NAI

  1. The Search for Life on Earth


    The search for life on other worlds could prove that Earth is not the only planet capable of supporting biology. If we found life that was completely different from life on Earth, the discovery would be even more profound because it would mean that there are multiple ways in which living systems can originate and function. But what if a second genesis of life, a type of life unrelated to DNA-based life, is here on Earth? Some scientists believe we should also be searching closer to home.

    Source: [Astrobiology Magazine]

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  1. Astrobiology Night at the Ballpark


    This past weekend, minor-league baseball fans in Madison, Wisconsin got treated to an out of this world experience at the local Madison Mallards game. NAI’s Wisconsin Astrobiology Research Center (WARC) sponsored 'Astrobiology Night’ at the ballpark, and delivered a fun and educational experience for the 6250 fans in attendance.

    A rover delivered the ball to WARC researcher Eric Roden who threw out the first pitch, but that was just the beginning of the festivities. Kids and families played with extremophile trading cards and special frisbees with an astrobiology timeline printed on them. The fans also enjoyed demonstration tables where ...

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  1. A New Way to Keep Clean


    It is almost impossible to get a spacecraft completely clean before launch. Therefore, missions to other planets carry some risk of forward contamination – where microorganisms from Earth travel along with the spacecraft to its destination. This is a big problem in the search for life on planets like Mars, because you don’t want to contaminate the site you’re going to be studying. To help combat this problem, a team of scientists funded by a NASA ASTEP award have developed a new cleaning protocol that could be used for future missions to Mars and beyond.

    Source: [Astrobiology Magazine]

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  1. Calling the Planetary Police


    Today’s astrobiologists face a difficult task when building a contamination-free spacecraft. By the rules of planetary protection, the more likely a location is to harbor life, the more difficult it is to visit. Researchers are now working on new ways of sterilizing spacecraft built on Earth in the hopes that soon no place in the solar system will be off limits for exploration. A special feature concerning their work was recently published in the journal Nature.

    Source: [Nature]

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  1. Scarce Shelter on Mars


    Microbes that hitch a ride on a spacecraft might make it all the way to Mars, but a recent study finds they probably won’t survive for very long there. A team of researchers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center has been freezing, irradiating and generally pummeling microbes with harsh living conditions in an attempt to understand how life may or may not survive on Mars. The results of the research will be used in developing effective contamination controls for future missions, and may also help scientists understand how to search for biosignatures on Mars.

    Source: [Astrobiology Magazine]

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  1. Modern Alchemy


    In the past, alchemists were famous for manipulating chemicals to form unique substances in their search for ultimate wisdom and immortality. Immortality may not be the goal for Mike Russell at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories, but his work does focus on some of the most basic elements of life. Under carefully controlled conditions, he hopes to recreate the origin of life on Earth by focusing on the 'metabolism first’ model. Russell’s work, funded through the Astrobiology Program at NASA, was recently featured in the journal Nature.

    Source: [Nature]

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  1. NASA’s Weird and Wonderful Rovers


    NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers have exceeded all expectations by surviving the rigors of exploring the red planet for five years – well beyond their intended lifespans. The rovers have returned a wealth of important data about Mars, but they’ve also taught NASA engineers important lessons about navigating the surface of an alien world. These lessons have inspired a new generation of weird and wonderful rovers that are capable of climbing, crawling and jumping almost any obstacle NASA can imagine. The technology could prove invaluable in the future exploration of our solar system.

    To view a recent article from Wired ...

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  1. SETI Institute’s Seth Shostak on Colbert Report


    On May 20th, Steven Colbert of Comedy Central’s Colbert Report hosted Seth Shostak on the show to discuss his new book, Confessions of an Alien Hunter. Seth held his own against the notoriously contrary Colbert, discussing the probability of life elsewhere in the universe, and what it means if we do – and don’t – find it.

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  1. Windy, Wet and Wild


    The team behind NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers has released new results from the two years that Opportunity spent exploring Victoria Crater. Opportunity’s instruments have revealed more evidence for a windy and wet past on Mars. The findings further our understanding of the habitability of ancient Mars.

    Source: [Astrobiology Magazine]

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  1. The Search for Life in the Universe


    Astronomers searching for habitable planets in the Universe are beginning to feel more optimistic than they were a few decades ago. Our capabilities to search for distant planets have improved dramatically, and some of the most recent discoveries even look like they might be habitable. At the recent “Search for Life in the Universe” symposium, held at the Space Telescope Sciences Institute, scientists from an array of fields met to discuss recent developments and future prospects in the search for life in the Universe.

    Source: [Philadelphia Inquirer]

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  1. Probing Antarctica’s Lake Bonney


    In a project designed to help NASA plan for a future mission to explore Jupiter’s moon Europa, researchers have begun testing an autonomous underwater vehicle, known as ENDURANCE, in the ice-covered waters of Antarctica’s Lake Bonney. The biggest problem they’ve run into so far? Bubbles.

    Source: [Astrobiology Magazine]

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  1. Microbial Habitability During the Late Heavy Bombardment


    In a new paper in the current issue of Nature, NAI Postdoctoral Fellow Oleg Abramov at the University of Colorado, Boulder leads a modeling study investigating the degree of thermal metamorphism of the Late Heavy Bombardment (LHB) on the crust of the young Earth. The models were designed to recreate the effect of the LHB on the Earth as a whole, with special attention to the impact on a possible subsurface or near-surface primordial microbial biosphere.

    The team’s analyses revealed that there is no plausible situation in which the habitable zone could have been fully sterilized, at least since ...

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  1. First Native American Research Laboratories(NARL) Ignites Excitement About Astrobiology


    The University of Montana is buzzing about its first new Native American Research Laboratories. The NARL was conceptualized and established by a Native American Scientist, Professor Michael Ceballos with funding from both the National Science Foundation and NASA.

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  1. Program Solicitation in Sedimentary Geology and Paleobiology


    The National Science Foundation (NSF) has released a program solicitation for research in sedimentary geology and paleobiology. The program focuses on numerous areas of research that are significant to the science of astrobiology. Among the topics of interest cited by the NSF are: the use of fossils, plants, animals and microbes to study how life has changed over geologic time; the science of dating and measuring time and rates of processes in the Earth’s sedimentary and biological fossil record; and studying the pre-Holocene climate systems of Earth. Proposals that seek to link multiple disciplines such as paleoclimatology, paleoenvironments and ...

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  1. NAI Team Seminars Recorded and Available Online


    A series of virtual seminars highlighting the work of the NAI’s fourteen teams concluded on April 27, 2009. In successive seminars held two per week over a period of two months, each team presented their science, education and outreach and other activities. The seminars were open to all, and participants had the option of joining in by phone and web, or by videoconference. The seminars attracted audiences that ranged from ~50-80 people each, and were recorded and archived on the NAI website. The seminars may be downloaded as podcasts or viewed as web recordings that play in a browser.

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