Schedule Mar 3, 2004
Finding Planets and Searching for Life: Worthy Goals for 21st Century Science
Dr. Charles Beichman, JPL/Caltech

The search for life is a unifying theme for much of NASA's science program, from robotic and possibly human expeditions to Mars to the search for planets and life on worlds beyond our solar system. The goal of NASA's Origins Program is to search for distant Earth-like planets -- and life -- with an advanced space telescope, the Terrestrial Planet Finder. While the technical challenges are daunting, new technologies are being developed that could provide a scientific answer to the 2,000 year old question of the existence of life on other worlds. I will discuss the history of this profound question, summarize the state of modern planet searches, and discuss prospects for the Terrestrial Planet Finder as a national and possibly international mission to fly in the next decade.
Dr. Beichman is Executive Director of Michelson Science Center, NASA's premier institution for the search for planets and life beyond the solar system. His scientific interests lie in the areas of star and planet formation. He leads a team of researchers who will use the Space Interferometer Mission (SIM) to find planets orbiting newly formed stars and is the project scientist for the Terrestrial Planet Finder mission. As Director of the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC, 1991-1998) he worked on the IRAS and ISO missions and led the software development for the 2 Micron All Sky Survey. As Chief Scientist for Astronomy and Physics at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, he helped to develop NASA's Origins program, the goal of which is the search for planets beyond our solar system.

Audio of Introduction by David Gross, KITP Director.

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