July 2007

Many NAI members will be attending next week's Bioastronomy meeting in San Juan Puerto Rico. As an experiment at this interdisciplinary conference, we have asked our meeting attendees to define jargon and vocabulary words that someone outside their discipline might not understand in an interdisciplinary event. We have had quite good response to this, but would like to fill out our list a bit more, and are asking you to help. Think back to your recent talks or upcoming talks and select a few words you use that could be entered into our glossary. Our hope is that this will be a continuing/ evolving resource for the whole institute.

The NAI and the American Philosophical Society (APS), the oldest learned society in North America and the sponsor of Lewis and Clarks Corps of Discovery in 1804, are partners in the Lewis and Clark Fund for Exploration and Field Research in Astrobiology. This program provides opportunities for the continued exploration of the world around us through research grants in support of astrobiological field studiesencouraging the best young scientists to engage in the exploration vision of NASA. This year, six Lewis and Clark Field Scholars were jointly selected by the NAI and APS. Their projects span the breadth of astrobiology research and the globe taking them this summer to locales such as Iceland, Greenland, Utah, and the Andes. For more information on the program, go to: [Source: NAI Newsletter]

Deep inside a flooded mine in Wisconsin, scientists from NAIs University of California, Berkeley Team have discovered an environment in which bacteria emit proteins that sweep up metal nanoparticles into immobile clumps. Their finding may lead to innovative ways to remediate subsurface metal toxins, and have exciting implications for identifying biosignatures on Earth and other worlds. The research, published in the June 14th issue of Science, was done in collaboration with a team from the U.S. Department of Energys Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. [Source: NAI Newsletter]

Scientists from NAI's University of California, Berkeley Team have a new paper out in Nature outlining evidence for the presence of an ancient ocean on Mars. The study points to a large body of liquid water at the pole which could have shifted Mars' spin axis. This shift would have in turn deformed the shoreline of this ocean relative to the rest of the surface topography, in accordance with observations. [Source: NAI Newsletter]

Scientists from NAI's IPTAI Team have a paper out in Geophysical Research Letters detailing a new mechanism for recent methane release on Mars. Their results show that increasing salinity can cause destabilization of subsurface methane hydrates, and that active thermal or pressure fluctuations are not required to account for the presence of methane in the atmosphere. [Source: NAI Newsletter]

Scientists from NAI's University of Arizona Team have studied the outflow of VY Canis Majoris, an oxygen-rich supergiant star. Thier results show that, against expectations, an old, oxygen-rich star can synthesize a chemically varied molecular cocktail. The study is published in Nature, and a News and Views about the paper is also available. [Source: NAI Newsletter]

The Science Steering Committee of the 2008 Astrobiology Science Conference (April 15-17, Santa Clara, California, USA) invites proposals for sessions related to the major scientific themes: "The Astronomical and Planetary Context for Life", "The Origin and Evolution of Life", and "The Search for Life in our Solar System and Beyond". To submit proposals, and for more details, please go to the conference website, The deadline for submission of session topic proposals is July 23, 2007. Questions can be addressed to:

Date: December 6-7th, 2007
Time: TBA
Venue: NASA Ames Research Center, Auditorium, Building N-245, Mountain View, CA

Organizing Committee: Ignacio Mosqueira (NASA Ames/SETI Institute), Dale Cruikshank (NASA Ames) Owing to spacecraft missions and groundbased observations, we possess a wealth of Solar System data. The richness of the observations should provide a solid foundation for our understanding of the early history of the Solar System. Yet, this abundance also means that in practice one must subdivide the problem into more manageable pieces. While this is a practical approach, before reliable conclusions can be obtained in this way, they must survive consistency checks, and a battery of tests involving a sufficiently broad observational sample. Only then can we attain a deeper understanding of the origins of planetary systems in general, and the Solar System in particular.

Members of the media are invited to attend Bioastronomy 2007, a meeting convened by an international organizing committee of representatives from the scientific community. Scientists from all over the world will gather at this meeting in San Juan to report on latest findings in the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe.

THE LIMITS OF ORGANIC LIFE IN PLANETARY SYSTEMS, a new report from the National Research Council, examines the search for life elsewhere in the universe and whether the fundamental requirements for life as we generally know it are the only ways phenomena recognized as "life" could be supported beyond our planet.

As an extension of the "Radiation Biology Educator Guide" developed by the Space Biosciences Outreach Office in FY06, we are currently adapting the material to provide three hands-on activities that meet middle school national standards. This task is part of a Marshall Space Flight Center Education Affairs Office project entitled Radiation and Human Space Flight. We completed a significant component in the current project by presenting the material to an educator audience for review and evaluation.

The NASA Foton-M3 team visited Moscow May 14-25, 2007. Flight Simulation Tests (FST) of 4 biology experiments were completed and all scientific procedures for the Foton-M3 flight experiments were completed. Foton-M3 studies with newts, geckos, snails and microbial cultures will examine how learning, behavior, tissue regeneration, genetic responses, growth, and other factors respond to exposure to spaceflight.