Abstract. We still have remarkably few answers to questions about the fecundity of the universe, and how our own astrophysical and biological circumstances might compare to those elsewhere. Nonetheless, major advances are being made in solar system exploration and exoplanetary science that are starting to reveal parts of the puzzle. I'll review key motivations and discoveries in the modern quest to find life in the universe, and discuss several areas of particular interest: From icy moons to simulated Earth-analog worlds, and the nature of planetary infestation. In all cases, complexity and contingency are centrally important.