Astrobiology – a new opportunity for interdisciplinary thinking
During the past decade new questions in science have emerged that require broad inter-disciplinary approaches. 'Do asteroids and comets cause extinctions?' and 'Was there, or is there, life on Mars?' are just two examples of questions that cut across planetary or astronomical sciences and biological sciences. The re-emergent science of 'astrobiology' represents a new synthesis of interdisciplinary thinking that in many respects bears similarities to what in the 18th and 19th century would have been called 'Natural Sciences'. But new astrobiology offers the scientific community, including the space community, two important possibilities. First, an opportunity to galvanize diverse scientific disciplines together to answer some fundamental questions on the relationship between life and the cosmic environment and, second, a chance to create a new environment conducive to interdisciplinary thinking. This is in contrast to the general trend that occurred during the 20th century towards increasing specialization in the sciences. During the 21st century astrobiology has the potential to open rich and productive seams of research.