March 2007

Haughton Mars Project Research Station Photo Report - Aerial Views, Mars Institute

"In February the Mars Institute undertook its annual trip to the high arctic for talks with local communities and had the opportunity for an aerial survey of the HMP Research Station. Some of those photographs are now online."

Mars Institute

Haughton-Mars Project

One of the most satisfying aspects of astrobiology is the quality of the students and young researchers it attracts. I am particularly gratified by the quality of a recent applicant pool to the NAI Postdoctoral Fellowship Program (a part of the NASA Postdoctoral Program administered by the Oak Ridge Associated Universities) and the individuals we were able to select. I'd like to tell you a little about them.

Recently produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Company, "The Virus Hunters" is a fascinating look at these creatures, from their role in disease to the possibility of being the oldest form of life on Earth. NAI Virus Focus Group Co-Chairs Ken Stedman and Baruch Blumberg, and their team, are featured during one of their field trips to Lassen Volcanic National Park. [Source: NAI newsletter]

The American Society for Microbiology recently announced its 2007 General Meeting Award Laureates, and two NAI scientists have received honors. Mitch Sogin, PI of NAI's Marine Biological Laboratory Team, is presented with the USFCC/J. Roger Porter Award for his research in environmental microbial diversity. Norm Pace, from NAI's University of Colorado, Boulder Team, is presented with the Abbott/ASM Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding contributions and research in the field of microbial ecology. Norm was nominated by none other than Carl Woese, and Mitch was nominated by his fellow awardee Norm Pace! Congratulations Mitch and Norm! [Source: NAI newsletter]

Wednesday, April 11, 2007, 7 p.m. Astronomer David Grinspoon of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, will give a non-technical, illustrated talk on: "Comparing Worlds: Climate Catastrophes in the Solar System" as part of the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures in the Smithwick Theater, Foothill College, El Monte Road and Freeway 280, in Los Altos Hills, California.

We're getting AbGradCon back on track! The next installment of AbGradCon (The Astrobiology Graduate Conference) will be held July 14 & 15, 2007 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The goal of AbGradCon is to foster communication and collaboration within the broad astrobiology-related graduate student and postdoc community, and to give early graduate students a chance to practice speaking in a collegial atmosphere. AbGradCon 2007 @ Bioastronomy is being organized in cooperation with the IAU Bioastronomy Symposium being held July 16 - 20, one of the largest astrobiology-related conferences of 2007.

The following new papers have been published recently by NAI members. These and other recent NAI funded research are presented on the NAI member portal and collected in the NAI Research Highlights Archive - In this archive, you can link to the papers and any press materials that may have been generated about them.

Applications are due May 15, 2007, for NASA's 19th Annual Planetary Science Summer School, which will hold two sessions this summer, July 23-27 and August 6-10, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

Special session at the 210th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Honolulu, Hawaii
Thursday May 31 (Morning) Convenors: Nader Haghighipour and Eric Gaidos (University of Hawaii NAI Lead Team)

NAI's Marine Biological Laboratory and Carnegie Institution of Washington Teams are contributing authors on a new paper in Earth and Planetary Science Letters presenting a new model for the evolution of Proterozoic deep seawater composition based on rare earth elements. Their data suggest transitional, suboxic conditions in the deep ocean (vs. sulfidic), which likely limited nutrient concentrations in seawater and, consequently, may have constrained biological evolution. [Source: NAI Newsletter]

Speaker: Drake Deming (Planetary Systems Laboratory & Goddard Center for Astrobiology, Goddard Space Flight Center) Date/Time: Monday, March 26, 2007 11AM PDT

Abstract: Two independent scientific groups have recently reported the first spectroscopy of planets orbiting other stars, using the Spitzer Space Telescope.

Special Session "Microbially mediated processes governing the redox cycling of metals" at the 2007 Goldschmidt Conference, Cologne (Germany) Session Organizers: Colleen Hansel, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University Andreas Kappler, Center for Applied Geoscience, University of Tbingen

Herb Thier, Ph.D., E/PO lead for NAI's UC Berkeley Team, has recently been selected as a scholar by the Fulbright Senior Specialists Program. Dr. Thier will work with the staff of the Clore Garden of Science, part of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, to design activities for teachers to enhance their field trips to the museum, as well as deliver a short course on science education curriculum development to graduate students at the Department of Science Teaching. Congratulations Herb! [Source: NAI Newsletter]

NAI graduate student Irene Schneider from Jim Kasting's group at Penn State has been selected by NASA/Mars Society as crew physicist for the upcoming expedition 61 for the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS). MDRS Crew 61/Spaceward Bound Crew Five is a two week mission simulation carried out in the dessert of Utah where NASA, in collaboration with The Mars Society, runs simulations for future manned missions to the red planet. There she will be developing and helping implement the first EVA emergency radiation protocols. Congratulations Irene! [Source: NAI Newsletter]

Community input is solicited in the form of white papers on key lunar science goals/opportunities suitable for implementation during the period 2006-2023. This includes international cooperation opportunities, and lunar as well as non-lunar science which could be done on/from the Moon.
The National Research Council (NRC) of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences has been asked to evaluate the scientific opportunities presented by robotic and human exploration of the Moon during the initial phases of implementation of NASA's Vision for Space Exploration.

Intended for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, the 2007 Michelson Summer Workshop: "Planetary Transits: Detection to Characterization," will take place at the NASA Ames Conference Center, Moffett Field, CA July 23 - 27. The workshop will consist of a series of tutorial and scientific lectures covering techniques related to transits and extra-solar planet finding. More information, along with a preliminary agenda can be found on the workshop website: [source: NAI Newsletter]

From Hawai'i to Massachusetts, workshops offering hands-on, in-the-field, in-the-lab experiences for teachers are being held this summer by NAI teams and others. The workshops feature cutting edge astrobiology research delivered by scientists and education professionals, as well as inquiry- and standards-based activities ready for the classroom. Many offer stipends and/or education credits. Click here for offerings from NAI's Teams at MBL, Penn State, University of Hawai'i, and the SETI Institute, as well as the Lunar and Planetary Institute. [source: NAI Newsletter]

Continuing the Spaceward Bound series of field expeditions, in March a team of 40 teachers will be traveling to the Mojave Desert and working side-by-side with NASA scientists who search for life in extreme environments that closely approximate what they expect to find on other planets. Why the Mojave -- an inhospitable, sun-drenched spot in the California Desert? This natural setting presents scientists with opportunities to study environments that are analogous to what explorers will find on the Moon and Mars.