Astrobiology: April 2012 Archives

Astronaut Don Pettit's Diary of a Space Zucchini

"January 5, 2012: I sprouted, thrust into this world without anyone consulting me. I am not one of the beautiful; I am not one that by any other name instills flutters in the human heart. I am the kind that makes little boys gag at the dinner table thus being sent to bed without their dessert. I am utilitarian, hearty vegetative matter that can thrive under harsh conditions. I am zucchini - and I am in space."

Keith's note: When I was in high school I was mesmerized by a film that is often relegated to being a "cult classic" "Silent Running". While the premise is from the 1970's popular mindset, the premise is simple: a bunch of plants and animals are kept alive in space in giant greenhouses. I soon went on to become a biologist - eventually a space biologist at NASA - and these images from the film were always on my mind.

Looking For Life on Mars - Without Fiddling Around

"We really want to address the big questions on Mars and not fiddle around," says Dirk Schulze-Makuch, whose earlier proposals have included an economical one-way trip to the red planet. "With the money for space exploration drying up, we finally have to get some exciting results that not only the experts and scientists in the field are interested in but that the public is interested too."

Viking Data Suggests Life?, Universe Today via NASA's Astrobiology Magazine

"Researchers from universities in Los Angeles, California, Tempe, Arizona and Siena, Italy have published a paper in the International Journal of Aeronautical and Space Sciences (IJASS) citing the results of their work with data obtained by NASA's Viking mission."

Is it Snowing Microbes on Enceladus?,

"There's a tiny moon orbiting beyond Saturn's rings that's full of promise, and maybe -- just maybe -- microbes. In a series of tantalizingly close flybys to the moon, named "Enceladus," NASA's Cassini spacecraft has revealed watery jets erupting from what may be a vast underground sea. These jets, which spew through cracks in the moon's icy shell, could lead back to a habitable zone that is uniquely accessible in all the solar system."

Keith's note:I am a biologist. Back in the day I ran many NASA peer review panels for exobiology research and helped plan NASA's initial astrobiology program. I run and would absolutely love this story to be true i.e. microbes raining on Enceladus but ... its not true - at least no one has proved it. Dr. Porco's guesses are imaginative and inspired and are not without some strong supporting data but they are just guesses - and Cassini does not have any way to prove that there is anything alive in these plumes. So yes, "let's go back".



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This page is an archive of entries in the Astrobiology category from April 2012.

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