Archives

May 2006


Presentations and papers from the recent NASA Principal Investigator Lessons Learned workshop are now available on the Science Mission Directorate website: http://science.hq.nasa.gov/research/041106.html

MARS Journal open for submissions

The MARS Journal, a new online peer reviewed open access journal, is now open for submission of manuscripts. The MARS Journal will publish scholarly papers in three general categories:

Mars Science: Observations, data, theory, models, and reviews of scientific literature Mars Technology: Instruments, spacecraft, missions, tools and techniques, and software Mars Policy: Exploration strategy, economics, planetary protection, history, and commentary Be among the first to publish (for free) in The MARS Journal.

See: http://marsjournal.org

Greenhouse Webcam 2 Editor's note: The Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse woke up several weeks ago. Located at the Mars Institute's HMP Research Station on Devon Island, this greenhouse has several webcams located inside which are now sending back images on a more or less daily basis. Webcam 2 looks south at the growing trays. Webcam 3 looks north at the heating system. Note: ignore the date stamp on these webcam images - apparently both cameras lost track of time during the several months of darkness when they were inactive.

During fall 2005 there was some unusual activity in and around the greenhouse and the report listed below describes what is known to date. Another update to this report will follow soon.

Astrobiology 2.0

Saving Astrobiology at NASA

"Astrobiology emerged at a time when NASA was in a state of flux and ARC and other field centers were faced with possible closure or drastic cutbacks. The community that formed around this nascent program at ARC turned adversity and uncertainty into opportunity and built a rich program out of that chaos. Now tough times are here again. Take a hard look at astrobiology and don't be afraid to respond to this challenge by looking at ways to make it more efficient as well as more relevant to the President's stated vision."

The Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University is pleased to announce the 40th Anniversary of the Nininger Award for undergraduate and graduate students pursuing research in meteoritical sciences.

The NAI sponsored workshop of the Europa Focus Group at NASA Ames Research Center, from February 27 - 28, 2006, involvied 115 participants. Presentations from this successful meeting are now available at: http://astrobiology.asu.edu/focus/europa/discuss/discuss.html

"Review of the Next Decade Mars Architecture" is tentatively scheduled for release during June. However, release dates of National Academies reports depend on successful completion of the review process and on printing schedules.

This report evaluates NASA's Mars exploration program for the next 10 years, and looks at whether it optimizes scientific returns, given the agency's current funding limitations. The report also discusses whether the program incorporates findings from current missions and follows guidelines outlined in a previous report from the Research Council.

Toward an Integrated Arctic Observing Network, Committee on Designing an Arctic Observing Network, National Research Council

ISBN: 0-309-10052-6, 128 pages, 8 1/2 x 11, paperback (2006)

This report outlines the potential scope, composition, and implementation strategy for an arctic observing network (AON). Such an integrated, complete, dynamic, and multidisciplinary environmental observing network will improve societys understanding of and ability to respond to ongoing systemic changes in the Arctic and its capability to anticipate, predict, and respond to future change both in the Arctic and around the globe.

From Tom Pierson, SETI Institute: Jack Farmer wrote: Dear Tom: I wanted to draw your attention to a new television feature called "Looking for Life" that involves a collaboration between Macquarie University and NASA's Passport to Knowledge (public television's longest running series of interactive learning adventures). This new Passport to Knowledge, provides a broadly based survey of Astrobiology (see show description below). It will air on NASA Select and Public Broadcasting Service stations later this month (see schedule below).

Live TV of NASA Explorer School Teachers at Atacama Desert Moon/Mars Analog Research Site, NASA ARC Quest

"What are seven NASA Explorer School teachers doing in the Atacama desert in Chile? They are studying side-by-side with NASA scientists who search for life in extreme environments, closely approximating what they expect to find on other planets. Why the Atacama -- an inhospitable, seemingly lifeless, sun drenched spot that is probably the driest place on Earth? This natural environment on Earth poses some of the same challenges for human explorers as would a seemingly lifeless planet."

