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Once again, for the thousandth time, we are “closing in” on alien life

A photo of one full lit side of Mars, showing the reddish brown color of its surface and a white spot on the southern side.

Here’s an evergreen story for you, courtesy Seth Shostak from Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI):

In the next decade or so, it’s entirely possible that you’ll see a headline announcing that NASA has found evidence of life in space.

Would that news cause you to run screaming into the street? An article that appeared recently in Britain’s Sunday Telegraph hints that Jim Green, the director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, thinks the public might be discombobulated by the discovery of biology beyond the bounds of our own planet. But that’s not really what Green believes. He’s concerned that we haven’t thought much about the next steps by scientists, should we suddenly confront the reality of Martian life.

Seth Shostak, “We may be closing in on the discovery of alien life. Are we prepared?” at NBC News

Actually, if you ask planetary scientist Gil Levin or our experimental physicist color commentator Rob Sheldon, they’ll tell you we’ve already found evidence of fossil bacteria on Mars. Didn’t notice anybody screaming in the streets about it either way though.

Life on Mars would be a lot of fun but one suspects it’ll never live up to the hype.

See also: At Scientific American: We did find life on Mars in the ‘70s. Rob Sheldon weighs in Levin: When the Viking Molecular Analysis Experiment failed to detect organic matter, the essence of life, however, NASA concluded that the LR had found a substance mimicking life, but not life. Inexplicably, over the 43 years since Viking, none of NASA’s subsequent Mars landers has carried a life detection instrument to follow up on these exciting results.

and, for the cultural background,

Tales of an invented god

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Science fiction made space travel seem a lot more reasonable than it really is. Do we have 1000 people living in cities under the ocean? No. Do we have a thousand people living at the North Pole? No. And those places are a million times easier to live at than Mars. . DerekDiMarco
News, just a correction. The fossil life was found on 24+ comets, you know, obvious stuff like diatom shells, cyanobacterial sheaths, bacterial mats. The real thing, growing, metabolizing, awake in the day but sleeping at night, life was found on Mars. Didn't have a camera looking at the petri dish, so I can't tell you what it looked like, but it behaved just like soil bacteria on Earth. And no, soil bacteria don't give me nightmares or send me shrieking in the streets. Robert Sheldon
Alien life is already here. They have closed in on us. ET
Your headline sort of misses the point. For many decades the science establishment assured us with 100% certainty that life couldn't exist elsewhere. We learned in school that Schiaparelli's canals were a fraud. The change toward "closing in on life" is very recent, and still not fully supported by the establishment. polistra
John carpenters “the thing” AaronS1978
The only thing that would get me to run screaming into the streets would be finding out that intelligent life is out there, is able to reach Earth, and is very hungry. Otherwise, I'm not really going to care all that much. Even then, I wouldn't waste my time running through the streets. I'd be at home eating all the garlic I could, in hopes that the aliens don't like garlic. EDTA

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