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What'sNEW Archives, July-August 2000

Tagish Lake meteorite August 31: Analysis of the Tagish Lake meteorite will be methodical. As of today, no fossilized germs in it have been reported, according to scientists at the annual meeting of the Meteoritical Society in Chicago. The meteoriticists find TL interesting for other reasons, however. Its composition is 5.4% carbon, a high number even for carbonaceous chondrites. That composition and its carbon-13 isotope enrichment place it in a new quadrant, according to Monica Grady of London's Natural History Museum. She analyzed pieces of a later-gathered sample that had been soaked in lake water. Interestingly, such exposure apparently tends to reduce the amount of amino acids in the samples. The most pristine samples, almost a kilogram, are still owned by the Canadian trapper who recovered them, according to Mike Zolensky of Johnson Space Center. He was not aware of anyone who was specifically looking for fossilized germs in TL. Alan Hildebrand, of the University of Calgary, says that interested researchers should apply for samples while they last. Would a comparison between pristine and contaminated samples improve our understanding of the process of contamination?
+ At the same conference there were fascinating slides and a movie clip from the NEAR mission to Eros, but no one seemed willing to say that Eros's global bands look like strata of sediment. Informative updates were given on other missions like Stardust, CONTOUR, and a Japanese asteroid sampling mission, MUSES-C.
+ Also at the conference, Everett Gibson, David S. McKay and their team from NASA presented a poster concluding that at least some of the magnetite in ALH 84001, "in a terrestrial context, would be deemed biogenic." Most of the conference participants remain sceptical, apparently.
+ One thing has been established — that meteorites of different types have undergone significant "aqueous alteration" on their parent bodies, billions of years ago.
Derek W. G. Sears, ed., Meteoritics & Planetary Science, Journal of the Meteoritical Society, v 35: Supplement, September 2000.
Chemists find primordial meteorite in a class by itself — additional research on TL by Michael Lipschutz, Purdue University, 1 September 2000.
Comets... is a related CA webpage.

new astrobiology website August 26: New astrobiology website: "The Living Universe is the web's premiere educational resource for astrobiology, featuring in-depth information and interviews on exobiology, planetary biology, the origins of life and human spaceflight." [Thanks, Katie Harris.]
Astrobiology: The Living Universe [with serious Java], by

August 25: Ocean on Europa looks even more likely. Magnetic evidence strongly indicates a layer of conducting liquid — most likely a salty ocean — below Europa's surface. The data, collected by the Galileo spacecraft in eight passes over three years, are presented in a new article in Science.
Europa's magnetic fluctuations Margaret G. Kivelson, Krishan K. Khurana, Christopher T. Russell, Martin Volwerk, Raymond J. Walker and Christophe Zimmer, "Galileo Magnetometer Measurements: A Stronger Case for a Subsurface Ocean at Europa" [abstract], p 1340-1343 v 289, Science, 25 August 2000.
...Compelling Evidence of Ocean On Europa, by Maia Weinstock,, 24 August 2000.
Life on Europa?, Associated Press,, 25 August 2000.
...Possible Water World Under Europa's Icy Crust, NASA newsrelease 00-131, 25 August 2000.
More evidence for Europa's ocean, 11 January 2000, is a related CA What'sNEW item.
Life on Europa... has links to What'sNEW on Jupiter's and other moons.

clouds August 24: Bacteria live and grow in clouds. [Thanks, Larry Klaes.]
Life in the clouds, by Joanna Marchant, New Scientist magazine, 26 August 2000.
An Atmospheric Test of Cometary Panspermia is a possibly related CA webpage.

James Lovelock August 23: An interview with James Lovelock is available on the Internet. "It has been a bruising battle," he says. And, Nature has a Gaia story. [Thanks, Larry Klaes.]
James Lovelock, Gaia's grand old man, by Lawrence E. Joseph,, 17 August 2000.
Jim Gillon, "Feedback on Gaia" [html], doi:10.1038/35021165, p 685-686 v 406, Nature, 17 August 2000.
Gaia is the related CA webpage.

