Broadcast 1141 (Special Edition)

20 Apr 2009 Dr. Christopher P. McKay
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Guest: Dr. Chris McKay. Topics: Mars, life in the solar system, moons of Saturn, South Pole Station, Antarctica. Dr. Chris McKay was the guest for this show which started out by discussing the NASA Mars program today. As Dr. McKay said, the program is in trouble and you will want to hear why he said this. Also, pay attention to the competition Mars now receives for searching for life from the moons of Saturn. What this means for Mars programs in a competitive funding environment is up in the air. Also, you will want to pay attention to how the humans to Mars program merges nicely with the science and the astrobiology for Mars though in reality, these programs are still treated as separate. Dr. McKay had much to say on this subject during this show so you will definitely want to sit up and listen. In addition to talking about the search for life throughout the solar system and outer planets, we talked about the finding of methane on Mars and what that might really mean for life, we talked about ethical and planetary protection requirements for both lunar and Martian samples plus our going to Mars. Listen to what Chris said about how we have already contaminated Mars with perhaps up to 400 different bacteria! Later in the show I asked Chris what the Mars program would look like were he in charge. Here he talked about three important steps including the establishment of a Moon base, going beyond the Cis-lunar environment to a NEO to prove that humans can venture deeper into space and do it safely, and then undertake several sample return robotic missions from Mars. In this context, we discussed the requirements for containment and caution. We brought up the subject of a possible private mission to Mars on a commercial basis and this brought us to discussing the early Mars Oasis project proposed by Elon Musk. Here, Dr. McKay told us he was an advisor on that project for planetary protection as well as other issues. Don't miss this important discussion about the possibility of private Mars missions. In response to a listener question, Dr. McKay talked about the constant debate of going to the Moon or Mars, which one first, etc. He had much to say on this topic and his comments may surprise you. SETI came up as a method for searching for life and he then went into some discussion about the two methods of searching for life, looking throughout the solar system as he does as an astrobiologist or listening and searching for communication of some type as is the case with SETI. Several times during our program, Chris referenced Antarctica and the South Pole Station as a model for space exploration and development. He even mentioned the tourist spot in Antarctica, White Desert. Many other topics were discussed on this show, its definitely a must listen to program. If you have a question or comment for Dr. Chris McKay, you may email him at chris.mckay@nasa.gov.

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