NASA's Astrobiology Program Works Hard To Ignore Itself

Keith's 23 February note: Last thursday NASA HQ issued a press release "NASA-Funded Research Creates DNA-like Molecule to Aid Search for Alien Life" which notes that "this new molecular system, which is not a new life form, suggests scientists looking for life beyond Earth may need to rethink what they are looking for. The research appears in Thursday's edition of Science Magazine." Mary Voytek, senior scientist for Astrobiology at NASA Headquarters is even quoted.

Readers of the press release are told "To learn more about NASA's Astrobiology Program, visit https://astrobiology.nasa.gov/". If you go to that link you will see that there is no mention of this press release or the research cited by the release. Nor is there any mention at the NASA Astrobiology Institute website or the NASA Science Mission Directorate website (which does not even mention the word "Astrobiology"). NASA's Astrobiology account on Twitter @NASAastrobio makes no mention of this press release or its research either. None of these locations bother to link to the actual research either ("Hachimoji DNA and RNA: A genetic system with eight building blocks").

Keith's 25 Feb update: https://astrobiology.nasa.gov/ Just did an update. No mention of last week's release has been added. Meanwhile there are dozens of news stories that have been written about the importance of this research - and NASA's sponsorship of it. NASA's Astrobiology folks seem to be uninterested in being relevant. Oh yes: NASA JPL posted this Astrobiology release today: " NASA Study Reproduces Origins of Life on Ocean Floor". No mention is made at https://astrobiology.nasa.gov/ even though this release also says "To learn more about NASA's Astrobiology Program, visit https://astrobiology.nasa.gov/". This happens since one part of NASA that does Astrobiology does not talk - or listen to - other parts of NASA that also do Astrobiology.

Keith's 26 Feb update: Finally. Someone in the NASA Astrobiology program noticed the dozens or articles in prominent publications about the DNA research announced last week. There's another important NASA Astrobiology story coming out in several days. Lets see if the Astrobiology folks are paying attention.

Meanwhile, NASA Administrator Bridenstine is making prominent mention of NASA's search for life elsewhere (see "We're 'Well On Our Way' to Discovering Alien Life, NASA Chief Says"). Multiple news outlets have picked up on his comments. You'd think that the Astrobiology folks at NASA would want to be talking up what they do. Guess again.

The National Academy of Sciences recently took note of how NASA runs its Astrobiology programs: New Report Calls For NASA To Expand Astrobiology Research "To advance the search for life in the universe, NASA should support research on a broader range of biosignatures and environments, and incorporate the field of astrobiology into all stages of future exploratory missions ... Astrobiology, the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe, is a rapidly changing field, especially in the years since the publication of NASA's Astrobiology Strategy 2015. Recent scientific advances in the field now provide many opportunities to strengthen the role of astrobiology in NASA missions and to increase collaboration with other scientific fields and organizations. The report finds that these changes necessitate an updated science strategy for astrobiology."

NASA replied to this report: NASA Making Changes to its Astrobiology Program "By the end of 2019, the Astrobiology Program will establish several virtual collaboration structures called "research coordination networks" (RCNs) that will replace the Program's virtual institute, the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI). With this shift, NASA's overall investment in the Astrobiology Program is not changing. Astrobiology is an important part of NASA's portfolio and Congress formally added Astrobiology as one of NASA's ten objectives in 2017. This will only change how this interdisciplinary research is coordinated between researchers."

Alas, while the agency looks at how to reorganize the way it conducts Astrobiology it still lacks the basic ability to do simple website updates to reflect its own good news. One would think that some focus on basic principles is in order before all of the deck chairs get rearranged. Oh yes, FWIW Google the term "Astrobiology". Look where my Astrobiology.com website ranks. Its not that hard to do the Internet stuff, NASA. Just sayin'

- NASA Leads In Astrobiology. It Needs To Act That Way., earlier post
- NASA Is Incapable Of Explaining How It Does Astrobiology, earlier post
- NASA's Semi-Stealth Astrobiology Mission, earlier post
- NASA's Astrobiology Programs Ignore One Another, earlier post
- NASA Making Changes to its Astrobiology Program, earlier post

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on February 26, 2019 10:39 AM.

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