UK Centre for Astrobiology

About Us

Information about the UK Centre for Astrobiology.

The mission of the UK Centre for Astrobiology is to advance knowledge of life in extreme environments to further our understanding of planetary habitability. It does this with a combination of theoretical, laboratory, field and mission approaches. We apply this knowledge to improving the quality of life on Earth and developing space exploration as two mutually enhancing objectives.

The UK Centre for Astrobiology is an interdisciplinary research centre established in 2011 at the University of Edinburgh. Its scientific focus is the study of life in extremes and investigating the conditions that give rise to habitable environments for life on the Earth and potentially beyond. Since 2011, the centre has published over 120 peer reviewed papers and brought in over £8 million to support its activities. Its scientific work has ranged across microbiology, paleobiology, planetary sciences, space engineering and missions, and space policy and philosophy.

Participants in the centre work across a number of institutes in the university including the Centre for Science at Extreme Conditions (CSEC), The Centre for Exoplanet Science, the Institute for Astronomy (IfA) and other world-leading groups across the University of Edinburgh. The centre has led international initiatives such as the biological work in BASALT, a NASA-led programme to prepare for the human exploration of Mars, and it led an EU-funded Mars analogue research program (MASE). The centre has led and launched its own experiments into space, such as BioRock, the first prototype biomining reactor for future human space settlement. It established and since 2013 has run the world’s first underground astrobiology laboratory and associated technology testing programme (MINAR) that links space exploration with the Earth-based challenges of clean and efficient mining. This was the first sustained planetary analogue programme to be set up and run in the UK.

The centre is firmly embedded in the long and outstanding traditions of teaching excellence at the University of Edinburgh at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. It has launched undergraduate astrobiology courses. It led and offered the world’s first on-line course (MOOC) in astrobiology in 2012, which has attracted over 150,000 students. Since 2016, the centre has led an initiative – Life Beyond – to use astrobiology and space exploration to advance education in prisons. The centre has had a strong public outreach programme, including a nationwide astrobiology initiative at primary to secondary school transition as part of RAISE (Raising Aspirations in Science Education).

You can read about some of our recent activities in the News section.