Biology Beyond the Planet of Origin: The Case for Biosciences Research on the Moon 2004-01-2282
Studying the biology of terrestrial life on another world will offer unique opportunities for understanding the fundamental nature of life in the universe. Still accelerating revolutions in biotechnology, information technology, robotics, and super-miniaturization now make it possible to conduct detailed research into opportunities inherent in living on other worlds. Although close to Earth, the Moon includes features found nowhere else in the solar system. Different gravity, radiation stresses, magnetic fields and day/night cycles are among the biologically relevant forces of interest on the Moon. Results from studying different organisms in the lunar environment over complete life cycles and multiple generations would provide the first comparative, biological reference data of the transition of life from one world to another, and foundational information for evaluating potential health and safety problems on a Mars mission. In addition, astrobiology studies on the Moon can reveal the solar system forces that shaped the evolution of life on Earth. The Moon has also long been acknowledged as a testbed for human explorations of Mars and other worlds of the solar system. Finally, the scientific, technological and architectural demands of a dedicated lunar biosciences research initiative will drive numerous commercial, social, and educational benefits.