Are We Alone?

Astrobiology, Extreme Environments, and Mars Exploration!
The third seminar in the JPL series, "Are We Alone?", was held on Thursday, February 22, 2007, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. The presenter was Dr. Jack Farmer, Full Professor in the Department of Geological Sciences and Director of Arizona State University's Astrobiology Program. Dr. Farmer talked about astrobiology, extreme environments, and some of the extreme places we have found life thriving, and the applications of these to Mars exploration.

NASA's Phoenix Mission will launch later in 2007. Sixty (60) participants were present at the live Web Seminar in addition to the presenter and the NSTA staff. Participating educators represented the states of Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas. One participant joined the seminar from Puerto Rico and another attended from Denmark.

Dr. Jack Farmer shared three conclusions with the audience: (1) The search for Martian life involves two distinctly different paths: Looking for extant life and looking for fossil biosignatures. (2) Life is found over a much broader range of environmental extremes than once believed, including extremes of temperature, pH, salinity, water, and oxygen availability. (3) This fact opens up exploration for life elsewhere in the Solar System to an equally broad range of surface and subsurface environments. All participants received a copy of NSTA's SciGuide about A Close-Up Look at the Red Planet, grades 5-8.

Here are some comments provided by the participants at the end of the Web Seminar:

  • "As Solar system Ambassador I need as much information as possible about
    this topic. Kids and teachers are always asking questions about Astrobiology
    and right now I'm more than ready to answer questions that before the
    seminar I could not answer."
  • "It gave me a new perspective on the question of what is life? I didn't realize life could exist in some extreme environments."
  • "This was a great overview for the possibility of life on other planets.
    This information will help me with the Aliens Project my physics students
    do every year."
  • "We are working on a summer program on astrobiology. So many things
    Dr. Farmer shared will be great hooks for us to get our visitors to think
    about and understand what life might be like in other parts of our solar system
    or even in our galaxy."

Thanks to the participants and the presenter for the learning opportunity, the interactions, and a job well done!


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Underwritten by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory