Astrobiology (general)

Developing Future Space Experiment Platforms For Astrobiology And Astrochemistry

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
Nature via PubMed
June 30, 2023
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Developing Future Space Experiment Platforms For Astrobiology And Astrochemistry
Future space experiment platforms for astrobiology and astrochemistry research — Nature via PubMed

Space experiments are a technically challenging but a scientifically important part of astrobiology and astrochemistry research. The International Space Station (ISS) is an excellent example of a highly successful and long-lasting research platform for experiments in space, that has provided a wealth of scientific data over the last two decades.

However, future space platforms present new opportunities to conduct experiments with the potential to address key topics in astrobiology and astrochemistry. In this perspective, the European Space Agency (ESA) Topical Team Astrobiology and Astrochemistry (with feedback from the wider scientific community) identifies a number of key topics and summarizes the 2021 “ESA SciSpacE Science Community White Paper” for astrobiology and astrochemistry.

We highlight recommendations for the development and implementation of future experiments, discuss types of in situ measurements, experimental parameters, exposure scenarios and orbits, and identify knowledge gaps and how to advance scientific utilization of future space-exposure platforms that are either currently under development or in an advanced planning stage. In addition to the ISS, these platforms include CubeSats and SmallSats, as well as larger platforms such as the Lunar Orbital Gateway.

We also provide an outlook for in situ experiments on the Moon and Mars, and welcome new possibilities to support the search for exoplanets and potential biosignatures within and beyond our solar system.

As identified in the 2021 ESA SciSpacE Science Community White Paper (, key astrobiology and astrochemistry topics are A understanding the origins of life, B understanding the habitability of life and C understanding the signs of life.

Andreas Elsaesser, David J Burr, Paul Mabey, Riccardo Giovanni Urso, Daniela Billi, Charles Cockell, Hervé Cottin, Adrienne Kish, Natalie Leys, Jack J W A van Loon, Eva Mateo-Marti, Christine Moissl-Eichinger, Silvano Onofri, Richard C Quinn, Elke Rabbow, Petra Rettberg, Rosa de la Torre Noetzel, Klaus Slenzka, Antonio J Ricco, Jean-Pierre de Vera, Frances Westall

Developing future space experiment platforms for astrobiology and astrochemistry, Nature, (open access)


Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