July 2006

EVA Med Evac Sim experiment preparations

EVA Med Evac Simulation Objectives

Preparations are still underway for the EVA med evac sim, which will take place on Monday. The following is a breakdown of the objectives of the experiment, provided by Dr. Rick Scheuring, DO, MS, Advanced Projects/Flight Surgeon (NASA-JSC).

EVA Med Evac Simulation Update

"Progress continued today on the med evac simulation, and things are shaping up well for tomorrow's test."

A Closer Look at NASA's GeneBox Payload, SpaceRef

"This first flight of Genesis is primarily a proof of concept mission for larger inflatable modules. However, it also carries some interesting scientific hardware, which could serve as the basis for future small free flying satellites - often referred to as smallsats or nanosats. Named "GeneBox", this small payload was developed by NASA Ames Research Center to test out new ways to perform in-flight genomic analysis of living systems. Indeed, much of what is being flown aboard this satellite is cutting edge biotech - the likes of which have yet to fly aboard the International Space Station. Future versions will be even more capable."

Automated Drilling Field Demonstrations Exceed Goals, Go "Naked" in Haughton Crater 2006 DAME Tests

To look for ice or especially organics on Mars, we will need to drill below the oxidized and irradiated surface, probably at least 1-2m. Hardened subsurface ice layers aren't going to be addressed with lightweight scoops on manipulator arms, drills will be needed. But drilling is an art form on Earth, even "automated" offshore oil drilling platforms have control rooms full of people watching and adjusting the drilling.

The Mars Institute's Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse on Devon Island now has two webcams available for public viewing. One camera shows a view of the greenhouse and surroundings from the outside and the other shows some of the internal plant growth trays. Images are updated once a day. Click on image to enlarge

  • The Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse Field Season 2006: Mission Accomplished!
  • Cassini Radar Finds Hydrocarbon Lakes on Titan

    "The Cassini spacecraft, using its radar system, has discovered very strong evidence for hydrocarbon lakes on Titan. Dark patches, which resemble terrestrial lakes, seem to be sprinkled all over the high latitudes surrounding Titan's north pole. Scientists have speculated that liquid methane or ethane might form lakes on Titan, particularly near the somewhat colder polar regions."

    NASA Mars Picture of the Day: Gullied Recesses

    "This image shows gullies on the wall of a martian south mid-latitude impact crater. The channels in each gully head beneath an eroding overhang of layered rock, providing support for the hypothesis that someif not allmartian gullies result from release of groundwater to the surface."

    Aerial Photo of the Haughton-Mars Project Research Station (HMP RS) on Devon Island, High Arctic, taken from a helicopter on July 20, 2006.

    [Larger panorama]

    Towards the end of our summer expedition while flying back to Eureka from our camp on Axel Heiberg, I spotted a lake with what appeared to be green ice on it.

    Haughton-Mars Project Expedition 2005: Interplanetary Supply Chain Management & Logistics Architectures: Final NASA/MIT Report

    "From an exploration perspective we found that HMP despite the identified differences with a Lunar or Martian base is an ideal research environment for interplanetary logistics, because it: ..."

    Mars Institute HMP Research Station Astrobiology Update 21 July 2006

    Dr. Richard Lveill, Visiting Fellow in astrobiology at the Canadian Space Agency: "The first question I am investigating is did impact-induced hydrothermal systems (i.e. hot springs created by the force of the impact) at Haughton support chemosynthetic microbial ecosystems? The second question I am trying to answer is what is the nature and origin of Mars-like minerals in ancient lake sediments found in the Haughton Crater?"

    The NAI has awarded $4000 to support student participation in "Changes in Ocean and Atmospheric redox state and the evolution of life" session of the 2006 GSA Annual Meeting.

    It's that time again for NAI's Annual Report. Annual report entries are collected by team and published on the NAI webpage in the "team" section. Reports include science projects, team members, and publications, as well as Education and Public Outreach, Focus Group activities, and other special projects.

    Mars Institute HMP Research Station Update for July 19, 2006

    Another busy day at the Haughton-Mars Project Research Station (HMP RS). As we approach the mid-point in the field season, researchers are making significant strides on a number of fronts for their respective projects. Traverses were led to the Trinity Lake region and into the Haughton Impact structure to study geology and biochemistry, while the DAME autonomous drilling team continued to refine their operations and attain new milestones. As reported yesterday, the CSA team working in the Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse continued with their ambitious schedule and are continuing to report successes. Construction and upgrades to the HMP RS facility are also proceeding very well.

    Click on image to view video (Quicktime required)

    The Campbell Scientific met station (automated weather station) we installed last April at M.A.R.S includes an enclosed digital camera (CC640) that is programmed to acquire two images per day - one at 9 am and another at 1 pm local time.

    Join NAI for the Polycom and WebEx broadcast of the second annual Summer Student Seminar Series. The talks will be given on Friday, July 28th and Friday August 11th at 12:00pm PDT (9:00am HT/1:00pm MDT/2:00pm CDT/3:00pm EDT.)

    In October, 2005, NAI began an innovative, pilot project focused on creating educational materials that weave together NASA science and Navajo cultural teachings. To mark the end of the project and the beginning of new collaborations, NAI is hosting a "Sustainability Seminar" in Window Rock, Arizona - the seat of the Navajo Nation - on August 10-11, 2006.

    NAI Postdoctoral Fellowship Program Accepting Applications: Deadline August 1
    A reminder applications are now being accepted for the August 1 cycle of the NAI Postdoctoral Program, administered by Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU).

