to David Warmflash, M.D. (David.M.Warmflash1@jsc.nasa.gov) at NASA in Houston,
we learn of a space "first" that he helped create for Palestinians
Thursday morning, January 16, 2003 the Space Shuttle Columbia launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying inside a special experiment bearing the signatures of a Palestinian biology student and an Israeli medical student.
Yuval Landau of Petah Tiqwa, and Tariq Adwan of Bethlehem, are working with scientists and mentors on monitoring the experiment and analyzing the results to better understand the origins of life on Earth -- our shared home..
The study of space gives us awe about our common beginnings, and helps us expand our understanding of the whole universe of which we are a part and with which we must learn to cooperate.
It also brings together all peoples of Earth.
This is especially true of this particular NASA study, which reminds us that life everywhere is connected, and that "what we share far outstrips what divides us."
This Shuttle experiment is a small but symbolically significant step towards greater understanding between the equally fine peoples of the Middle East, we think. -- L&L
Yuval Landau and Tariq Adwan at Cape Canaveral
Published by The Planetary Society -- Thursday,
16 January 2003
On the Web at http://www.planetary.org/gobbss/
Israeli and Palestinian Students Join Forces on a
Space Shuttle Experiment Sponsored by The Planetary Society
January 16, 2003: The Space Shuttle Columbia launched at 10:39 EST this morning from Cape Canaveral, Florida, bearing with it a special experiment sponsored by The Planetary Society. In an effort to promote understanding between peoples in one of the worlds' most troubled regions, A Palestinian biology student and an Israeli medical student have joined the scientific team of an astrobiology experiment that is currently orbiting the Earth on board the shuttle. Yuval Landau of Petah Tiqwa, and Tariq Adwan of Bethlehem, are working with scientists and mentors on monitoring the experiment and analyzing its results. Dr. Eran Schenker of the Israeli Aerospace Medical Institute is the principal scientist of the experiment, which will contribute to our scientific understanding of the origins of life on Earth.
The project helps test the much debated "panspermia" hypothesis - the belief that microorganisms from other planets arrived on Earth in the distant past and helped spur the development of life on Earth. The theory has been a focus of scientific debate ever since the discovery in 1996 of what some scientists believe are fossilized microorganisms embedded in a Martian rock discovered in Antarctica. The rock, known as asteroid ALH84001, was hurled into space from the Martian surface by an asteroid impact, and spent billions of years in space before crashing into the Antarctic waste. If rocks like ALH84001 played a role in the development of life, it would mean that some microorganisms are capable of surviving the extreme conditions involved in catapulting from one planet to another through lengthy journeys in space.
The Planetary Society - sponsored experiment joins a growing body of scientific work designed to test whether such survivability is possible. Known officially as GOBBSS, for "Growth of Bacterial Biofilm on inorganic Surfaces during Spaceflight," it will examine the formation of thin layers of microbial cells, known as "biofilms," in the weightless and radiation-intensive conditions that prevail in space. Such layers have been known to form on metallic surfaces onboard the Mir space station as well as on previous shuttle flights. GOBBSS will test they can also form on inorganic crystalline surfaces, which are their most common environment in nature. If biofilms do indeed form on crystalline surfaces under these harsh conditions, it would increase the probability that living organisms may have survived an interplanetary journey, hidden in the crevices of a meteorite like ALH84001.
Joining Dr. Schenker in advising on the experiment are Dr. Johnny Younis of Poria University Hospital in Nazareth, and Dr. Ahmed Tibi, physician and Arab member of the Israeli Knesset. Dr. David Warmflash and Dr. David McKay of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston helped the students design the experiment and will assist in analyzing its results.
In this project, The Planetary Society is working in cooperation with two organizations dedicated to promoting understanding between Arabs and Israelis. Seeds of Peace (http://www.seedsofpeace.org/) is an organization active in building bridges and understanding between Israeli and Palestinian youth. The Peres Center for Peace, founded by Nobel laureate Shimon Peres, promotes peace and progress in the future Middle East.
The Planetary Society has always believed that the study and exploration of space not only expands our horizons out into the universe, but also brings together the peoples of the Earth. This is especially true of the "Panspermia" idea, which reminds us that life everywhere is connected, and that what we share far outstrips what divides us. The GOBBSS experiment is a small but symbolically significant step towards greater understanding between the warring peoples of the Middle East.