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An experimental approach to inform Venus astrobiology mission design and science objectives

Duzdevich, Daniel, Petkowski, Janusz J., Bains, William, Cleaves, H. James, Carr, Christopher E., Borowska, Ewa I., Azua-Bustos, Armando, Cable, Morgan L., Dorrington, Graham E., Grinspoon, David H., Ligterink, Niels F. W., Riedo, Andreas, Wurz, Peter and Seager, Sara 2022. An experimental approach to inform Venus astrobiology mission design and science objectives. Aerospace 9 (10) , 597. 10.3390/aerospace9100597

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Exploring how life is distributed in the universe is an extraordinary interdisciplinary challenge, but increasingly subject to testable hypotheses. Biology has emerged and flourished on at least one planet, and that renders the search for life elsewhere a scientific question. We cannot hope to travel to exoplanets in pursuit of other life even if we identify convincing biosignatures, but we do have direct access to planets and moons in our solar system. It is therefore a matter of deep astrobiological interest to study their histories and environments, whether or not they harbor life, and better understand the constraints that delimit the emergence and persistence of biology in any context. In this perspective, we argue that targeted chemistry- and biology-inspired experiments are informative to the development of instruments for space missions, and essential for interpreting the data they generate. This approach is especially useful for studying Venus because if it were an exoplanet we would categorize it as Earth-like based on its mass and orbital distance, but its atmosphere and surface are decidedly not Earth-like. Here, we present a general justification for exploring the solar system from an astrobiological perspective, even destinations that may not harbor life. We introduce the extreme environments of Venus, and argue that rigorous and observation-driven experiments can guide instrument development for imminent missions to the Venusian clouds. We highlight several specific examples, including the study of organic chemistry under extreme conditions, and harnessing the fluorescent properties of molecules to make a variety of otherwise challenging measurements.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Physics and Astronomy
Additional Information: License information from Publisher: LICENSE 1: URL:, Type: open-access
Publisher: MDPI
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 17 November 2022
Date of Acceptance: 9 October 2022
Last Modified: 17 Nov 2022 13:00

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