Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Digging deep on Mars for life, ‘Anvil of Stars’ and developing protocol for detecting microbial ET

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 - A new study indicates that probes searching for life on Mars will need to dig deep below the planet's surface where living cells might be protected from harsh radiation. See
g Life - Scientists now reveal the larger the testicles of a rodent are, the more likely the sperm of that species are to curve like a claw [image]. Researchers suggest the sperm use these hooks to snag each other and form speedy "trains" that cooperate to reach the egg first. See
g Message - The next generation of big radio telescopes won't look anything like today's massive dishes. Instead of giant steel constructions towering into the sky, the future will belong to more economical arrays of many small antennas hugging the ground. And, in a historic role reversal, searchers for extraterrestrial intelligence are blazing a trail for conventional radio astronomy to follow. See
g Cosmicus - NASA Administrator Michael Griffin recently spoke about the benefits of space exploration at the Quasar Award Dinner in Houston. Here is a copy of his address:
g Learning - Here’s a neat classroom activity: “Designer Genes for a Designer World.” In this series of guided inquiry activities, students explore how organisms adapt to their environments through changes in their genetic codes. See
g Imagining - Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Greg Bear’s “Anvil of Stars,” published by Tor 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-4CD09E79113953A58644}/m_race_guidelines.pdf.