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NASA Grants $7 mn For New Life Detection

"We're working to transform how to measure biosignatures, or signs of life, in and outside of our solar system," Graham said

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NASA, Hubble, Keplar, asteroids
L'Ralph needs to have many capabilities in a small, light body structure to keep the spacecraft efficient and the mission productive.Flickr
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NASA has awarded nearly $7 million for a fresh interdisciplinary project to detect new, non-Earth-like life on Mars, Jupiter and Saturn’s icy moons.

The Laboratory for Agnostic Biosignatures (LAB) will lay the groundwork for characterising potential biosignatures, or signs of life, a statement late on Sunday said.

LAB’s initial research focus is on four features of life that do not assume any specific biochemistry, and will branch out from these concepts to build a framework for looking for life “as we don’t know it”.

These features include: patterns of chemical complexity, surface complexity, chemical disequilibrium with the surrounding environment, and evidence of energy transfer.

These indicators of life were chosen since they can be framed in a way that doesn’t bias observations toward the specific forms of life on Earth and are methods that could be implemented on flight missions, the statement noted.

NASA, gamma-ray collection
“Detecting life in an agnostic fashion means not using characteristics particular to Earth life,” said Heather Graham at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Pixabay

The LAB is a consortium of 15 team members from universities and institutions around the world constituting of planetary scientists, biologists, chemists, computer scientists, mathematicians and veteran instrument scientists.

“Our goal is to go beyond what we currently understand and devise ways to find forms of life we can scarcely imagine,” principal investigator Sarah Stewart Johnson from Georgetown University, said in the statement.

The team of investigators will lay the groundwork for characterising potential biosignatures that do not presuppose any particular molecular framework, as well as design tools for their detection and strategies for interpretation.

Also Read- Astronomers Found Ancient Star Formed By Big Bang

“Detecting life in an agnostic fashion means not using characteristics particular to Earth life,” said Heather Graham at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“We’re working to transform how to measure biosignatures, or signs of life, in and outside of our solar system,” Graham said. (IANS)

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The Aborted Mission To Relaunch In December: NASA

In August, a hole appeared in a Soyuz capsule docked to the ISS that caused a brief loss of air pressure and had to be patched.

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Russian Rocket
Astronaut Anne McClain, left, is seen during training at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston, Texas. VOA

The American astronaut who will hitch the first ride on a Russian rocket since last month’s aborted launch and dramatic emergency landing is confident that her scheduled trip in December on a rocket that she calls a “workhorse” will go smoothly.

Astronaut Anne McClain, along with a Russian cosmonaut and a Canadian astronaut, will man the Dec. 3 mission. It will be the Russian-made Soyuz-FG’s first crewed flight since Oct. 11, when U.S. astronaut Nick Hague and a Russian cosmonaut landed unharmed on the Kazakh desert steppe after the rocket bound for the International Space Station failed in mid-air two minutes after liftoff.

NASA, rocket
Specialists watch broadcasts from the Soyuz spacecraft showing astronaut David Saint-Jacques of Canada, Oleg Kononenko of Russia and astronaut Anne McClain of the U.S. attending the final qualification training for their upcoming space mission in Star City near Moscow, Russia. VOA

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has relied on Russian rockets to ferry astronauts to the space station since the United States retired its Space Shuttle program in 2011, though the agency has announced plans for test flights carrying two astronauts on commercial rockets made by Boeing and SpaceX next April.

“I do see the incident that happened on Oct. 11 with our launch abort not as a failure but as a success,” McClain told Reuters in a telephone interview from Russia. “It actually bolsters my confidence in the rocket and in the processes that we have.

“We’re confident in the vehicle and getting back to it,” McClain said of the Soyuz rocket, which she called “the workhorse of the space program.”

After lifting off from Kazakhstan’s Soviet-era cosmodrome of Baikonur last month, a damaged sensor caused one of the rocket’s three booster stages to separate improperly, falling inward on the rocket and jolting it off its ascent two miles above ground, Russian investigators announced earlier this month.

Russian Rocket
The Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft carrying the crew of astronaut Nick Hague of the U.S. and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Russia blasts off to the International Space Station (ISS) from the launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. VOA

During Assembly

Video from inside the capsule showed the two men being shaken around at the moment the failure occurred, their arms and legs flailing. Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin can be heard saying, “That was a quick flight.”

The accident was the first serious launch problem experienced by a crewed Soyuz space mission since 1983, when a crew narrowly escaped before a launchpad explosion.

Also Read: NASA Grants $7 Mn For New Life Detection

In August, a hole appeared in a Soyuz capsule docked to the ISS that caused a brief loss of air pressure and had to be patched. Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, has said that it could have been made deliberately by someone during manufacturing or while the craft was in space.

McClain and two other crewmates will launch from the same launchpad in Baikonur, joining the space station’s current three-person crew. (VOA)