Saturday, February 03, 2007

Mars’ water clouds, the Soviets’ SETI program and reflecting on shuttle flight

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 video captured by NASA's Opportunity rover shows the formation of convective water clouds on Mars. The clouds are in some ways similar to clouds seen on Earth...but in other ways they are very different. See
g Message - Researchers in the former USSR were long interested in the detection of radio signals originating from extraterrestrial intelligence. The Soviets named their program CETI, or Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence. The acronym SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) was adopted by the Workshop and by the Ames Research Center to differentiate our own efforts from those of the Soviet Union and to emphasize the search aspects of the proposed program. The Soviet plans for their CETI efforts have been summarized in "The CETI Program," Sov. Astron., vol. 18, no. 5, March-April 1975, which is available in total at
g Cosmicus - "It was a wonderful flight, extremely exciting. I couldn't have asked for more." ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang recently spoke about his Celsius Mission. On December 22, 2006, Fuglesang, the first Swedish astronaut in space, returned to Earth with Space Shuttle Discovery with the rest of the STS-116 crew at the end of the 13-day mission to the International Space Station. During the STS-116 mission Fuglesang participated in three Extra Vehicular Activities to continue assembly work on the outside of the Station. See
g Learning - In the upcoming Warner Brothers' feature film "The Astronaut Farmer,” Billy Bob Thornton plays the role of Charles Farmer, a former astronaut who never flew in space but who decides to accomplish his dream of reaching orbit by building his own rocket. See
g Imagining - Is the Black Cloud, the famous alien in Fred Hoyle’s science fiction novel, plausible? See
g Aftermath - What would an intelligent signal from another planet change about human destiny? This large question is the topic of the book "The SETI Factor," by Frank White, who also analyzes how to announce such an historic finding and whether it would unite or divide nations. See Note: This article is from 2003.