Searching for Life across the Universe

The age-old question of whether life exists beyond Earth continues to drive exploration. Through missions such as Europa Clipper and Dragonfly, APL is leading the exploration of ocean worlds to understand their chemistries and potential habitability. With liquid-water oceans beneath their icy surfaces, these moons share similarities with the kinds of environments where life may have emerged on Earth. APL researchers have studied the ancient wet environments on Mars to guide future exploration of the potential for past life on the planet. Through missions such as Cassini, New Horizons and Venus Express, APL researchers have studied the evolution of volatile and carbon-based molecules on numerous solar system bodies to apply to studies of rocky exoplanets. They’re using NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes to identify water vapor and clouds on these distant worlds. And they’re helping to plan the next generation of space missions, from landed missions on the ocean worlds of Europa and Enceladus to space-based telescopes that characterize atmosphere-covered rocky planets, all, ultimately, to search for signs of life.


APL has designed, built and operated more than 70 innovative spacecraft over its six decades of spaceflight experience. Click below to learn about some of the missions that made revolutionary discoveries, and spacecraft that will push the boundaries of exploration and investigate outstanding scientific mysteries.


Scientists and engineers at APL have designed, built and operated more than 300 novel space instruments and methods to conduct cutting-edge research and make groundbreaking discoveries. Click below to learn about some of these instruments and their role in shaping our understanding of space and the solar system.


Go inside APL’s space missions and research, and check out the latest news, features and discoveries from the teams that are probing mysteries from the Sun to the edge of the solar system and beyond.