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Public-Private Partnerships & Innovation (3Pi)

Is It Time to Search for Life on Mars?

July 31, 2014

The special panel debate called "Is It Time to Search for Life on Mars?" was co-sponsored by Explore Mars, Inc. and American University and featured a stimulating discussion on whether life has been detected on Mars and what we will need to do to confirm the existence of past or present life on the red planet. Moderated by Rebecca Kaiser, participants included Dr. Gil Levin (Arizona State University; Principal Investigator, Labeled Release experiment, Mars Viking Lander mission), Dr. Chris McKay (Planetary Scientist, NASA Ames; video presentation), Dr. Pamela Conrad (NASA: Deputy Principal Investigator, SAM investigation, Mars Science Laboratory; Research Space Scientist), Dr. Chris Carr (Research Scientist, MIT), and Joe Cassady (Aerojet Rocketdyne: Executive, Space – Washington Operations).



Rebecca Keiser, executive-in-residence at the School of Public Affairs, said the investigation into whether life exists on Mars is important for the development of space policies that contribute to understanding the universe. Keiser and Howard McCurdy, professor of public administration and policy at the School of Public Affairs, are setting up a research group at American University on space policy analysis.

The session was followed by a special announcement regarding Explore Mars' project, EXOLANCE, which will build and test an innovative method of searching for life from the surface to a considerable depth below the surface where life may be better shielded from the harsh radiation hitting the surface. EXOLANCE was first previewed at the April 2014 Humans to Mars Summit conference at The George Washington University, and the presentation will be led by Joe Cassady (Aerojet Rocketdyne; Explore Mars board member).

"The search for life is one of the primary reasons why we explore Mars," commented Explore Mars Executive Director, Chris Carberry. "Whether we have detected indicators of life yet on Mars or not, Mars provides us with an environment that may be suitable for life."

The discussion took place in Ward 2 at 6:00 pm, following a reception at 5:00 pm in the Ward lobby.

Dr. Chris Carr (Research Scientist, MIT)
Dr. Chris Carr, Research Scientist, MIT

Joe Cassady
Joe Cassady, Aerojet Rocketdyne: Executive, Space – Washington Operations

Dr. Pamela Conrad
Dr. Pamela Conrad, NASA: Deputy Principal Investigator, SAM investigation, Mars Science Laboratory; Research Space Scientist

Dr. Gil Levin
Dr. Gil Levin, Arizona State University; Principal Investigator, Labeled Release experiment, Mars Viking Lander mission.

Dr. Chris McKay
Dr. Chris McKay, Planetary Scientist, NASA Ames; video presentation