Space Exploration

Is there life elsewhere? Are we alone? This question is as old as humankind itself. For millennia, people have turned their eyes to the stars and wondered if there are others like themselves out there. Does life, be it similar to our own or not, exist elsewhere in our Solar System? Our Galaxy?

Until 1992, when the first exoplanet was confirmed, it was uncertain whether there were even any planets outside those in our own Solar System. Today we know of literally hundreds of planets orbiting other stars.

Do any of these planets have conditions that would support life? What conditions favor the formation of terrestrial-class planets in developing planetary systems? NASA can help address these questions by developing missions designed to find and characterize extrasolar planetary systems.

Before we can determine if there are other planetary systems capable of supporting life, we must first find them. NASA Science pursues this goal by supporting a focused suite of ground-based observations and through the development of the Kepler mission, a space-based observatory dedicated to identifying and determining the prevalence (how many there are per star) of extrasolar planets.

NASA Science is also actively planning future space missions that will determine the masses, orbits, temperatures and atmospheric compositions of extrasolar planets with unprecedented accuracy. When we know these quantities we will be able to address the questions. ... Full Text

Challenges of Getting to Mars: Curiosity's Seven Minutes of Terror

"Today, the wheels of Curiosity have begun to blaze the trail for human footprints on Mars. Curiosity, the most sophisticated rover ever built, is now on the surface of the Red Planet, where it will seek to answer age-old questions about whether life ever existed on Mars -- or if the planet can sustain life in the future," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "This is an amazing achievement, made possible by a team of scientists and engineers from around the world and led by the extraordinary men and women of NASA and our Jet Propulsion Laboratory. President Obama has laid out a bold vision for sending humans to Mars in the mid-2030's, and today's landing marks a significant step toward achieving this goal."
Read More: NASA Lands Car-Size Rover Beside Martian Mountain
( View Video: Curiosity's Seven Minutes of Terror)

NASA's Kepler mission has confirmed its first planet in the "habitable zone,"

The newly confirmed planet, Kepler-22b, is the smallest yet found to orbit in the middle of the habitable zone of a star similar to our sun. The planet is 2.4 times the size of Earth, making it the smallest yet found to orbit in the middle of the habitable zone of a star like our sun. It is the first planet that NASA's Kepler mission has confirmed to orbit in a star's habitable zone -- the region around a star where liquid water, a requirement for life on Earth, could persist. Read More


Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe. This multidisciplinary field encompasses the search for habitable environments in our Solar System and habitable planets outside our Solar System, the search for evidence of prebiotic chemistry and life on Mars and other bodies in our Solar System, laboratory and field research into the origins and early evolution of life on Earth, and studies of the potential for life to adapt to challenges on Earth and in space. ... Full Text

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