Conferences and Meetings: December 2010

Arsenic, Astrobiology, NASA, and the Media

Exclusive Interview: Discoverer of Arsenic Bacteria, in the Eye of the Storm, Science Now

"Q: So, NASA approached you about doing a press conference, and you thought that was a good idea? F.W.-S.: I wouldn't say I thought it was a good or bad idea. I'd never been to a press conference, but it made good sense to me that my mom should know what I'd been up to, and I love teaching. So, it made sense to me at that level, in terms of, again, bringing what we did to the public. But we weren't clearly prepared, in terms of understanding how it might be, again, with the new types of media that are really rather amazing, what was exactly going to happen."

Earlier posts

NASA announces its intent to participate in the 62nd International Astronautical Congress, or IAC, and requests that full-time graduate students attending U.S. universities or colleges respond to this "Call for Abstracts." The IAC -- which is organized by the International Astronautical Federation, or IAF; the International Academy of Astronautics, or IAA; and the International Institute of Space Law, or IISL, -- is the largest space-related conference worldwide and selects an average of 1000 scientific papers every year. The upcoming IAC will be held Oct. 3-7, 2011, in Cape Town, South Africa. NASA's participation in this event is an ongoing effort to continue to connect NASA with the astronautical and space international community.

This "Call for Abstracts" is a precursor to a subsequent submission of a final paper, which may be presented at the 62nd IAC. Student authors are invited to submit an abstract regarding an original, unpublished paper that has not been submitted in any other forum. A NASA technical review panel of scientists and/or officials will select abstracts. Many students and professors are involved in NASA-related research. Persons submitting abstracts are strongly encouraged to seek advice from professors who are conducting NASA research and/or from NASA scientists and engineers.

Abstract Preparation

-- Abstracts must be 400 words or less.
-- Abstracts must be written in English.
-- Abstracts cannot include formulas, tables or drawings.
-- Select the symposium and session in which you wish to post your abstract. Please view the IAC brochure at for list of sessions and more details.

Abstracts must be related to NASA's ongoing vision for space exploration and fit into one of the following categories:

-- Science and Exploration
-- Systems sustaining missions including life, microgravity, space exploration, space debris and Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, or SETI.
-- Applications and Operations
-- Ongoing and future operational applications, including Earth observation, communication, navigation, human space endeavors and small satellites.
-- Technology
-- Common technologies to space systems including astrodynamics, structures, power and propulsion.
-- Infrastructures
-- Systems sustaining space missions including space systems, transportation, future systems and safety.
-- Space and Society
-- Interaction of space with society including education, policy and economics, history, and law.

The full text of the abstract must be submitted electronically in the prescribed format at no later than 11:59:59 p.m. EST on Feb. 7, 2011.

If you have a question or concern about the programmatic or the electronic submission of your abstract, please e-mail, and you will receive a response within two (2) business days.

Universite Cadi Ayyad, Ibn Battuta Centre, Marrakech, Morocco

Joint ESA/NASA Workshop and Field Trip
February 7-9, 2011


Charles Cockell (Open University, UK),
Oliver Angerer (ESA),
Mary Voytek (NASA),
Gian Gabriele Ori (IRSPS, Italy and Ibn Battuta Centre, Morocco),
Kamal Taj-Eddine (Universite Cady Ayyad and Ibn Battuta Centre, Morocco)

Geobiology in Space Exploration is a meeting of talks and discussions to understand the full range of the contributions of geobiology to robotic and human space exploration, from life detection to practical applications of geobiology and geomicrobiology. Its purpose is to develop a road map of geobiology for future space missions. It is co-organised by the ESA Topical Team: Geomicrobiology for Space Settlement and Exploration.

Topics to be covered at the meeting include:

1) microbe-mineral interactions, biosignatures and the search for life elsewhere,

2) use of microorganisms in practical applications in space exploration,

3) space missions involving aspects of geobiology.

4) analog sites for the study of other planetary environments.

The meeting will begin midday on Monday 7th and will finish on Wednesday February 9th and will be held at the Universite Cadi Ayyad (Morocco). The meeting will then be followed by a voluntary field trip for interested participants to investigate geomicrobiology and geology from Precambrian to Quaternary in the Atlas Mountains.

The output of this workshop will be a document/paper setting out directions and potential in geobiology applied to space.

Visit for further information.

The 2011 Gordon Research Conference on the Origins of Solar Systems will take place at Mt. Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA 17-22 July 2011. This unique interdisciplinary meeting includes astronomers and astrophysicists interested in star and planet formation, planetary scientists and cosmochemists interested in the early history, structure, and evolution of the Solar System, as well as scientists in related disciplines. By bringing together this mix of expertise the conference attempts to address fundamental questions that are not tractable within the confines of just one discipline. Our goal is to understand whether planetary systems like our own, and the potential for habitability that they represent are the exception or the rule in the Milky Way galaxy.

