Astrobiology (general): January 2011

Annual Meeting of the AOGS (Asia-Oceania Geosciences Society) Taipei, Taiwan August 8-12, 2011

This session invites solicited, contributed, and poster presentations addressing (1) conditions on the early Earth that may have been necessary for the origin of life (2) subsequent events and conditions that may have contributed to the evolution of organisms and the development of Earth's climate (3) biological and geochemical characterization of extreme environments (4) habitability of extraterrestrial atmospheres, surfaces and interiors (5) methods or technological approaches for detecting biosignatures.

Contact: Dr. Louise Prockter (Johns Hopkins University , United States) [Source: Planetary Science Institute]

From the Swiss Society for Astrophysics and Astronomy 41st Saas-Fee Advanced Course "From Planets to Life" 3-9 April 2011, Villars-sur-Ollon, Switzerland

This astrobiology course consists of 28 lectures organized in three parts as follow:

- Astrophysical conditions for development of life Prof. Jonathan Lunine (University of Arizona)
- Earth geology and climatology history Prof. James Kasting (Pennsylvania State University)
- Origin and critical steps of life development on Earth

Prof. John Baross (University of Washington) In addition to the formal course, the setting of this event provides ample time for informal discussions during the meals and other social events. are approaching our maximum hosting capacity, however, we can still accommodate for about a dozen additional participants. The regular registration deadline is JANUARY 28th, 2011. After this date the registration fee will raise from CHF450.- to CHF500.-. For more information please visit:

We look forward to seeing you soon, Pierre Dubath, for the organizing committee

[Source: Planetary Science Institute]

USC and SETI Institute Team Up

An affiliation between the University of Southern California and the SETI Institute will create formal ties between one of America's premier research universities and one of the most innovative and highly regarded scientific research institutions.

Announced today by USC and the SETI Institute, the affiliation joins a leading private university and a unique research institute pursuing the study of the living universe. This affiliation significantly heightens USC's profile in astronomy and astrobiology and establishes a strong research and education presence in Silicon Valley for the university. The affiliation is effective immediately.

Abstract Submission Deadline: February 28, 2011
Participant Notification: April 4th, 2011

AbGradCon 2011 will be held at the Montana State University campus (Bozeman, MT) on June 4th-8th. Montana State University provides a unique setting for astrobiology graduate students and early career researchers to come together to share their research, collaborate, and network. Since it is organized and attended by only graduate students and post docs, AbGradCon is an ideal venue for the next generation of career astrobiologists to form bonds, share ideas, and discuss the issues that will shape the future of the field. Full funding is available for US applicants. Limited funding may be available for international students. For more information, please see Please send questions and concerns to

James L. Green
Director, Planetary Science Division
NASA Headquarters

In this calendar year the Planetary Science Division (PSD) will be launching the Juno, GRAIL, and MSL missions. These missions are our top priority for the Division and are at their funding peaks. MAVEN and LADEE are in development. In addition, we will have a comet encounter in February and two orbit insertions (MESSENGER around Mercury and Dawn around Vesta) that are just some of the exciting events from our 16 operating missions. This is truly a fabulous time for planetary science.

I am sure you are also aware of the current budget situation for NASA. We are under a continuing resolution or CR until March 4th and the new Congress has clearly stated their desire to reduce Federal spending. What you may not realize is how that status affects our daily business as we at Headquarters work hard to execute the planetary program with an uncertain budget. A CR means that NASA is receiving incremental funding at the FY10 level and not at the President's proposed FY11 level. This is a difference of about 10%. In addition, there is much discussion going on that additional reductions may occur for those agencies, like NASA, that are in the "discretionary" category. The President has already taken steps to freeze Civil Servant salaries for the next two years.

In order to maintain our fiscal responsibilities this situation demands that the Planetary Science Division Program Officers not over commit our R&A funds too early in the year. Therefore we will under-select in each of our R&A calls and put many more on notice that they are in the "selectable" range until it is clear what our final budget is and we can meet our obligations. As a reminder, a Principal Investigator who receives a letter that states his or her proposal is in the selectable range could be funded when NASA identifies the funds, which in this case, must wait until a final budget for NASA has been determined. We will also continue to use the technique of "active grants management" that we used last fiscal year for both new and existing awards which will enable PSD to keep the amount of unobligated funding as low as possible as we enter FY12. I will work hard to minimize a reduction in our R&A budget but it is unrealistic to think it will escape untouched based on our current situation and budget climate.

I will be providing a much more detailed status of things at the upcoming meeting of the Planetary Science Subcommittee to be held at NASA Headquarters on January 26 & 27 and at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference at NASA Night on March 9th. Hope to see you all there to answer any of your questions or concerns.

A new online guidebook helps people understand how astrobiology research ties to Yellowstone National Park. The guidebook, entitled "Secrets of the Springs: Astrobiology in Yellowstone National Park," features an outline of astrobiology and its three fundamental questions; a map of astrobiology-related sites in Yellowstone; and an overview of "extreme environments" and their connection to the search for extra-terrestrial life.

The book was created by astrobiology researchers at Montana State University with support from the NASA Astrobiology Institute.

The book can be downloaded in PDF format at or viewed online at

Printed copies of the guidebook are free for teachers to use as a classroom resource. Museums and science centers may also have free print copies. Contact Suzi Taylor with MSU Extended University at

Montana State University's Extended University offers workforce training and professional development, science education and public outreach, educational technologies and distance learning courses, degrees and certificates via Montana State Online.