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Science

Our unique approach to the scientific aspects of astrobiology research combines fieldwork, laboratory simulations, thermochemical modelling and in situ observations. Our primary objectives are:

  • To determine the physico-chemical characteristics of extraterrestrial environments that have the potential for habitability
  • Understand the formation of unique and detectable biosignatures that can be used to inform ongoing and future mission planning, and the reduction of mission data;
  • Undertake studies to inform planetary protection regulations and procedures for future life detection missions and other space activities.

To address these objectives, we draw on knowledge and techniques from a range of science disciplines, such as microbiology, organic geochemistry, minerology, planetary science and instrument development. We have world class planetary simulation facilities, which are part of Europlanet – a European Infrastructure project.

We study the feasibility of habitable environments existing elsewhere in the Solar System and how life could exist in such environments. We use this information to identify bio-signatures that could be used as evidence of life. Our work is fundamental for understanding the conditions in other planetary environments, which can inform future life detection missions, and is crucial for understanding the data (or samples) returned by such missions.

Members of the team are involved in international astrobiology-related exploration activities including the NASA Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), the ESA ExoMars programme, the ESA Expose missions

Researchers span both the School of Physical Science and Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences.