Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Wolfe 359, human-chimp evolutionary split and reusing old spacecraft parts

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Today’s news:
g Stars - The extremely faint star Wolfe 359 is the third closest to Sol after Alpha Centauri 3 and Barnard's Star. Might it support habitable planets? See
g Abodes - The explosive force of a large asteroid impact would kill anyone unlucky enough to be nearby, and the craters they leave behind can serve as a reminder for the dangers that still lurk in our solar system. See
g Life - NASA is spending billions of dollars to search for life on Mars, the most Earth-like of our sister planets. But we may not need to go all the way to Mars to find another sample of life, says one astrobiologist. It could be lurking under our very noses. See
g Intelligence - Genome comparisons reveal that the evolutionary split between humans and chimpanzees may have been more recent and more convoluted than expected. See
g Message - Contrary to a SETI astronomer’s prediction a few weeks ago that we’re about 25 years from receiving an extraterrestrial signal, during an August 2004 symposium at Harvard searchers for life in the universe concluded that we've got a long, long way to go. See
g Cosmicus - Engineers at NASA's Independent Verification and Validation facility are examining the feasibility of reusing portions of old NASA spacecraft systems software for new missions. One of the goals of the effort is to determine whether using that old software would actually save the agency time and money. See
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity: “Jellyplants on Mars.” Scientists are creating a new breed of glowing plants - part mustard and part jellyfish - to help humans explore Mars. In this lesson, students learn about the plants and bioregeneration. See
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Harry Turtledove’s novel “Worldwar: In the Balance,” published by Del Rey in 1992.
g Aftermath - While formal principles have been adopted for the eventuality of detecting intelligent life in our galaxy, no such guidelines exist for the discovery of non-intelligent extraterrestrial life within the solar system. Current scientifically based planetary protection policies for solar system exploration address how to undertake exploration, but do not provide clear guidance on what to do if and when life is detected. Considering that Martian life could be detected under several different robotic and human exploration scenarios in the coming decades, it is appropriate to anticipate how detection of non-intelligent, microbial life could impact future exploration missions and activities, especially on Mars. See{B0D4BC0E-D59B-4CD0-9E79-113953A58644}/m_race_guidelines.pdf.