About this Research Topic
The primary astrobiology science goal in connection with the solar system bodies is to conduct variety of scientific investigations for better understanding of their biological potential. Looking beyond Earth, Mars, and more recently the icy moons of the Jovian and Saturnian systems, namely Europa, Titan and Enceladus, where demonstrably habitable environments are most likely to be found, have become increasingly attractive targets for astrobiology. Furthermore, they may have biochemistry similar to that of life on Earth. Because of its many Earth-like features, Mars remains the most intriguing of the planets and has become the preeminent target of astrobiological interest. While Mars today is a cold and dry planet, conditions in the past are thought to have been more habitable and included environments such as riverbeds, lakes and even a presence of a former ocean on the northern hemisphere. Even today, water activity is still present in some places on the surface of Mars. Although deemed unlikely, life may yet exist today on Mars in some protected subsurface environments, shielded from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation, reactive chemical oxidants and desiccation.
However, Mars is not the only promising candidate to find life in our solar system. With their subsurface liquid water oceans under their icy surface combined with highly anticipated hydrothermal activities, unavoidable on an icy body like Europa, Titan, and Enceladus where water is in contact with rocks, these icy bodies could potentially harbor extant/extinct life but also for being highly plausible models for the emergence of life independent of Earth evolution.
The search for biogenic elements and organic compounds on Mars, and icy satellites is an important task for the various missions to icy moons, which are anticipated over the next few decades by major space agencies such as NASA and the European Space Agency. State-of-the art analytical detection techniques with very high sensitivity will play a major role in these endeavors. Finding evidence of extinct life on one of these targeted bodies would be, to put it mildly, sensational. The presence of extant life could be even more so and would add a fresh perspective to our understanding of the chemistry of life.
Our Inaugural Research Topic on Astrobiology of Mars, Europa, Titan and Enceladus, is chosen to strongly emphasize the importance of astrobiology of our own backyard, namely our solar system bodies where we might find alien life beyond Earth. The topic will include - but it won't be limited to - the areas ranging from understanding interior structure of these bodies, compositions as well as geological processes such as tidal heating and cryovolcanisms to understanding of surface processes in the context of astrobiology.
Investigations regarding potential biosignatures, their potential locations, their terrestrial analogs and models as well as remote sensing, in situ technologies and sample return missions relevant to detection of these biosignatures are also within the scope of this Research Topic.
Keywords: astrobiology, Life on Mars;, Life on Europa;, Life on Titan, Life on Enceladus, Solar system, Alien life
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.