About this Research Topic
The detection and identification of signatures of life, extinct or extant, is one of the most challenging tasks in current space science. The conclusive answer to the question “Are we alone?” would not only have a significant impact on science it would impact our daily thinking dramatically. In the next decades various space missions are planned to explore in situ various solar system bodies in our Solar system to find traces of life, with Mars and the icy moons Europa and Enceladus as the most promising candidates. The detection of life signatures, however, is extremely challenging and depends a numerous of parameters, that ranges from nature of the signature to the application of most sensitive measurement techniques that have the capabilities for its detection and identification.
State-of-the-art laboratory measurement techniques designed for life detection typically excel the measurement performance of cutting-edge space systems. The limited recourses available on a spacecraft, lander or rover, such as volume, weight, and power consumption directly limits the capabilities of miniature space systems. To face the problem of what should and can be measured in situ a planetary surface the aim of this special topic is to provide a current overview of the measurement capabilities and methodologies of existing and novel space prototype systems for the identification of signatures of life, ranging from the detection of biomolecules that are indicative to life to the identification of e.g., remnants of microbes if life has ever been existed.
The scope of this thematic issue includes but is not limited to reports of the measurement capabilities of existing flight instruments, systems that are currently in development for future missions, new measurement concepts, measurement protocols that allows e.g., the identification of signatures of life, and contributions addressing most promising signatures of life that may be traceable on Mars and the icy moons. Review, scientific and technical articles will be accepted in this issue.
Image: Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech
Keywords: Space Instrumentation, Signature of life, life detection, Mars, Icy Moons
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.