December 2008

Combine prize-driven innovation with the vast communication capability of the web and what do you get? Solutions. A July 22, 2008 New York Times article, If You Have a Problem, Ask Everyone, reports that "open source science" is catching on, and cites success stories that show that the technique has promise. One example of a successful problem-solver is John Davis, a chemist who knows all about concrete and techniques to keep it vibrating so that it won't set up before it can be used. Mr. Davis applied his knowledge to a seemingly unrelated problem when he figured out that devices used for vibrating concrete can be adapted to keep oil in Alaskan storage tanks from freezing. He was paid $20,000 for his idea.

This amendment replaces the draft text in Appendix C.24 entitled "Moon and Mars Analog Mission Activities" with the final text. NASA Moon and Mars Analog Mission Activities (MMAMA) research addresses the need for integrated interdisciplinary field experiments as an integral part of preparation for planned human and robotic missions to the Moon and Mars. The focus of this program is on providing high-fidelity scientific investigations, scientific input, and science operations constraints in the context of planetary field campaigns. Funding provided in this program element is intended to enable researchers to conduct scientific investigations and integrate their instruments, projects, and/or protocols into field activities designed to help NASA plan for future exploration of the Moon, Mars, and other planetary bodies with both robots and humans.

This amendment announces an additional proposal opportunity for Education and Public Outreach supplemental awards. Principal Investigators (PIs) of selected Science Mission Directorate (SMD) research investigations may propose for Education or Outreach awards as supplements to their research award. Two different pathways are offered: $15K education pathway proposals and $10K outreach pathway proposals.

The Academy is a summer research internship that focuses on leadership, team building, and conducting applied research with NASA scientists in science, information technology and engineering. The program is a 10 week immersive summer internship for undergraduate juniors, seniors and first year graduate students. The internship includes a stipend from the State Space Grant Office up to $5000, housing, food stipend, transportation and travel expenses.

An abstract of each project at NASA Ames Research Center is available at Applications will be accepted through January 26, 2009.

Source: NAI Newsletter

The SETI Institute is pleased to announce that applications are now open for the 2009 REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) program in Astrobiology. Undergraduate students in fields such as astronomy, biology, geology, chemistry, and physics are invited to apply to spend 10 weeks in the San Francisco Bay area working on a scientific research project in the field of astrobiology. Students receive a stipend, travel, and living expenses. Applications are due by February 2, 2009.

For more information, visit or contact Cynthia Phillips,, 650-810-0230.

Source: NAI Newsletter

The next Astrobiology Graduate Student Conference (AbGradCon) will be held July 17 - 20 2009 at the University of Washington in Seattle. The primary objective of AbGradCon is to improve the future of astrobiology research by bringing together in a unique setting the early-career astrobiologists (graduate students and post-doctoral fellows within 2 years of finishing their Ph.D.) who will lead such research in the years to come. The conference is unique in that it is a student-led meeting, from the organization to the presentations. AbGradCon strives to remove the "pressures" of typical scientific meetings by providing a relaxed atmosphere in which presentations and round-table discussions are fostered along with numerous social activities. AbGradCon will also be hosted in the virtual world of Second Life at the NASA CoLab Sun Amphitheater.

For more information:

Source: NAI Newsletter

The discovery of CO2 in the atmosphere of extrasolar planet HD 189733b was announced in the November 21, 2008 issue of Nature News. The exoplanet is a hot Jupiter orbiting a star 63 light years from Earth. While it's extremely unlikely that this particular planet supports life as we know it, the ability to measure the presence of CO2 in its atmosphere bolsters the search for life outside the Solar System. Giovanna Tinetti, former NAI Postdoctoral Fellow, is lead author in the study which used the NICMOS instrument onboard the Hubble Space Telescope to make the measurement. The results were announced in Paris this week at the Molecules in the Atmospheres of Extrasolar Planets workshop, and will be published in the Astrophysical Journal.

Source: NAI Newsletter

The Astrobiology Careers page is a compilation of career opportunities available to astrobiologists. It is available at If you would like to add an opportunity to this page, please email Estelle Dodson at

Source: NAI Newsletter

Date/Time: Monday, January 12, 2009 11:00AM Pacific

Join us for the next FAR Seminar! The topic for this seminar is "Habitability" Please see for more information and participation instructions.

Source: NAI Newsletter

In January, NAI will welcome ten new teams, one of which is based at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. A gala event was held at RPI to launch their New York Center for Astrobiology, led by RPI Professor Doug Whittet. The opening ceremonies were highlighted by Shirley Ann Jackson, president of Rensselaer and professor of physics, and Paul Tonko, United States Congressman-Elect of New York.

This past October 29th, Nathalie Cabrol of NASA Ames Research Center and her team traveled to the highest volcanic lakes in the world to continue her work on the NAI-funded High Lakes Project (HLP). At this time, in the 6th year of the project, the team is, right now, busy collecting data to characterize the response of these lakes to climate variability in one of the best terrestrial environmental analogs to early Mars.

To share in the ongoing adventure, see this project's blog, read up on the science and enjoy some great pictures, visit the project website at

Source: NAI Newsletter

Dates: February 4-6, 2009
Location: NASA Ames Research Center

Reconciling observations of extrasolar planets with those of the solar system will engage the efforts of planetary formation observers and theorists for the foreseeable future. The aim of this meeting is to promote cross-fertilization between the extrasolar and the solar planetary communities. The topics will include both theoretical and observational characterization of protostars and planets. The emphasis of the meeting will be to compare and contrast planetary systems. Ideally, constraints derived from diverse planetary systems will be complementary; yet, the extent to which such systems can be viewed under a common prism remains to be clarified.

The Universities Space Research Association's Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) in Houston, Texas, is accepting applications for the position of Senior Staff Scientist. The successful applicant will perform outstanding basic scientific research in the lunar and planetary sciences, attract funding for their personal research activities, present research results in publications in refereed journals and at conferences, likely have an active role in space missions, participate in the academic community for his/her field, support NASA through activities on committees and panels, and contribute to the dissemination of lunar and planetary science information throughout the academic community and to the general public. He/she will have mentoring roles for junior scientists, postdoctoral fellows, university as well as school-age students, and will work to identify, pursue and secure new funding opportunities for the Institute and for USRA.

NAI - Nordic Summer School: "Water, Ice and the Origin of Life in the Universe"

Iceland, 29 June to 13 July 2009

The NASA Astrobiology Institute and the Nordic Astrobiology Network will conduct a summer school on the role of water in the evolution of life in the cosmos - in Iceland on the above dates. The school is intended for students and post-docs in astrobiology-related subjects (biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, geosciences etc.) The school will be organized in three sections:

* An introductory lecture course
* Excursions to several places in Iceland of astrobiological interest (hot springs, glaciers, geysers, Mars-like environments)
* A lab course on the geochemistry and extremophile community of hot springs (no previous experience in microbiological lab work and field research needed)

Many opportunities and programs are available to students at NASA Centers. For more information about these opportunities, please see:

Source: NAI Newsletter

Scientists have brought the ENDURANCE underwater vehicle to Lake Bonney, a perpetually ice-covered salt lake located in Antarctica's McMurdo Dry Valleys.

ENDURANCE, an autonomous vehicle designed to swim untethered under ice, will spend a month creating three-dimensional maps of the underwater environment. It also will collect data on the environmental conditions and take samples of microbial life. If all goes well, in the future NASA could send a similar probe to explore the ocean on Jupiter's icy moon Europa.

Read the daily blog entries written by scientists in the field as they work in Earth's coldest environment, testing the limits of ENDURANCE.