Thursday, November 23, 2006

What made Venus go bad, message to the stars and microgravity-friendly food solutions

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. You may notice that this and future entries are shorter than usual; Career, family and book deal commitments have forced me to cut back some of my projects. Now, here’s today’s news:
g Abodes - The planet Venus is almost the same size as Earth, but it has an atmospheric pressure almost 100 times greater than Earth's, its clouds contain sulfuric acid, and its surface temperature hovers around 800 degrees Fahrenheit. All known forms of life would be broiled alive. Vesper, a proposed NASA Discovery mission, would increase our understanding of what made Venus go bad. See article.
g Intelligence - An environmental drama played out on the world stage in the late 18th century when a volcano killed 9,000 Icelanders and brought a famine to Egypt that reduced the population of the Nile valley by a sixth. See
g Message - Most people see the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence as a project for merely listening for signals from other stars, but Yvan Dutil and Stephane Dumas from the Defence Research Establishment Valcartier in Canada had other ideas in mind when they composed a message recently sent to the stars. See
g Cosmicus - On the earliest of American space flights, food wasn't an issue. The sub-orbital hops made by Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom were each less than a half hour long; if the pilots were hungry, they could wait until they returned to the ground. As space flights became longer though, the need for food sent NASA looking for microgravity-friendly solutions. See
g Imagining - In nearly all popular science fiction dramatizations on television, most of the alien protagonists look remarkably like humans. In "Star Trek," if you forgave the Vulcan's their ears (and their hair-styles), the Klingons their foreheads and the Bajorans their ridged noses you'd think that they were all human. After all, they have two legs, two arms, 10 fingers and toes, two ears, two eyes and a nose. And while arms and eyes are universals, two arms and two legs are parochial. See
g Aftermath - A 1998 report by the National Research Council Space Studies Board Task Group on Sample Return from Small Solar System Bodies assesses the potential for a living entity to be present in or on samples returned from small solar system bodies such as planetary satellites, asteroids and comets. See