Various media outlets reported a few months ago that the UN was ‘poised’ to announce that the head of its Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), astrophysicist Dr Mazlan Othman, would be Earth’s first point of contact with aliens—a United Nations Ambassador for Extraterrestrials. Aliens who landed on Earth and asked, “Take me to your leader” would be directed to Dr Othman.1

Commenting on this, Professor Stephen Hawking said that aliens should be treated with caution, as they would likely be visiting Earth for their benefit, not ours. “I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet,” he warned.

However, the UN and Othman soon denied there was any plan to make UNOOSA the coordinating body for dealing with alien encounters. This was to the consternation of the media, who from then on mostly did not bother reporting on the following week’s Royal Society conference where Othman was a speaker.

The conference, titled Towards a scientific and societal agenda on extra-terrestrial life, included discussion of “the communication with potential extra-terrestrial civilizations, … and the political processes that are required.” This is not the first time ‘exopolitics’ has been discussed in public.4,5

NASA finds life on Earth!

More disappointment for the media took place following NASA’s pre-announcement hype about “an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life.”6 NASA had helpfully defined astrobiology for the media as being “the study of the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe.”

Expectations that NASA had in fact found ET were dashed when the announcement was made that NASA had found life … well, on Earth.7,8  Specifically, microbes from a Californian lake that could supposedly digest arsenic. Not only did this claim not have the evolutionary/extraterrestrial significance claimed,9 some experts have since publicly disputed the claim itself.10….

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