Skip to Content

In response to COVID-19 health guidelines, we have restructured most of our in-person Junior Academy workshops as online courses. This in-person workshop has been canceled and will not be offered as an online course. Please see our available online courses to find other topics that may interest you. If you have registered for this course, you will receive a refund. Contact us at if you have questions.

Explore Astrobiology and Life in Extreme Environments


If there is life beyond our planet, what does it look like? Astrobiologists explore that question in part by looking at how organisms have evolved to live in the most extreme environments on Earth.

We will survey locations on Earth where conditions approach the limits of survival – places like Antarctica’s ancient red waterfall, the deadly Crystal Caves in Mexico and the Challenger Deep. Students will learn about adaptations that allow organisms to live in these harsh environments. They will get an introduction to microscopy and examine extremophile microbes such as diatoms, tardigrades and nematodes. We will also look at conditions on some of the potentially habitable planets that astronomers have discovered. Students will design a planet that could sustain life and plan an astrobiology mission to Mars. This inspiring course will prepare students for further studies in astronomy, microbiology and related fields.

What You Will Learn

  • Learn about the characteristics of potentially habitable planets beyond Earth
  • Explore the conditions that are necessary for life to exist
  • Survey extreme environments on Earth, including the Challenger Deep, polar deserts and Crystal Caves of Mexico
  • Learn about the adaptations that allow life to survive in these extreme places
  • Get an introduction to microscopy and examine extremophile organisms
  • Review the history of NASA’s efforts to find extraterrestrial life
  • Design a planet that could sustain life and plan an astrobiology mission to Mars

Return to the Sally Ride Science Junior Academy website here.

Course Number: WKSP-90059
Credit: 0.00 unit(s)