Astrobiology: June 2017 Archives

The Goals, Rationales, and Definition of Planetary Protection: Interim Report, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

"Avoiding forward and back contamination in missions to Mars can be viewed as addressing contamination that travels from Earth to Mars and back. From its origin in the 1997 SSB study and its implementation in COSPAR and NASA documents, the third rationale has been associated with preventing a "false positive" in a sample returned to Earth from a solar system body. However, molecular biology has advanced considerably in the last 20 years, and the committee needs to investigate more thoroughly whether new methods in molecular biology make false positive and negative results in biohazard assessments conducted on returned samples far less likely."

NASA Releases Kepler Survey Catalog with Hundreds of New Planet Candidates

"NASA's Kepler space telescope team has released a mission catalog of planet candidates that introduces 219 new planet candidates, 10 of which are near-Earth size and orbiting in their star's habitable zone, which is the range of distance from a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of a rocky planet. With the release of this catalog, derived from data publically available on the NASA Exoplanet Archive, there are now 4,034 planet candidates identified by Kepler. Of which, 2,335 have been verified as exoplanets. Of roughly 50 near-Earth size habitable zone candidates detected by Kepler, more than 30 have been verified."

The Tiny Edit That Changed NASA's Future, The Atlantic

"But in this year's bill, Congress added a momentous phrase to the agency's mission: "the search for life's origins, evolution, distribution, and future in the universe." It's a short phrase, but a visionary one, setting the stage for a far-reaching effort, that could have as profound an impact on the 21st century as the Apollo program had on the 20th. NASA's new directive acknowledges that we are tantalizingly close to answering perhaps the most fundamental question of all: Are we alone in the universe?"

National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017

"The Administrator shall enter into an arrangement with the National Academies to develop a science strategy for astrobiology that would outline key scientific questions, identify the most promising research in the field, and indicate the extent to which the mission priorities in existing decadal surveys address the search for life's origin, evolution, distribution, and future in the universe."

Keith's note: As much as I support the wording in this authorization act, authorization acts contain all kinds of interesting language that is usually ignored or slow-boated by NASA - especially if money is required to comply with the language - money that has not been appropriated. If reports (especially National Academy reports) are called for by the authorization bill, the reports are conducted by the usual suspects, take several years to create, and when they are delivered everyone has forgotten why they were asked for and/or the results have been overtaken by events. This 2017 NASA authorization act references an earlier NASA authorization act from 2010 which called for a National Academy report that was not started until 2012 and reported back to Congress in 2014. No one really pays much attention to the report since it punted on virtually every important task it was given to do.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017

"In accordance with section 204 of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2010 (124 Stat. 2813), the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, through its Committee on Human Spaceflight, conducted a review of the goals, core capabilities, and direction of human space flight, and published the findings and recommendations in a 2014 report entitled, ``Pathways to Exploration: Rationales and Approaches for a U.S. Program of Human Space Exploration''."

Yet Another Slow Motion Advisory Committee on Human Space Flight, earlier post (2012)

"Net result: the committee's advice will be out of synch with reality and somewhat overtaken by events having taken a total of 3 years, 7 months to complete. Oh yes: the cost of this study? $3.6 million.. The soonest that a NASA budget could be crafted that took this committee's advice into account would be the FY 2016 budget request. NASA and OMB will interact on the FY 2016 budget during Fall 2014 and it won't be announced until early 2015 - 4 1/2 years after this committee and its advice was requested in the NASA Authorization Act 2010."



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