Ever since the erroneous English translation of Giovanni Schiaparelli’s canals sparked popular imagination about intelligent life on Mars, this planet has been the subject of much speculation about whether life as we know it on Earth could have developed outside our planetary boundaries. Schiaparelli’s canals ended up being geological formations and ancient waterways excavated by some liquid flowing across its surface and not constructions of a supposedly advanced alien civilization, as numerous observations of the planet have found.
But the idea of life outside our home did not vanish with this reality check but took a more scientific turn. If those canals were excavated by a liquid and that liquid was water, it is possible that Mars would have enjoyed a geological past favorable for the development of some kind of life. The question of life is one of the most relevant and disturbing questions we face today. Innumerable questions arise around this idea: is life exclusive to Earth? could it have developed on another planet, not in our Solar System, but in the Universe? does life have a common origin or many origins? where do the ingredients for life come from? Were the comets and planetesimals that gave rise to the planets the carriers of these? is life built outside the Earth as we know it on Earth? did life develop first on Mars and was it transported to Earth by one of the many meteorites we are still receiving from this planet? can life survive the conditions of space travel? what are the physical limits within which life can develop? where and how do we look for the origins of life? has plate tectonics erased the traces of the first organisms that populated the Earth more than 3 billion years ago? can we find answers on planets like Mars, which lack this geological feature? how do we look for life on another planet without contaminating it with terrestrial life? and hundreds more! and hundreds more!
To try to solve these and many other questions related to life, its origin, evolution, distribution and survival throughout the Universe, the science of Exobiology or Astrobiology was born. This recently created science (second half of the 20th century) is a multidisciplinary science ranging from basic sciences such as physics, chemistry, and biology, to computer and aerospace engineering. The space age and the development of planetary exploration missions has been the springboard for the take-off and development of this science.
I invite everyone to read Matías’ post with the topic of the day.
Finally, I encourage everyone to reflect on the concept of the day. No one else but us can re-signify our own being