Volume 35 – July 20, 2011
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Mars in a Bottle
In 1976, two Viking landers attempted to incubate any possible Martian micro-organisms from the extracted Martian soil samples. The results were ambiguous but a strong and still continuing debate ensued. The debate has had nothing to do with the goal of the mission but its larger implications; the contamination of Mars.
Some astrobiologists believe that the incubation research might have killed some exotic native life on Mars. That is the reason a team of researchers at the University of Padova, Italy, decided to build their own Martian environment in a lab to study the effects of the harsh environment on terrestrial bacteria.
The team led by Giuseppe Galletta using the Mars simulator called LISA (Laboratorio Italiano Simulazione Ambienti) has duplicated the conditions present on Mars and then introduced several strains of bacteria into the simulator to record their survival rate. Their finding shows that although the vegetative cells of certain bacteria died after a few minutes, the endospores were able to survive, especially when covered with the dust simulating the volcanic ash and dust of red iron oxide. This has led them to believe the deeper in the soil an organism is placed, the better its chances of survival.
The team in Padova believes these experiments benefit us in two aspects. They would define the limits for how easy or hard it would be to accidentally contaminate Mars with Earth bugs as well as expand our understanding of the limits of environments where life can survive.
To read more, please visit:
Honoring the Shuttle Program
With the approach of shuttle retirement upon Atlantis's return, we would like to direct your attention to two very interesting photo essays featuring shuttle program's impressive, exciting and at times tragic history.
To see the photo essays, please visit:
Journey to the Asteroid Belt
On Saturday July 16, 2011, NASA's Dawn spacecraft became the first probe ever to enter orbit around Vesta, the second largest object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Dawn will study Vesta for a year before departing for the largest object in the main asteroid belt, Ceres, in July 2012.
Observations will provide unprecedented data to help scientists understand the earliest chapter of our solar system. The data will also help pave the way for future human space missions.
To learn more about and to follow Dawn's missions, you can visit:
And the young space enthusiasts can visit the link below to see games, activities, and instructions on how to build their own Dawn and asteroid belt.
What If Competition Update and Changes
Registration for What If Competition 's summer competition has already started. Please note the following change : the What If Competition management team and sponsors are happy to extend the competition to more students, the competition is open to students of 10-14 years of age, from all countries.
Don't forget to turn in your entries by August 15, 2011.
To learn more about the rules and schedule of the competition please visit our brand new website at: http://www.whatifprize.org .
My Dream of Stars
My Dream of Stars: From Daughter of Iran to Space Pioneer: a book by Anousheh Ansari and Homer Hickam.
In her memoir, Anousheh recalls her long path to success and to achieving her dream. To learn more about the book, please visit: http://www.anoushehansari.com/book/
To find a book signing, please check the upcoming appearances section of this newsletter.
To obtain a copy please visit: