisms and not just simpler, unicellular creatures. Research and theory in this regard is a component of planetary science and the emerging discipline of astrobiology.

Selected biography

Lynn, Death Valley 2006.jpg
Lynn J. Rothschild is an evolutionary biologist, astrobiologist and synthetic biologist at NASA's Ames Research Center, and a consulting Professor at Stanford University. She is also an adjunct Professor at Brown University. At Ames her research has focused on how life, particularly microbes, has evolved in the context of the physical environment, both on Earth and potentially beyond our planet's boundaries. Since 2007 she has studied the effect of UV radiation on DNA synthesis, carbon metabolism and mutation/DNA repair in the Rift Valley of Kenya and the Atacama desert of Bolivia, and also in high altitude experiments atop Mt. Everest, in balloon payloads with BioLaunch and in collaboration with Mavericks Civilian Space Foundation. Currently she holds the title of Chief Scientist for Synthetic Biology.

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