THE PLACE: Potsdam, Germany

THE MISSION: Interview scientists attending the II Planetary Science Congress, with an aim of producing articles for NASA’s Astrobiology Magazine website

THE AGENT: CASE’s very own Lee ‘Pulitzer’ Pullen

Glamorgan’s Centre for Astronomy and Science Education is forging closer links with NASA. The latest project has focussed on the Planetary Science conference. Around 500 scientists descended on the historic town of Potsdam for a week of presentations, discussions and all expenses paid high-jinx.

Lee was given a hit-list of scientists to hunt down, corner and interview. Armed only with a dictaphone and the illusion of legitimacy, he successfully tracked down those on his list, as well as a few additional targets of opportunity.

Lee’s woman on the inside was Mariana Barrosa, a former CASE student who was working with the conference’s press office. With her invaluable assistance, Lee extracted information from:

* Bernard Foing father of the SMART mission to the Moon;

* Siegfried Franck who has conducted research on the possibility of habitable frozen worlds;

* Jonti Horner of the Open University, astronomical impact expert and all round great guy;

* Joop Houtkooper who has produced the H2O2 H20 hypothesis relating to life on Mars;

* Akos Kereszturi from Budapest University’s Institute for Advanced Study;

* Helmut Lammer habitable zone expert and Mike Reddy look-a-like;

* Helga Stan-Lotter whose recent work is based on detecting microbial life in the subsurface;

* Pedro ‘Master of the Universe’ Russo the man in charge of organising the International Year of Astronomy (2009)

CASE’s secret agent also attended a press conference where the latest images of Uranus’ rings were released. The conference’s press team were without any recording equipment, so Lee stepped into the breach and used his faithful dictaphone. The recording he made was used to create a transcript which was e-mailed to journalists around the world. Lee was also the only person with a decent camera present to take photos. Where would the world be without CASE? In the dark ages, that’s where.

Lee managed to escape back to the UK after braving smelly drunk scary-weirdos on Berlin’s trains and the traditional perils of EasyJet. He is, however, a little worried to find that he can’t claim back expenses on the many varieties of German beer he thought it essential to sample.


Report by Agent Pullen

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