Viking Lander August 22: Renewed interest in liquid water on Mars. A paper by Lawrence Kuznetz presented at the Third International Mars Society Convention in Toronto, 10-13 August, shows how liquid water can exist under Martian environmental conditions and under atmospheric pressure as low as that on Mars. This finding would remove a remaining objection to the claim that life was detected by the Viking landers on Mars in 1976-1977.
Water on Mars: The Debate Rages Anew, by Leonard David,, 21 August 2000.
Life on Mars! is the related CA webpage.

Meteoritical Society August 18: Meteoritical Society to meet in Chicago, 28 August - 1 September. "Interplanetary space probes, interstellar dust grains, meteorites from the moon and Mars, meteorite impact craters on Earth and four-and-a-half-billion-year-old water samples are among the topics that scientists will discuss at the 63rd Annual Meteoritical Society Meeting in Chicago." Your CA correspondent will attend the session pertaining to the Tagish Lake (or Yukon) meteorite that fell on 18 January 2000.
63rd Annual Meeting of the Meteoritical Society
Meteoritical Society to meet in Chicago... University of Chicago, 21 July 2000.
Tagish Lake Meteorite... What'sNEW, 1 June 2000.

SWAS August 17: NASA satellite detects water vapor in interstellar space and on planets. The Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite ("SWAS") saw evidence of water vapor the atmospheres of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, as well as in distant clouds of interstellar gas. Mars' atmosphere is thin and cold, but its relative humidity is near 100 percent! [Thanks Larry Klaes.]
SWAS Homepage
Cosmic Gas Clouds Yield Puzzling Concentrations of Water, NASA newsrelease 00-126, 16 August 2000.

August 17: Mars Society to sponsor life-detecting microscope aboard ESA's Mars Express. It would be mounted on the robotic arm, or "paw," of the British-built Bealge 2 lander. The mission is scheduled for launch in June 2003.
Life-Seeking Microscope Slated for Next Mars Landing, by Leonard David,, 17 August 2000.
Life on Mars! is a related CA webpage.

New Mars Rover August 10: NASA will send twin rovers to Mars. The 300-pound landers will be launched on a seven-and-a-half-month journey to Mars on Delta II rockets, 22 May and 4 June, 2003. The robotic rovers will be larger and more sophisticated versions of the tiny Pathfinder Sojourner vehicle, which sent back thousands of photographs from Mars in 1997.
NASA doubles Mars traffic, BBC News, 10 August 2000.
NASA To Send Twin Probes to Mars, by Irene Brown, News, 10 August 2000.
NASA Doubles Its Martian Bet, SpaceDaily, 10 August 2000.
NASA Plans to Send Rover Twins to Mars in 2003, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 10 August 2000.
Twin Rovers Headed for Mars, Science@NASA, 10 August 2000.
John Noble Wilford, "NASA Sending 2 Rovers to Mars in Twin Trips Landing in 2004" [text], The New York Times, 11 August 2000.
Manned flight to Mars in 2014?, BBC News, 11 August 2000.

August 9: NASA to announce plans for 2003 Mars mission tomorrow.
News Briefing Set for Aug 10 to Discuss Mars Rover Decision, N00-38, NASA HQ, 9 August 2000.
Life on Mars! is the related CA webpage.

EETimes August 8: Indestructable germs put to use! "Bacteria that remain alive after ... heroic measures to eradicate them with ultraviolet light, ozone and everything else including a dollar a gallon to purify the water" often contaminate the ultra-clean factories where computer chips are manufactured. Now the germs' extreme hardiness may make them useful. [Thanks, Larry Klaes.]
Bacteria pressed into service as living transistors, by R. Colin Johnson, EE Times, 31 July 2000.
Silicon Bugs, by Anil Ananthaswamy, New Scientist magazine, 12 August 2000.
Bacteria: The Space Colonists is a related CA webpage.

surviving microbes August 6: Germs survive in space. A dime-sized colony of Deinococcus radiodurans was reduced by 99.9% after a short trip in space. The experimenters consider this rate sufficient for the survivors to reestablish the colony within days. Another tested species had a lower survival rate, but not zero apparently.
Microbes Survive Space Trip, by Michael Ray Taylor, News, 31 July 2000.
Bacteria: The Space Colonists is a related CA webpage.

