April 4th, 2006

Extreme spots on Earth may yield clues to life on Mars The Mercury News

Nathalie Cabrol will never get to Mars, but the 42-year-old NASA planetary scientist is doing the next best thing.
She’s climbed almost 20,000 feet into the thin air of an Andes mountain peak, dived into some of the world’s highest lakes and sent a robot across a windswept Chilean desert – all in a quest to learn how life once might have existed, or may still exist, on the Red Planet.
The French-born Cabrol is one of a growing flock of biologists and geologists – called “astrobiologists” – who are going to the ends of the Earth to find parallels to the cold, dry Martian environment.

March 31st, 2004

Rover scientist says Mars rocks deserve closer look The Mercury News

The rocks that revealed the strongest sign yet that water once pooled on Mars are also ideal for preserving evidence that life once existed on the planet – if it ever did, according to the lead scientist of NASA’s current twin-rover mission. Meridiani Planum, the area now being studied by the rover Opportunity, could be the target of future missions equipped to look for organic materials or return samples to Earth, said Steve Squyres, the principal scientist of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover program.

March 28th, 2004

God’s creatures on Mars? The Mercury News

No one is truly expecting the Mars rover to find extraterrestrials on the red planet. But if it did, the world’s religions should have no trouble welcoming them. Scholars with expertise in science and religion contend that the major religions practiced on Earth are elastic enough to account for intelligent life on other planets. But thinking through the possibilities could be an important exercise in getting followers of different religions to see how they can coexist.

February 11th, 2004

Mars called a land of opportunity The Mercury News

A mars expert says space exploration opportunities for Australians abound. University of Adelaide geologist Victor Gostin addressed several hundred delegates at the Geological Society of Australia convention yesterday. Professor Gostin said the almost daily information fed back from Mars was a boon to scientists and students. He said the broad expanses of Australian deserts provided superb opportunities to create new instruments for Mars.

December 8th, 2003

A glimpse of Mars The Mercury News

Four Bay Area scientists just got back from exploring one of the highest lakes on Earth — a frigid, emerald-green jewel 19,400 feet up in the crater of Licancabur volcano in Bolivia. Their goal: To see how life might survive in an environment so harsh that it may be the closest thing on the planet to conditions on Mars.

June 19th, 2003

NASA sets launch date for second of two Mars rovers The Mercury News

NASA aims to launch next week the second of two rovers it’s sending to the surface of Mars on separate missions to prospect for evidence the Red Planet was once a warmer, wetter place hospitable to life. The six-wheeled robot, named Opportunity, is set for launch early Thursday Eastern Daylight Time from Cape Canaveral, Fla. Its launch was delayed a day by setbacks to the earlier liftoff of the first rover, Spirit. NASA launched Spirit on June 10.

May 1st, 2003

Simulation launches kids into healthy eating The Mercury News

If you have children who think orange soda is a healthy breakfast, give them the software game called “Hungry Red Planet” — you soon may find them reaching for the orange juice instead. “Hungry Red Planet” is an innovative computer simulation produced by Health Media Lab, under a grant from the National Institutes for Health. The program teaches about healthy eating by placing children in charge of menu planning for a group of settlers on the planet of Mars. In this game, Mars has become habitable because it collided with an icy comet. Players travel to Mars to become the governor and are assigned the task of colonizing Mars by establishing healthy, food-producing settlements. As a secondary goal, players explore Mars for a previous settlement that has been lost.

November 4th, 2002

The hunt for alien pond scum The Mercury News

With growing support from the federal government, scientists are accelerating their hunt for life beyond Earth. They also are broadening the search to include organisms unlike any of those on our home planet — what some researchers call “weird life.” By this, they mean alien forms of life that are not based on our familiar DNA but on a different genetic code. In theory, creatures made of unusual biological or chemical structures might exist on moons or planets that lack liquid water, a must for life as we know it.