Colloquium: The LIFE initiative
The LIFE initiative has the goal to develop the science, the technology and a roadmap for an ambitious mid-infrared nulling interferometer space mission that will allow humankind to detect and characterize the atmospheres of hundreds of nearby extrasolar planets including dozens that are similar to Earth. Given the recent outcome of ESA’s "Voyage 2050" process and the corresponding recommendations from the ESA Senior Committee, the direct detection of the thermal emission of temperate terrestrial exoplanets is given very high scientific priority in ESA's future science program and is considered as a candidate theme for a future L-class mission. In this talk I will discuss the unique discovery space for a mid-infrared mission, in particular for the detection of atmospheric biosignatures in exoplanets. Synergies between LIFE, ground-based efforts with the ELTs, and future NASA flagship missions will be emphasized and a short overview of ongoing technology developments and related challenges will be given.