Chou, Luoth (Lu) and Natalie Grefenstette (lead authors)
The most daunting challenge in the search for life elsewhere may be contending with truly alien life. Much of the astrobiology research in the past decade has driven mission science to search for well-established, recognizable biosignatures based on Terran life. However, the probability that life in the universe would share a biochemical ancestry with life on Earth quickly diminishes the further away from Earth we explore. Thus, it is imperative that we build foundational knowledge for life detection strategies that target universal biosignatures. This report advocates that NASA invest in the development and implementation of a more inclusive framework for universal biosignatures detection. We recommend that such a framework be used to guide mission and instrument selection. Specifically we urge: (1) strong and sustained support of R&A to develop universal theories to recognize life, along with an increase in the breadth of interpretations of returned mission data; (2) support of a more diverse program of instrument developments and maturations; and (3) examination of a wider range of complementary in situ science measurements using robust statistical methods.