Astrobiology and space exploration have received growing attention within the last phase of Framework Programme 7 of the European Commission, e.g., with EuroPlaNet (European Planetology Network), CAREX (Coordination Action for Research Activities on life in Extreme Environments), THESEUS (Towards Human Exploration of Space: a EUropean Strategy) and HAMLET (Human model MATROSHKA for radiation exposure determination of astronauts). In addition, ESA has initiated an intense research program by providing and operating several space exposure facilities (Spacelab cargo bay, ERA on EURECA, BIOPAN on Foton, EXPOSE on ISS) to study  the responses of chemical and biological test systems to space.

Article 189 of the TFEU (Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union) specifically mentions that the Union should “promote joint initiatives, support research and technological development and coordinate the efforts needed for the exploration and exploitation of space."

Noting that Europe is an integrated partner in most major international space exploration initiatives, the Space Advisory Group of the European Commission recommended that Europe should prepare a European vision for space exploration and invest its key competences in this international enterprise.

The 5th Call of the European Commission within FP7 invited proposals for research activity roadmaps concentrating on planetary exploration and astrobiology - among other disciplines. Following this call, the proposal `AstRoMap' was formulated and proposed under the coordination of INTA-CAB (Spain), and was selected for implementation.

Description of AstRoMap and its workplan

AstRoMap tackles the issues of:

  • Defining future scientific priorities and recommend research activities in the field of astrobiology, thereby developing a European research roadmap for astrobiology.
  • IImproving the knowledge of the scientific field of astrobiology in Europe and beyond,
  • Providing new networking tools and opportunity

In the context of AstRoMap, astrobiology has to be understood as the study of the origin, evolution and distribution of life in the context of cosmic evolution. This includes habitability in the Solar System and beyond.

To achieve its objectives, AstRoMap will span over four areas of activities:

Community consultation

This will include:

  • perform a wide consultation on current and future research perspectives and priorities in astrobiology
  • Map the astrobiology and planetary sciences landscape in Europe and beyond.
  • Developing modern tools to facilitate networking and exchange of information within the research community


On the basis of the feedbacks from the community consultation and on dedicated surveys, expert workshops will be organised to discuss and reach consensus on research priorities in the field of astrobiology. Four workshops will be organised, each with a different topic:

  • Origin of organic compounds, steps to life
  • Physico-chemical boundary conditions for habitability
  • Biosignatures as facilitating life detection
  • Origin of Solar system

 Each workshop will be structured according to the following steps:

  1. Definition of the science goals
  2. Identification of knowledge gaps - Science and technology
  3. Suggested missions/instrumentation and experiments to reach the goals

In addition, the following three cross-cutting activities will be discussed during the workshops, if relevant:

  • Earth analogues: How Earth analogues can contribute to identifying putative extraterrestrial habitats and be used for testing technology?
  • Planetary protection: What are the conditions and requirements for planetary protection and planetary ethics?
  • Technology: Which new technologies need to be developed for space missions whose objectives are to answer the questions defined in the workshops ?

Astrobiology road-mapping

Based on the results and major conclusions elaborated during the workshops, an astrobiology roadmap will be defined taking into account the European needs and competences.


The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme [FP7/2007-2013] under grant agreement 

WORKSHOP - Origin of the solar system - The astrobiology point of view


  • Role of Mineral Surfaces on Prebiotic Evolution of Organicsin Space (J.R. Brucato) - Download
  • Organic Molecules and Meteorites (Bro. R. Macke) - Download
  • Ion bombardment of materials relevant to Astrobiology (G. Strazzulla) - Download
  • HyperspectralVesta: exploring composition and evolution (E. Palomba) - Download
  • Unveiling the dynamical history of the young solar system (K. Tsiganis) - Download
  • Presentation (D. Billi) - Download
  • The Role of Water in Understanding the Formation of the Solar System (D. Turrini) - Download