archive: NASA and SETI


Larry Klaes ( )
Tue, 25 May 1999 08:03:47 -0400

>> ========================================================
>> WASHINGTON, May 18 (Reuters) - A new NASA institute will look for
>> extraterrestrial life, but the space agency's chief warned on Tuesday
>> against expectations of ``little green men or little green women.''
>> ``We would like to understand how life went from a chemical condition ...
>> and made the transition to cellular life,'' NASA administrator Dan Goldin
>> said in formally unveiling the Astrobiology Institute.
>> People would be wrong to think ``we're out searching for little green men
>> or little green women,'' Goldin said. ``We're looking for any form of
>> biological life. Single-cell (organisms) would be a grand slam.''
>> To hunt such tiny organisms in outer space, Goldin said he envisioned
>> shrinking the capabilities of an earthly laboratory to the size of a
>> computer chip, with massive capacity to observe and calculate, and then
>> lobbing it into space.
>> He also said there might be simulations of some of the unlikely
>> environments -- such as undersea volcanoes -- that support life on Earth.
>> ``We will need a revolution in communications ... a revolution in
>> organisation and scientific thinking,'' Goldin told a news conference at
>> the institute's home at Ames Research Centre in Mountain View,
>> California, which was monitored in Washington.
>> Goldin made the announcement in the heart of Silicon Valley and said that
>> was no accident: the institute is meant to be ``virtual,'' rather than
>> having a huge physical plant, with participants across the United States
>> linked by computer.
>> The Northern California location also puts the Astrobiology Institute in
>> close proximity to SETI, which is also searching for extraterrestrial
>> life from a base at the University of California at Berkeley.
>> Goldin said the NASA institute would work with other public and private
>> agencies, and that might include SETI -- the U.S. nongovernmental Search
>> for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute.
>> The proposed budget for the new venture is $25 million initially, and
>> Goldin said that could rise to $50 million to $100 million a year. NASA's
>> total proposed budget for next year is about $13.6 billion.
>> Goldin said Dr. Baruch Blumberg, a cancer specialist who won the 1976
>> Nobel Prize in medicine for developing a test and vaccine for the deadly
>> hepatitis B virus, would head the new institute.
>> ``The mission is to look for life without any specifications,'' Blumberg
>> told the news conference. ``Nothing in the mission would preclude looking
>> for rather strange and unusual and, as a matter of fact, life forms we
>> can't even imagine right now.''
>> But how do you look for something when you do not know what it is?
>> ``That's what basic research is all about,'' Blumberg said.
>> 18:09 05-18-99
>> 5/18/99 6:09 PM