2019.A.1.5. Breakthrough Foundation the Search for Life

Author(s)

S. Peter Worden (1)
Peter Klupar (1)

  1. Breakthrough Foundation, U.S.A.

Session

A.1

Keywords

Breakthrough Starshot, Nanocraft, Astrobiology

Abstract

Humanity is on the verge of finding life elsewhere in the Universe and is approaching the capacity to send life purposefully. If life is found elsewhere there will likely be controversy about its origin. For example, for any life on another planet or moon, we will want to know if we share a common origin: was this life transferred to or from Earth, or did life arise independently on each world? The possibility that life can or might be transported among planets, systems, and galaxies – also known as panspermia – frames the major questions being explored by the privately funded Breakthrough Initiatives, founded in 2015. 

A decade of exoplanet discoveries has revealed that, statistically, ~25% of stars host at least one temperate rocky planet of around one-to-four Earth radii – just right for life as we know it. Life could evolve independently from simple chemistry on each of these planets. Ample evidence exists for comet or meteor strikes on planetary surfaces transferring material between the planets in the Solar System. Astrobiology Dogma assumes a primordial soup of chemicals on early Earth that evolved via an RNA world to the current DNA world. An alternative view is that these steps occurred on another planetary body more than 4 billion years ago and that highly evolved DNA-based life seeded the Earth as soon as it was habitable. 

Thus, with breakthroughs in bioengineering and nanotechnology, it is conceivable that human civilization will possess the technology to populate planets around the nearest stars within the next century with some form of life. How would we begin transporting engineered bio or bio-mechanical systems off Earth? Can we communicate across interstellar distances using electromagnetic or biological methods? And perhaps most importantly, should we? 

Presentation

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