A roadmap for the detection and characterization of other earths

Fridlund, Malcolm; Eiroa, Carlos; Henning, Thomas; Herbst, Tom; Kaltenegger, Lisa; Léger, Alain; Liseau, Réne; Lammer, Helmut; Selsis, Franck; Beichman, Charles; Danchi, William; Lunine, Jonathan; Paresce, Francesco; Penny, Alan; Quirrenbach, Andreas; Röttgering, Huub; Schneider, Jean; Stam, Daphne; Tinetti, Giovanna and White, Glenn J. (2010). A roadmap for the detection and characterization of other earths. Astrobiology, 10(1) pp. 113–119.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1089/ast.2009.0391


The European Space Agency and other space agencies such as NASA recognize that the question with regard to life beyond Earth in general, and the associated issue of the existence and study of exoplanets in particular, is of paramount importance for the 21st century. The new Cosmic Vision science plan, Cosmic Vision 2015–2025, which is built around four major themes, has as its first theme: "What are the conditions for planet formation and the emergence of life?" This main theme is addressed through further questions:

(1) How do gas and dust give rise to stars and planets?

(2) How will the search for and study of exoplanets eventually lead to the detection of life outside Earth (biomarkers*)?

(3) How did life in the Solar System arise and evolve?

Although ESA has busied itself with these issues since the beginning of the Darwin study in 1996, it has become abundantly clear that, as these topics have evolved, only a very large effort, addressed from the ground and from space with the utilization of different instruments and space missions, can provide the empirical results required for a complete understanding. The good news is that the problems can be addressed and solved within a not-too-distant future. In this short essay, we present the present status of a roadmap related to projects that are related to the key long-term goal of understanding and characterizing exoplanets, in particular Earthlike planets.

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