In an unprecedented move, NASA has announced in a press release that it will hold a news conference today to discuss “an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life.”
The announcement, made on Nov. 29, has taken a strangely long time to percolate through to the mainstream. AFP only reported it 11 hours ago at the time of writing, and Fox 17 hours ago. Participating in the news conference are senior NASA scientists in the astrobiology field.
Speculation, naturally, is hitting the Net like an earthquake, including theories that the information relates to Saturn’s moons or Mars. The fact is that NASA has accumulated a lot of data over the years, and confirmation of that data would naturally take some time. The information may relate to several missions in recent years.
This announcement may well be the first official information on astrobiology ever formally announced. There’s a lot of talk, but no hard information to be found. News articles are basically recitals of the NASA announcement.
Most importantly, NASA has also announced access details for media:
Media representatives may attend the conference or ask questions by
phone or from participating NASA locations. To obtain dial-in
information, journalists must send their name, affiliation and
telephone number to Steve Cole at email@example.com or call
202-358-0918 by noon Dec. 2.ABC has already made an effort to defuse the speculation it calls a "flap" on the Net:
In a report on the flap, the Columbia Journalism Review observed that the actual science in question "is quite terrestrial in nature and will come as a disappointment to those breathlessly waiting for news that E.T. has phoned home."
That information has had no apparent impact on the many articles now roaming cyberspace. “Terrestrial” isn’t a turnoff for space fans, and the fact that NASA has seen fit to hold a conference at all has outweighed any negatives.
As a matter of fact, whatever the information is, it can't be too trivial. The actual statement, "will impact the search for extraterrestrial life" isn't exactly mundane. We'll just have to wait and see.