From another space reporter: "Keith, Doc is bullshi**ing you. [News organization name] got the alert early yesterday AM. It is touted IN THE NASA MESSAGE as a 'big' announcement based on an embargoed 'SCIENCE' article."
Editor's Update: Drudge Report even has the press release online.
"NASA's Cassini spacecraft may have found evidence of liquid water reservoirs that erupt in Yellowstone-like geysers on Saturn's moon Enceladus. The rare occurrence of liquid water so near the surface raises many new questions about the mysterious moon."
Big NASA Announcement Today, Orlando Channel 13
"NASA is planning to make a huge announcement today, about possible life in our own solar system. Exact details of what we can expect to hear have not been released. We do know that evidence has been found that could point to life relatively close to the earth."
Editor's note: I just spoke with Doc Mirelson at NASA HQ PAO. He was not aware of any specific "huge announcement" that NASA would be making today but suggested that the reporter who wrote this story might be referencing a 2:00 pm Cassini update. NASA does have a habit of alerting the media ahead of time when something big is going to be announced. No such alert has been sent out.
However when I spoke with Eric Hupp a few minutes later she did say that there would be a "large announcement" (as opposed to "huge" I suppose) from the Cassini Team - and that press releases will be issued by NASA and a number of universities today at 2:00 PM EST.
This announcement is in reference to a paper that will appear in Science magazine - and that magazine has it under embargo. I have not seen any of these embargoed press releases but from what I have pieced together the references to "life relatively close to the earth" may be a bit of a stretch to say the least. This announcement is a follow-on to previous announcements about discoveries on a moon in the Saturnian system - and the ramifications for life cannot be totally ignored - but that claim is not the thrust of the discovery.
Of course, this is now spreading like crazy. Drudge Report now has this top banner: "Orlando Channel 13: Big NASA Announcement Set For Today... // NASA is planning to make a huge announcement today, about possible life in our own solar system" which of course means that Channel 13's webserver is being bombarded - and indeed, when you try and get to this article you often get a server error.
In the end, however, the annoying thing about all of this is that NASA did not send a heads up that an announcement would be made (as they regularly do - often with out any details other than "stay tuned"), that there is no press event on NASA TV, and that the agency repeatedly allows itself to have embargo regulations dictated to it regarding the release of results of taxpayer funded science by a magazine.
The Drudge Report has this story (and the press release) as their ultra- top news flash - above Condi and Iran. If *he* thinks this is more important (or at least of near-equal billing) than those issues - and yet PAO is stumbling to find out what is going on - then I have to ask how NASA can possible say it has anyone doing "strategic communications" as is the title of Joe Davis' operation.
Of course, the sad aspect of this story is with regard to all of this sudden interest and excitement about life in the universe among the media and the general public - interest that seems to be on a hair trigger. Gee, do you think this might be something that people expect - and want - NASA to be doing?. Too bad Mike Griffin and Mary Cleave don't get that message - and want to cut NASA's Astrobiology program - the effort which studies this topic - by 50%