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EXO LIFE
NASA To Announce Astrobiology Finding: Major Impact On Search For Life
by Staff Writers
Moffett Field CA (SPX) Nov 30, 2010


Spindly new species found in ocean's crushing depths
Paris (AFP) Nov 24, 2010 - Scientists unveiled on Wednesday a gossamer, ghostly creature discovered in the deepest reaches of the ocean between Indonesia and the Philippines. The squidworm, up to 9.4 centimetres (3.7 inches) in length, is far more elegant than its name would suggest. Swimming upright, it navigates by moving two body-length rows of thin, paddle-shaped protrusions that cascade like dominoes. Ten tentacles as long or longer than its body stick out of its head, along with six pairs of curved nuchal organs that allow the squidworm to taste and smell underwater. Using a remotely-operated submersible, a trio of marine biologists led by Karen Osborn of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California found the previously unknown animals in the Celebes Sea at a depth of 2.8 kilometres (1.7 miles).

"I was really excited," Osborn said of her first glimpse. "It was so tantalising because the animal was so different from anything previously described, with the fantastic headgear." Squidworms live about 100 to 200 metres above the ocean floor, a layer rich in undiscovered fauna and flora, scientists say. "I would estimate that when exploring the deep water column, more than half the animals we see are undescribed or new to science," Osborn said in an email. Up to now, this region has been largely inaccessible because tools for collecting samples either scraped along the ocean floor, or mangled specimens so badly that they were useless or unrecognizable once brought to the surface.

The squidworm, Teuthidodrilus samae, does not appear to be a predator, feeding instead on bits of so-called "marine snow," a mix of sinking microscopic plants and animals, faecal material and cast-off mucus. "Not the most appealing sounding food, but the large aggregates are rich in nutrients to feed on," Osborn said. The Celebes Sea, a deep pocket basin isolated from surrounding deep water, is part of the Coral Triangle, a conservation hot spot due to its diverse lifeforms and unique geological history. The squidworm is so different from known animals that it required the creation of a new genus, the level above species in the taxonomical ladder for classifying animals and plants. The study was published in Biology Letters, a journal of the British Royal Society.

NASA will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. 2, to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life. Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe.

The news conference will be held at the NASA Headquarters auditorium at 300 E St. SW, in Washington. It will be broadcast live on NASA Television and streamed on the agency's website.

Participants are:
- Mary Voytek, director, Astrobiology Program, NASA Headquarters, Washington
- Felisa Wolfe-Simon, NASA astrobiology research fellow, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, Calif.
- Pamela Conrad, astrobiologist, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
- Steven Benner, distinguished fellow, Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, Gainesville, Fla.
- James Elser, professor, Arizona State University, Tempe

earlier related report
NASA Satellite Reaches Orbit, Begins Astrobiology Experiments
Moffett Field CA (SPX) Nov 24, 2010 - The Organism/Organic Exposure to Orbital Stresses, or O/OREOS, nanosatellite managed by NASA's Ames Research Center, successfully launched at 5:25 p.m. PST on Friday, Nov. 19, 2010, from Alaska Aerospace Corporations Kodiak Launch Complex on Kodiak Island, Alaska.

O/OREOS rode into orbit aboard a four-stage Air Force Minotaur IV rocket. Also aboard were the Air Force Research Laboratorys Space Test ProgramSat-2 (STPSat-2), NASA's Fast, Affordable, Science and Technology Satellite, or FASTSAT, payload bus which carried the NanoSail-Demonstration, NASA's first solar sail, as well as other satellites developed by universities and industry.

The goal of the O/OREOS mission is to demonstrate the capability to conduct low-cost astrobiology science experiments on autonomous nanosatellites in space.

Scientists will apply the knowledge they gain from O/OREOS to plan future experiments in the space environment to study how exposure to space changes organic molecules and biology. These experiments will help answer astrobiologys fundamental questions about the origin, evolution and distribution of life in the universe.

"It was a spectacular sunset launch as O/OREOS got a piggyback ride into space on the STPSat-2 mission," said Bruce Yost, O/OREOS mission manager at Ames.

"We're off to a great start, having made contact with O/OREOS with our ground station at Santa Clara University, received confirmation that the spacecraft successfully deployed and initiated the first experiment.

"The amateur radio community also has been listening to O/OREOS and giving the operations team important information about the health and status of the spacecraft," Yost added.

"The O/OREOS science team is excited to receive the first real-time measurements from samples onboard two science experiments," said Pascale Ehrenfreund, O/OREOS project scientist at the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University. "This will demonstrate that CubeSat technologies can be used for future missions to address fundamental astrobiology objectives."

Approximately 19 minutes after launch, O/OREOS separated from the Minotaur IV rocket and entered low Earth orbit at an altitude of approximately 400 miles. About three hours after launch, amateur radio operator, Marco Bruno, in Torino, Italy received the first signals from O/OREOS.

After a spacecraft checkout period, O/OREOS autonomously initiated the first of two experiments, which will last approximately six months and transmit data for as long as a year. The second experiment will start on Friday, Nov. 26, 2010.

Now that O/OREOS is activated and has begun transmitting radio signals to ground control stations at Santa Clara University, the nanosatellite will send mission data to the NASA Mission Management and science teams at Ames for analysis.

The STPSat-2 launch was the STP's 26th small launch vehicle mission. The Air Force Space Commands Space and Missile Systems Centers Space Development and Test Wing at Kirtland AFB, N.M., has overall management of the STPSat-2 mission.

The Small Spacecraft Division at Ames manages the O/OREOS payload and mission operations with the professional support of staff and students from Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, Calif., in support of the Astrobiology Small Payloads program under the Planetary Science Division of the Science Mission Directorate at NASAs Headquarters in Washington.

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Related Links
Astrobiology at NASA
Life Beyond Earth
Lands Beyond Beyond - extra solar planets - news and science






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EXO LIFE
NASA Satellite Reaches Orbit, Begins Astrobiology Experiments
Moffett Field CA (SPX) Nov 24, 2010
The Organism/Organic Exposure to Orbital Stresses, or O/OREOS, nanosatellite managed by NASA's Ames Research Center, successfully launched at 5:25 p.m. PST on Friday, Nov. 19, 2010, from Alaska Aerospace Corporations Kodiak Launch Complex on Kodiak Island, Alaska. O/OREOS rode into orbit aboard a four-stage Air Force Minotaur IV rocket. Also aboard were the Air Force Research Laboratorys S ... read more


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