Europlanet Science Congress 2021
Virtual meeting
13 – 24 September 2021
Europlanet Science Congress 2021
Virtual meeting
13 September – 24 September 2021
EPSC Abstracts
Vol. 15, EPSC2021-284, 2021, updated on 21 Jul 2021
European Planetary Science Congress 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

The Large Interferometer For Exoplanets (LIFE) mission: status and progress report

Daniel Angerhausen1,2, Sascha Quanz1,2, and the LIFE collaboration*
Daniel Angerhausen and Sascha Quanz and the LIFE collaboration
  • 1ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland
  • 2National Center for Competence in Research (NCCR) PlanetS, Switzerland
  • *A full list of authors appears at the end of the abstract


The Large Interferometer For Exoplanets (LIFE) mission concept is a project initiated in Europe with the goal to consolidate various efforts and define a road map that eventually leads to the launch of a large, space-based mid-infrared (MIR) nulling interferometer observatory. This mission will be able to investigate the atmospheric properties of a large sample of  terrestrial, potentially habitable exoplanets. In this contribution we present a status report and summarize new results from the LIFE Mission initiative. 


One of the major goals of exoplanetary science and possibly the most challenging question in 21st century exoplanet research is the investigation of the atmospheric properties for a large number (~100) of terrestrial exoplanets. This is only partially driven by the idea to search for habitable conditions and identify potential biosignatures, since such a statistically significant data-set is - in a more general sense - invaluable for understanding the diversity of planetary bodies. First steps in this direction will be taken in the coming 10-15 years with funded or selected ground- and space-based projects and missions. And while exoplanet science is omnipresent on the road maps of all major space agencies, none of them will be able to deliver such a comprehensive and consistent, big data set. An alternative to the mainly discussed large space-based coronographic missions or the starshade concept is to separate the light emitted by the planet from that of its host star by means of an interferometer.
In this contribution we summarize new results from the LIFE Mission initiative, which addresses this issue by investigating the scientific potential and technological challenges of an ambitious mission employing a formation-flying nulling interferometer in space working at mid-infrared wavelengths [1,2,3]. Centered around clear and ambitious scientific objectives the project will define the relevant science and technical requirements. The status of key technologies will be re-assessed and further technology development will be coordinated. LIFE is based on the heritage of ESA/Darwin and NASA/TPF-I, but significant advances in our understanding of exoplanets and newly available technologies will be taken into account in the LIFE mission concept. Advances in our knowledge of the exoplanet population as well as significant progress in relevant technologies justify the need, but also the feasibility for a future mission like LIFE to investigate one of the most fundamental questions of mankind: How unique is the phenomenon we call life in the universe?