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Technical Paper

Searching for Alien Life Having Unearthly Biochemistry

The search for alien life in the solar system should include exploring unearthlike environments for life having an unearthly biochemistry. We expect alien life to conform to the same basic chemical and ecological constraints as terrestrial life, since inorganic chemistry and the laws of ecosystems appear to be universal. Astrobiologists usually assume alien life will use familiar terrestrial biochemistry and therefore hope to find alien life by searching near water or by supplying hydrocarbons. The assumption that alien life is likely to be based on carbon and water is traditional and plausible. It justifies high priority for missions to search for alien life on Mars and Europa, but it unduly restricts the search for alien life. Terrestrial carbon-water biochemistry is not possible on most of the bodies of our solar system, but all alien life is not necessarily based on terrestrial biochemistry.
Technical Paper

Power Management for Space Advanced Life Support

Space power systems include power source, storage, and management subsystems. In current crewed spacecraft designs, solar cells are the power source, batteries provide storage, and the crew performs any required load scheduling. For future crewed planetary surface systems using Advanced Life Support, we assume that plants will be grown to produce much of the crew's food and that nuclear power will be employed. Battery storage is much more costly than nuclear power capacity and so is not likely to be provided. We investigate scheduling of power demands to reduce the required peak power generating capacity. The peak to average power ratio is a good measure of power capacity efficiency. We can easily schedule power demands to reduce the peak power below the potential maximum, but simple scheduling rules may not achieve the lowest possible peak to average power ratio.
Technical Paper

Extraterrestrial Ecology (Exoecology)

Researchers in astrobiology should develop alternate concepts for the detection of extraterrestrial life. We should search for extraterrestrial ecology, exoecology, as well as for extraterrestrial biology, exobiology. Ecology describes the interactions of living things with their environment. All ecosystems are highly constrained by their environment and conform to well-known and inescapable system design principles. An ecology could exist wherever there is an energy source and living things can employ some method to capture, store, and use the available energy. Terrestrial ecosystems use energy sources including light, organic molecules, and, in thermal vents and elsewhere, simple inorganic molecules. Ecosystem behavior is controlled by matter and energy conservation laws and is described by dynamic systems theory. Typically in an ecosystem different molecules are not in chemical equilibrium and scarce materials are conserved, stored, or recycled.
Technical Paper

Exobiochemistry and the Search for Alien Life

Exobiochemistry is the biochemistry of extraterrestrial life. It describes the potential energy and material basis of extraterrestrial life and is needed to guide the search for alien life. The diverse biochemistry of Earth indicates that a wide range of exobiochemistry is possible on other planets. Any exobiochemistry we discover will probably use the same energy sources as Earth's natural biochemistry - light, biological organic material, and more rarely abiotic chemicals. Extraterrestrial life will be based on familiar chemical principles and so will probably capture, store, and release energy using oxidation-reduction reactions similar to those found on Earth. Any extraterrestrial life must produce some chemical indication of its existence. Useful elements will be concentrated, stored, and recycled, altering their availability and isotopic composition.
Technical Paper

Crop Models for Varying Environmental Conditions

New variable environment Modified Energy Cascade (MEC) crop models were developed for all the Advanced Life Support (ALS) candidate crops and implemented in SIMULINK. The MEC models are based on the Volk, Bugbee, and Wheeler Energy Cascade (EC) model and are derived from more recent Top-Level Energy Cascade (TLEC) models. The MEC models were developed to simulate crop plant responses to day-to-day changes in photosynthetic photon flux, photoperiod, carbon dioxide level, temperature, and relative humidity. The original EC model allowed only changes in light energy and used a less accurate linear approximation. For constant nominal environmental conditions, the simulation outputs of the new MEC models are very similar to those of earlier EC models that use parameters produced by the TLEC models. There are a few differences. The new MEC models allow setting the time for seed emergence, have more realistic exponential canopy growth, and have corrected harvest dates for potato and tomato.