In 2003, NASA, through the input of more than 200 scientists and technicians, finalized an Astrobiology Roadmap to outline and prioritize research and exploration pathways. The Roadmap has six goals:
Goal 1: Understand the nature and distribution of habitable environments in the Universe
Goal 2: Explore for past or present habitable environments, prebiotic chemistry and signs of life elsewhere in our Solar System.
Goal 3: Understand how life emerges from cosmic and planetary precursors
Goal 4: Understand how past life on Earth interacted with its changing planetary and Solar System environment
Goal 5: Understand the evolutionary mechanisms and environmental limits of life
Goal 6: Understand the principles that will shape the future of life, both on Earth and beyond
Goal 7: Determine how to recognize signatures of life on other worlds and on early Earth
I will be returning to this topic from time to time, especially Goal 3, which actually speaks of developing a study of universal biology.
The Roadmap can be found at <http://astrobiology.arc.nasa.gov/roadmap/index.html>, with a PDF version at <http://astrobiology.arc.nasa.gov/roadmap/AB%20RoadmapBrochure.pdf> (as of 2 December 2007).