GU professor reaches for the sky

A new book by Sarah Stewart Johnson, an associate professor and planetary scientist in Biology and STIA at Georgetown, was featured in the New York Times this week. “The Sirens of Mars: Searching for Life on Another World,” is, according to the Times, “[p]art history, part science and part memoir,” in which Sarah writes about her own evolution as a scientist, and the evolution of the quest for extraterrestrial life.

Read full article: Coming of Age on Mars

See also: The Sirens of Mars: a book about space, and the strength and power of human curiosity

“…the story of Mars is also a story about Earth: how we’ve sought another stirring of life in the universe, and what that search has come to mean. Mars has been our mirror, our foil, a telltale reflection of what has been deepest in our hearts. We have seen in Mars a utopia. A wilderness. A sanctuary. An oracle. With so few landmarks, guideposts, or constraints, all is possible; without data that could be used to cabin our inquiry or limit our imagination, Mars has been a blank canvas. And tenderly, our human seeking has rushed to fill it,” writes Dr. Johnson in the book’s forward.

Read an excerpt of the Sirens of Mars here

A former Rhodes Scholar and White House Fellow, she received her PhD from MIT and has worked on NASA’s Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity rovers. She is also a visiting scientist with the Planetary Environments Lab at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Johnson’s lab focuses on detecting biosignatures, or traces of life, and is involved with analyzing data from current spacecraft and devising new techniques for future missions.