Campaign Update: The Planetary Society Takes the Fight to Washington

"In contrast to Kennedy's vision, the fiscal year 2007 budget proposed for NASA contains cuts that threaten to end the era of exploration that brought us the Hubble Space Telescope, Mars Exploration Rovers, Cassini-Huygens at Saturn, Deep Impact and Stardust. The Administration proposes to drastically cut future space science, especially astrobiology research; to stop work on new missions to Europa and to find terrestrial planets; and to not include Mars planning in the Vision for Space Exploration.The presentation is part of the Society's SOS (Save Our Science) campaign, and will be hosted in conjunction with the House Science Committee."

"Along with the presentation the Society is also launching an ad campaign, calling on Congress to preserve funding for space science. Prominent advertisements, featuring a trash can and the slogan "Don't Trash Space Science!" will appear on May 25 in the Washington Post and Congress's own Roll Call."

The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Management International (IODP-MI) and Joint Oceanographic Institutions (JOI) announce an international workshop on subseafloor life. The workshop will be held in Vancouver, British Columbia, October 3-5, 2006.

Extremophiles 2006

September 17-21 2006, Brest, Brittany, France

Extremophiles 2006 International Conference will be held at the Quartz Congress Hall, Brest, Brittany, France, from 17th to 21nd September 2006. After the series of successful conferences since 1996, Extremophiles 2006 will offer an exciting opportunity for the colleagues to share the latest scientific knowledge in this fascinating field and to enjoy the remarkable and breathtaking natural beauty of the very western part of Brittany.

Abstract Deadline: May 31, 2006
Early Registration Deadline: May 31, 2006

For more information: http://www.extremophiles2006.org/

EANA Workshop

The 6th workshop of the European Astrobiology Network Association (EANA) will be held the 16-18th October 2006 at the Ecole Normale Suprieure de Lyon, France. This workshop will address all the main topics of astrobiology, as described at the website, http://eana06.univ-lyon1.fr/.

National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) Postdoctoral Fellowship Program soliciting applications

"The National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) is soliciting applications for its Postdoctoral Fellowship Program. Two-year fellowships are available in any U.S. laboratory carrying out space-related biomedical or biotechnological research that supports the NSBRI's goals. NSBRI research addresses and seeks solutions to the various health concerns associated with long-duration human space exploration."

Klyuchevsky Volcano Expedition

The NAI is sponsoring an expedition to one of the Earth's most active volcanic regions. Jake Maule of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, will lead the expedition to the Klyuchevsky Volcano group in eastern Russia, from August to October of 2006. Developed under guidance of the Kamchatka Tiger Team, including representatives of the NAI, the Russian Astrobiology Center and the Australian Centre for Astrobiology, the expedition will obtain microbial mats, gas, water, mud, and rock samples from drill sites and vents in the hot springs and permafrost of the Kamchatkan peninsula. (POC: Jake Maule: j.maule@gl.ciw.edu)

The NAI is very pleased to announce that it will be accepting applications for the August 1 cycle of the NAI Postdoctoral Program, administered by Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU).

The 19th UCL (University College London) Astronomy Colloquium: "Astrobiology" will be held at Cumberland Lodge, Windsor Great Park, from Monday 10 (noon) to Thursday 13 (morning) July 2006.

Applications are now being accepted for the 2006 Gordon Research Conference on the Origin of Life, at Bates College, Maine, July 23-28. Please visit http://www.grc.org/programs/2006/origin.htm for more information. Due to the the first Origin of Life Graduate Research Seminar being held in conjunction with the regular GRC OOL, a significant response is anticipated. Applicants are encouraged to apply early.

20 - 21 June, 2006, Shine Dome, Australian Academy of Science, Gordon Street, Acton, ACT

This conference is convened to pay tribute to the work of Paul Davies, following the occasion of his 60th birthday (4.22.2006). Davies' publications explore pathways starting from the Big Bang, subatomic particles, atoms and molecules, through to the origin of life and intelligence, realms of human consciousness and spiritual dimensions, and leading to the motto "We were meant to be here." (Davies, 1998). For more information: http://www.manningclark.org.au/events/stars/index.html

The Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum and the NAI (http://nai.arc.nasa.gov/) are co-convening the third Pale Blue Dot workshop, which is made possible by the Brinson Foundation. Pale Blue Dot III will provide a venue to forge links between terrestrial and astronomical biosignatures, and to develop ideas and methods that may be used for the detection of life beyond Earth. Pale Blue Dot III will also establish a two way dialogue between scientists and media that will facilitate lasting relationships, better media coverage of science, and enhanced public awareness and understanding of science.