July 24: Germs will be sent on a suborbital rocket ride to see if they can survive in space. On July 26, NASA will carry them as "hitchhikers" on a Solar EUV Rocket, a slender 19-foot sounding rocket used to study sun activity. The microorganisms were specially selected by the team at the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute that designed the experiment.
Bugs in space, by David Watanabe, exoscience, 24 July 2000.
Sounding Rocket Flight to Test Panspermia Theories, SpaceViews, 26 July 2000.
Can the Theory Be Tested? is the related CA webpage.

Mars rover July 21, 3PM: Monday's announcement re Mars 2003 mission postponed.
NASA Postpones Mars 2003 Announcement, by Donald Savage, NASA HQ, 21 July 2000.

July 21: Scientists divided over timing of Mars sample return — Conservatives favor a "go slow" approach. Meanwhile, NASA is committed to flying an orbiter in 2001 and will announce Monday whether to fly another orbiter or a lander for the 2003 flight opportunity.
Mars Rock-Sample Mission Divides Scientists, by Irene Brown, News, 21 July 2000.

July 21: Volcanoes on Mars may have been active recently. Some lava flows show very little cratering, so they must be new.
Study Points to Recent Volcanic Activity, by Lee Siegel,, 21 July 2000.
William J. Broad, "Reports of a Dead Mars Are Greatly Exaggerated" [text], The New York Times, 25 July 2000.
Life on Mars! is the related CA webpage.

intron homing July 20: Introns' homing capability may become useful in genetic engineering, because precise targeting of insertion sites is better than inserting genes at random locations. Of course, we think introns' remarkable homing capability could enable new genes to become properly inserted during natural evolution as well.
Huatao Guo, Michael Karberg, Meredith Long, J.P. Jones III, Bruce Sullenger and Alan M. Lambowitz, "Group II Introns Designed to Insert into Therapeutically Relevant DNA Target Sites in Human Cells" [abstract], p 452-457 v 289 Science, 21 July 2000.
Evelyn Strauss, "Targeting Intron Insertion Into DNA" [abstract], p 374 v 289 Science, 21 July 2000.
Introns: A Mystery is the related CA webpage.

analysis of comet dust July 19: Comets could have formed at different times during the evolution of the solar nebula, and may reveal their age by the structure of their dust grains. This new research also indicates that theories of comet formation and the dynamics of a protostellar nebula may need to be revised.
A Trip Through Time on Dusty Comets, Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA, 19 July 2000.
Joseph A. Nuth, Hugh G. M. Hill and Gunther Kletetschka, "Determining the ages of comets from the fraction of crystalline dust" [abstract], p 275-276 v 406 Nature, 20 July 2000.
Comets: The Delivery System is a related CA webpage.

microtubules July 19: Microtubules do not form properly in space. An experiment conducted by French biologists shows that these structural elements of eukaryotic cells form properly only under the influence of gravity. This finding has important implications about the fate of eukaryotes in different gravitational environments. It is consistent with our understanding that bacteria are better suited for space. [Thanks, Francisco Carrapico.]
Cyril Papaseit, Nathalie Pochon and James Tabony, "Microtubule self-organization is gravity-dependent" [abstract], p 8364-8368 v 97 n 15 Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 18 July 2000.

CH3 July 18: ESA's infrared space telescope detects CH3 in space.
"But the detected abundance of CH3 poses new problems... since there is actually much more CH3 than predicted by the traditional models describing molecular clouds. This implies that the models will have to be reviewed." [Thanks, SpaceDaily.]
ISO detects a new molecule in interstellar space, European Space Agency, 10 July 2000.
Analysis of Interstellar Dust is a related CA webpage.