The focus of the 2011 meeting (the 11th since this series began twenty years ago) will be "Composition of Forming Planets: A Tool to Understand Processes". Topics covered will include: 1) the initial conditions for planet formation in circumstellar disks, including estimates of solar nebula composition from the Genesis mission; 2) the evolution of the physical structure of the gas and dust from which planets form; 3) progress in our theoretical understanding of the major physical processes that control planet formation; 4) the interplay between disk dynamics and disk chemistry in determining the composition of forming planets including new results from the Herschel Space Telescope; 5) meteoritic constraints on the physical and chemical conditions in the solar nebula; 6) the role of giant impacts in the structure and evolution of forming planets; 7) satellites and rings of giant planets as mini-laboratories to study the process of planet formation; 8) current census of extra-solar planets including new results from the Kepler and COROT missions as well as other facilities; 9) the essential chemical conditions for life and whether those are readily obtained through our current understanding of planet formation; and many other topics.

The conference will continue the usual format of invited lectures, extended discussion, and poster sessions. The meeting provides an excellent opportunity for young researchers to present their latest research results and to participate in the dynamic informal conversations that are typical of a Gordon Conference. We encourage young scientists, including graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, to attend. Special efforts will be made to promote interactions between invited speakers and junior participants and we expect to provide some financial support to facilitate the latter's participation.

For more information please visit the Gordon Research Conference website: [Source: NAI Newsletter]

Date/Time: Monday, December 6, 2010 11:00AM Pacific
Presenter: Elizaveta Bonch-Osmolovskaya (Russian Academy of Sciences)

Abstract: Anaerobic thermophilic lithoautotrophic microorganisms inhabiting volcanic environments use inorganic energy substrates, electron acceptors and a carbon source of geothermal origin - performing, therefore, as primary producers in such ecosystems.

From the hot springs of Kamchatka Peninsula (Russia) strains of a new hyperthermophilic bacterium growing optimally at 80*C were isolated, and described as a novel genus and species Caldimicrobium rimae. This organism belongs to the Thermodesulfobacteria phylum and it can grow lithoautotrophically with molecular hydrogen reducing elemental sulfur or thiosulfate. Strains of C. rimae are also capable of oxidizing volatile fatty acids and alcohols - the fermentation products of organotrophic hyperthermophilic Archaea and Bacteria.

Another new isolate - Thermosulfurimonas dismutans, also representing a new genus in phylum Thermodesulfobacteria, was obtained from the deep-sea hydrothermal samples of Lau Basin, Pacific Ocean. This newly-identified organism is an obligate lithoatotroph growing at 92*C on a mineral medium by dismutation of sulfur compounds - elemental sulfur or thiosulfate, during which one molecule is oxidized to sulfate and another reduced to sulfide. The growth is obligately dependent on the presence of ferric oxide in the medium, which binds sulfide formed in the course of growth, maintaining its low concentration in the medium.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a usual component of volcanic gases, both in terrestrial and submarine hot springs. The ability to grow anaerobically at 100% CO in the gas phase producing molecular hydrogen and CO2 was found to be widely spread among thermophilic prokaryotes - bacteria of phylum Firmicutes and members of the archaeal genus Thermococcales. However, if the concentration of CO in the gas phase was 5 to 45%, the range of microorganisms capable of hydrogenogenic CO-trophy became much wider. Among new organisms capable of this type of metabolism are hyperthermophilic bacteria of the Dyctioglomy phylum and the hyperthermophilic crenarchaeote Thermofilum lithoautotrophicus.

Formate can be formed abiotically in hydrothermal environments in the course of serpentinization reactions. We found that some representatives of the hyperthermophilic archaeal genus Thermococcus can grow on formate producing molecular hydrogen. The energy yield of this reaction was previously considered insufficient to support microbial growth.

These and other newly-identified thermophilic lithoautotrophic microorganisms able to use energy substrates, electron acceptors and a carbon source of geothermal origin can act as the base of a microbial food web that is not dependent on either solar energy, or of the modern biosphere. Such communities could be regarded as modern analogues of early Earth or extraterrestrial ecosystems.

For more information and participation instructions: [Source: NAI Newsletter]

NAI collaborative tools were used to link people from around the globe

Using a suite of NAI collaborative tools, an NAI Workshop Without Walls on "Molecular Paleontology and Resurrection: Rewinding the Tape of Life" was held on November 8-10, 2010. Organized by scientists from the NAI teams at Georgia Institute of Technology and Montana State University, the workshop drew over 550 registrants from 31 US states and 30 other countries. Twenty-nine talks were presented using 21 different video conferencing rooms, Adobe Connect and phone. The presentations were recorded and are available online.

For more information: [Source: NAI Newsletter]