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February 22, 2005

Comments

LoB

NASA is all about money, job security, pride and a few Yee-haws. In 1996, they promoted the non-infamous Science paper suggesting that meteorites from Mars may contained fossilized evidence of past life. It soon became apparent that NASA did it in hopes of increasing their money, job security, pride, and a few Yee-haws. And, their plan worked well for many years longer than it really should have, given that the original theory was widely pooh-poohed by the scientific community. So, why isn't NASA employing the same strategies now - embracing studies that interpret data as evidence of Martian life?

Currently, a return trip to Mars and the Moon are high on the NASA priority list. Maybe NASA is taking a conservative approach to avoid any public criticisms that might rock their boat - the boat that is almost surely heading to the Moon and/or to Mars.

Peter

LoB, Did you see the update with the text of the email from one of the scientists involved? This was just an irresponsible story that should never have come close to being published.

The 1996 event was quite different, since NASA itself was behind that hype. It is useful to recall, though. After all, if NASA, which, as you point out, is not averse to hype over life elsewhere in the Solar system, had to come down so harshly on this particular story, it is a sure sign of how baseless it was.

dave

Thanks for the clarification to my post.

LoB

Peter: If the scientists aren't even behind this latest life-in-space story, then the decision of NASA to debunk the story is a no-brainer.

My point was that, even if the story had been valid and the scientific evidence fairly compelling, NASA may still have hesitated about hyping this story as energetically as it hyped the Mars life story in 1996. The reason, I am speculating, is differences in the political climate and NASA's funding situation. Currently, NASA already has a focused goal (travel to the moon and/or Mars) and potential financial backing in place (Bush support). Any kind of public sensation that ultimately failed might damage the tenuous credibility that they now enjoy, and rock their sacred funding boat. In 1996, NASA was facing public criticism and did not have a focused goal with presidential support. The Mars life research circus changed all that, exactly as NASA had planned.

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