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The year 2003 was the 50th anniversary of the seminal experiment of Stanley Miller. This was a unique opportunity for highlighting the current interest in this most interdisciplinary subject. The leading space agencies: the European Space Agency (ESA) as well as NASA, the American Space Agency, have planned missions that will elucidate some of the still unknown questions underlying research in the origin of life. New results are surpassing our ability to keep well informed: the reviews that were presented at the Trieste meeting will bring the readers of this well-documented and timely book up to date in this fast-moving area.
An important component of the conference was the review of the Cassini-Huygens mission due to arrive in the Saturn system just one year after the conference convened in Trieste. There was particular interest in the status of the experiments that will take place inside the atmosphere of Titan, the large satellite, which is a testing ground for the theories and experiments in the field of chemical evolution.
The Jovian system is currently under study with the view of investigating the possibility of life underneath the frozen surface of the Galilean moon Europa; the ESA mission "Mars Express" and Mars Odyssey received special attention. Some of the world leaders in the field gathered in Trieste in September 2003 - that was a most timely date for reviewing recent data and discussing the prospects of future research.
Investigators and scholars in the areas of space science astrobiology, astrophysics, astronomy, origin of life, extremophiles and microbial ecology, graduate students and open minded readers will find this new volume of great interest.
Dedication * Biodata of editors * Preface by the editors * Acknowledgements * Group photograph and List of Attendees * I. Opening * II. Where did the Chemical Elements Come From and When did Life Begin?- III. Physical Constraints on the Origin of Life, The Origin of Biomolecular Chirality * IV. From the Miller Experiment to Chemical and Biological Evolution * V. Alternative Scenarios for the Origin and Evolution of Life * VI. Cosmological and Other Space Science Aspects of Astrobiology * VII. Planetary Exploration in our Solar System: The Interstellar Medium, Micro-Meteorites and Comets * VIII. Earth Analogues of Extraterrestrial Ecosystems * IX. On the Question of Life on Mars and on the Early Earth * X. Searching for Extraterrestrial Life, Europa, Titan and Extrasolar Planets * XI. The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) * XII. The Search for Evolution of Intelligent Behavior and Density of Life * XIII. Epistemological and Historical Aspects of Astrobiology * List of Participants * Index.