Learn about the search for intelligent life in the universe, conducted by the NASA Ames Research Center.
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MaryLynn: What is life? And how is life distributed throughout the universe? Our we alone in this universe? Are we the only civilization of beings who have a similar intelligence, consciousness, creativity, and imagination? And are there any other civilizations, perhaps more advance in science, technology, philosophy, and ethics? Hello and welcome to Matter and Beyond. I'm your host MaryLynn Shiavi. If the answer to these questions is that we are in fact alone on this blue planet hurtling through space. To some it seems almost illogical and it looks like there's some awful lot of wasted space. So the search for intelligent life in the universe continues. In this program, we're going to hear about the research conducted by the NASA AMES Research Center. Dr. Virginia Gulick is a researcher at the NASA AMES Research Center. As a trained geologist, Virginia Gulick analyzes images looking for signs of water. Her interest, like many others, started when Viking Landers reached Mars. Dr. Gulick: Well I always kind of interested in space science, especially when I was a little girl and suddenly the Viking Landers land on Mars. I saw these neat pictures, so I got really interested in it when I was actually quite young. And then when I went to college, I was really interested in geology. I never really have it before, and I really, really liked it. MaryLynn: Dr. Virginia Gulick is the high resolution imaging scientist experiment High Rise Education and Public Outreach coordinator at NASA AMES Research Center. Launch in August 2005, High Rise is flying on board the Mars reconnaissance orbiter and is continually sending images back to Earth for analysis. Dr. Gulick: I'm a planetary geologist here at NASA AMES and I work mostly with Mars geology right now. And what I'm doing right now is I'm working on the science sea member of the High Rise. MaryLynn: Mars and Earth are similar in a variety of ways which is why research in to life on Mars is important. Dr. Gulick: On my post, Alex and I are working on targeting. The images, as we speak, and we go back in finishing our targeting cycle. Each of the team members has to take targeting cycle where they do, they plan the images and, say we're going to be imaging. And then the camera will image them in a couple of weeks. MaryLynn: Because of the complexities searching for life on Mars, Dr. Gulick collaborates with other team members within NASA and beyond NASA as well. Dr. Gulick: And so there's various team members across the United States and in Europe. There's about a dozen or so of us, probably about 16 now. And we all work on science team, we all help target, and we all have our specialties. I do what's called fluvial and hydrothermal science. MaryLynn: After targeting High Rise, record images from those specific locations are sent to NASA for analysis. Dr. Gulick: So what the idea with this is looking at the valleys and the channels on Mars and trying to get the key areas of those locations that might have had the best chance for water or just for evidence for water. MaryLynn: The search area currently includes hydrothermal areas, seeking locations that have water and thermal energy at the same time. Dr. Gulick: These are areas that are volcanic or impact that might have water going through beneath the ground for long periods of time. And so I try to target those areas too. MaryLynn: Development and sustenance of forms of life that we're familiar with require water. However, regardless of the from, any kind of life would also require energy. Dr. Gulick: In order to have possibility for life, we need to have some kind of energy source. And Mars has lots of evidence for volcanoes, large volcanoes and large impact craters which can generate an energy source. MaryLynn: On Earth, even on the depths of the ocean and the outer most regions that are freezing such as the poles, there is life. This fact gives the NASA team hope that they will find life on Mars as well. Dr. Gulick: