MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIF—If you want to know where you're going, it helps to know where you've been. Nowhere was that more true than at the third Astrobiology Science Conference, which began here on Sunday (March 28) and runs through Thursday at the NASA Ames Research Center.

The conference, which drew more than 700 participants, according to organizer Lynn Rothschild, a NASA Ames research scientist, focused on three questions: “Where do we come from?” “Are we alone?” and “Where are we going?” Previous efforts have focused on the first two questions, while giving short shrift to the third, Rothschild told The Scientist. “I think astrobiology has grown as a discipline,” she said. Last year, NASA issued a final version of its Astrobiology Roadmap.

The Mars expeditions may be the focus of much attention right now—and there was buzz here earlier in the week about data on “concretions”...

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