Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Pilbara’s earliest lifeforms, Martian rover and planetary protection policies

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 Life -Previous studies may have hinted at early life forms in the Pilbara rocks, but researchers from the University of Queensland say they have identified evidence of primitive forms that are more than 3 billion years old. See article.
g Message -Australian scientists also are conducting a search for extraterrestrial intelligence. See article.
g Cosmicus - When astronauts finally find out if there really are little green men on Mars they might just be traveling across the planet in a Canadian rover. See article.
g Learning -Here’s a great resource for middle school science teachers; “Life on Other Planets in the Solar System.” See article.
g Imagining -Like first contact stories? Then be sure to read Greg Bear’s novel, “The Forge of God,” published by Tor in 1987.
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 article.