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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

LOOKING FOR LIFE OUT THERE, SOMEWHERE; NEW LIBRARY OF CONGRESS ASTROBIOLOGY CHAIR


FROM:  NASA 
WASHINGTON -- NASA and the Library of Congress have announced the
selection of David H. Grinspoon to be the first Baruch S. Blumberg
NASA-Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology.

The chair, selected through an international competition, is named for
the late Nobel Laureate and founding director of the NASA
Astrobiology Institute, Baruch "Barry" Blumberg. Applications are
solicited by the Library of Congress and reviewed by a panel jointly
established by the Library and NASA. The prestigious position was
created in November 2011.

Grinspoon will be in residence for a year beginning November 2012 at
the library's scholarly research organization, the Kluge Center, in
Washington. He is the curator of astrobiology in the Department of
Space Sciences at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Grinspoon
is a well-known researcher in planetary science and the author of the
award-winning book "Lonely Planets: The Natural Philosophy of Alien
Life."

"Grinspoon's background as an astrobiology researcher, writer and
communicator of science makes him an ideal choice," said Carl
Pilcher, director of the Astrobiology Institute at NASA's Ames
Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. "This is certainly the start
of what will become a great tradition of astrobiology chairs at the
library."

Astrobiology is the study of the origins, evolution, distribution and
future of life in the universe. It addresses three fundamental
questions: How did life begin and evolve? Is there life elsewhere?
What is the future of life on Earth and beyond? The institute's
mission is to promote interdisciplinary research in astrobiology,
train the next generation of astrobiologists and provide scientific
and technical leadership for NASA space missions.

"Grinspoon is uniquely positioned to introduce the Library's unique
multidisciplinary collections on the emerging subject to a wide and
diverse public," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.

At the library, Blumberg was a founding member of the Scholar's
Council, a 12-member group of distinguished scholars who advise the
Librarian of Congress on matters of scholarship.

Blumberg was awarded the 1976 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine
for discovery of the Hepatitis B virus and development of a vaccine
to prevent Hepatitis B infection. He was the founding director of the
NASA Astrobiology Institute, serving from 1999 to 2002.

Grinspoon will examine choices facing humanity as we enter the
Anthropocene Era, the epoch when human activities are becoming a
defining characteristic of the physical nature and functioning of
Earth. His research will include studies of the role of planetary
exploration in fostering scientific and public understanding of
climate change and the power of astrobiology as a model of
interdisciplinary research and communication.