This book presents a new perspective on the search for life on other planets and approaches habitability holistically, utilising a complete range of environmental data that includes both physical and chemical attributes. A broad range of potential environmental observations are presented, together with practical advice on organising a field site, the range of tools available, and how the data can be organised as an assessment tool with applicability to multiple planetary environments. The role of analogue activities, in addition to analogue environments, in advancing the state-of-the-art in astrobiology is emphasised. Planetary Habitability is a manual for research astrobiologists in the field, and an important reference for mission design teams planning in situ exploration of other planets. Written in a highly accessible style, it can also be used in student seminars on this central theme in space exploration.
Pamela Conrad is an astrobiologist and mineralogist working on planetary habitability assessment at the NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, USA. She has worked for the past ten years on development of approaches and measurements for assessment of habitability on planetary surface environments. She is deputy principal investigator and payload investigation scientist for the SAM suite that is part of the Mars Science Laboratory payload of Curiosity. Dr Conrad's extensive field experience revolves around characterising habitable environments in polar deserts and testing rock targeting (triage) tools. She is presently studying the habitability potential of Mars via her involvement in the Mars Science Laboratory mission.
Part I. General Concepts: 1. What we presently know; 2. Assumptions about habitability; 3. Candidate features of habitability; 4. Variability over short time scales; 5. The role of environmental catastrophe in planetary habitability; Part II. The Evolution of Earth into a Habitable Environment: 6. Transition to a habitable planet; 7. Stratigraphic evidence for habitability; Part III. Assessment of Habitability: 8. Chemical habitability metrics; 9. Physical metrics; 10. Geographic and geologic metrics; 11. Astrophysical metrics; 12. Measurement approaches; 13. Instrumentation and tools; Part IV. Human Alteration of Habitability Potential on Earth: 14. Agriculture; 15. Industrial environmental pollution; 16. Human contributions to climate change; Part V. Solar System Habitability Potential: 17. Exchange of life between bodies in solar systems; 18. Habitability and human exploration in the solar system; 19. Fate of habitable environments in solar system evolution; Part VI. Extra-Solar Habitability: 20. Development of habitability models; References; Index.