If you are trying to ask a question live during Ask an Astrobiologist, please do so in the main chatroom at the bottom of the screen! You can also ask on twitter @saganorg using #AskAstrobio

Right now, the SAGANet team is working hard to bring you a brand new version of the site! On our new platform, it will be much easier to ask your questions and get answers, interact with astrobiology Experts, and participate in our live show.

In the meantime, we have set up this temporary discussion forum where you can post your questions. We will do our best to move them over to the new site when we launch, so feel free to discuss anything astrobiology right here!

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Hi Ammad,

Great question! All data from NASA is made available to the public and usually can be found online. The most typical place for data to be archived is the Planetary Data System, which you can find here: https://pds.nasa.gov/

You could also try the specific website of the mission you are interested in and follow the links.

The PDS website also includes some description of how the data is stored and how you might start with analysis.

In general, you will want to learn some programming skills in order to understand the techniques of data analysis. Python is a popular choice today among astronomers and biologists, but any modern language should work. I hope this helps!


Thank you very much for these useful suggestions Jacob. 


I'm currently attending Virginia Tech as an undergraduate. I read the career path suggestions sheet posted by NASA as well as some other pages on astrobiology career paths, and I was curious about what roles engineers play with astrobiologists. Most of these career sheets said nothing about engineering, so I was curious are there any engineering majors that work closely with astrobiologists. If so which ones and how do they interact with them, or are there some engineers that have become astrobiologists? Also, who designs the collection systems for soil samples from mars? Are these people Mechanical engineers? Mining engineers? 


Marcel Paris-Agafonov

I would like to pursue a career in astrobiology, but I have difficulty understanding how to get through school financially. I recently found a program that offers certification and job placement in medical laboratories and an adviser informed me that our partner hospitals offer tuition reimbursement with concurrent employment. This will push my undergraduate back over a year and I assume these hospitals will only pay for select degree plans.

My question is, how valuable is experience performing medical lab tests, and what are some undergraduate majors that would be valuable both an astrobiologist and a hospital?

Hi Christopher! These are great questions. One thing to remember is that astrobiology is a huge field and many of us have come from a variety of backgrounds. Having a background in medical science and clinical lab skills certainly won't limit you from being involved in astrobiology. Indeed, those same lab skills might later transfer to graduate research in biochemistry or biological engineering or help land you some work in a lab that also does astrobiology work. My friend, Luis Zea, works in aerospace engineering on projects on health on the ISS centered around the bacteria and fungi that are there and how the space environment effects them and is currently running the Space Biofilms project that just launched to the ISS: https://www.colorado.edu/faculty/zea-luis/projects/space-biofilms

Hi Christopher, I'd like to echo what Graham wrote. Astrobiology being such an interdisciplinary field, has research opportunities where your lab skills can be directly or indirectly useful. Also, undergraduate education is a very early stage of your career, and people end up doing their graduate and postdoctoral research in completely different fields!

For example, I study how astrophysical radiation impacts astronaut health. I need medical data from proton therapy trials, and I combine it with astrophysical measurements. It has applications both in astrobiology and in human space exploration! This is just one example where medical training can be useful. 

Is there anyone who did research in "RED RAIN CELLS" ?

Hi Yasassrini! I've never done research in that realm, but there's lots of cool stuff out there to find about it. When the raid rain (which is known as a "blood rain") came down in India some years back, it led at first to speculations that it was caused by cometary material breaking up in the atmosphere or even some alien cells (though that was proposed by a known huckster who has a lot of weird pseudoscientific ideas). However, research on that blood rain as others, such as in Spain, have shown that the red color likely comes from a carotene pigment called astaxanthin within algae that have been lofted into the atmosphere. There's still lots of room for more research on the phenomena, so it will be cool to see how it links to other studies of microbes surviving and even thriving in the atmosphere and on how microbial life can be transferred around the globe through the atmosphere above us (I was part of a project at NASA Ames back in 2007 that looked to sample biota from the stratosphere - it's really cool to think about what's up there!).

Microgravity pathologies:

To what extent is micro musculature atrophy a problem for extended exposure to microgravity?  I am thinking primarily about gravitationally induced hydrostatic pressure in the vasculature of the lower limbs. Vein and arterial walls are rich in musculature and Davis's law suggests atrophy in the absence of stress.  What, if anything, can be done to mediate this problem?

What to do or where should we work to be classified as Astrobiologist? And what is the diffrent between being as a normal microbiologist or study microbiology and then being a astrobiologist in microbiology field? What should microbiologist do to be a astrobiologist? (Microbiologist is an example)

I imagine there are many different opinions on the matter. Astrobiology isn't a singular discipline and is more inclusive of various approaches to understanding than some other scientific fields. An astrobiologist may also be a philosopher or an astrophysicist or an economist or a microbiologist, etc. As astrobiology really is our quest to understand the nature of life in the universe, anyone who's research or studies include considering this quest might be considered an astrobiologist, to some degree. I think you'll see that all of us who are astrobiologists hail from many different backgrounds but also share the common feature of studying many ways of knowing about life.

Greetings all,

             I am in need of a mentor. I had the pleasure of meeting and exchanging e-mails with Dr. Svetlana Shkolyar and few years ago here when I was initially looking to start pursing a career in Astrobiology, but I can no longer reach her. 

             I recently completed my undergraduate in Biology and I'm due to begin grad school February 3rd via American Public University in Space Studies w/ a concentration in Astronomy, but I am not currently working in the field and could really use a bit of guidance and mentorship along the way. 

             I have questions about MOOCs, ACE Credits, Astrobiology course work via Nasa.gov, & hands on lab time for working adults, maybe "returnship" opportunities. 

             The majority of the programs that I can find seemed to internships geared more towards those who are bound by a full time job. 

              Any and all assistance would be greatly appreciated. 

Thank you. 





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