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AstrobiologyOU is research group of over 50 staff and students who work together to understand how, and where, life might be found beyond Earth and the scientific and ethical challenges faced by astrobiology-related exploration missions.

AstrobiologyOU work across four key themes:

  • Finding evidence of life – including identifying habitable environments, the signatures that life may leave behind, and the ethical implications of looking for, and finding life.
  • Planetary protection - protecting the Solar System from contamination from Earth and protecting the Earth from anything that may be brought back from space.
  • The Earth as an analogue – using locations on Earth similar to those in space, investigating terrestrial microbial communities in extreme environments, and understanding and regulating the impact of this work on the local human communities.
  • Societal impacts – including international development, engagement, education, ethics and inclusion, and the application of AstrobiologyOU’s research to meet societal needs.

These themes are addressed through dedicated, multidisciplinary teams in science, governance, education and engagement, and international development. Our research is supported by an excellent technical and administrative team, including laboratory and business development staff.

Our research funding is from Research England, The Science and Technology Facilities Council, the UK Space Agency, the European Space Agency, the European Union and the Leverhulme Trust.

Our research benefits from an extensive suite of laboratories here on campus, housing advanced analytical instrumentation, simulation and experimental facilities. We are involved in international astrobiology related activities for example the NASA Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) the ESA ExoMars programme and the ESA Expose missions. In addition we are an affiliated member of the European Astrobiology Institute.

We have 14 PhD students and 11 post-doctoral researchers and research fellows that contribute to a research-intensive environment. They are supported by highly skilled project scientists and technical support staff.

What is Astrobiology: Dr Susanne Schwenzer, Dr Vic Pearson and Dr Karen Olsson-Francis
discuss what is astrobiology and how each of them became interested in the subject.

AstrobiologyOU Science
AstrobiologyOU Education
AstrobiologyOU International Development
AstrobiologyOU Governance
AstrobiologyOU Commercialisation