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Unlock the mysteries of life beyond Earth through astrobiology exploration.


If there is life beyond our planet, what does it look like? Astrobiologists try to answer that question in part by looking at how organisms have evolved to live in the most extreme environments on Earth.
We will survey locations on Earth where conditions approach the limits of survival – places like Antarctica’s ancient red waterfall, the deadly Crystal Caves in Mexico and the Challenger Deep. Students will learn about adaptations that allow organisms to live in these harsh environments. They will get an introduction to extremophile microbes such as diatoms, tardigrades and nematodes. We will also look at conditions on some of the potentially habitable planets that astronomers have discovered and consider the potential for past or present life on these planets. Students will design a planet that could sustain life and plan an astrobiology mission to Mars.

What You Will Learn


Students in High School: Astrobiology will:

  • Gain insight on what extraterrestrial life might look like by learning how organisms have evolved in extreme environments on Earth
  • Learn about the characteristics of potentially habitable planets beyond Earth
  • Explore the conditions that are necessary for life to exist
  • Survey extreme environments on Earth, including the Challenger Deep, polar deserts and Crystal Caves of Mexico
  • Learn about the adaptations that allow life to survive in these extreme places
  • Look at different kinds of extremophile microorganisms
  • Review the history of NASA’s efforts to find extraterrestrial life
  • Design a planet that could sustain life and plan an astrobiology mission to Mars

Return to the Sally Ride Science online professional website here.

Note: Upon successful enrollment of a section, students will receive a confirmation email from our Student Services team. This email will include a link to an authorization form that is required to be completed within 72-hours of enrollment. 

Course Number: SCI-90038
Credit: 1.50 unit(s)

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