ISU MSS19 Students Examine the Origins and Future of Life in the Universe

Over the last two weeks, half the class of ISU’s Master of Space Studies MSS19 students have participated in the Astrobiology elective organized by ISU resident faculty Prof. Hugh Hill. Sarah Halpin (Ireland) and Charlotte Nassey (France & UK) share their experience.

“After studying various subjects throughout the year, it was time for students to get more intimate with a subject of their choice. Astrobiology is one of the most exciting disciplines of space studies as it examines the origins, distribution and future of life in the universe.

During the Astrobiology elective, organized with the help of one of ISU’s Teaching Associate, Ana Baltazar Garduño, we have had the opportunity to explore the topic in depth with the support of some of the top minds in the field.

We started week one by coming to grips with the rudimentary elements of the field with lectures by Dr. Joseph Gale, Emeritus Professor at the Hebrew University, Israel, proving historical context on the role of Astrobiology in scientific discovery.

NASA’s Dr. Chris McKay (of the McKay principles) and Dr. Joseph Roth, Astrochemist Dr. Wolf. Geppert, ESA’s Prof. Bernard Foing and SETI representative, Dr. Steve Croft, amongst others, kindly gave their time in person and via Skype to answer our questions from planetary protection queries to thoughts on Area 51.

It is always great to see the International Space University ISU - Space mafia in action. The elective saw lectures by Dr. Gloria Volohonsky (MSS17) providing an introduction to genetics, a workshop by Christos Ntinos and Ana Baltazar Garduño (MSS18) on the use of the SPICE-based
WebGeocalc tool to schedule and analyze the remote sensing activities of a planetary mission.  And three alumni consultants (Susan Higashio Weinreich, Josh Lalande and Brian Ramos) supporting the completion of the team project white papers.

Christos Ntinos’ SPICE workshop

The elective also gave us the opportunity to visit the facilities of neighbor researchers of the IGBMC, in Illkirch, who conduct research in the domain of genetics, and cellular and molecular biology. This gave us a more general approach of terrestrial biology and ongoing research in life sciences.

Perhaps the highlight of this elective was the visit by Prof. Zarnecki who planned a huge part in the successful Cassini Huygens mission. Prof. Zarnecki spent time reflecting on the personal experiences being involved in this groundbreaking mission allowing history to come to life.

It's been a memorable two weeks that can probably be best summed up with the following words “crème brulée!”.”


 ISU MSS19 students attending the Astrobiology elective at ISU central campus


 Professional visit to IGBMC, Parc d’Innovation

Pictures credit: ISU
Cover picture: Professional visit to IGBMC including MSS19 student Monika Lipinska