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 -
Is 'The Pulsar Positioning System' Evidence For SETI?
'For a hyperspace jump, you need at least four beacons for an accurate fix.' - Harry Harrison, 1959.
Are Observed Radio Bursts An Alien Propulsion Technology?
'These cones were driven through space by light pressure, the possibilities of which force they had long utilized.' - Edmond Hamilton, 1929.
Caltech's ET Laboratory Looks For New Earths
'...set my automatic astronomical instruments to searching for a habitable planet.'- Edmond Hamilton, 1936.
Shh! USAF's Secret X-37B Space Plane Breaks Record
'More airplane than spaceship...' - Robert Heinlein, 1951.
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.
Cattle Avoidance Feature In Indian Autonomous Cars
'The driver went about the business of gently slipping the teflon-coated metal scoop beneath the first animal...'
Project KOVR Fashion Protection From Infosphere
'... the entire shroudlike membrane took on whatever physical characteristics were projected at any nanosecond.'
Twist Bioscience High Density Digital Data On DNA
'They tied the memory to the bloodline and that was their record!'
'We're Not Creating A Terminator' Say Russians About Gun-Wielding Robot Fedor
Nobody is thinking about the Terminator. Westworld, maybe.
Vantablack Now IMMEASURABLY Black
'a black coating now thatís ninety-nine percent absorptive...'
Mercedes-Benz Autonomous Taxi Fleet In 3 Years
'... the taxi utilized sophisticated electronic sensors to perceive its surroundings.'
Is 'The Pulsar Positioning System' Evidence For SETI?
'For a hyperspace jump, you need at least four beacons for an accurate fix.'
Someday, You Might Like VR Enough To Move In
'That barrier was going to melt away someday soon. The transhumanists had promised...'
Humans Use Mental Power For Turtle Slavery
Now we need to start looking for animals with fingers...
Solar-Powered Moisture Vaporator
'The atmosphere yielded its moisture with reluctance.'
DxtER! Tricorder Prize Won By Final Frontier Medical Devices
We've been waiting a long time for this, Star Trek fans.
President Trump's Wall As Otra Nation Hyperloop
'...an hollow tube must be constructed the whole distance... as to admit a four wheeled carriage...'
Pickup Lines From Artificial Intelligences
'They hate us, you know... The humans. They'll stop at nothing.'
Pooper Scooper Drone Robot Watchdog 1
'Robots pick up the garbage and junk...'
Cassie Robot Brings AT-ST Walker To Life
There's even a log test!
Hundreds Of Robot Lawnmowers Invade Texas Town
'The mower reached the edge of the lawn, clucked to itself...'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories