|Friday / 31 March 2006|
Moon a Platform for Debate Between Human Exploration, Astrobiology. At the 'Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon) 2006,' which ended yesterday in Washington DC, panelists of Session 25: 'Astrobiology and the Moon' discussed the impact of the Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) and lunar exploration on astrobiology and science, while some scientists voiced their discontent with NASA's VSE priorities and decisions. Stanford Geophysics Professor Norm Sleep (Moon as Biological Tape Recorder), University of Hawai‘i HIGP Professor Paul Lucey (The Science of the Lunar Polar Volatile Deposits), NASA Chief Scientist Jim Garvin (The Moon as a Natural Laboratory for Cosmic Collisions in Astrobiology), Ames Lead Co-Investigator Lynn Rothschild (The Role of the Moon in Shaping Life on Earth), Ames ex-Director Scott Hubbard (Exploration Science at the Moon: Links to Understanding Life in the Universe), and SMART-1 Project Scientist Bernard Foing (International Lunar Missions: Results and Implications for Astrobiology) discussed the Moon's role in shaping life on Earth, as well as future lunar missions. Meanwhile, Deputy CEO of the SETI Institute Edna DeVore says NASA is crippling its Science Mission Directorate. "Astrobiology is the core science of space exploration, and it's proposed for a 50% cut," says DeVore. "The decision ... is shortsighted.... These missions and research projects are the training ground for the future scientific and technical workforce." DeVore acknowledges NASA Administrator Griffin is in a tight spot, "being asked to achieve a poorly funded Vision." She says, "Together, NASA and Congress need to develop a balanced program of space exploration that has adequate funding to achieve the VSE."