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 ")

Elon Musk Tweets Versions Of Clarke's Operation Cleanup
'Fortunately, the old orbital forts were superbly equipped for this task.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1978.

Espresso Telescope Searches For Exoplanets
'These instruments were the wonderful ones our astronomers had perfected.' - Edmond Hamilton, 1936.

Manned Maneuvering Unit From 1984
'The glittering little rocket bolted to the black iron behind him.' - Jack Williamson, 1933.

Astronaut Gets Younger In Space
'So what we're looking for now is not an antibiotic - an anti-life drug - but an anti-agathic, an anti-death drug...' - James Blish, 1957.

 

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

Swarm Of Mindless Robots Works Together
'Very tiny pseudo insects that... can unite to form a superordinate system.'

SpotMini Robot Dog, Autonomous And On Sale In 2019
Great, an autonomous slamhound. It is cute, though.

RoboFly Is Laser-Powered, Adorable
Don't swat this fly!

MSG Sphere Las Vegas, ala Star Wars
'The smoky globe, hung in the vault, was shot with colored light...'

Tetraplegics Dominate Avatar Races
Well, just speaking brain-to-computer...

MIT Ampli Blocks Build Biomedical Devices
Damn it Spock, I'm a doctor not an engineer!

UberAIR Asks For Skytaxi Landing Prototypes
You know you want to ride in one.

Boring Tunnel Almost Ready
Your underground future is calling!

Handheld Human Skin Printer
It outputs a thin wad of uniflesh.

Healthy Fast Food Courtesy Of Robot Chefs
'The electric cook was stirring empty nothing in a pan, with a zeal worthy a dozen eggs.'

Mass Production Of In Vitro Meat From One Sample
They're Assimilating Our Culture, That's What They're Doing

Amazing 'Hybrid' Solar-Powered Sea Slug Does Photosynthesis
Thank goodness for Star Trek.

Retinal Prosthesis Uses Organic Printing Inks
We can rebuild you - well, your eyes, maybe.

Should You Submit Your DNA To A Database?
Consumer DNA services are often inaccurate.

Squid-Like Robots Soon To Be 3D Printable
'It was a chemotactic artificial jellyfish designed to slither...'

Humans Evolve Deep Diving Abilities
Sounds like '60s sci-fi to me.

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.