A seemingly routine press release issued by NASA is causing a serious stir in the blogosphere today with no small amount of hyperventilation about the possibility that scientists may have something to say about the discovery of extraterrestrial life.
A press conference, which will be streamed on NASA TV, is set for Thursday at 2 p.m. EST (1900 GMT) at the agency's headquarters in Washington, D.C. According to NASA, the event will discuss "an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life. Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe."
NASA has also brought together a geologist, an oceanographer, a biologist, and an ecologist for a panel discussion at the press conference. That's got peoples' imaginations running wild but props to Kottke.org for doing a bit of online sleuthing into the backgrounds of the invited speakers. They include:
- Geobiologist Pamela Conrad is the primary author of a 2009 paper on geology and life on Mars
- Oceanographer Felisa Wolfe-Simon has written on photosynthesis using arsenic recently
- Biologist Steven Benner is part of the "Titan Team" at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory
- Ecologist James Elser works with a NASA-funded astrobiology program called Follow the Elements
Of course, more than a little skepticism is called for since at this point nobody outside of NASA knows what's on tap for Thursday. Given the advance hype, however, anything less than a cameo by ET will likely come as a disappointment to many. Still, space exploration continues to proceed on a steady pace and so even if it's not the aforesaid blockbuster, the announcement will be worth watching.