NRC On Value of Astrobiology

An Assessment of Balance in NASA's Science Programs, National Research Council

"[Page 20]: "The decadal surveys for astrophysics and for solar system exploration both embraced astrobiology as a key component of their programs, with the questions encompassed by astrobiology serving as overarching themes for the programs as a whole. The missions put forward in the solar system exploration survey are all key missions in astrobiology, whether they are labeled as such or not. And issues and missions related to astrobiology represent one of the key areas of interest identified in the astronomy and astrophysics communities.

NAC Science Committee Presentation

NASA Advisory Council Science Committee Presentation 18 May 2006

Astrobiology

- These scientific investigations support NASA's strategic goals. In addition, this program is particularly attractive to the general public.
- Science Committee recommendation: NASA's Astrobiology Program shuld have been treated in the same way as any other R&A program, and should be in future planning.

Planetary Science Summer School

Session 1: July 24 - July 28, 2006 (18 participants)
Session 2: July 31 - August 4, 2006 (18 participants)
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

Applications are due May 15, 2006, for NASA's 18th Annual Planetary Science Summer School, which will hold two sessions this summer, July 24-28 and July 31 -August 4, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. Science and engineering post-doctoral and graduate students with a strong interest in careers in planetary exploration are encouraged to apply. Preference is given to U.S. citizens.

NASA Budget: Crisis Deepens as Scientists Fail to Rejigger Space Research, Science

"... and NASA Administrator Michael Griffin in accepts a portion of the blame. "I made a mistake," Griffin told NASA's new science advisory panel. "I made commitments in advance that I wasn't able to keep," referring to his 2005 promise not to shift money from science to human space flight. NASA's current budget request would trim more than $3 billion from space science through 2011."

Outspoken: Mike Griffin on the NASA budget, Nature

"I did think astrobiology was less important than traditional space science. It had less intrinsic subject matter to it, and was less advanced. If the community rises up and says it should be funded, we'll rethink it."

Report of the NASA Advisory Council Planetary Science Subcommittee

"The cuts to the astrobiology Program, apparently made in the absence of advice from the scientific community, are particularly damaging. First, even if a 50% cut to an R&A program were warranted on scientific grounds, because many awards are for multiple years, the implementation of such a reduction over 1 or even 2 years means that many of the research projects that will be terminated, sharply reduced, or simply not started will include some of those most highly rated by the peer review process. Moreover, the central scientific themes of astrobiology underpin strategic plans for the exploration of Mars and the outer solar system, inform plans for the renewed exploration of the Moon, and constitute the basis for elements of the plans of the Astrophysics Division to characterize the habitability of planets around other stars. Targeting the astrobiology Program for anomalously large cuts is sufficiently inconsistent with the rationale enunciated for a broad sweep of SMD programs that budgetary restoration for that program should receive immediate attention."

Outspoken: Mike Griffin on the NASA budget," Nature

Deep cuts to NASA astrobiology - Griffin: "I did think astrobiology was less important than traditional space science. It had less intrinsic subject matter to it, and was less advanced. If the community rises up and says it should be funded, we'll rethink it."

NASA Lacks Resources Needed to Sustain Vigorous Science Program, National Academy of Sciences

Report: "An assessment of Balance in NASA's Science Programs" [excerpt Page 20]: "The decadal surveys for astrophysics and for solar system exploration both embraced astrobiology as a key component of their programs, with the questions encompassed by astrobiology serving as overarching themes for the programs as a whole. The missions put forward in the solar system exploration survey are all key missions in astrobiology, whether they are labeled as such or not. And issues and missions related to astrobiology represent one of the key areas of interest identified in the astronomy and astrophysics communities.