Defining the Envelope for the Search for Life in the Universe


Each recent report of liquid water existing elsewhere in the solar system has reverberated through the international press and excited the imagination of humankind.  Why?  Because in the last few decades we have come to realize that where there is liquid water on Earth, virtually no matter what the physical conditions, there is life.  What we previously thought of as insurmountable physical and chemical barriers to life, we now see as yet another niche harboringextremophiles”.  This realization, coupled with new data on the survival of microbes in the space environment and modeling of the potential for transfer of life between celestial bodies, suggests that life could be more common than previously thought.  Here we critically examine what it means to be an extremophile, the implications of this for evolution, biotechnology, and especially the search for life in the cosmos.



Lynn J. Rothschild (born May 11, 1957) is an evolutionary biologist, astrobiologist and synthetic biologist at NASA's Ames Research Center,[1] and a consulting Professor at Stanford University, where she teaches Astrobiology and Space Exploration. 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.

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