For years, man sought to find life in outer space. Aliens! But what if those creatures are really in the toxic pool in your back yard? This is exactly the question NASA posed today at a press conference broadcast live on the Internet as the agency moves to understand the evolution and distribution of organisms through time on our planetary system in a science duly named astrobiology.
Their largest scientific discovery was announced today-arsenic microbes.
Of course, everyone who has read an Agatha Christie mystery novel knows that arsenic is basically rat poison used for murder. So, think about this: Perhaps in your backyard, there is a strain of GFAJ-1 — a member of a common group of bacteria, the Gammaproteobacteria — which has developed the ability to feed on arsenic instead of phosphorus.
According to NASA’s press conference, the agency made the discovery by studying Mono Lake in California because of its unique chemistry, which includes a high salt and alkaline content and high levels of arsenic. NASA’s team reports that Mono Lake has been isolated from fresh sources of water for 50 years.
There will be mystery novelists adding a hint of science fiction in their novels now.
Carl Pilcher, the director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, related that the idea of alternative biochemistries for life is like science fiction. Perhaps like space travel into unknown frontiers, we are on the verge of an important discovery that helps us see the world through a different lens.
Perhaps the discovery is not as exciting as once thought about by those twittering and blogging in the cybersphere. One blogger, Jason Kottke, claimed it was about life on Saturn’s moon, Titan.
According to PBS Newshour, as of February, the NASA program received budget cuts under the Obama administration. This new study of astrobiology is just the beginning of the process of branding the future of the agency in a cautious economy. According to Spaceref, the small study cost $300,000. This is money placed to good use, as astrobiology is an ever evolving science.
NASA Funded Research Discovers Life Built With Toxic Chemical. NASA.gov
Has NASA discovered extraterrestrial life? Kokke.org
NASA Funded Astrobiology Research Discovers Earth Life Built With Arsenic. SpaceRef.com
Budget Cuts Launch Debate Over NASA’s Future. PBS.org