Chemical Guidebook To Extraterrestrial Life Sought
Would you know extraterrestrial life if you found it? US scientists are working on a chemical guidebook to create a definitive method to determine whether extraterrestrial rocks have ever harbored life.
The NASA Astrobiology Program is supporting the effort with a $900,000 grant. Ultimately, future Mars rovers will be outfitted with a suite of tools that will let these autonomous machines search for life on their own.
The intent is to be able to identify living organisms, DNA fragments or amino acids, and other clues that might point to the existence of life. All organisms change their environment as they breathe and eat. The chemical guidebook will help scientists avoid controversy and argument by agreeing upfront about what constitutes the chemical signs of life.
The need for a chemical guidebook to extraterrestrial life became clear following the debate over whether or not evidence of life was found in a Martian meteorite.
(Were there Martian meteorite fossils?)
These claims are still controversial after years of debate.
The research group will have two new instruments to use in their search for Martian life. A Laser and Optical Chemical Imager (LOCI) combines a laser positioning system with a device known as a Fourier-transform mass spectrometer. The LOCI's laser can blast a rock's surface and lift off a very thin top layer of material as a small gas cloud. Sensors then create spectral images of the cloud, and scientists can decide what the surface layers were made of.
Also, a fuzzy logic computer called the Spectral IDentification Inference Engine (SIDIE) would help the rover use an open-ended reasoning approach that mimics human decision-making.
Science fiction authors have also wrestled with the problem of defining extraterrestrial life. Perhaps the best-known example is Michael Crichton's 1969 book The Andromeda Strain. In the book, a satellite designed to sample the outermost atmosphere in near-space comes back with more than the scientists in the novel bargained for.
Find out more about the guidebook in the press briefing Chemical guidebooks may help Mars rover track extraterrestrial life; read more about the controversy over Martian meteorite fossils.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 4/6/2005)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 3 )
Related News Stories -
The Space Suit As Personal Spaceship
'Darn clever, these suits...' - Jack Williamson, 1933.
Pent-Up NASA Scientists Simulate Life On Mars
'That gives it complete isolation.' - David H. Keller, 1932.
Dust Movement On The Moon, Saturn's Rings Solved
'...The dust normally on the surface picks up and keeps a charge.' - Hal Clement, 1956.
Axiom - The World's First Private Space Station?
'So Webb Foster had built his space laboratory... It was a great crystal sphere, a thousand feet in diameter.' - Nat Schachner, 1937.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Keith Laumer's Bolo Autonomous Tanks Right On Schedule
'I cannot lie idle under attack.'
When Computers Develop Their Own Language, Will They Talk To Us?
'The curious absent look of a robot talking on the TBR circuits - the Talk Between Robots radio...'
LipNet Reads Lips - Until Disconnected, That Is
'We'd have to cut his higher brain functions... I'm not sure what [HAL} would think about that.'
Eterni.me - To Skype With The Dead
'Nothing... left of Jeserac but a galaxy of electrons frozen in the heart of a crystal.'
Wearable MRI Is Former Occulus/Facebook Exec's New Project
'Your cephalochromoscope... that you always turn on and play when you get home...'
Ford Stratasys Infinte Build 3D Printer
'He proudly indicated his Buick... Almost as good as the original it was printed from...'
The Space Suit As Personal Spaceship
'Darn clever, these suits...'
Dune Fans! Your God Emperor Is Ready
'If one held a sandtrout in the hand, smoothing it over your skin, it formed a living glove.'
Robot Strolls Field, Examines EVERY Plant
'The great machines that did the work ... required but a few dozen men to cultivate an entire county.'
Sweden Outlaws Drones
'An eye that could not only see, but fly, roam, travel at speeds and in directions to suit its operator...'
Wear Your Self-Powered Generator
'It's basically a micro-sandwich...'
TITAN-III Spider Robot Is WAY Too Quick (Video)
'My little friends can find you wherever you go!'
Bill Gates Suggests Tax On Robots
'A worker replaced by a nubot that 'appears or pretends to be human' had to be compensated...'
Handle, New Wheeled Hopping Robot
'the hopper sprang thirty feet into the air...'
Matrix Sentinel Ancestor, The Pipe Inspector Robot From Krakow
Watch out, Keanu!
Auto-Focus Smart Glasses Have Liquid Lenses
'Hufhuf oil held in static tension by an enclosing force field within a viewing tube...'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories