First Contact

First Contact

Scientific Breakthroughs in the Hunt for Life Beyond Earth

Now in paperback, Marc Kaufman’s riveting, game-changing book tells the incredible true story of science’s search for the beginnings of life on Earth—and the likelihood of it existing elsewhere in our universe.

For decades, researchers assumed that the genesis of life was too delicate a process, and the conditions needed to support it too fragile, for it to exist anywhere other than Earth. But recent discoveries—from microbes and creatures living in unimaginably inhospitable environments to newly discovered extra-solar planets—point towards a day when the existence of extraterrestrial life will be irrefutably confirmed.

Science reporter Marc Kaufman takes readers around the globe, into space, and miles below Earth’s surface to show how the search for life on other planets is changing the way humans think about their own history, about what it means to be human, and about what, exactly, life is.

First Contact is the first book to bring together recent developments across many competing branches of science, from microbiology to geochemistry, physics, and astronomy, all racing to verify what was once deemed impossible. Kaufman demystifies the key points behind the rigorous science and advanced technology that is edging ever closer to the most important discovery of modern times.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 224 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439109014 | 
  • March 2012
List Price $16.00
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Read an Excerpt


If it’s just us in this universe, what a terrible waste of space.

But it’s not. Before the end of this century, and perhaps much sooner than that, scientists will determine that life exists elsewhere in the universe. This book is about how they’re going to get there. And when they do, that discovery will rival the immensity of those that launched our previous scientific revolutions and, in the process, defined our humanity. Copernicus and Galileo told us we were not, after all, at the center of the universe, and their ideas fathered a scientific astronomy that, four... see more

About the Author

Marc Kaufman
Photograph courtesy of the author

Marc Kaufman

Marc Kaufman is a science writer and national editor for The Washington Post. He lives outside of Washington, D.C. Visit him at




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