    Research Activities in the Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse - July 2006 Update

    "Our autonomous greenhouse in the Arctic produces and manages its own power, has its own communications system for command and telemetry, and a robust data acquisition and control system for making measurements and maintaining the environment in the greenhouse. This project began in 2002 and every year we improve the systems and make them more reliable and more robust."

    Bigelow Spacecraft Carries NASA 'GeneBox' for Tests in Orbit, NASA ARC

    "On July 12, a Russian rocket lofted 'GeneBox' into Earth orbit within Bigelow Corporation's Genesis I test spacecraft. Attached to the large inflatable spacecraft's internal structure, GeneBox contains a miniature laboratory. In future flights, it will analyze how the near weightlessness of space affects genes in microscopic cells and other small life forms."

    During our trip north in April, we installed another Campbell Scientific met station (automated weather station) to replace the one that has been at the McGill Arctic Research Station (M.A.R.S.) since 1992.

    The new station sports all new sensors and the latest datalogger from Campbell, the CR1000 as well as their enclosed digital camera (CC640).

    Undersea Vehicles to Study Formation of Gold and Other Precious Metals On the Pacific Ocean Floor, WHOI

    "The joint expedition includes a 32-day WHOI research program funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation to the Pacmanus vent sites in the Eastern Manus Basin. The remotely operated vehicle Jason will be used to survey and map the vent areas around an Ocean Drilling Program hole drilled in 2000."

    "We drove a half hour out of town to the first transect site. The teachers separated and went with different scientist to collect samples of the rocks and soil. Our sampling tools consisted of sterile spoons, plastic gloves and zip-lock baggies. The scientists are all passionate about their work here and the teachers are excited to be doing real science along side the scientists. We were still working out the kinks of cooperation and communication. We kept hearing the term "herding cats", which was a good description of the progress of our group."

    Daily field reports are listed below:

    Descent Into the Ice, NOVA, PBS

    "A team of "glacionauts" ventures into a labyrinth of unexplored and hazardous glacier caves on France's Mt. Blanc."

    Editor's note: Highly recommended.

    Email Memo from Senate Appropriations Committee Staff Regarding Mikulski - Hutchison Amendment on NASA FY 2007 Budget

    "The amendment they will offer in Committee will provide $1 billion to the NASA Administrator to pay-back the costs of returning the Shuttle to flight and restore cuts to science, aeronautics and exploration programs that were cut in order to pay for the return to flight. The $1 billion will be declared an emergency under the terms of the budget act and budget resolution."

    Legislative Action Memo From the American Society for Gravitational and Space Biology (ASGSB)

    "Remember: Doing nothing will get us nothing."

    SETI Institute to Astrobiology Community Regarding NASA Budget Process

    "Once again we write you from the SETI Institute to alert you to an important moment in the NASA budget approval process. Your help is needed."

    With NAI support, the Evolutionary Genomics Focus Group hosted a one-day symposium on Friday, May 26th, at Arizona State University. Blair Hedges (Penn State) organized the event, which featured 15 speakers from the U.S. and Europe and more than 100 participants, during the annual meeting for the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.

    Researchers from NAI's University of Rhode Island Team and their colleagues have studied the use of phosphorus vs. sulfur in the membrane lipid sythesis pathways of organisms resident in the ocean's subtropical gyres.

    NAI's Virtual Planetary Laboratory Team have explored the possibility of detecting exovegetation on terrestrial planets orbiting M stars. They estimated the red-shift of this surface feature using leaf optical property spectra with a three photon photosynthetic scheme. The authors have produced a model wherein a pigment-derived surface signature such as exovegetation could be detected, but would be dependent upon the extent of the vegetation on the surface, cloud cover, and viewing angle.

    July 24 - August 11, 2006, Honolulu, Hawaii. The University of Hawaii Astrobiology Institute (UH-NAI) is hosting the Computational Astrobiology Summer School from July 24 until August 11, 2006. This is an excellent opportunity for graduate students in computer science and related areas to learn about astrobiology, and to carry out substantial projects related to the field.

    The third Pale Blue Dot workshop will be held at the Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum in Chicago from 17-20 September, 2006. (The first two Pale Blue Dot workshops were held at NASA Ames Research Center in 1996 and 1999.) Many NAI members are on the program organizing committee, including the Chair Vikki Meadows, and NAI is a co-convenor of the meeting along with Adler.

    16-18 Oct. 2006 Lyon, France The deadline for registration, abstract submission and travel grants applications has been extended to 14 July 2006. You can register and submit contributions to the 6th European Workshop on Astrobiology (16-18 Oct. 2006, Lyon, France) at [Source: NAI Newsletter]

    The NAI will be video broadcasting a two-part series of seminars presented by students conducting research this summer with various NAI teams. Last year's series was a great success with high quality research, professionally presented.

    Oxygen Trapped in Europa's Icy Surface May Offer Clues to Moon's Habitability, Astrobiology

    "Astrobiology is the leading peer-reviewed journal in its field. To promote this developing field, the Journal has teamed up with The Astrobiology Web to highlight one outstanding paper per issue of Astrobiology. This paper is available free online at and to visitors of The Astrobiology Web at"

    The Mars Institute Core Team Arrives in Resolute Bay, Nunavut

    "The first charter plane arrived in Resolute Bay yesterday on schedule with the initial Mars Institute core team and cargo. Another charter with personnel and cargo is scheduled to arrive in Resolute on Wednesday, July 5th."