Investigating the origin of life in the universe
Astrobiology is the investigation of the origin, evolution and distribution of life in the universe. For life to develop the ingredients for life must be present and suitable conditions for life must exist. In this talk we found out how Imperial is leading in this search...
Professor Mark Sephton, Science team member for NASA Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover mission; member of the ESA Planetary Protection Working Group; Professor of Organic Geochemistry, Imperial College London.
Our solar system contains a variety of astrobiological records that we can investigate. The potential first chemical steps towards life are present in the organic carbon-rich asteroids that have remained unchanged since the early solar system. Our own planet Earth is an example of what can happen when conditions are amenable and life is successful. Yet there are other worlds that can help us to fill in the intermediate gaps in our understanding.
We are currently exploring the planet Mars for evidence of past life by collecting and returning samples to Earth. We are also investigating the outer solar system by sending a spacecraft to analyse the plumes of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa. In the future, we may discover whether life on Earth is a precious and singular chance event or simply one of a number of examples where the recipe of life has led to living organisms.
This live in-person lecture was part of our programme of events for the academic year 2021-22.