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Though it is said that there is no real agreed


definition for astrobiology, as I see it, the universal


meaning can be defined as the part of biology with a


primary interest in studying life in the Universe. This


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includes the origin and evolution of life in outer space


and on Earth.


Astrobiology is a compilation of an array of scientific


disciplines which includes biology, astronomy,


technology, and ecology. Planetary biology, the study


of “human spaceflight and how life first came into


existence” and exobiology, “the study of other planets


both in our Solar System and those orbiting around other


stars” are probably the most recognized of these of


disciplines.


Astrobiologists search for answers to endless questions.


Some of them are How did life on earth come to be? Can


or does life exist on other planets? What will be


necessary for human life to survive in outer space? What


future challenges may be faced on Earth and beyond?


These biologists seek to understand and determine the


beginning of life and how life affects or are affected


by the environment from which it evolved. Within this


field of study, there have been numerous accounts of


life’s existence on Mars. In 16 scientists with the


National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)


reported proof of microscopic life form on Mars


approximately 4 billion years ago. They found a large


meteorite that had broken off from Mars when it was hit


by an asteroid over15 million years ago. This meteorite


was found on Earth in the South Pole and appeared to


have landed there 1,000 years ago. “Researchers found


tubular structures lodged in the clay inside the


meteorite, which NASA believes are fossilized bacterial


forms .6 billion years old”. They were able to


determine that the meteorite was in fact from Mars by


comparing its chemical structure to data obtained by the


Viking explorer, a spacecraft developed by NASA 0 years


prior to orbit and land on Mars. It had the ability to


not only take pictures and collect data from the Martian


surface but it could also conduct experiments. In


addition to the discoveries made in 16, on February


7, 001, The SpaceDaily reported a second research


group from NASA to report evidence of life on Mars based


on similarities between the Martian magnetite crystals


and crystals formed inside magnetotactic bacteria


present on Earth. The results of this research, referred


to as the Ames study, were able to confirm a biological


origin because the crystals were of similar size, shape,


did not touch, and the chains they formed were curved.


“Since bacteria on Earth that use magnetic forces


require some oxygen, researchers said their presence on


the meteorite denotes that there were plant-like


organisms using photosynthesis on Mars . billion years


ago”. Scientists from Budapest, Hungary have also


reported evidence of life on Mars after they analyzed


over 60, 000 pictures taken by the Mars Global Surveyor


probe, an orbital technologic invention capable of


scanning and collecting data from the surface floor of


Mars. The team stated that the pictures revealed proof


of many dark dune spots located in craters in Mars’


southern polar region. These spots are similar to


organisms found near the South Pole on Earth. Tibor


Ganti, a biologist and team member stated that “these


spots indicate that on the surface below the ice there


are such organisms which, absorbing solar energy, are


able to melt the ice and create conditions of life for


themselves”. Extra-solar planets, also referred to as


exoplanets, have provided researchers information in


determining life in the Universe. These planets are in


addition to the nine in our solar system. They orbit


around stars other than the sun. The Doppler Effect has


proven to be effective in monitoring stars’ light by


using a process called spectroscopy where the star light


is detected by separating the light of a star into the


light’s colors. “The elements present in a star emit


light especially strongly in particular colors, creating


bright lines on a star’s spectrum, or its range of


color”. Astronomers monitor regular changes to


determine the presence of a planet. According to the


‘Extra-solar Planets Catalog’,


http//www.obspm.fr/planets, there are a total of 107


planets discovered to date. NASA’s “Kepler Mission is


specifically designed to survey the extended solar


neighborhood to detect and characterize hundreds of


terrestrial and larger planets in or near the habitable


zone”, the area in the solar system and any other


planetary system that can essentially support life. The


scientific goal of these scientists “is to explore the


structure and diversity of planetary systems”.


Our government should discontinue supporting


astrobiology research in the quest to determine if human


life can thrive on planets other than Earth and whether


or not there is extra-terrestrial or terrestrial life on


other planets. These studies have proven to be very


costly and in my opinion, unnecessary. For the sake of


this country, we should continue monitoring outer space


in an effort to maintain universal safety by staying


abreast of possible terrorist acts. Additional funding


can also be worth while in protecting Earth against


global warming and depletion of fossil fuels which are


essential for healthy, comfortable living.


http//ibiblio.org/astrobiology/indx.php?page=astro01


http//www.cnn.com/TECH/608/07mars.p


http//www.spacedaily.com/news/01071006.dryxjfd.html http//www.wired.com/news/print/0,14,4668,00.html


http//encarta.msn.com/encnet/refpages/RefArticle.aspx?refid=174150068


http//www.kepler.arc.nasa.gov/summary.html


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