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Exploratour: NASA's Exploration for Life

Polar Bear
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy of Corel Photography

The Animal Kingdom

Our view of "Life", that is life as we know it on Earth, may bias our view of where life ought to be found elsewhere in the solar system. When you think of "life", what image comes to mind? A careful look at *all* the varieties of life on Earth may help us understand more about life's potential to survive in environments which are very different from that of the Earth.

First, life may be "multicellular". This means they are made of many cells, like a dog or cat. Or they may be made of only one cell, like bacteria. Second, most forms of life get their food by eating other organisms. Other life forms don't have to eat because they can use the Sun's energy to make their own food. All life forms seem to need oxygen to survive, but that is not always the case.

Here's a brief summary of life on Earth.

The Animal Kingdom

  • mammals
    • elephants, rodents, etc
  • arthropods
    • insects, crabs
  • reptiles
is multi-cellular and complex

The Monera Kingdom

  • bacteria
  • archaea
is procaryotic; unicellular, no membrane-bound organelle nor nuclei.

The Plant Kingdom

  • trees, flowers, etc
varies from multi-cellular to eucaryotic; unicellular, with membrane-bound organelle and nuclei

The Protista Kingdom

  • Amoeba, etc.
Protists can be unicellular, multicellular or colonial. Some move around and act like animals, others perform photosynthesis like plants

The Fungi Kingdom

  • athletes foot, etc
resembles animals; cannot make its own food through photosynthesis; consumes organic matter.



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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA