Course Description:

Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and destiny of life in the universe. It uses interdisciplinary science at the intersection of biology, geology and physics to discover where and under what conditions life can arise and exist in the universe.


The two main goals of this course are:

  1. To provide information on the central concepts related to the field of Astrobiology, and
  2. To provide experiences with using and creating student-centered and inquiry-based curriculum materials for teaching astrobiology that are aligned with the National Science Education Standards.


From the content covered in the reading, the content provided in the labs, and the questions assigned for homework and on quizzes you will develop a deeper understanding of the essential ideas in the study of astrobiology. As teachers, a major focus of the course is on developing your ability to bring astrobiology into the classroom and use modern instructional strategies. As a member of a group, you will complete lab activities that have been designed for middle and high school students. As such they will serve to introduce you to the underlying content associated with selected topics in astrobiology and will illustrate how the topics can be taught using an active engagement or inquiry style of instruction. You will be given the opportunity to practice these teaching strategies when you pilot test materials in your classrooms which will allow you to see how the materials work in an actual classroom setting. You will be required to put teaching experience to use as a curriculum developer on an astrobiology topic of your choosing


NASA Astrobiology Roadmap

The NASA Astrobiology Roadmap is the product of the efforts of more than 150 scientists and technologists, spanning a broad range of disciplines. Astrobiology is the study of life in the universe. It provides a biological perspective to many areas of NASA research, linking such endeavors as the search for habitable planets, exploration missions to Mars and Europa, efforts to understand the origin of life, and planning for the future of life beyond Earth.

Astrobiology addresses three basic questions, which have been asked in some form for generations. Astrobiology is exciting today because we have the technology to begin to answer these fundamental questions:

  • How does life begin and develop?
  • Does life exist elsewhere in the universe?
  • What is life's future on Earth and beyond?

In order to answer the fundamental questions of astrobiology, the NASA Astrobiology program pursues the following science questions and goals which will be translated into specific programs and integrated with NASA strategic planning.

Question: How Does Life Begin and Develop?

  • Goal 1: Understand how life arose on the Earth.
  • Goal 2: Determine the general principles governing the organization of matter into living systems.
  • Goal 3: Explore how life evolves on the molecular, organism, and ecosystem levels.
  • Goal 4: Determine how the terrestrial biosphere has co-evolved with the Earth.

Question: Does Life Exist Elsewhere in the Universe?

  • Goal 5: Establish limits for life in environments that provide analogues for conditions on other worlds.
  • Goal 6: Determine what makes a planet habitable and how common these worlds are in the universe.
  • Goal 7: Determine how to recognize the signature of life on other worlds.
  • Goal 8: Determine whether there is (or once was) life elsewhere in our solar system, particularly on Mars and Europa.

Question: What is Life's Future on Earth and Beyond?

  • Goal 9: Determine how ecosystems respond to environmental change on time-scales relevant to human life on Earth.
  • Goal 10: Understand the response of terrestrial life to conditions in space or on other planets.

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