The Origin and Evolution of Life:
A Product of Cosmic, Planetary, and Biological Processes

This illustration represents the host of natural phenomena which collectively have created life as we know it. Life apparently requires a solar system having a planet with "suitable" conditions such as liquid water, nutrients, and sources of energy. Interactions between various substances and energy yielded the autocatalytic systems capable of passing information from one generation to the next, and the thread of life began. This thread, which has been maintained by DNA molecules for much of its history, is shown weaving its way through the primitive oceans, gaining strength, and gradually acquiring the lineages of organisms whose descendants populate our modern biosphere.Plants and animals then moved onto the land, where more advanced forms, including humanity, ultimately arose. Finally, assisted with a technology of its own making, life has reached back out into space to understand its own origins, to expand into new realms, and to seek other living threads in the cosmos.


Click on the image above to learn about these phases in the emergence of life...

NASA's Planetary Biology Program

The Planetary Biology Program is chartered to investigate the origin and evolution of life. This research combines the talents of biologists, chemists, physicists, geologists, and astronomers into a multidisciplinary program which utilizes NASA's unique capabilities for technology, space flight, and exploration.

This Program's major areas of research address the chemistry of biologically important elements and compounds in interstellar space and in the solar system, the processes on the prebiotic Earth leading to the origin of life, the evidence in fossils and microorganisms regarding early evolution, and the search for life elsewhere in the cosmos.


Phases in the emergence of life...

  1. Evolution of the Cosmos
  2. The Prebiotic Earth
  3. The Early Evolution of Life
  4. Evolution of Advanced Life
  5. The Future