If you haven't heard the news yet, NASA set all of sci-fi geekdom atwitter with their announcement that this Thursday they will have a press conference to discuss "an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life." Sounds pretty intense, right? "Astrobiology," as in "things that live out in space or on other planets," "finding" as in "evidence, hard data, not a complicated math theorem that might hold up one day if we develop warp drives," and "extraterrestrial life" as in "Mother&*$^ing aliens, yo."
But we've been burned before. See, whoever runs NASA's PR department is either a bit of an alarmist or just desperate for someone to pay attention to the every day tedium that is space exploration from the comfort of earth, so their press announcements typically have headlines like "PREPARE TO GET YOUR STUPID LITTLE MINDS COMPLETELY BLOWN, YOU IDIOTS!" or "YOU KNOW HOW COOL IPADS ARE? THIS NEW THING WE JUST FOUND IS GONNA KICK THEIR ASS!" only to lead up to several tweed-clad physicists or astronomers droning into a microphone about how they found some dust on a moon rock that is actually a different kind of element; not a NEW element, mind you, just one that they didn't know was on that particular moon rock before.
So in the interest of speeding NASA's news fatigue we present our Totally Outlandish To The Point Of Being Borderline-Libelous NASA Press Release Preview...
IT'LL BE ALIENS
We're all hoping for it, right? That moment when some solemn pencil-pushing NASA nerd (can they just get Neil DeGrasse Tyson to handle their press?) leans into a microphone and says, "We are not alone." Followed quickly by, "we're all going to die." Yeah sure, the Roddenberrys of the world would have you believe everyone we meet in the universe will be a colorful biped with pretty straightforward motivations and intentions, but we're betting more on a cross between a Cylon and something H.R. Geiger cooked up.
IT'LL BE BACTERIA
Okay, so it's not quite as exciting as little green men, but extraterrestrial bacteria will be a pretty amazing announcement and will definitely spur some theological arguments. Until they turn out to be ravenous brain-eating and/or -controlling micro-parasites that turn us all into drooling, blood-lusting psychopaths a la The Crazies or 28 Days Later. We give the human race three weeks, tops.
IT'LL BE A PLANET FULLY INHABITED WITH NON-SENTIENT LIFE
This'd be great! A planet teeming with plant, animal, and insect life (or at least whatever the equivalents might be) with no potentially hazardous locals to worry about. Think of the nature documentaries alone! Until of course some creatures are brought back to earth for study, where they escape and wreak havoc as nigh-indestructible super predators on a planet that was never prepared for them.
IT'LL BE AN ASTEROID HEADED TOWARDS THE EARTH
We'd really have to take issue with NASA for the sideways wording of their press release if this happens. Sure it will "impact" the search for extraterrestrial life in the sense that it will wipe us all out so we won't be able to search any more. Riots will be widespread, religious zealotry will spike, and humanity will lose all that's good and decent about it as society crumbles when faced with impending doom.
IT'LL BE THE SUN IS ABOUT TO EXPLODE
Again, we guess that would definitely have an impact on our search for life, but it would be better to just come out and say "We've got some seriously bad news, guys." Our home star will expand and vaporize the surface of the earth, reducing it to a tiny ball of molten iron that will slowly spiral into the star's core. Everything that humanity has created, conquered, fought for, died for, lived for, and loved will be gone without a trace. Some distant alien race may one day stumble across a few lonely space probes sailing silently in the infinite black, but will never know just who made them.
That's what we're expecting, anyway. If Hollywood has taught us anything, it's that astronomical news events are overwhelmingly negative and downright disastrous. NASA, if we get anything less this Thursday you can expect yet another angry letter.