Space Geology and Exobiology

Is life unique to Earth? Our solar system has other rocky planets, many moons, and plenty of asteroids and comets – could alien life ever have existed – could it possibly even still exist – on one of these? In this workshop, we’ll discuss how the solar system formed. We’ll cover the basics of geology and palaeontology to look at the fossil record, and see what early life on Earth was like. We’ll look at spacecraft which have visited other moons, planets, and asteroids – including the Mars rover Curiosity, and the Philae probe on the comet Rosetta – to explore the geology of the solar system, and we’ll try to decide if there’s anywhere else where life could have evolved.

Day by Day Schedule

Day 1
Origin of the Solar System, planet Earth, and life. We’ll look at how the solar system formed, and what the early Earth was like. We’ll also look at some rocks and fossils to explore the history of life on Earth.

Day 2
What does life need to survive? Earth is the only planet currently known to support life. But is it the only place where life could survive? We’ll look at the range of life on Earth, some examples of life in extreme environments, and explore the conditions necessary to support life.

Day 3
Space Exploration. Since the age of space exploration began in 1957 with Sputnik I, missions have been sent to most of the planets in the solar system. We’ll look at the history of space exploration, and the remote sensing techniques used by various probes.

Day 4
Candidates for extraterrestrial life. We’ll narrow down the list of solar system bodies that might support life, and decide where we think should be explored next.

Day 5
Mission planning. Having chosen where we should explore, we’ll finish the workshop by deciding what we need to do to find out if we’re right about life beyond the Earth.

Project Description

In groups, students will create a short YouTube-style mini-documentary video proposing a new space probe to find life elsewhere in the solar system. Where should we go? What type of spacecraft should we send? What should we do there? What are we looking for? The choice is yours.

Learning Objectives

In this workshop students will learn about the history and geology of the solar system.

By the end of this workshop, students will be able to use remote sensing data, and the basic principles of geology and palaeontology.

Workshop Instructor

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