Astrobiology Impact

'Life Beyond' - Prison Education

Engaging the prison population in imagining the human future beyond Earth.

Life Beyond is a project to engage the prison population in imagining the human future beyond the Earth. Its basic idea is that from behind the confines of a prison you can direct humanity to the stars. 

Charles Cockell, Project Organiser

Life Beyond is an initiative of the UK Centre for Astrobiology to take astrobiology into the prison environment.  It is a collaboration with the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) and Fife College. You can contact us about this through this link.

Life Beyond: From Prison to Mars

The project began in 2016 with a series of visits to prisons in Scotland including HMP Shotts, Edinburgh, Glenochil and Lowmoss.

Life Beyond From the Prison to the Moon

The programme  involves the prison population in the design of settlements beyond the Earth. As well as improving literacy and science, it engages prisoners in original design and research work on human settlements beyond Earth, including considering governance and civic responsibilities.

Since 2016, the Scottish prison population has published two books. Life Beyond: From Prison to Mars was published in 2018 and  presents their Mars station designs. The second book, Life Beyond, From Prison to the Moon presents their lunar station designs and the first long-term exploration and settlement plans for the Moon developed by prisoners. 

In addition to genuinely new engineering designs and scientific ideas for the exploration of space, these publications also present stunning art, literary work which includes the results of creative writing contests held during the project, and new ideas for strategies to explore distant worlds.

Distance learning Life Beyond Course

In 2020 and 2021, during the covid pandemic, the UKCA developed standalone materials that any participant can do from a prison cell or learning centre either on their own or with others. The materials come with an educator's guide to inform prison teachers about the course and how to implement it. There is a set of Short Activities that prisoners can do in an afternoon and a Full Course that takes two to three months. The materials take the participants through the design of a Mars or lunar settlement, getting them to write letters, draw designs, even to contribute to a Lunar and Martian Cookbook. All their work can be sent to Edinburgh for future publication. These course materials are being distributed to English and Welsh prisons in a partnership we have developed with the Prisoners' Education Trust. If you wish to see these course materials you can download them from this link, contact us or download them from below.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Life Beyond please contact us.

Life Beyond papers and recognition

The project is described in two peer-reviewed papers. The first a summary of the project and the second a more detailed description published in the Journal of Correctional Education.

In 2019, the Life Beyond project was cited in the Europris report as an example of educational best practice in European prisons.

For a brief summary of the project by Inside Time, the National Newspaper for Prisoners and Detainees see this link.


Life Beyond