Director, Center for SETI Research
Carl Sagan was thinking of Jill Tarter when he invented the main
character in his novel Contact. Her search for radio signals
from distant planets began at the University of California at
Berkeley, and has led her to become director of the SETI Institute's
Center for SETI Research. She has written award-winning teachers'
guides about life in the universe, and has inspired many young
people to consider questions of life beyond Earth.
Video interview with Tarter by the SETI
Profile of Tarter in Astrobiology Magazine:
Article by Tarter describing the SETI project:
Director, UC Berkeley SETI Program
Dan Werthimer has spent twenty-five years searching for radio
and laser signals from distant civilizations. He's created a worldwide
supercomputer, the SETI@home
project, connecting millions of people's hard drives across
the globe to aid in the search. Though he hasn't detected a single
signal, he's not deterred. Either other life exists out there
or we are alone. To Werthimer, either result is profound.
A Planetary Society radio show featuring
An interview with Werthimer by the Exploratorium's Ron Hipschman:
Senior Scientist, SETI Institute
In the astrobiology universe, Frank Drake is a kingpin. In 1960,
he conducted the first radio search for extraterrestial intelligence.
For twenty years, he was director of the Aricebo
Observatory. Drake believes that life arose on Earth via common
processes that could happen on other planets. The likelihood of
intelligent life can be calculated using Drake's
An interview with Drake on the Web site
for the movie Contact:
Drake's statement about intellegent life in the universe:
Director of Interstellar Message Composition, SETI Institute
If some other civilization calls and says hello, how do we respond?
As the SETI Institute's Director of Interstellar Message Composition,
Douglas Vakoch is charged with answering that question. He consults
artists, scholars, and scientists on the most comprehensible way
to describe being human. How we answer that contact, he says,
will set the tone for interstellar dialogue for thousands of years.
"How Would We Answer the Phone if
ET Called Us?":
"The View From a Distant Star: Challenges of Message-Making":
"Bioastronomy 2002: Extending the Boundaries of Astrobiology":
Astrobiologist, NASA Ames Research Center
What are the limits under which life can exist? What are the
hottest and coldest temperatures life can withstand? Trent's work
focuses on the adaptations of "extremophiles"—microbes
living in habitats inhospitable to us. What he learns can tell
us how life might adapt and flourish on planets with environments
similar to Earth's extremes. His discovery of a protein in the
bodies of creatures living in extremely hot environments has led
to new forms of microscopic technology (nanotechnology).
PDF of Trent's paper about extremophiles in astrobiology:
Trent's Nanotechnology and Astrobiology
Trent's undersea photos of unusual marine
Planetary Scientist, Principal Investigator, NASA Ames
Research Center and the SETI Institute
If there is water on Mars, Nathalie Cabrol is determined to find
it. She has led several experiments employing robotic rovers on
the Red Planet, hoping to discover traces of past or present channels
and streams. As a planetary geologist, shes also researched
the geology of extremes on our planet in places like Chile's
Lake Licancabur, that may resemble conditions that existed
in ancient Martian lakes.
Cabrol's profile on the SETI Institute site:
Cabrol's profile and work at Lake Licancabur:
Evolutionary Biologist, NASA Ames Research Center
Ultraviolet radiation may be bad for humans, but Lynn Rothschild
thinks it might have been good for the evolution of Earth's early
organisms. Her studies of Earth's microbes living with high UV
exposure tell us something about how similar organisms might survive
on Mars. Rothschild is also interested in how microbes may have
traveled between planets on meteorites. She has also organized
several Astrobiology Science conferences.
"Protists, UV, and Evolution"
(A talk by Rothschild):
"Life in Extreme Environments"
(An article by Rothschild for SpaceRef.com):
Director, UC Berkeley SETI Program
Knowing how life arose here can give us clues to how it might
arise elsewhere. David Deamer is trying to solve the puzzle of
how cells become cells, enclosed in membranes. In 1989, he mixed
compounds from a fallen meteorite with water and found that they
formed droplets resembling cell membranes. But that doesn't prove
there's life elsewhere. Quoting Carl Sagan, Deamer says, "Extraordinary
claims require extraordinary evidence."
Deamers paper about the course of
evolution and the origin of cellular life:
Planetary Scientist, NASA Ames Research Center
Mars may tell us something about how life arose on Earth. Chris
McKay would like to sample the Red Planet's soil and ice caps,
looking for fossils of ancient organisms. Hes also devised
plans for longer-term stays on Mars. For the moment, though, he
has to settle for seeking clues to life's origins in Earth's extreme
cold and dry environments.
Chris McKays Three Key Questions:
"Looking for Life, Astrobiologists Dive Deep":