Tricorders & Sensors

Applying Novel Techniques From Physical And Biological Sciences To Life Detection

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
Space: Science and Technology
August 30, 2023
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Applying Novel Techniques From Physical And Biological Sciences To Life Detection
Types of biosignatures categorized by scale, showing that different instruments and different types of analyses are required to analyze the entire range of potential biosignatures. Reprinted with permission from [4] under a Creative Commons License. — Space: Science and Technology

One of the primary goals of the space exploration community is to unambiguously detect past or present life outside of Earth. As such, a number of so-called life detection technologies, instruments, and approaches have been applied as part of past, current, and future space missions.

As astrobiology is a truly interdisciplinary field within the realm of space exploration with major contributions from physical and biological sciences (among others), recently there has been development of a number of relevant techniques from scientific fields that have yet to be fully applied to extraterrestrial life detection.

As a culmination of the 2021 Blue Marble Space Institute of Science (BMSIS) Young Scientist Program (YSP), we present a number of techniques drawn from various fields (including, but not limited to, chemistry, materials science, biology, nanotechnology, medical science, astrophysics, and more) that either have been or have the potential to be applied to life detection research.

These techniques broadly fall under three categories: instrumentation for in situ measurements of biosignatures within the solar system, calculations or observational techniques for remote measurements of exoplanet biosignatures, and technosignatures.

We hope that this primer serves to inspire the field to consider applying more potential technologies from adjacent fields into any of these three categories of life detection.

Applying Novel Techniques from Physical and Biological Sciences to Life Detection, Space; Science and Technology (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) 🖖🏻