The National
Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has outlined its
high-priority scientific objectives for the next three to five years
with the publication of its Astrobiology Roadmap. The Roadmap is
published in the Summer 2003 (Volume 3, Number 2) issue of
Astrobiology, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert,
Inc. ( The Roadmap is available free online at

The three main questions that NASA’s astrobiology research effort
seeks to answer are how does life begin and evolve, does life exist
elsewhere in the universe, and what is the future of life on Earth and
beyond? The NASA Astrobiology Roadmap guides researchers studying
space, Earth, and biological sciences on key areas of investigation.

“The roadmap takes into account the many snippets of knowledge and
discovery we’ve accumulated to date, and proposes a direct–and very
much refined–route to furthering our understanding of life in the
universe,” says journal editor, Sherry L. Cady, Ph.D., Associate
Professor in the Department of Geology at Portland State University.

The Roadmap defines seven main scientific goals: understanding the
scope of environments in the universe that might support life;
discovering such environments in Earth’s solar system; gaining
knowledge about the emergence of life; determining how early life on
Earth interacted and evolved with its changing environment;
understanding the mechanisms of evolution; determining what principles
will shape life in the future; and recognizing signs of life on early
Earth and in other worlds. For each of these goals, the Roadmap
outlines specific, short-term scientific objectives.

Examples of the scientific objectives include developing models to
investigate the formation and evolution of habitable planets,
conducting astronomical studies to observe habitable planets outside
of Earth’s solar system, and exploring Mars through orbital and
surface missions. Other objectives focus on characterizing possible
sources of the materials needed for life to emerge and investigating
how early life forms may have developed and changed, enabling them to
grow, divide, and convert nutrients into energy. Additional studies
would examine environmental changes and how organisms and ecosystems
adapt and evolve. Additionally, NASA provides guidance on how to
recognize and interpret “biosignatures,” which are signs that some
form of life could exist or might have existed in ancient times on
other planets.

Astrobiology is an authoritative peer-reviewed journal published
quarterly in print and online. The journal provides a forum for
scientists seeking to advance our understanding of life’s origins,
evolution, distribution and destiny in the universe. A complete table
of contents and a full text for this issue may be viewed online at

Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., is a privately held, fully integrated
media company known for establishing authoritative peer-reviewed
journals in many promising areas of science and biomedical research.
Its biotechnology trade magazine, Genetic Engineering News (GEN), was
the first in its field and is today the industry’s most widely read
publication worldwide. A complete list of the firm’s 60 journals,
books, and newsletters is available at

Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., Larchmont
Vicki Cohn, 914/834-3100, ext. 617