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Planetary Habitability

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  • Provides a practical field manual for habitability assessment, with which data from astrobiology space missions can be interpreted
  • Highlights the importance of physical features, creating a different approach from the standard evaluation of chemical attributes
  • Studies data from Earth's stratigraphic record and human development to determine universal measurable aspects of habitability

Series: Cambridge Astrobiology

By: Pamela Gales Conrad(Author)

530 pages, 39 b/w illustrations, 14 tables

Cambridge University Press

Hardback | #199711 | ISBN-13: 9780521516716
Not yet published Details

About this book

Planetary Habitability presents a new perspective on the search for life on other planets and approaches habitability holistically, utilizing a complete range of environmental data including physical features as well as chemical signals. Based upon the fundamental premise that every observation may be the clue that later confirms or statistically asserts evidence of a habitable environment, it presents practical advice on organizing a field site, the range of tools available and how they can be used, and how the data can be organized as an assessment tool with applicability to multiple planetary environments. The role of analogue activities, in addition to analogue environments, in advancing the state-of-the-art in astrobiology is emphasised. Planetary Habitability is a manual for research astrobiologists in the field and an important reference for engineers planning and constructing missions to other planets. It can also be used in student seminars on this central theme in space exploration.


Part I. General Concepts
1. What we presently know
2. Assumptions about habitability
3. Candidate features of habitability
4. Variability over short time scales
5. The role of environmental catastrophe in planetary habitability

Part II. The Evolution of Earth into a Habitable Environment
6. Transition to a habitable planet
7. Stratigraphic evidence for habitability

Part III. Assessment of Habitability
8. Chemical habitability metrics
9. Physical metrics
10. Geographic and geologic metrics
11. Astrophysical metrics
12. Measurement approaches
13. Instrumentation and tools

Part IV. Human Alteration of Habitability Potential on Earth
14. Agriculture
15. Industrial environmental pollution
16. Human contributions to climate change

Part V. Solar System Habitability Potential
17. Exchange of life between bodies in solar systems
18. Habitability and human exploration in the solar system
19. Fate of habitable environments in solar system evolution

Part VI. Extra-solar Habitability
20. Development of habitability models


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Pamela Conrad is an astrobiologist and mineralogist working on planetary habitability assessment at the NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, USA. She has worked for the past ten years on development of approaches and measurements for assessment of habitability on planetary surface environments. She is deputy principal investigator and payload investigation scientist for the SAM suite that is part of the Mars Science Laboratory payload of Curiosity. Dr Conrad's extensive field experience revolves around characterising habitable environments in polar deserts and testing rock targeting (triage) tools. She is presently studying the habitability potential of Mars via her involvement in the Mars Science Laboratory mission.

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