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 |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 3 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

WINE Spacecraft To Extract Water From Asteroids
'Yes, strangely enough there was still sufficient water beneath the surface of Vesta.' - Raymond Z. Gallun, 1951.

Japanese Swordsmiths Take On Asteroids
'... a tiny, rocket-powered projectile, drove towards the mysterious bulk.' - E. C. Tubb, 1958.

Saturn's Rings To Vanish, Let's Mine Them While We Can
'...the valuable shards of what had once been satellites.' - Nelson S. Bond, 1941.

Negative Matter Fluid Theorized In New Paper
'Of course, being negative matter, when you push it, it comes toward you..' - Robert Forward, 1992.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Spicy Tomatoes Created With Genetic Engineering
How about mashed potatoes and brown gravy?

Driverless Hotel Rooms Predicted In 1828
'Did you never see a moving house before?'

Yandex Self-Driving Taxi Is Very Smooth
'The big car was slowing down, its computer brain sensing an exit ahead.'

Shrimp Actually Made Of Algae Is A New Wave Food
Bring in that crop algae.

Cosplay Style Wings Could Work On Moon
'They're lovely! - titanalloy struts as light and strong as bird-bones...'

Tesla Model 3 Has Outside Speaker Grille
Robert Heinlein does it again.

Arizona Luddites Attack Self-Driving Vehicles
'Trucks don't drive by themselves...' Or do they?

Organaut! Russians 3D Print Living Tissue In Space
'For a while your colonists will have to come up [to orbit] to the Hospital...'

WINE Spacecraft To Extract Water From Asteroids
'Yes, strangely enough there was still sufficient water beneath the surface of Vesta.'

Japanese Swordsmiths Take On Asteroids
'... a tiny, rocket-powered projectile, drove towards the mysterious bulk.'

Saturn's Rings To Vanish, Let's Mine Them While We Can
'...the valuable shards of what had once been satellites.'

Humans Could Take Up A LOT Less Space
We'd have a lot more room for gardening...

Implosion Fabrication Shrinks 3D Objects To Nanoscale
'Carter had watched miniaturization a hundred times...'

GMO Houseplant Cleans Your Air
Removes compounds too small to be captured by a HEPA filter.

Nova Meat Can 3D Print Your Dinner
Printing out chicken nuggets.

MIT Scientists Create 'Peek-a-Boo Prober' From Jetsons
Well, George, it's the latest thing.

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.