At the Carl Sagan Institute inauguration, Jonathan Lunine, Cornell’s David Duncan Professor of Astronomy (formerly Sagan’s chair), showed how missions in our own solar system are part of the endeavor to find life, by understanding potentially habitable places like Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. Reading the Titan essay from Sagan’s “Broca’s Brain,” Lunine noted: “Carl says, ‘Despite the low temperatures, it is by no means impossible that there is a Titanian biology.’ So if Carl writes that, I think it is worth going to look,” he said.
Lunine is interested in how planets form and evolve, what processes maintain and establish habitability, and what is the range of environments that can host “life, broadly construed.” He pursues these interests through theoretical modeling and participation in spacecraft missions. He is an interdisciplinary scientist on the Cassini-Huygens mission and the James Webb Space Telescope, co-I on the Juno mission to Jupiter, and PI of the ELF proposal to search for life on Enceladus. Lunine is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and co-chaired the Human Spaceflight Study for the NRC.