Astrobiology (general): February 2009

n November 26, 2008, volunteers in programs within the NASA Nationwide Consortium participated in a two-hour, introductory training telecon covering the basic principles of astrobiology, sponsored by NAI's WISC team and JPL. The Consortium includes many of NASA's volunteer-based organizations such as the Solar System Ambassadors, the Night Sky Network, the Aerospace Education Services Project, the Explorer Schools, and the Educator Astronauts. These volunteers reach many thousands of teachers, students, and public audiences every year in assemblies and other presentations.

Come hear an interesting exchange of ideas as Lynn Rothschild, evolutionary biologist and astrobiologist at NASA Ames Research Center, and Father George Coyne, Director Emeritus of the Vatican Observatory, astronomer and Jesuit priest, discuss "Are We Alone? The Dance of the Fertile Universe." Ames Center Director, S. Pete Worden will moderate as they consider the fact that while the potential for life was present at the Big Bang, Earth may be the only place that promise was realized. They will also discuss from their different perspectives what niches life may have found since the Big Bang and muse on the significance of the fertile universe.

Editor's note: I just learned that my long time friend Mel Averner died last night. I will write something more lengthy at some point. Suffice it to say there were two people who taught more more than anyone else while I was at NASA - and after I left. Dick Keefe and Mel Averner. Not a thing happened in NASA's space life science programs in the 80's, 90's and recent years that was not directly or indirectly affected by Dick and Mel. Dick passed away several years ago. Mel was full of life and ideas up to the last moments of his life. I had a chance to speak with him last week. The conversation lasted 9 minutes. Long enough for him to say goodbye to me and for me to do so in exchange. Many of his friends had a chance to do the same. In so doing, Mel left little seeds in our minds - seeds that will continue to affect the way that we look at life on Earth and beyond for decades to come. I hope Mel's friends will take the time to post their thoughts below.