Extreme Life and Robots on Ice: Antarctica as an Astrobiology Analogue
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree LevelPostgraduate Certificate
Degree NamePostgraduate Certificate in Antarctic Studies
Astrobiology is the study of life in the universe: its origins, evolution, distribution and future. By removing the distinction between life on our planet and life elsewhere in the universe astrobiology addresses deep, fundamental questions: How did life begin and evolve? Does life exist elsewhere in the universe? Where else might life have arisen and how can we find it? What is the future of life on our planet, and elsewhere? Astrobiology encompasses and embraces multiple disciplines, and is interdisciplinary in practice. The exploration of extraterrestial worlds begins at home. Antarctica is a powerful analogue for astrobiology. Extreme Antarctic environments can tell us about the potential habitability of other worlds, how life survives in extreme environments, and can help us test technology for robotic space missions. Europa, Jupiter’s icy moon, is a prime target for astrobiology. Lake Vostok in East Antarctica is a powerful analogue for the liquid water oceans, and the possible life that may exist beneath Europa’s icy shell. Studying extreme life in Antarctica reveals life as fascinating and resilient, diverse, unique. Antarctica can also be used as a field site for designing, testing and validating robotic technology to explore Europa, like the Europa Lander. Antarctica as an astrobiology analogue is inspiring, and embodies curiosity, discovery, exploration and possibility; placing life, and the value of our own planet, in a cosmic perspective. Astrobiology in Antarctica reflects the nature of science, puts Antarctica in context and proves to be an important lesson in the public understanding of science, science literacy and science communication.