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]
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 ...June 10, 2009 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
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]June 9, 2009 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
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]June 8, 2009 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
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]
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]June 3, 2009 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
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 ...May 29, 2009 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
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.May 27, 2009 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
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]
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]May 22, 2009 / Posted by: Aaron Gronstal
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]
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 ...May 20, 2009 / Posted by: Daniella Scalice
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.
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 ...
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.May 8, 2009 / Posted by: Marco Boldt
- March 30 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Geobiology in Space Exploration (GESE) Workshop on Extraterrestrial Subsurface Exploration
- March 31 - Application Deadline for 2014 Nininger Meteorite Award
- March 31 - Abstract Deadline for 2nd Planetary Data Workshop
- March 31 - Application Deadline for 2015 Santander Summer School - The Origin of Life: From Monomers to Cells
- March 31 - NASA Office of Education Scholarship and Research Opportunities
- March 31 - Abstract Submission Deadline for The Origin of Life - Second Conference on History and Philosophy of Astrobiology
- April 1 - Application Review Begins for Postdoctoral Teaching Associate in Mineralogy - University of Tennesee
- April 1 - Grant Applications for Young Participants (PhD. and Postdocs) Due for IAU XXIX General Assembly
- April 1 - Application Deadline for the Spring 2015 Gerald A. Soffen Memorial Fund Travel Grants
- April 1 - Abstract Submission Deadline for iCubeSat 2015 - 4th Interplanetary CubeSat Workshop
- April 1 - Application Deadline for the NASA Astrobiology Program Student Early Career Collaboration Awards
- April 2 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Goldschmidt 2015
- April 3 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 12th International Planetary Probe Workshop (IPPW-12)
- April 7 - Workshop on Venus Science Priorities for Laboratory Measurements and Instrument Definition
- April 9 - Venus Exploration Analysis Group (VEXAG) MEETING #12
- April 13 - Abstract Submission Deadline for NASA's Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) 2nd Annual NASA Exploration Science Forum (ESF)
- April 24 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 2nd International Congress on Stratigraphy (STRATI 2015)
- April 29 - Abstract Submission Deadline for European Planetary Science Congress 2015
- April 30 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 3rd International Workshop on Microbial Life Under Extreme Energy Limitation
- April 30 - Abstract Submission Deadline for Comparative Climates of Terrestrial Planets II: Understanding How Climate Systems Work (CCTP2)
- May 3 - Joint Assembly AGU, GAC, MAC, CGU
- May 4 - Comparative Tectonics and Geodynamics of Venus, Earth, and Rocky Exoplanets
- May 13 - Abstract Submission Deadline for 78th Annual Meeting of the Meteoritical Society