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Richard B. Hoover

Prof. Richard B. Hoover

Astrobiology Group Leader
NASA Marshall Space Flight Ctr.

National Space Science & Technology Ctr.
320 Sparkman Dr NW

Huntsville AL 35805-1912
United States

tel: 256 961 7770
fax: 256 931 7524
E-mail: RichardBHoover@icloud.com; Entogonia@aol.com

Area of Expertise

Astrobiology, microbial extremophiles, diatoms; X-Ray/EUV Optics, microscopy


Richard B. Hoover is currently Visiting Research Professor, Centre for Astrobiology at the University of Buckingham in England and Director of Astrobiology Laboratory at Athens State University. He worked at the NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center from 1966 to 2012. He developed the X-ray Telescope flown on the SKYLAB Space Station and was selected the 1992 NASA Inventor of the Year. In 1997, Hoover established the Astrobiology Research Group at MSFC In this role. he conducted research on microbial extremophiles from the ice and permafrost of Siberia, Iceland, Alaska and Antarctica as well as Vostok Ice cores and Geysers and Halo-alkaline water of California, Iceland, Yellowstone National Park as well as Deep Crustal Rocks and Deep Sea Hydrothermal Vents. He discovered indigenous microfossils of recognizable filamentous cyanobacteria and other prokaryotes; acritarchs, testate amoebae, hystrichospheres, diatoms and other eukaryotic microorganisms in many diverse carbonaceous meteorites. Hoover pioneered the use of Energy Dispersive X-ray Analysis of nitrogen for distinguishing recent terrestrial biological contaminants from indigenous microfossils in ancient rocks and meteorites.

Richard B. Hoover has organized and scientific expeditions to many of the most hostile environments of Earth. He was the only American Scientist on the 1999 International Beringia Astrobiology Expedition led by David Gilichinsky to drill in search for microbial life in the permafrost of the Kolyma Lowlands of Northeastern Siberia. Hoover was Chief Scientist for the Antarctica 2000 Expedition with Astronaut James A. Lovell (Gemini 7 & 12; Apollo 8 & Apollo 13) and Astronaut Owen Garriott (Skylab III & Spacelab) which recovered 20 meteorites from the Thiel Mountains, Antarctica. He served as Science Lead for the 2008 Joint US/Russia/Austria International Astrobiology Expeditions to study extremophiles in the Schirmacher Oasis and Lake Untersee, Antarctica. These Scientific Expeditions have resulted in the discovery of fifteen new species and six new genera of archaea and bacteria. A novel organism isolated from a sample Prof. Hoover collected in the Lake Untersee deep anoxic trough has exotic previously unknown organelles for gliding motility (antiae) and represents a new Family of bacteria (Williamwhitmanaceae).

In recognition of this research Prof. Hoover was elected a Fellow of the Explorers Club and he carried the Explorers Club Flag #162 on two Expeditions to Antarctica. Based on his research on microfossils in meteorites he was made an Honorary Life Member of the Planetary Studies Foundation. He was the 2001 President of SPIE, the International Society for Optical Engineering. He has Authored/Edited ~50 scientific books and over 350 research papers on X-Ray/EUV optics, Solar Physics, Astrophysics, Diatoms, Microbial Extremophiles, Meteorites and Astrobiology. His scientific research has been featured in TV programs on the History Channel, Science Channel, NASA's Unexplained Files, NHK Japan Television and in films produced by the National Science Foundation, BBC; Discovery Channel and National Geographic. He is an SPIE Visiting Lecturer and he has delivered scientific lectures on every continent on Earth. and In 2009, Prof. Hoover was honored by SPIE as the recipient of the Gold Medal of the Society.

Lecture Title(s)

Life in the Universe

Abstract: Recent discoveries by Space Probes, Polar Expeditions and Scanning Electron Microscopy studies of Carbonaceous Meteorites indicate that the current paradigm for the origin of life on Earth may be invalid. The widely accepted hypothesis that life originated by chemical reactions in primordial oceans and atmosphere of Early Earth caused many to believe that Earth was uniquely suited for life. This concept led to a search for Goldilocks Worlds which were not "too hot or too cold to support life". It is known that extremophiles can thrive in a vast array of conditions previously believed to be lethal to all living organisms. We now know that although living cells grow only where there coexists water and energy and life-critical biogenic elements (C, H, O, N, P, S, etc), many microorganisms can survive for extremely long periods in the total absence of water and at very low temperatures. Furthermore, Space Probes have established that liquid water or water ice and all other necessary conditions co-exist on virtually every planet, moon and comet in our Solar System. New species of living pleistocene bacteria and moss have been described from the Fox Tunnel of Alaska, Siberian Permafrost and Deep Ice Cores from Vostok, Antarctica and the 8.1 million year old Beacon Valley Glacier of Antarctica. During the 2008 US, Russia, Austria International Schirmacher Oasis/Lake Untersee Antarctica Astrobiology Expedition, small black rocks surrounded by meltwater and encased within clear ice sculptures supported cryoconite ecosystems with diatoms, cyanobacteria and a new bacteria species Sanguibacter gelidostatuariae.

Space probes discovered water, ice, organics and O2 molecules ejected from Saturn's moon Enceladus and the comet 67P/Cheryumov-Gerasimenko. Molecular oxygen has long been considered an indicator of life. It is highly reactive and only became abundant in Earth's atmosphere after photosynthesis by cyanobacteria caused a great oxygenation event 2.7 billion years ago. These discoveries suggest photosynthesis on comets and in oceans beneath icy crusts of Europa and Enceladus. Comets are likely parent bodies for the CI1 and CM2 carbonaceous meteorites which contain extraterrestrial water, carbon, all life-critical biogenic elements and many biomolecules. However, they have only 8 of the 20 protein amino acids and only 3 of the 5 nucleobases of DNA and RNA. This proves they are not contaminated by modern bacteria. Twenty years ago Academician Alexei Yu. Rozanov, Director, Paleontological Institute, Russian Academy of Science and Richard B. Hoover, NASA/MSFC began independent Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) studies of the Orgueil (CI1) and Murchison (CM2) meteorites. They have discovered filamentous cyanobacteria, diatoms, acritarchs and other recognizable microfossils embedded in the rock matrix of many carbonaceous meteorite, but they were absent in other meteorite groups. Energy Dispersive X-Ray Spectroscopy (EDS) shows these clearly biological remains lack nitrogen and have anomalous C/N and C/S ratios. This provides direct evidence they are ancient indigenous fossils rather than modern terrestrial bio-contaminants. Therefore they provide direct observational evidence for the existence of Extraterrestrial Life and support for the hypothesis of Cometary Panspermia. Images and recent SEM and EDS data will be presented supporting the hypothesis that Life is widely distributed throughout the Universe rather than restricted to the planet Earth.

Searching for Life in All the Wrong Places
This is a talk for the general public with a description of the wonders of Microbial Extremophiles and a lot of photos of Travels to North Siberia, Volcanoes, and to Patagonia (with Magellanic Penguins) and the Thiel Mountains and the South Pole (with Owen Garriott and Jim Lovell) to search for meteorites and microbes. I can provide an Abstract if you wish.

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