October 2006

Comments by NAS Space Studies Board Chair Lennard Fisk, NAS

"There is consternation these days between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and its external science community. In August, three senior science advisors were dismissed from the NASA Advisory Council (NAC). In the aftermath, the Administrator of NASA, Mike Griffin, through correspondence with the NAC and its science subcommittees and through a major speech at the Goddard Space Flight Center, clarified how NASA will manage its science program, and the role of the science community."

Director's Corner - Message from NASA Astrobiology Institute Director Carl Pilcher, NAI

"The clearest expression that astrobiology doesn't "measure up" comes from the Administrator of NASA himself, Mike Griffin. Mike has testified before Congress that he does not see astrobiology as having the same importance as other components of the NASA science portfolio. He's also been quoted as saying that it has less intrinsic subject matter, is less advanced, and that its questions are more vague. Shortly before I left NASA Headquarters I had the opportunity to have an "elevator conversation" with Mike about some of his perceptions about astrobiology."

Join us for the next University of Washington Astrobiology Seminar! George Shaw of Union College will be speaking on the topic "A (not so) Brief History of Carbon on Earth." Date/Time: Tuesday, October 24, 2:30PM PDT (11:30am HT/3:30pm MDT/4:30pm CDT/5:30pm EDT)

Andrey Bekker of the Geophysical Laboratory, and the NAI - Carnegie Institution of Washington Team and Ganqing Jiang from the Department of Geoscience, University of Nevada Las Vegas have organized a session at the upcoming Geological Society of America meeting in Philadelphia, October 22 - 25, 2006.

With this amendment to ROSES-2006, NASA establishes a new program element in Appendix A.24 entitled "International Polar Year (IPY) Education and Public Outreach."

Tom McCollum of the University of Colorado, Boulder team has recently contributed a chapter titled "The Habitability of Mars: Past and Present" that appears in the book "Solar System Update", published this summer by Praxis Publishing. The chapter summarizes current thinking about current and past conditions on Mars that might allow life to exist there.

The NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) are providing matching support towards the study of the ancient rock record of the early Earth, between 2.0 and 2.5 billion years ago. This period represents one of the critical transitions in the Earth's history as it reflects the emergence of the modern aerobic, or oxygen-rich Earth system.

SETI Institute to Announce New Astrobiology Center - The Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe

"On Tuesday, October 17, the SETI Institute will unveil a new center to study life in the universe and a fund-raising strategy to counter NASA's proposed budget cuts for astrobiology research. From 10 to 11 a.m. at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, a distinguished panel of institute trustees and staff will announce the formation of the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe. The center's activities will focus on astrobiology and be dedicated to the memory of planetary scientist and astronomer Carl Sagan. The panel will explain a new emphasis on fundraising from private sources to offset a proposed 50 percent budget cut by NASA for astrobiology research."

Exploration, Science, and Art: A Book Review of Terra Antarctica and Driving to Mars, SpaceRef

"When it comes to exploration, there's nothing like being there. Yet at some point, all explorers need to tell others what they have seen - as well as find a way to understand and recall the experience themselves. Exploration is pointless if it is not shared.

It is the process whereby explorers put new vistas and experiences into a context they can internalize - and then how these impressions are shared with others that fascinates author William Fox. In his two most recent books "Terra Antarctica" and "Driving to Mars" Fox recounts his own experiences - and those of others - at Earth's two poles."

This summer Miles Ecclestone of Trent University, returned to our camp next to Colour Lake to continue making improvements to the McGill Arctic Research Station (M.A.R.S.) as part of an infrastructure upgrade. During this time, I asked Miles to download the images from our Campbell Scientific met stations camera which is pointed across part of the airstrip and part of Colour Lake. We now have daily images (most taken at 9am and again at 1pm) from 17 April 2006 to 17 August 2006. The video contains the stream of images at about 1 second each. My previous blog provides more details of the station and the camera we use.