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Gerald Soffen Lecture Series: Dr. Daniel Glavin

Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life

Come to the Visitor Center at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. on Thursday, April 12, 2012, at 7 p.m., to hear the next installment of the Soffen Lecture Series, titled "Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life."

Is there life on other planets? What exactly is a “habitable environment” and what conditions on Earth led to the origin of life here? Understanding the basic requirements for life and the prebiotic chemistry that led to the emergence of life on Earth will help guide our search for life beyond Earth. NASA Astrobiologist Dr. Daniel P. Glavin will give an overview of these concepts, as well as the Mars Exploration Program and future plans for sending instrumentation to Mars to explore habitable environments.

The possibility for extraterrestrial life in our solar system is not limited only to Mars, but other “habitable” worlds might exist, including the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn — Europa and Enceladus — that may have large sub-surface oceans capable of supporting life. The challenge for scientists and engineers in the next couple of decades will be to design miniaturized instruments and technologies capable of detecting the signatures of life in our own solar system and beyond.

Dr. Daniel Glavin Dr. Daniel P. Glavin Credit: NASA Glavin, an Astrobiologist at NASA, is currently involved in the analysis of organic compounds in meteorites and the search for extraterrestrial life. Glavin first became involved in Astrobiology research in 1996 when a meteorite from Mars found in Antarctica, called Allan Hills 84001, revealed possible remnant of an ancient martian life forms. Although Glavin’s research suggested that some of the chemical evidence was compromised by terrestrial contamination in Antarctica, the ALH 84001 discovery energized the Astrobiology community and the red planet continues to be one of the primary targets for exploration and the search for life beyond Earth. Glavin helped develop and test the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument that is onboard the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover mission. SAM, a microwave oven-sized mass spectrometer will taste and sniff the martian dirt to look for water, organic compounds, and other biologically important elements required by life as we know it. In 2002, he spent two months in Antarctica searching for meteorites on the surface of the ice as part of the National Science Foundation- and NASA-funded Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) program. Glavin was also the recipient of NASA Goddard’s Research and Development “Innovator of the Year Award” in 2007 for his work on VAPoR and 2010 Nier Prize for his research on amino acids in meteorites, Glavin earned his academic degrees from the University of California at San Diego and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, CA.

During his 30-year NASA career, Dr. Gerald Soffen (1926-2000) led the science team for NASA's Viking program, was Director of Life Sciences at NASA Headquarters, Project scientist for NASA's Earth Observing System, and created NASA Academy, NASA's premiere leadership training internship. The Viking 2 lander was posthumously named after Dr. Soffen and a crater on Mars was named "Soffen." He was best known, however, for his passion for inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the lecture will start promptly at 7 p.m. Space is limited. Advance registration (by using the form below) is strongly encouraged. Pre-registration will be open until Tuesday, April 10 at 5pm. Visitors are still welcome to attend without pre-registration, but please note that attendees who have submitted pre-registration forms will have priority for seating, and that overflow seating may be required to accommodate all guests. Directions to Goddard's Visitor Center can be found here.

Pre-registration for the Gerald Soffen Lecture Series is now closed. Visitors are still welcome to attend without pre-registration. Please note that attendees who have submitted pre-registration forms will have priority for seating, and that overflow seating may be required to accommodate all guests.