On that much, at least, we were right. Arsenic-laced life may be a big biological moment, but it's not life on Europa or copping to the truth about ET/UFO reality.
In any case, here is the original post...
NASA has called a news conference for this Thursday "to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life." Their words, not ours.
And, if you read the coverage from the establishment media types, many of them use the blog chatter the NASA announcement has stirred up to then imply "there go those crazy UFO guys again." It's a maddening game, to be sure. This graphic to the left is what CBS used to illustrate its coverage. They get to have their cake (invoking real ET contact) and eat it, too (making people who know something about the subject seem goofy). There's another excellent example of this shell game on CNN where they have goofy aliens in the photo and use the story as a springboard to smackdown people who take the bait and discuss this on the Internet. Sigh...
Back to NASA. We don't know what they've discovered, and they're not talking until they're good and ready, so we'll just have to wait. We tend to think that this will not be a blockbuster type of event, just something that moves the ball a little further down the field. A few yards gained, no score.
Clearly whoever's writing press releases for NASA has put something in writing that makes it seem that they may have found evidence to support the existence of ET life. Of course, Walter Haut wrote a pretty famous press release from Roswell back in 1947 and then had to pull that one back... you never know...
It's been a busy year, looking for life. The Kepler Mission has already found almost a thousand possible alien worlds while scanning a small section of space holding less than 200,000 stars. In September, NASA found Gliese 581g, a planet they think could hold liquid water on its surface. Two months later, NASA said they'd catalogued the 500th planet beyond our solar system.
But that's not what they're going to announce.
From a basic reading of the press release (you can read it at the end of this post), this has all the earmarks of the space agency finding the right chemical signatures -- possibly relating to the Moon or Mars or (our own pony to bet on) one of Saturn's moons. Rhea has been found to have some oxygen and CO2. Titan, Saturn's largest moon, is also the subject of speculation given that two of the panelists named have written about the place in relation to the search for off-Earth life.
Then there is Europa, of course, with (we believe) more liquid water than Earth!
Reason to consider the Microbes-on-Moons theories: the group of scientists in attendance includes an oceanographer who has used photosynthesis, arsenic and life in the same sentence; a geologist who's used knowledge of rocks to look for life on Mars; and a biologist who has speculated that Titan strikes him as resembling an adolescent Earth. There's also an ecological astrobiologist who specializes in the chemistry that has to happen in an environment to create life.
The bottom line is that these are not SETI-type disciplines. They are, however, relevant to planetary issues, or findings from our own solar system as opposed to Hubble-like discoveries of planets out there that might be suitable for life.
As for the huge revelation, don't look for NASA to make a disclosure with a capital "D." They haven't found a whale on Europa or even an insect on Mars. And even if they had, recall that these people are historically very closed minded on the subject of there actually being intelligent life visiting us here on Earth. For NASA, the action is all "out there."
As evidence that we should temper our sense of anticipation about Big-D "Disclosure," we offer this statement from NASA's own website, lifted from their "Ask an Astrobiologist" page, which goes to the mind-set of the astrobiologists who'll be sitting at the conference table:
Question: Has NASA any had UFO problems? (I'm doing a school project on them.)
Answer: No, I can't imagine that NASA would have any problems with something that doesn't exist. The sad thing about UFO reports is that they distract so many people from understanding and enjoying real science.
(There is a lot of nonsense on the Internet about UFOs, but I do recommend the website http://skepdic.com/ufos_ets.html).
NAI Senior Scientist
Thank you for your open mind, Mr. David Morrison. After Disclosure, you will have to sit in the corner and wear a special dunce cap. We hope you won't be too distracted. We digress...
We're not saying the news conference has anything at all to do with UFOs -- it doesn't. What we're saying here is that the way they think is to get excited about the discovery of an organism that can thrive on a cold moon but maintain a completely closed mind to the actual evidence for advanced, complex life-forms coming to visit us right here on Earth.
The smart money is on Microbes-on-Moons. This is a far bigger deal than who Kim Kardashian is dating but it is not as big a deal as it probably should be, given that NASA -- or at least a few people there -- must actively know that Others are running around in our skies in vehicles that aren't supposed to exist from places that aren't here and that the life-forms operating these vehicles are definitely not just microbes.
Because of this head-in-the-sand mentality, we have one piece of advice for the rest of us about Thursday:
Lower your expectations.
- Just so you can see for yourself, however, here is the word-for-word release that NASA has up on its official site as we speak.