Space

April 17, 2012

NASA, Library of Congress select first astrobiology chair


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.

 

For more information about NASA’s Astrobiology Program, visit http://astrobiology.nasa.gov.

For more information about the Kluge Center of the Library of Congress, visit http://www.loc.gov/loc/kluge.

 




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