The European Space Agency and other space agencies such as NASA recognize that the question with regard to life beyond Earth in general, and the associated issue of the existence and study of exoplanets in particular, is of paramount importance for the 21st century. The new Cosmic Vision science plan, Cosmic Vision 2015–2025, which is built around four major themes, has as its first theme: “What are the conditions for planet formation and the emergence of life?” This main theme is addressed through further questions:
How do gas and dust give rise to stars and planets?
How will the search for and study of exoplanets eventually lead to the detection of life outside Earth (biomarkers)?
How did life in the Solar System arise and evolve?
Although ESA has busied itself with these issues since the beginning of the Darwin study in 1996, it has become abundantly clear that, as these topics have evolved, only a very large effort, addressed from the ground and from space with the utilization of different instruments and space missions, can provide the empirical results required for a complete understanding. The good news is that the problems can be addressed and solved within a not-too-distant future. In this short essay, we present the present status of a roadmap related to projects that are related to the key long-term goal of understanding and characterizing exoplanets, in particular Earth-like planets. Key Words: Exoplanets—Life in the Universe—Space missions—Biomarkers. Astrobiology 10, 113–119.114

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Mayor M.Queloz D.1995. A Jupiter-mass companion to a solar-type starNature378355-359. Mayor, M. and Queloz, D. (1995) A Jupiter-mass companion to a solar-type star. Nature 378:355–359.

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Published In

cover image Astrobiology
Volume 10Issue Number 1January/February 2010
Pages: 113 - 119
PubMed: 20307187


Published online: 22 March 2010
Published in print: January/February 2010


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    Malcolm Fridlund
    Research and Scientific Support Department, ESA, European Space Research and Technology Centre, Noordwijk, the Netherlands.
    Carlos Eiroa
    Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Madrid, Spain.
    Thomas Henning
    Max-Planck Institut für Astronomie, Heidelberg, Germany.
    Tom Herbst
    Max-Planck Institut für Astronomie, Heidelberg, Germany.
    Lisa Kaltenegger
    Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
    Alain Léger
    Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale, Université Paris-Sud, Orsay, France.
    Réne Liseau
    Department of Radio and Space Science, Chalmers University of Technology, Onsala, Sweden.
    Helmut Lammer
    Space Research Institute, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Graz, Austria.
    Franck Selsis
    University of Bordeaux 1, Bordeaux, France.
    Charles Beichman
    NASA Exoplanet Science Institute, California Institute of Technology and Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, USA.
    William Danchi
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, USA.
    Jonathan Lunine
    Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, Tucson, Arizona, USA.
    Francesco Paresce
    Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica, Rome, Italy.
    Alan Penny
    Space Science & Technology Department, CCLRC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Oxfordshire, UK.
    Andreas Quirrenbach
    Landessternwarte, Heidelberg, Germany.
    Huub Röttgering
    Leiden Observatory, Leiden, the Netherlands.
    Jean Schneider
    Observatoire de Paris-Meudon, Laboratoire de l'Univers et ses Théories, Meudon, France.
    Daphne Stam
    SRON, Netherlands Institute for Space Research, Utrecht, the Netherlands.
    Giovanna Tinetti
    Department of Physics and Astronomy, University College London, London, UK.
    Glenn J. White
    Space Science & Technology Department, CCLRC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Oxfordshire, UK.
    The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK.


    Address correspondence to:Malcolm FridlundRSSD, ESA, ESTECNoordwijkthe Netherlands
    E-mail: [email protected]

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