NASA research scientist Christopher McKay: 'Search for Life in the Solar System'

2012-05-01 by

How many times have we heard a version of the question, “Is there life somewhere out there?” Hollywood has spent millions of dollars making movies and television programs exploring this question. Let’s face it, we’re curious.

McKay’s talk, “Search for Life in the Solar System,” addresses the fundamental question of life in the Universe. McKay argues that an organism would be alien if, and only if, it did not link to our tree of life. In our Solar System, the worlds of interest for a search for life are Mars, Europa, Enceladus and, for biochemistry based on a liquid other than water, Titan.

The discovery of alien life, if alive or revivable, will pose fundamentally new questions in environmental ethics. McKay believes that we would do well, ethically and scientifically, to strive to support any alien life discovered as part of an overall commitment to enhancing the richness and diversity of life in the Universe.

McKay received his doctorate in Astro-Geophysics from the University of Colorado and is a research scientist with the NASA Ames Research Center studying planetary atmospheres, astrobiology and terraforming and terrestrial analogs as vehicles to understand ecosystem sustainability. McKay has done extensive research on planetary atmospheres, particularly the atmospheres of Titan and Mars, and on the origin and evolution of life. He is a co-investigator on the Huygens probe, the Mars Phoenix lander and the Mars Science Laboratory. He has also performed field research on extremophiles, in such locations as Death Valley, the Atacama Desert, Axel Heiberg Island and ice-covered lakes in Antarctica.

McKay’s current research focuses on the evolution of the solar system and the origin of life. He’s also actively involved in planning for future Mars missions, including human settlements, and has conducted polar research since 1980, traveling to the Antarctic dry valleys and more recently to the Siberian and Canadian Arctic to conduct research in these Mars-like environments.

This podcast was recorded April 4, 2012.

Download MP3 (84:04min, 77MB)

For More Information:

Christopher P. McKay
NASA bio page
Fred Rainey
UAA Bio page, Dept. of Biological Sciences
NASA Ames Research Center

Justice Center, Justice Club feature federal law enforcement panel

2012-05-01 by

Representatives from federal, state, and local law enforcement made presentations to students as part of National Criminal Justice Month in March. Topics included the missions of their agencies, how agencies cooperated in Alaska, qualifications for prospective candidates, and how the experience of law enforcement differs in Alaska from other states.

This podcast covered federal law enforcement agencies. Special Agent Eric Gonzalez, Chief Counsel for the FBI; Deputy U.S. Marshal Jimmy Johnson, U.S.Marshals Service; and Group Supervisor Todd Jones, Drug Enforcement Administration.

This podcast was recorded March 29, 2012.

Download MP3 (58:34min, 54MB)

For More Information:

Information website
U.S. Marshalls Office
Information website
Drug Enforcement Agency
Information website
UAA Justice Center