NAI

  1. Drilling for Weird Life


    Carol Stoker is the principal investigator for the Mars Analog Research and Technology Experiment (MARTE). MARTE has just begun its second field season drilling into the subsurface near the headwaters of the Río Tinto in Spain, searching for novel forms of microbial life. In a four-part interview with Astrobiology Magazine Managing Editor Henry Bortman, conducted just before Stoker left for Spain, she explained what MARTE hopes to accomplish. In this first part, Stoker describes the field site and discusses some of the research team’s early results.

    Astrobiology Magazine (AM): You’re heading up a project that is going to ...

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  1. Milestone Reached for Detecting Life on Mars


    “To detect life on Mars, we have to devise instruments to recognize it and design them in such a way to get them to the Red Planet most efficiently,” said Dr. Andrew Steele of the Carnegie Institution’s Geophysical Laboratory, a member of an international team designing devices and techniques to find life on Mars.

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  1. Molecular Biologists Uproot Perspective of Ancient Ancestry


    A study funded in part by NASA has uprooted the “Tree of Life” metaphor that describes how all organisms are related.

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  1. News From the Bioastronomy 2004 Meeting


    The most recent international astrobiology meeting was held in Iceland July 12-16, 2004.

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  1. Searching for Scarce Life


    NASA’s Spirit and Opportunity rovers continue to inch their way across the desert-like terrain of Mars. Meanwhile, back on Earth, group of scientists is preparing to send Zoë, a prototype of a newer rover, on a trek across the Chilean desert. Spirit and Opportunity are searching for signs of water; Zoë will search for signs of life.

    Chile’s Atacama Desert is the driest place on Earth. In regions closer to the Pacific coast, a sprinkling of bacteria and lichen manages to scratch out an existence, surviving on moisture from salt fogs that occasionally move in from the ocean ...

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  1. Scientists Discover First of a New Class of Extrasolar Planets


    The following story reporting the discovery of 2 new Uranus/Neptune sized exoplanets adds to the mystery of planetary systems with hot giant planets.

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  1. Life on Mars: A Definite Possibility


    Was Mars once a living world? Does life continue, even today, in a holding pattern, waiting until the next global warming event comes along? Many people would like to believe so. Scientists are no exception. But so far no evidence has been found that convinces even a sizable minority of the scientific community that the red planet was ever home to life. What the evidence does indicate, though, is that Mars was once a habitable world. Life, as we know it, could have taken hold there.

    The discoveries made by NASA’s Opportunity rover at Eagle Crater earlier this year ...

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  1. The Measure of Deep Time


    Most people think of time as a straightforward concept, running smoothly and divided into years, days, minutes, etc. For the geologist, paleontologist, or astrobiologist studying the Earth’s history, it is not so simple, however.

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  1. MISSIONS – Prebiotic Laboratory


    Titan is the only moon in our solar system with an atmosphere, and it is the organic chemistry that has been detected in that atmosphere that has sparked the imagination of planetary scientists like Lunine. In January 2005, the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Huygens Probe will descend through Titan’s atmosphere, sending back a detailed picture of the chemical interactions taking place there and, hopefully, giving scientists a glimpse into the chemistry that took place on Earth before life took hold. Huygens is part of the Cassini-Huygens mission to explore Saturn and its rings and moons. Lunine is ...

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  1. MISSIONS – Saturn’s Moon Titan: Planet Wannabe


    In January 2005, the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Huygens Probe will descend through Titan’s atmosphere, sending back a detailed picture of the chemical interactions taking place there and, hopefully, giving scientists a glimpse into the chemistry that took place on early, prebiotic Earth. The Huygens Probe is part of the Cassini-Huygens mission to explore Saturn and its rings and moons. Titan is the only moon in our solar system with an atmosphere. Organic chemistry detected in that atmosphere has sparked the imagination of planetary scientists like Lunine. Lunine is the only U.S. scientist selected by the ...

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  1. Rocks Tell Stories in Reports of Spirit’s First 90 Martian Days


    Scientific findings from the NASA rover Spirit’s first three months on Mars will be published Friday, marking the start of a flood of peer-reviewed discoveries in scientific journals from the continuing two-rover adventure.

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  1. MISSIONS – Titan’s Strange Surface


    New images and spectroscopic data of the surface of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, have puzzled NASA scientists.

    Cassini spacecraft instruments have peered through the orange smog of Titan and glimpsed the surface below. Images sent back to Earth reveal dark areas and lighter, fuzzy areas. Data from the Visual Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) indicate that the dark areas are pure water ice. The bright fuzzy regions have several different types of non-ice materials, and may include organic materials such as hydrocarbons.

    Dark and light surface regions had been seen by other telescopes, including the Hubble Space Telescope, but the ...

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  1. MISSIONS – Cassini Detects Oxygen Buildup in Saturn’s E Ring


    A massive oxygen buildup was seen by Cassini’s Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS) instrument earlier this year, while the spacecraft was en route to Saturn, mission scientists said Friday. Saturn’s rings are composed, for the most part, of pure water ice, good ol’ H 2 O. As this icy material is bombarded by charged particles from Saturn’s magnetosphere, it breaks down into its constituents, hydrogen and oxygen. So there is always some oxygen floating around in the ring system. But what UVIS detected in Saturn’s E ring wasn’t just “some” oxygen; it was a tremendous burst ...

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  1. MISSIONS – Weather May Disrupt Cassini Signals


    “Everything still appears to be right on track.” That was the word from Robert Mitchell, Cassini program manager, as he addressed reporters Wednesday morning at a briefing at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. Cassini, a $3 billion international mission to explore Saturn and its rings and moons, is scheduled to arrive at the ringed planet tonight. But Mitchell offered a caveat. Things are on track at the Saturn end of things, he said. Back on Earth, however, predicted high winds threaten to force engineers to stow a massive dish-shaped antenna at Canberra, Australia, to protect it from ...

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  1. MISSIONS – Cassini Closes in on Saturn


    After a seven-year journey through interplanetary space, Cassini-Huygens is about to reach its destination. Wednesday night (early Thursday morning in Europe) the $3 billion spacecraft will arrive at Saturn; and if a 96-minute engine burn comes off as planned, become the first artificial satellite ever to go into orbit around the ringed planet.

    Cassini mission planners say that everything looks good for Saturn orbital insertion (SOI), the engine burn that will slow the spacecraft down enough to allow it to be captured by Saturn’s gravitational field. Mission engineers have verified that Cassini’s systems are working as expected; they ...

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