NASA News Release on Alien Life

We have no idea what to expect, but NASA [the National Aeronautics and Space Administration] is holding a news conference this afternoon (2:00 PM, EST) to make some kind of announcement.

[Update: this is the news from EurekAlert, the news service of the American Association for the Advancement of Science: Astrobiologists: Deadly arsenic breathes life into organisms.] Back to NASA now:

Here’s a link to their notice: NASA Sets News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery; Science Journal Has Embargoed Details Until 2 p.m. EST On Dec. 2 , which says, with bold font added by us:

NASA will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. 2, to 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.

The news conference will be held at the NASA Headquarters auditorium at 300 E St. SW, in Washington. It will be broadcast live on NASA Television and streamed on the agency’s website at

Participants are:

– Mary Voytek, director, Astrobiology Program, NASA Headquarters, Washington

– Felisa Wolfe-Simon, NASA astrobiology research fellow, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, Calif.

– Pamela Conrad, astrobiologist, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

– Steven Benner, distinguished fellow, Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, Gainesville, Fla.

– James Elser, professor, Arizona State University, Tempe

That’s all we have. Oh, they also add this:

For NASA TV streaming video and downlink information, visit:

Here’s a better-looking link: NASA TV. It looks like nonsense now, but the action should be starting in less than 90 minutes. We shall see.

Update: See Klinghoffer: The View from Bizarro World.

Update: See Answers in Genesis on Arsenic Bacteria Discovery.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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8 responses to “NASA News Release on Alien Life

  1. Goody! Goody! Goody!!!!! Can’t wait!

  2. What will the creationists say about this? They’ll have to say something. Some possibilities: (1) they knew it all the time; (2) this disproves common descent; (3) Darwin was wrong; (4) it’s all fake; (5) I ain’t no kin to no arsenic bacterium; (6) the Designer did it; and finally (7) Hitler used arsenic.

  3. PZ breaks it down nicely. Bottom line, it has the capacity to utilize arsenic in place of phosphorus; it’s neither arsenic-based nor alien.

  4. It was a cool presentation. I appreciated how the NASA scientists discussed how this was the beginning of research that will continue for 20-30 more years.

    The microbe isn’t totally alien. It still uses DNA, although it has managed to substitute As for P in many of its parts. It may use ATA instead of ATP for energy transfer, but that’s not known yet.

    An interesting idea for a research project would be to figure out how a traditional cell mechanism could transfer to an Arsenic economy and the kinds of stepwise changes that would make that possible. Also, there are probably extra “parts” in these critters not found in the rest of us that support an As metabolism. I can’t wait for them to map the genome of this thing, assuming “normal” nucleic acid chemistry works the same way.

    A common trap that creationists, like former astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez of “habitable zone” infamy, fall into is thinking that all life in the universe has to be like us: carbon based, water, etc. We have exactly one data point on that, namely our planet.

  5. James F says: “PZ breaks it down nicely.”

    Yes. I don’t look at too many blogs, but I wonder if any of the better ones got carried away with this thing.

  6. The pathological liars over at the Dishonesty Institute are already claiming “victory” as one of their cub reporters gushes about a “prediction” made by a former astronomer and current bible college teaching assistant:

    Gonzalez also adds this prediction:

    The enhanced fitness of the organism in an arsenic-enhanced environment compared to other organisms comes from additional chemical machinery that makes the arsenic bonds more stable. This comes at an overall cost to the organism.

    That’s not Gonzalez’s prediction! That’s almost a direct quote from Stephen Benner at the NASA press conference today who talked about cost, fitness and additional chemical machinery using those exact words.

    Intellectual theft, that’s all the Dishonesty Institute is capable of. Pathetic.

  7. What will the creationists say about this?

    They should feel like kissin cousins….after all creationists are poison filled little bastards that spread infection too…the infection of stupidity and ignorance 😉

  8. Doc Bill says:

    The pathological liars over at the Dishonesty Institute are already claiming “victory” …

    I’ll be blogging about that one.