Comet Borrelly July 11: A revived Deep Space 1 mission will visit comet Borrelly. After achieving most of its objectives, DS1 lost its primary guidance system in November 1999. Although the craft was hundreds of millions of kilometers away, engineers at JPL sent up a lengthy software patch that made imaginative use of the remaining equipment. The rescue story is reminiscent of Apollo 13. If the comet rendezvous is successful, it will be the closest inspection of a comet since the European Space Agency's Giotto spacecraft passed within 600 km of comet Halley in 1986. The scientific payoff could be considerable.
The Indefatigable Ions of Deep Space 1, Science@NASA, 17 August 2000.
Comet Borrelly or Bust by Tony Phillips, Science@NASA, 11 July 2000.
Deep Space 1 Resumes Its Mission, by Andrew Bridges,, 7 July 2000.
Comets: The Delivery System is a related CA webpage.
Can the Theory be Tested is a related CA webpage.

Astronomical Origins of Life July 8: New collection by Hoyle and Wickramasinghe — "Two of the pioneers of the modern version of panspermia — the theory that comets disperse microbial life throughout the cosmos — trace the development of their ideas through a sequence of key papers. A logical progression of thought is shown to lead up to the currently accepted viewpoint that at least the biochemical building blocks of life must have derived from comets. The authors go further, however, to argue that not just the chemicals of life, but fully-fledged microbial cells have an origin that is external to the Earth. Such a theory of cosmic life, once established, would have profound scientific as well as sociological implications. The publication of this book is all the more timely now that we are on the threshold of verifying many of these ideas by direct space exploration of planets and comets."

F. Hoyle and N.C. Wickramasinghe, Astronomical Origins of Life: Steps Towards Panspermia, 324pp, ISBN 0-7923-6081-8, Kluwer Academic Publishers, April 2000.
Hoyle and Wickramasinghe: Selected Resources lists other panspermia-related works by these authors.

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NSF July 7: Bacteria at the South Pole — A population of active bacteria, some of which have DNA sequences that align closely with species in the genus Deinococcus, were metabolically active and synthesizing DNA and protein at local ambient temperatures of -12 to -17 Celsius (10.4 to 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit), according to Edward J. Carpenter, of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, who headed the research team that made the discovery. These bacteria would have important implications for the possibility that life — at least at the microscopic level — may exist in cold dry environments elsewhere in the solar system. [Thanks Ron Baalke.]
NSF-Funded Researchers Discover Evidence of Microscopic Life at the South Pole, by Peter West, National Science Foundation , 6 July 2000.
Bacteria: The Space Colonists is a related CA webpage.

July 6: Creationism versus Darwinism at the Federal level — On May 10, advocates of "Intelligent Design" theory gave members of the U.S. Congress their side of the debate with Darwinism. "Whether by chance or by design, the briefing took place as the Senate entered its second week of debate on overhauling federal K-12 education programs." On June 14, Congressman Mark Souder of Indiana responded to scientists at Baylor University who wrote a letter criticising the May 10 briefing. In this long-running, highly polarized debate, Cosmic Ancestry presents a third possibility. [Thanks Larry Klaes.]
Evolution Opponents Hold Congressional Briefing, by David Applegate, American Geological Institute, 11 May 2000.
Intelligent Design is not a Science, Congressional Record Online, 15 June 2000.
Evolution vs Creationism is the related CA webpage.

July 4: Could Mars' recent gullies have been made by gas? Dr. Michael Carr of the U.S. Geological Survey says maybe so.
The Case For Outgassing, by Bruce Moomaw, SpaceDaily, 5 July 2000.
Life on Mars! is a related CA webpage.

Europa orbiter July 3: Future missions to Europa should be sterilized. This recommendation comes from a panel assembled by the National Research Council's Space Studies Board. "Contamination is a concern because Europa appears to have all the key ingredients needed to support life: liquid water, organic materials, and an energy source. Although there is no direct evidence that life exists beneath Europa's icy surface, contamination by microbes that arrive on Europa from spacecraft could made the search for life difficult, and could even endanger any native life."
Report Recommends Sterilization of Future Europa Missions, SpaceViews, 1 July 2000.
Life on Europa... has links to What'sNEW on Jupiter's and other moons.

COSMIC ANCESTRY | Quick Guide | What'sNEW - Later - Earlier - Index | by Brig Klyce | All Rights Reserved