The Living Universe: NASA and the Development of Astrobiology

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The Living Universe is a comprehensive, historically nuanced study of the formation of the new scientific discipline of exobiology and its transformation into astrobiology. Among many other themes, the authors analyze how research on the origin of life became wedded to the search for life on other planets and for extraterrestrial intelligence. Many scientific breakthroughs of the last forty years were either directly supported or indirectly spun off from NASA's exobiology program, including cell symbiosis, the discovery of the Archaea, and the theories of Nuclear Winter and the asteroid extinction of the dinosaurs.

Exobiology and astrobiology have generated public fascination, enormous public relations benefits for NASA, and––on the flip side of the coin––some of the most heated political wrangling ever seen in government science funding. The authors provide a riveting overview of the search for life throughout the universe, with all of the earthly complexities of a science-in-the-making and the imperfect humans called scientists. Their book is the first to include interviews with most of the primary participants from 1953 to the present. It will appeal to biologists, historians and philosophers of science, planetary scientists (including geologists), and a general readership interested in the investigation of life on other planets.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813537337
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press
  • Publication date: 9/15/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 328
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Table of Contents

Pt. I Before the space age
1 The big picture : cosmic evolution and the biological universe 9
Pt. II From Sputnik to Viking, 1957-1976
2 Organizing exobiology : NASA enters life science 23
3 Exobiology, planetary protection, and the origins of life 56
4 Vikings to Mars 80
Pt. III Broadened horizons, 1976-2000
5 The post-Viking revolutions 105
6 The search for extraterrestrial intelligence 131
7 The search for planetary systems 155
8 The Mars rock 179
9 Renaissance : from exobiology to astrobiology 202
Epilogue : astrobiology science : into the great age of discovery? 221
App NASA leadership in exobiology 236
App Topics at the first astrobiology science conference 239
App Objectives in the astrobiology roadmap (1999) 240
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