mountain profile Institute for Astronomy University of Hawaii

Astronomy 281: Astrobiology

Maintained by LG

ASTR 281 is a largely nonmathematical course that focuses on the new knowledge gained by space missions. Special emphasis is given to the exploration of our own solar system, including the most recent results from NASA, European, Russian and Japanese missions. Depending on what spacecraft are active at the time, guest speakers may describe their own experiences participating in these missions, with suitable slides and videos.

One theme of the course is the quest for an understanding of the origin and cosmic distribution of life. This topic embraces the search for life on Mars (about to enter a new phase with the launch of the Mars Pathfinder mission in 1996), efforts to find planets around other stars (three were detected in 1995), an evaluation of the UFO phenomenon, and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Another theme involves the issue of how humans can participate directly in space exploration, what resources are available in space, the challenges of space flight and how colonization of the Moon and planets might proceed. The emphasis of the course will shift between these two main themes depending on the instructor and the current modes of space exploration being planned and pursued worldwide.